Einstien n Relativity …

Posted on September 12, 2019. Filed under: Personalities |

A Hundred Years Later, it's Still All Relative

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1965 War – A Pak Hero Passes Away …

Posted on August 26, 2019. Filed under: Personalities |

By Hamid Hussein –


Brigadier ® Nisar Ahmad Khan (28 March 1920 – 30 July 2019)

Brigadier ® Nisar Ahmad Khan passed away on 30 July 2019 in Michigan; United States.  He was nick named ‘Kaka Nisar’.  A fine officer and gentleman who was instrumental in a very important holding action of armor in 1965 Indo-Pakistan War faded away into the fog of history. 

He was born on 28 March 1920 at Bassi Pathana near Sirhind in Patiala state.  This Muslim Pathan colony was established during Mughal era.  This small Muslim enclave in a Sikh state provided soldiers to the Maharaja of Patiala. 

Several generations of Nisar’s ancestors proudly served Patiala state. According to Maharaja Patiala CaptainAmarindar Singh, Kaka Nisar was sixth generation of the family to serve Patiala state.  He followed the family tradition, joined Ist Patiala (Rajindra) Lancers and was commissioned on 21 March 1943. 

In 1947, on partition of India, he opted for Pakistan army.  He received regrant of his commission on 28 August 1948 and assigned Pakistan Army number PA 959.  He joined Probyn’s Horse (5th Horse) of Pakistan army. 

He was Officer Commandant (OC) of School of Armor in Nowshera from March 1954 to July 1955.  In June 1956, when 20th Lancers was raised under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Nasrullah Khan with Major (later Major General) Jahanzeb Khan as Second-in-Command, Nisar was posted to 20th Lancers during the raising of the regiment. 

He raised 25th Cavalry on 09 June 1962 and  commanded it from the day of raising to 22 September 1966.  He was promoted Brigadier and served as Commandant of Armored Corps Center and Record Wing from 02 September 1971 to 01 October 1972.  He commanded an ad hoc Changez Force in 1971 Indo-Pakistan War.

Adi Tarapore of 17th Poona Horse and Kaka Nisar of 25th Cavalry were both originally from state forces and not regular Indian army.  Adi had joined Hyderabad State Forces first serving with 7th Hyderabad Infantry and later Ist Hyderabad Lancers.  

After 1947, with absorption of state forces in Indian army, he joined 17th Poona Horse.  Nisar was originally from Patiala State Forces.  Adi and Nisar had served together during Second World in Aden when their respective regiments were deployed there as part of Indian Imperial Service Brigade. 

Both regiments have great respect for the opposing Commanding Officer considering them outstanding and thoroughly professional officers who gave the best performance. 

Dilemma of partition for individuals is highlighted by the story of another officer of 25th Cavalry. 

Major Annu Khan was the legendry Viceroy Commissioned Officer (VCO) of 17th Poona Horse. His two sons Risaldar Yunus Khan and Daffadar Mehboob Khan also served with their father’s regiment. 

In 1947 when India was divided Annu Khan and Yunus Khan decided to stay in India but Mehboob Khan decided to come to Pakistan.  Mehboob’s son Shamshad Ahmad joined Pakistan army. 

Shamshad’s maternal grandfather Risaldar Kale Khan served with 16th Cavalry.  In 1965 war, Shamshad was serving with 25th Cavalry of Pakistan army and his regiment fought against both his maternal and paternal family regiments; 16th Cavalry and 17th Poona Horse. 

If Mehboob had decided to stay in India, it was very likely that his son Shamshad would have joined one of his family regiments and fighting against 25th Cavalry. 

Those who served under Kaka Nisar remember him as a thorough professional and ‘fully devoted to the well being of all under his command’.  With Kaka Nisar’s passing, another chapter of the old generation of officers is closed.  He was one of the oldest armor officer of Pakistan army. 

Rest in peace Kaka Nisar.

Lest the young soldiers be strange in heaven,
God bids the old soldier they all adored
Come to Him and wait for them, clean, new-shriven, 
A happy doorkeeper in the House of the Lord.
Lest it abash them, the strange new splendor,
Lest it affright them, the new robes clean;
Here’s an old face, now, long-tried, and tender, 
A word and a hand-clasp as they troop in.”
My boys,” he greets them: and heaven is homely, 
He their great captain in days gone o’er;
Dear is the friend’s face, honest and comely,
Waiting to welcome them by the strange door.
The Old Soldier by Katharine Tynan  

Acknowledgements:  Thanks to Lieutenant Colonel ® Zahid Mumtaz for biographic details of Brigadier Nisar’s career and pictures, Brigadier Asif Kamal Mirza ex 25 Cavalry; who served under Nisar and Major ® Agha H. Amin for encyclopedic details of operations of 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pakistan Wars in the theatres where Kaka Nisar operated.

