The pain, shame & gloom….

These thoughts that i had written during the Bombay riots in 1992-93. A lot happened during that time..visions that i still see, events that are vivid. My niece’s wedding was on Dec 6, 1992, when a BJP leader from Pune was ecstatic, “Yes, we did it padli amhi Babri Masjid..” I could feel the chill on my back coz i could envisage the events that would unfold in the next few days. Days? Seems the thread is broken forever..

i will be honest-i had NOT expected riots that would ruin a good community feeling for the rest of our lives…that Bombay was forcibly converted to Mumbai.

My father, sister & I left by train for Bombay the very next day & it was shocking- had to pull down shutters, fm Kalyan people had begun throwing stones at the trains, delays & people rushing wt fear in their eyes when we did reach VT. As we neared Girgaum there was not a soul on the streets..reminded me of the dark window days of Indo-Pak war.

I have a friend-Altaf, who’s name is a give away. So less said the better..it was tough for his family too that was uprooted from their home in Tardeo..life was not the same for all for few months. Years after normal life was restored, the Shaikhs could not put up their name plate! Apart from that being followed, prowlers making anonymous calls at midnight, 1.00am to create rift, threaten me, telling my father ‘keep that girl who goes out indoors…” there was nothing lesser than a war in Kolhatkar household. Where my beliefs, activities were not approved by most…

1.

The air is tensed & the skies rage with hues of fires
Little children, youth & adults are gripped in a mania
Reason, is visibly absent
All perform ‘acts of duty’ with utmost loyalty
For whom? As inexplicable as the acts of violence
Ironic, you see hatred more on faces of those who pulled down the Masjid
Revenge for whom?

They have sent fear down streets of ‘Bombay’
No bearded man or a burqua lady is being spared
Men are forced to pull down their pants
witnesses ensure there’s no one circumcised!
Majority indulgences in thrills to satisfy their sadism
Scared they will be out numbered soon

Is this the triumph of any religion?
Who are these victorious soldiers?
What medals should be conferred on them for merciless murders?
Children have died, women raped & riots on the streets
Arson, shooting and houses destroyed as clouds of smoke blur the horizon
Sounds of swords, bottles and tube lights ring in the air

Are we the same peace-loving Indians? Is this democracy?

2.

‘This is just the beginning,’ warn the hardened Hindus
The quiet tolerance has disappeared
They smirk devising heinous plans
These frenzied have become the voice of majority
But most civilians are mere mute participating in a vicious game plan
Do they realise they are being used?
A chill is sent down our spines as the commissioner orders shooting a baker’s family
While in the suburbs a politician is cleared of carrying arms & explosives

Blame game has begun whilst a gangster has initiated a new terror chapter
A blanket of fear has covered the faces of common people
Bombayites witness one of their worst nightmare
While our government turns a blind eye to all destruction
Gory visuals leave all benumbed, sadly not shamed
The world watches Bombay change from cosmopolitan to communal

3.

The war continues..Now even the middle class has taken to looting, killing & using force
Unfulfilled desires surface, as the rich too grab from the muck
Confusion surrounds the goals & motive for rioting, people look dressed for some Halloween
Except no sweets are asked at the door, they break-in to spread terror

Anger, pain, and isolation have embraced the scary souls
Haunting memories make them shiver
Lights are out in mohallas where all whisper in fear
Nameplates are missing from doors & many tip toe towards nearest city exits

The homeless huddle in clusters & cries of children echo across the over-crowded stations
Platforms have disappeared under sea of humanity, all look in stunned silence
Only heads are visible-caps or burquas, many have still retained their lost identity
For many the journey of migration to safety has begun, destination still unknown

4.

Are these crackers heralding a New Year or gunshots & blasts?
Shimmering sparkle have set the streets on fire
The epidemic of religious frenzy has spread wildly
Humanity has been thrown in a whirlpool of pain
Most have been uprooted, is this a war?