Hamid Hussain

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India’s Queen Victoria Era …

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

Mir Mahboob Ali Khan, 6th Nizam of Hyderabad, circa 1890-1911.
Hyderabad, 1937

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Multi Faceted Tagore …

Posted on August 16, 2019. Filed under: Personalities |

Extracted from The Wire –


During the last 13 years of his life, beginning 1928, Rabindranath painted and drew with prodigious energy, producing about 2,300 paintings, drawings and sketches. With no formal training to guide his hand, he taught himself to work with ink, pastel, pencil, poster colour, coloured ink and water colour on paper, cardboard and wood, but mainly on paper. drew with prodigious energy, producing about 2,300 paintings, drawings and sketches. 
With no formal training to guide his hand, he taught himself to w  ed anork with ink, pastel, pencil, poster colour, coloured ink and water colour on paper, cardboard and wood, but mainly on paper.    
“Today the painted line holds me in thrall.
The word, she is the rich man’s daughter,
Bringing with her the burden of meaning –
You have to worry how you’ll keep her in good humour.
The line is plainer, guileless,
My dealings with her need not fret about meaning.”

“The world of sound is a tiny bubble in the silence of the infinite. The Universe has but the language of gestures; it talks in the voice of pictures and dance. Every object in this world proclaims, in the voiceless signal of lines and colours, the fact that it is not a mere logical abstraction or a mere thing of utility, but that it is unique in itself, that it carries the miracle of its existence.” 


Rabindranath’s landscapes offer a cornucopia of light, depth and wide open spaces, but they are strikingly devoid of human presence, making nature an autonomous theme, rather than a backdrop to human life activity, as it often was in contemporary Indian painting.

This should not surprise us because, in much of his work as a poet or lyricist, nature takes its place as an animated presence with a life of its own. Some of the later landscapes also emphasise the gathering darkness at dusk, when things do not unroll in the distance but gather up and collapse into a dense foreground.

With words he could perhaps do more than any other man of his time could, but what about the universe that lay tantalisingly out of reach of the acutest turn of phrase, the most cultivated sense of metre and rhyme? The world where

The thousand voices of the day
Have fallen away from us; and the hours that carry the cargo of sound
Have all cast anchor at the edge of evening’s silent shore?

In his missive to Sudhindranath Dutta, Rabindranath had drawn a line between verbal or literary semiosis and the apparently purposeless, but palpitating, throbbing world of pure form and shape where the word is unnecessary, expendable and more importantly, inadequate. 

To get the tree to come into flower or bear fruit –
Well, work needs to be done for all that.
But to host the play of light and shade under the tree,
That’s quite another matter.
It is there that dry leaves spread their wings,
Butterflies flit around,
And fireflies shimmer with light at night.
In the drama of the forest they are all borne on lines,
They tread lightly,
And no one holds them to account.
The word never coddles me, for stern is her demeanour;
The line laughs out loud when I am silly,
She doesn’t wag her finger at me in disapproval.

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Guru Nanak …

Posted on July 13, 2019. Filed under: Personalities |


An edited version of a Speech delivered by Navtej Sarna, IFS, at Bhai Vir Singh Sadan on March 29, 2019.

Guru Nanak, a Great spiritual teacher, philosopher and poet and the founder of India’s youngest major religion, is young in human memory. His impact is recent; his message is fresh and relevant for all time.

What makes Guru Nanak remote is the lack of precise historical detail of his life. There are hardly any direct available records of events of his life, no exact itineraries of his incredible travels, no eye witness accounts by those who met him. Nanak’s own writings contain virtually no biographical detail with the possible exception of Babur’s invasion.

He saw himself merely as a messenger, sent by an act of providence, transmitting the received divine word from the supreme reality to mankind. A detailed account of his own life would have belied this belief. 

Bhai Gurdas’s vars written decades after Nanak’s passing, do contain some biographical detail, -including that of his travels. For the rest we have to depend on the janamsakhis, written decades after his death – and there are several cycles of these with their own differences.