The markets are closed & goods vanished
Only ashes remain on the ground
Hunger is the last worry on their minds
Fathers are prevented from going to work,
Police arrest thousands from only one community

Leaders cry for strong action but the administration fails to deliver
Is this the city I was born in?
Everyone seems to have joined hands to claim their share of ‘power’
These are plain chess moves & the reins in the hands of conspirator
Madness continues as even noble attempts to restore peace seem superficial

The culprits are at bay, but rest live in a world of suspicion, hostility & revenge
All have been used & abused, but the conspirators sleep well
The crack is now evident, they have succeeded in dividing us
All we can now do is plaster & paint,
But we will never be able to hide our shame

5.

My journey on the BEST began being seated on the last row
My serenity was broken suddenly by loud sounds of laughs and loose talks
The hooligans rushed to squeeze next to me What was the excitement?

After many days this travel was possible
The bus was full as my eyes searched for rescue from the taunts & jibes
Ahead sat a lonely man isolated from the rest
His beard was a give away, my saviour was right there!
He among the few had still not shed their respect

his fa� ‘ o����s uprooted from their home in Tardeo..life was not the same for all for few months. Years after normal life was restored, the Shaikhs could not put up their name plate! These are my thoughts…

1.

The air is tensed & the skies rage with hues of fires
Little children, youth & adults are gripped in a mania
Reason, is visibly absent
All perform ‘acts of duty’ with utmost loyalty
For whom? As inexplicable as the acts of violence
Ironic, you see hatred more on faces of those who pulled down the Masjid
Revenge is for those who saw their place of worship crumble

They have sent fear down streets of ‘Bombay’
No bearded man or a burqua lady is being spared
Men are forced to pull down their pants
witnesses ensure there’s no one circumcised!
Majority indulgences in thrills to satisfy their sadism
Scared they will be out numbered soon

Is this the triumph of any religion?
Who are these victorious soldiers?
What medals should be conferred on them for merciless muders?
Children have died, women raped & riots on the streets
Arson, shooting and houses destroyed as clouds of smoke blur the horizon
Sounds of swords, bottles and tube lights ring in the air

Are we the same peace-loving Indians? Is this democracy?

2.

‘This is just the beginning,’ warn the hardened Hindus
The quiet tolerance has disappeared
They smirk devising heinous plans
These frenzied have become the voice of majority
But most civilians are mere mute participating in a vicious game plan
Do they realise they are being used?
A chill is sent down our spines as the commissioner orders shooting a baker’s family
While in the suburbs a politician is cleared of carrying arms & explosives

Blame game has begun whilst a gangster has initiated a new terror chapter
A blanket of fear has covered the faces of common people
Bombayites witness one of their worst nightmare
While our government turns a blind eye to all destruction
Gory visuals leave all benumbed, sadly not shamed
The world watches Bombay change from cosmopolitan to communal

3.

The war continues..Now even the middle class has taken to looting, killing & force
Unfulfilled desires surface, as the rich too grab from the muck
Confusion surrounds the goals & motive for rioting, people look dressed for some haloween
Except no sweets are asked at the door, they break-in to spread terror

Anger, pain, and isolation have embraced the scary souls
Haunting memories make them shiver
Lights are out in mohallas where all whisper in fear
Nameplates are missing from doors & many tip toe towards nearest city exits

The homeless huddle in clusters & cries of children echo the over crowded stations
Platforms have disappeared under sea of humanity, all look in stunned silence
Only heads are visible-caps or burquas many have still retained their lost identity
For many the journey of migration to safety has begun, destination still unknown

4.

Are these crackers heralding a New Year or gunshots & blasts?
Shimmering sparkle have set the streets on fire
The epidemic of religious frenzy has spread wildly
Humanity has been thrown in a whirlpool of pain
Most have been uprooted, is this a war?