Nevertheless, the actual events about Guru Nanak’s lifetime and the debates of what happened and what did not, recede into insignifence when one understands and absorbs the message contained in his writings – nearly 1,000 hymns contained in the Guru Granth Sahib – superb poetry set to divine classical music. 

His writings bring us close to the tremendous intellect of a deep philosopher, a phenomenal poet and a spiritual master.

I would like to focus on two aspects of his life and teachings as defined by his extensive travels and his later years at Kartarpur – as a householder.

Guru Nanak is said to have spent more than 20 years (historian Hari Ram Gupta puts this at 25 years from 1496 to 1521) on the road, carrying out the mission to spread the ultimate truth and put mankind on the path to salvation.

In the process, these travels gave him an opportunity to observe the workings of the religions of the day in actual practice and to debate and discuss matters of the spirit with sages and seers.

Also, it gave him an opportunity to be present on the spot and dispel ignorance and blind superstition of which there was no dearth.

Bhai Gurdas wrote:

Dithe hindu turaki sabhi pir paikambari kaumi katele, Andhi andhe khuhe thele (I saw Hindus and Muslims, holy men of all kinds/ The blind were pushing the blind into a well)

Nanak undertook four long journeys, called udasis, signifying detachment.

Scholars have laid out detailed routes, even maps showing these journeys but these are I believe based not on any concrete evidence but on the janamsakhi references to various places and the commonly used routes of the day.

It is believed he travelled as far as Assam in the east, present-day Sri Lanka in the south, Mount Kailash in the north and Mecca-Medina in the west.

Some accounts take Nanak even further afield – right up to Turkey but there is no confirmation.

His mission took him to snowy heights and across burning deserts, through little villages and mighty capitals, among the ordinary as well as the learned, to fairs, festivals, to temples, mosques, khanaqahs.

There is no geographical order in the janamsakhi accounts of Guru Nanak’s travels, nor is there any great uniformity in regard to the number of udasis or the places visited.

But the immensity of the undertaking is confirmed by the poetic vision of Bhai Gurdas:

Babe tare char chak/nau khand prithvi sacha dhoa. (The Baba traversed the nine regions of the earth, as far as the land stretched).

Today gurudwaras and shrines mark Nanak’s travels to these far-flung places; local legends and well-preserved impressions of his sandals further establish the fact that Guru Nanak indeed travelled extensively. 

Some other things we know for certain, including from Bhai Gurdas – Nanak was accompanied by Mardana on his travels, who carried and played the rabab, and also became an interesting protagonist of the many sakhis that are attached to these travels. 

One cycle of janamsakhis and several illustrations show Bhai Bala, but that is not borne out by other sources.

According to some sources, Guru Nanak dressed in strange clothes that could not be identified with any sect and symbolised the universality of his message.

He wore a loose long shirt of a Muslim dervish but of brownish-red colour of the Hindu sanyasi. Around his waist he wore a white cloth belt like a fakir. A short turban partly covered a qalandar’s conical cap in the manner of sufi wanderers. His slippers were often of two different colours and design.

On his journey west that took him to Mecca, he wore a shirt that was blue, donned a cap over his head, held a staff, with a holy book under his arm and an earthen goblet and prayer mat slung over his shoulder.

On the journey north, he is believed to have worn leather on his feet and wound a rope around his body in view of extreme weather.

As Bhai Gurdas wrote:

Babe bhek banaia udasi ki riti chalai, Charhia sodhan dharth lukai The Baba donned robes, and in the tradition of detachment Went out to put humanity on the right path)

Many are the stories contained in the janamsakhis about how Nanak brought home his message during these udasis

His purpose was to dispel the ignorance that he saw all around him.

I choose some simply because they seem to best illustrate the nature of debate and discourse that Nanak had with the representatives of various religions and – because they are my personal favourites.

Somewhere during their first udasi, Guru Nanak and Mardana reached Jagganath temple in Puri in Orissa. This temple is known for its annual procession when the idol is mounted on a huge chariot and the multitudes that gather vie with one another for the privilege of pulling the chariot.

It is an inexorable sea of humanity that moves with this idol, a phenomenon that gave the word juggernaut to the English language. Here is one version of what happened there:

When Guru Nanak and Mardana camped near the temple their hymns and music attracted several devotees on their way to the temple, annoying the temple priests. 

One day the chief priest came to Nanak and invited him to join the aarti or the evening prayer in the temple and Guru Nanak readily accompanied him.

It was a beautiful ceremony, conducted at dusk. The priest placed earthen lamps filled with ghee on a bejewelled salver decorated with flower petals and sweet incense. They lit the wicks and swung the salver pendulum like in front of the image while the congregation sang hymns, blew conches and tolled the bells.