The markets are closed & goods vanished
Only ashes remain on the ground
Hunger is the last worry on their minds
Fathers are prevented from going to work,
Police arrest thousands from only one community

Leaders cry for strong action but the administration fails to deliver
Is this the city I was born in?
Everyone seems to have joined hands to claim their share of ‘power’
These are plain chess moves & the reigns in the hands of conspirator
Madness continues as even noble attempts to restore peace seem superficial

The culprits are at bay, but rest live in a world of suspicion, hostility & revenge
All have been used & abused, but the conspirators sleep well
The crack is now evident, they have succeeded in dividing us
All we can now do is plaster & paint,
But we will never be able to hide our shame

5.

My journey on the BEST began being seated on the last row
My serenity was broken suddenly by loud sounds of laughs and loose talks
The hooligans rushed to squeeze next to me What was the excitement?

After many days this travel was possible
The bus was full as my eyes searched for rescue from the taunts & jibes
Ahead sat a lonely man isolated from the rest
His beard was a give away, my saviour was right there!
He like few had still not shed their respect.

Serving a death sentence

There has been talk post Kasab’s verdict. Smsz galore, sarcastic comments, snide remarks & then if that is not sufficient, for some like me who do believe death doesn’t erase the ideology or erase the violence. I am asked how can I be a nationalist, how can I support a terrorist is the personal attack I face.
I was at the court, not inside but covering from outside. I saw how reporters brought in their personal tones, remarks in their coverage. I I am aware my personal view is of the minority opinion. Even this view i don’t ever bring in my reporting. But most in their emotional bid that revenge should be taken on Pakistan people think others’ view is lopsided. I don’t believe in death penalty. I also don’t believe death can solve problems.

There has been talk post Kasab’s verdict. Smsz galore, sarcastic comments, snide remarks & then if that is not sufficient, for some like me who do believe death doesn’t erase the ideology or erase the violence. I am asked how can I be a nationalist, how can I support a terrorist is the personal attack I face.
I was at the court, not inside but covering from outside. I saw how reporters brought in their personal tones, remarks in their coverage. I I am aware my personal view is of the minority opinion. Even this view i don’t ever bring in my reporting. But most in their emotional bid that revenge should be taken on Pakistan people think others’ view is lopsided. I don’t believe in death penalty. I also don’t believe death can solve problems.

don’t much understand what is true as regards Indo-Pakistan politics. On one hand we suck up to them. On the other we snub them & scream rhetoric. But we somehow seem pale in our response when we need to. I don’t know how it should be I am NO expert on it. But yes one thing i know a peaceful neighbour country is beneficial to India as much it is to Pakistan itself.

I am immensely shocked with the 26/11 2008 attacks. I lost on a mentor & few friends. The way they were killed is one part of the immense grief & shock. The more aggravating part is how the very police who should have rushed help and they had the time to rescue the shot officers –Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte, Salaskar -were thrown on the street & were made to stay to there for over half an hour. Sad, this shouldn’t be the end that I’d ever wish even for my enemy. That is why even i felt, if the police had that once chance, they should’ve shot Kasab then and there. That didn’t happen.

Now he is in our custody. The custody & hearing has been written about, spoken at length, debated, no sorry being debated all the while. I have no energy or inclination to even comment on it. What i do know is Kasab is desperate & hence he resorts to all sorts of behaviour.

On my scholarship course for conflict management, i came across a Pakistani MA who was then attending a peace course. He did everything under the sun to try & get an opportunity to stay on in Bangkok, far away from the ravaged country –Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. He & I had our differences, our talks & even debates. The 1 thing he slipped casually while talking was that MA was once a LeT operative. I was taken aback immediately. I kept it in my mind.

I worked for a newspaper then which hadn’t cared for my scholarship, especially in the middle of global recession i took it up-Mid career scholarship-the newspaper HR & editors didn’t even support me. I went without a salary for 4 months. So why the hell should i give this superb story to that newspaper? Yet i did only because my journalistic instinct told me this is a ‘dhasu’ story Neeta.

I got talking to MA 1 evening. I persuaded him to give me his full story. The reason i am telling it now, is because i now can understand Kasab’s life. The ease with which the perpetuators of terror lure jobless youth in Pakistan, giving attractive sops of physical training & then fascinating their imagination with rocket launchers & eventually brain washing them. I can imagine how these reckless youth are willing to unleash terror on others. In case they cross over they are dead, if they join advanced jihadi training & don’t cross border, then too they are dead. That is Kasab a dead man alive.