Nanak sat unmoved through the ceremony and when the priests expressed their anger and surprise, he responded with a song now part of the Granth Sahib

The song describes the celestial aarti in which the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars, the wind, the forests, and the unstruck music pay obeisance to the great Creator.

This according to the Nanak was the true aarti that could be offered to God:

The sky the salver, the sun and moon the lamps,
The stars studding the heavens are the pearls
The fragrance of sandal is the incense
Fanned by the winds, all for thee
The great forests are the flowers
What a beautiful aarti is being performed
For you, O destroyer of fear.

The Jagganath temple visit is also important for the meeting between Nanak and the Bengal reformer Chaitanya Mahaprabhu – it is recorded that they talked to each other and sang hymns together. 

Also, it is known that Debendranath Tagore, father of Rabindranath Tagore listened to the aarti being sung at the Harmandir Sahib was deeply moved by it and included the aarti in the Bangla script in his autobiography.

The third udasi of Guru Nanak was to the north. He travelled widely in the Himalayas and several scholars have constructed possible routes that he could have taken, based on the local traditions still extant in the mountains and the gurudwaras founded down the centuries.

Legend has traced his steps to Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim, Ladakh and even Nepal and Tibet. 

Many have been to ‘Pathar Sahib’ in Ladakh which has an impression of Nanak’s back and there is an impression of his sandals in Kathmandu.

I remember Bhutanese pilgrims coming to Rewalsar and referring to “Lama Nanak”.

The central event of this northern udasi is the visit to Mount Sumer, recorded in all the janamsakhis and also by Bhai Gurdas – Mount Sumer is said to none other than Mount Kailash, the abode of Shiv and Parvati. 

There on Mount Kailash and the crystal-clear waters of Mansarovar, the source of the Sutlej and Rakas Tal is based the meeting of Nanak with 84 siddhas, among them the ancient Goraknath, Machendranath and Charpat Nath, or perhaps the successors of these famous ancient souls, who had meditated long and deep and possessed great power and wisdom.

In Bhai Gurdas’s version of the meeting, the siddhas express amazement at seeing Nanak: “O youthful one! What power brings you to these heights? Who is that you worship?”

Guru Nanak replies: “The eternal Lord alone.”

The Siddhas ask him how the world below was faring.?Guru Nanak made no secret of what he felt and told them that darkness, sin and injustice had taken over the world.

Corruption was rampant; the fence itself had begun to eat the crop.

Sidh chhapi baithe parabati kaunu jagat kau par utara (The wise siddhas had escaped into the remote caves and mountains – who would then redeem the world?)

The siddhas then argued that it was not possible to be part of the world and follow the path of meditation and spirituality. Nanak replied that one had to be as a lotus in the water that remains dry. Or the duck that stays dry even as it goes against the current.

One had to be part of the world and yet be unaffected by it through meditation on His Name.

From the fourth udasi to the west and to the Islamic countries, the visit to Mecca is well known. So I will talk a bit about the visit to Baghdad, also mentioned by Bhai Gurdas.

Phir Baba gaia Baghdad no bahari kia Asthana Ik baba akal rupu duja rababi mardana. (Then Baba went to Baghdad and camped outside the city He himself one with the Timeless, and his rabab player Mardana)

Baghdad was then a great centre of Islamic learning, art and culture. On the outskirts of the great city, in a graveyard, Mardana strummed the strings of his rabab in holy melody and Nanak sang holy hymns. 

When this was reported to the Pir-e-dastgir of Baghdad as being against the teachings of Islam, he came out to meet Nanak and inquired:

Puchhia phirikai Dastgir kaun phakir kis ka ghariana (What faith do you belong to, and what sect of fakirs he came from?)

Mardana replied:

Nanak kal vich aia rab phakir iko pahichana Dharth akash chahudis jana (Nanak has come to this world in kalyug – he has rejected all fakirs except the supreme being, who is all pervasive – in the heavens, the earth and all four directions.)

During his stay in Baghdad, the Guru also met another pir known as Bahlol who had several discourses with him. Finally, Bahlol and his son became followers of Nanak, who then stayed there for about four months. 

A shrine in Baghdad, also known as the tomb of Bahlol marks the visit of Guru Nanak and his association with Bahlol.

There is a beautiful poem by Swami Anand Acharya, an itinerant Hindu monk, who wrote it after visiting the legendary place of this meeting. To quote just a couple of verses –

What peace from Himalaya’s lonely
Caves and forests thou didst carry
To the vine groves and rose gardens
Of Baghdad!
What light from Badrinath’s snowy
Peak thou didst bear to illumine
The heart of Bahlol, thy saintly
Persian disciple!
Eight fortnights Balol hearkened to
Thy words on life and the Path
And Spring Eternal, while the moon
Waxed and waned in the pomegranate grove
Beside the grassy desert of the dead…

Finally, after more than twenty years of criss-crossing the land in all directions, it was time to go home – to Kartarpur on the banks of the Ravi. 

Guru Nanak shed his travelling garb and adopted the dress of a simple householder and farmer.

Phiri baba aia kartarpur bhekh udasi sagal utara Pahiri sansari kapde manji baith kia avatara (Then Baba returned to Kartarpur and discarded the wanderer’s robe He donned the clothes of a householder and changed to that role)

During his travels, he had met and talked to all kinds of people and dispelled the forces of darkness, mists of superstition and the chains of ritual. 

He had spread far and wide his message of love, equality, compassion, truth and truthful living.

He had explained through his discourses the All-Pervasive, Timeless Nature of the Creator.

Now it was time to show in practical terms that renunciation and asceticism were not the answer to life’s challenge.

True religious discipline had to be forged while living in the world, amidst all its challenges and temptations, troubles and joys. 

The spirit of affirmation is an essential aspect of the Guru’s teachings. The world that is real has to be accepted as a reflection of divine purpose. 

He supported institutions such as marriage, family and society and brought them within the ambit of religion.

In Kartarpur, Nanak occupied himself with vigorous work in the fields. He also wrote down many of the hymns he had already sung elsewhere, including the Japuji. 

A community began to gather around him at Kartarpur and grew steadily. Men of all callings and faiths – householders and ascetics, destitute mendicants and wealthy merchants, Brahmins and dervishes, Hindus and Muslims came there drawn by this message of piety and humanity.

In the words of Professor Puran Singh, Guru Nanak “radiated love and faith and attracted people like light attracts moths.” 

This was not a monastic order that was being built up but a fellowship of ordinary men engaged in ordinary occupations of life- farmers, artisans, traders and those who were considered members of the lower professions. 

They had forsworn previous allegiances and had taken Guru Nanak as their guide and teacher.

Kartarpur also saw the establishment of the dharamsal – or place of worship which would later adopt the name of gurudwara when the Granth Sahib, then accorded the status of a Guru by the tenth Guru was placed in it. Bhai Gurdas says:

Dharamsal kartarpur sadhsangati sach khand vasaia Vahguru Gur shabad sunaiya (The dharamsal at Kartarpur was inhabited by the holy congregation as heaven itself and the word of God was given by the Guru to the people)

In fact, the metaphor of the dharamsal is also used to show that Guru Nanak had wrested religion back from the priestly classes -who had because of their vested interests made it moribund and ritualistic – and restored it to the householder. In Bhai Gurdas’s words :

Ghar Ghar andar dharamsal, hove kirtan sada visoa (every home has become a place of worship where the singing of hymns has become a daily liturgy)

A number of other important traditions were started at Kartarpur, in particular, the traditions of kirtan and langar – or in other words – sangat and pangat

The kirtan included the singing of the Japuji and Asa di var in the mornings and the Sodar in the evening, as well as the Sohila before retiring. 

The singing in a sangat or congregation of these compositions in praise of the divine induces a mood of contemplation of God’s name – as anybody who has listened to an inspired kirtan session will testify.

These hymns were received wisdom through the agency of the Guru. 

Sangat had a social implication as well – the creation of a brotherhood or fraternity. A member of the sangat was known as bhaior brother. The sangat brought together men not just in spiritual pursuit but also in worldly affairs, forging a community of purpose as well as of action, based on mutual equality and brotherhood. 

The disciples mixed together without consideration of caste or status.

Bhai Gurdas mentions the names of the leading Sikhs of the time even mentioning some castes or profession – among the disciples mentioned are Mardana and Daulat Khan Lodhi – both Muslims, Bura or Bhai Budda – a jat of the Randhawa caste, also Ajita Randhawa, Phiran a khaira jat, Malo and Mango who were musicians,  and several others of different castes – the sangat was thus a melting pot for the high and the low.

The langar or the community kitchen where the rich and the poor sat down in a pangat to eat the same food irrespective of caste or social standing or rank. 

A key element of this restructuring of the religious and social life was the spirit of seva or voluntary service – something that the Sikh panth is known the world over for today.

This way the langar was different from the soup kitchens run in sufi khanqahs – those were meant as alm-houses but langar turned this practice into a positive and active brotherhood.

The years that Nanak spent as a householder after his travels, and of course also between his travels, were a demonstration of his belief in practical virtue rather than abstract piety. 

The lessons to the community of followers were – 

kirt karo – do work; 

nam japo – meditate on His Name; 

vand chhako – share with the less fortunate.

The society at Kartarpur thus became a precursor of historical Sikhism. 

Caste, icon-worship and empty ritual were its main rejections and its mainstay was a fervent faith in the Divine, ethical living and a full affirmation of life and creation.

Its ideals of fraternity and brotherhood in sangat and pangat as well as of service and the recitation of bani would prove to be essential elements of self-identity, established in Guru Nanak’s time itself and further crystallised by his successors. 

Ultimately, they would come to full flower under Guru Gobind Singh through the formation of the Khalsa.

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Birth of a New Relegion …

Posted on June 3, 2019. Filed under: Personalities |

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Four Term PM with Boozing Record Unbeat …

Posted on May 16, 2019. Filed under: Personalities |

SORRY the Guy Died at 89 – But a Four Term PM and with a Boozing Record Unbeat THREE CHEERS FOR THE GUY .

Bob Hawke, Australia’s longest-serving Labor Party prime minister, whose charisma and powers of persuasion earned him near-folk hero status among many Australians, died on Thursday, his wife said. He was 89.

The former union leader dedicated much of his political career to trade union issues, and he was widely regarded as a man of his people. He had a down-to-earth attitude, a passion for sports and legendary status among beer lovers — for once drinking himself into the record books.

He won four terms as prime minister, serving from 1983 to 1991 before being ousted by his own center-left party when the economy soured. Only two other prime ministers served Australia longer, and both were members of the conservative Liberal Party.

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KPS Gill – Meglomaniac …

Posted on April 25, 2019. Filed under: Personalities |

By Basant Rath, a 2000-batch Indian Police Service officer who belongs to the Jammu and Kashmir cadre. Extracted from The Wire.

On May 26, 2017, Kanwar Pal Singh Gill died at Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. Of cardiac arrest. 

Exactly 20 years earlier, on May 23 1997, Ajit Singh Sandhu, an Ex Police Officer died on a railway track. He committed suicide. Before he threw himself in front of the Himalayan Queen that morning, he left a note: “It is better to die than live in humiliation.”

Gill was the much-hyped super-cop who led the Punjab police twice during the peak of militancy; Sandhu was the Punjab police officer who took on the challenge of battling Sikh militants in their stronghold in Tarn Taran in 1991 when KPS selected him due his ruthlessness to rule the district as Police Chief.

Under suspension after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) indicted him in two of 16 cases involving serious violations of law, Sandhu had served time in Amritsar jail before he was released on bail in January 1997 following an assault by militants lodged in the prison.

Gill was conferred the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian honour; Sandhu was decorated twice with the president’s award for gallantry.

By the time Gill retired from the IPS in 1995, the state government of the day, faced with the increasing number of lawsuits against more than 500 police personnel, had set up a separate litigation wing under an inspector general (IG). 

By May 1997, 1,100 petitions were filed in different courts. Twelve hundred cases were registered against police officials. In the aftermath of Gill’s ‘war on terror’, the Punjab police was facing 85 CBI and 91 judicial probes. 

Thirty policemen were in jail, around 100 were out on bail and 140, including seven SPs, were facing prosecution. The CBI, on the direction of the National Human Rights Commission, was also probing 2,000 cases involving partially identified or unidentified bodies and mass cremations and disappearances from police custody. 

In those two years alone, the state government had to shell out as much as Rs 80 lakh as compensation in 18 cases. After the next director general of police took charge,  there were 723 complaints of high-handedness against the police within three months, 15% of them related to corruption.

When Sandhu committed suicide, his despondency was symptomatic of the growing despair of more than 2,000 police officers in the state who were being hauled up in various courts for the extra-judicial methods they had employed in fighting terrorism. 

With the CBI, on the Supreme Court’s order, investigating cases involving partially identified or unidentified bodies, the future looked dark and hopeless.

The “great men make history” model of sociological explanation is a shallow way of looking at social reality. It is neither objective in its understanding, nor reliable in its judgment. 

Those who claim terrorism in Punjab died a painful death because of Gill’s extra-legal counter-terrorist operations need to understand the politico-economic milieu of that fateful decade. 

The tacit understanding between Benazir Bhutto and Rajiv Gandhi had a substantive role to play in cutting off Islamabad’s support to Khalistani terrorist groups and their political mentors. 

Moreover, while foreign-funded terrorist groups enjoyed some support among Sikh separatists in the earlier decade, that support gradually disappeared by the early 1990s. 

The insurgency weakened the Punjab economy and led to an increase in mass disaffection with the criminalised insurgents. 

The contribution of the average villager in rural Punjab in rooting out criminal-infested terrorist gangs needs special mention. So does the role played by Gill’s predecessor and boss for two years at the time of Operation Blue Star, Julio Ribeiro, as his efforts to galvanise the Punjab police helped make Gill’s job in the police administration easier.

Gill, as a police leader working under the checks and balances of India’s constitutional democracy, was a disaster. In matters of policing and security, Gill didn’t have much time and energy for institutions and processes. 

He had no concern for the consequences his decisions brought upon the very police officers who followed his orders blindly. 

People like him are great crisis managers and brilliant executioners but they are a threat to democratic institutions and their legitimacy. They like the limelight and crave it – and if there is no crisis, they create one by outraging the modesty of women. 

He romanticised the “break the rules” kind of freedom and broke down institutions and processes as if they were enemy bones.

Gill, as the chief of Indian Hockey Federation (IHF – the then national body for the sport) for 14 years, lost his position when the Indian Olympic Association suspended the IHF in 2008. 

If Gill, as an individual shorn of uniform-clad charisma and stripped of any institutionalised police authority, had any claim to inspiring leaderhsip, what he did to India’s hockey in that period, as the puppeteer in a one-man management show, does not reflect well on him at all.

During those  14 debilitating years, India’s hockey tripped from one off-field controversy to another while the performance of the national senior team on AstroTurf continued, minus two Asian tournaments, to be pathetic. 

In 2008, India failed to qualify for the Olympics. It was the first time since 1928 that the Indian hockey team did not play in the tournament. And no media criticism disturbed Gill’s confidence and no on-field debacle troubled his conscience. And then came the suspension.

K.P.S. Gill led a good number of his officers to jail and did nothing to save them other than writing a letter to the prime minister, with a copy to the chief justice of India, the speaker of the Lok Sabha and the chairman of the Rajya Sabha.

These are his words, taken from the letter that he wrote on his return to Delhi from the funeral of Sandhu:

“A constitutional commission should be set up to examine the records of judicial processes and judgments during the years of terrorism in Punjab; to identify the judicial officers who failed to discharge their constitutional obligations, and to honour their oath to dispense justice without fear or favour; to determine their accountability; and to take suitable action to ensure that the judicial and criminal justice system does not collapse or fail ever again in the face of lawlessness.”

These words came to his mind only after his retirement. And he didn’t think that the same measures could apply to him and his wayward officers as well.

India’s police leadership has a huge task at hand. Armed insurgent groups are fighting the legitimacy of the Indian state in 172 districts in the form of insurgency, left-wing extremism and terrorism. 

From Bastar to Baramulla, from Imphal to Nalgonda, from Gadchiroli to Purulia, India’s tryst with democracy is being challenged by gun-wielding groups that claim no allegiance to her constitution. The rule of law can’t be given a royal go-by in the name of fighting these insurgents in the national interest.

The kind of protection that is given to members of the IPS as an all-India service under Article 312 of the Indian constitution is not available to all the police personnel (state police and central armed police forces) working under their charge. 

If lionising Gill is an act of love for his labour, if placing him in the pantheon of IPS heroes is a hat tip to the greatness of the fraternity, if his questionable acts of commission and omission are permissible in the interest of the country’s territorial integrity, we need to remember Sandhu and thousands of faceless police personnel who lived their nameless lives and died their obituary-less deaths, and whose family members survived the ignominy of court cases for no fault of their own – other than of having blindly followed illegal orders.

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Gen KMB – Tiger Woods …

Posted on April 23, 2019. Filed under: Personalities |

There aare two pieces On Tiger Woods in the Wall Street Journal

The first one extols the magnificent comeback of Tiger Woods and thrusts his profile, after a long interval, into the front and center of the  golfing Universe. Haunted by arrest for alleged substance abuse, buffeted by the pangs of divorce and custody battle, and debilitated by aches and pain,

Tiger made several unsuccessful forays into various golf championships and almost gave them up as lost causes. He suffered the humiliation of being rank-ordered to a lowly 1000.

Yet, he fought back, held his cool, and scored a spectacular and historic win, earning kudos from friends and detractors, alike.

The 2nd piece that appeared in WSJ  had a more sobering tone and did not wax eloquent on his stellar performance; instead, it dwelt at length on the transformative interregnum between his last triumph and the latest on.

In particular, it eulogized about how Tiger Woods trained himself in the unforgiving school of hard knocks and eventually emerged as a humble and human learner.

Tiger Wood’s sad decline and remarkable rise remind us of the famous verses of Lord Tennyson in his magnum opus, “Idylls of the King”.

“Rapt in this fancy of his Table Round,
And swearing men to vows impossible,
To make them like himself: but, friend, to me
He is all fault who hath no fault at all:
For who loves me must have a touch of earth;”

Line 130.

Tiger Woods seems to have reclaimed his “touch of earth”.

Does resilience have implications for the armed forces? An attempt to glean the implications, at first blush, appears to be a stretch.

On deeper reflection it is no exaggeration to assert that military leadership is marinated in resilience: study how the Maratha leadership snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in the third battle of Panipat, which is rued as one of the ignominious defeats in the annals of military history.

Internalize how Slim turned defeat into victory; critique how MacArthur brought to bear his experience of “island hopping” to smash the North Koreans at Inchon;.

ast but not the least how Sagat Singh, having tried and failed in set-piece attacks against Pakistan’s border posts, came up with an innovative version of the “indirect approach” to bring about the “physical distension” and “psychological dislocation” of the enemy, the twin pillars of the Strategy of Indirect Approach a la Liddell- Hart.

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Baba Ramdev …

Posted on April 18, 2019. Filed under: Personalities |

Extracted from an Article in The Wire –

Baba Ramdev took India by storm in the early 2010s. His shirshasanas, or headstands, have extended far beyond the world of yoga, upturning India’s multi-billion-dollar consumer goods industry.

Over the years, Ramdev has adopted many avatars: Hindu ascetic, anti-corruption crusader and the guiding force behind the Patanjali empire.

But when the final chapter of his story is written, his role as a low-key media mogul, beaming commodified spiritual content to India’s masses, may be end up being the most interesting. 

Over the last two decades, India’s devotional TV industry has boomed and rapidly evolved, with Ramdev’s journey being symbolic of how the sector has changed.

The billionaire yogi has always had a strong bond with media. His tryst with television goes back to 2002 when he was spotted by Aastha TV’s founding editor Madhav Kant Mishra, who met him at one of his small yoga shivirs in Haridwar in early 2002.

“My first impression about Ramdev was that he can make it big. I found two of his traits sellable: firstly, he was a ‘sanyasi’, and secondly, he was able to do ‘nauli kriya’, churning his stomach. The moment I saw him doing it, I knew he would be a big hit. However, the top management was not convinced and we lost Ramdev to our rival channel – Sanskar TV,”

Back then, it was a gamble for Sanskar to bet on an unknown yoga guru from Haridwar. But the show was a huge hit, and the channel’s TRPs were going through the roof.

Stunned by his sudden rise in popularity, Aastha TV realised its mistake and poached him for the same slot within a year. It was through these two channels that Ramdev found his mass following.

Though Ramdev is now more popularly associated with all things ‘Patanjali’, his yoga guru image on devotional TV channels is the oldest of all his avatars.

Around 25 years ago, Ramdev started his self-appointed mission of popularising yoga and Ayurveda in India. In 1995, he founded the Divya Yoga Trust along with with Acharya Balkrishna and Karamveer in Haridwar. 

He would have still been in Haridwar, like many of his other peers in the holy city, had the appearance on Sanskar TV not happened.

Cut to 2019. Ramdev has owned both Sanskar and Aastha TV for some time and has aggressively expanded the ambit of his media business since these two acquisitions. He has a controlling stake in and operates ten Hindu devotional channels.

The gamble taken by Sanskar TV not only changed the fortune for the channel and Ramdev but also shaped this segment as a whole.

Now widely recognised as industry pioneers, both channels were launched in the mid-2000s. Within a few years, they were followed by a flurry of similar-looking and sounding competitors. 

Every telegenic yogi looking for a bigger audience has tried to replicate Ramdev’s success, and every new devotional channel wants to become the next Aastha or Sanskar TV.

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