On road to terror, mother’s love stopped him

Strap: A Kashmiri travels from a terror camp to university after seeing the light of reason in time

MA Shafqat, like many young men caught in his circumstances, acquired training in insurgency from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to cross over the border from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). But as the day of reckoning came closer, Shafqat’s soul was tormented by the gentle feelings he got whenever he thought about his mother. He fled the terror camp.

Today, Shafqat, who believes Kashmir should be free, attends a peace course in Bangkok from where he plans to reach out to the world with his ‘Azad Kashmir’ cause.

“My mission is still the same: to see a united, peaceful Kashmir. However, I feel that the means to achieve it must change. I strongly believe that my dream cannot be realised through violence. We have to take recourse to peaceful means,” Shafqat, a fellow at the Rotary Peace and Conflict Studies Centre, Chulalongkorn University, says, explaining the profound change he has undergone in his political outlook and personal life.

He says it is easy for him to put himself in the shoes of Ajmal Amir, aka Kasab, the lone terrorist to be caught in 26/11, an event that for Shafqat brought back memories of his days in the ISI’s terror nursery. “You must understand that had Ajmal refused to do what he did, he would not have remained alive. I backed out after the first round of training. Had I crossed over into Kashmir, my fate would have been sealed.”

Shafqat’s journey into the terror camp started from his college — Khan Mohammad Khan College in Plandari, PoK — where he was active in the students’ movement, the main agenda of which was Kashmiri liberation. Insurgency training was a step away. “The camps had been originally set up by the United States to fight the Russians in Afghanistan by proxy. When the Russians pulled out, the ISI took over the camps from the Americans,” he says. “During the day we were given discourses and other training. At night we learnt how to handle arms and rocket launchers. It was hush-hush. People in the vicinity didn’t even have a whiff about our activities.”

The key moment in Shafqat’s transformation came when he realised that he had to ultimately cross the border. “My mother would have died of shock,” he says. “I could feel her pain. After being through the first phase, I knew if I became a terrorist my family would be ruined. It was my mother’s love that stopped me.”

After the change of course, he decided to see the world and spend time in the pursuit of knowledge. He read voraciously and met new people. All this opened his mind to fresh possibilities of pursuing his dream. “Through my peace studies, I have realised there are many ways to reach out to people… I am trying to find answers to questions like why isn’t China — Asia’s superpower — taking a stand on Kashmir? Why do we need to be slaves of either Pakistan or India?” Shafqat asks rhetorically, then pauses and ponders. There is a glint of optimism in his eyes, the sort of thing that differentiates radicals, but not when they are far gone in the alley of terror.

Kasab & his fellows were given some specific details. They got lost, they went to some other places & fired aimlessly out of frustration. Nariman House was on their list, but were the others, NOBODY knows for sure. They were DITCHED by his bosses, the assassins who masterminded the whole thing. Those real criminals live in their haven – Pakistan. They are being protected, while Kasab is doomed to die.

But he shouldn’t be killed, i don’t think killing will solve our basic problem –terror. The whole ideology & perpetuation of this crime has to be totally wiped out & for that those who abet this crime, allow it to fester, or spread & more so who turn blind eye to it need to be taught a severe lesson. Kasab has to be kept alive. I don’t care, my taxes are being wasted on digging roads, filling pot holes, on flying the skunk of politicians helping them to lead a luxurious life at my cost, then feeding 1 poor Pakistani is NO drain on my economy or tax. He needs to be kept alive to make him realise his mistake.

Everyday his living should be a curse for him. Every minute a reminder to what he has done. Yes, he shouldn’t get instant death for the terror he unleashed on all. But i also know he has a mother too, he has a family back home too who will be reminded everyday that they lost a SON to a misled ideology. That they were used, abused by the people in their homeland for their misplaced mission –to destroy human beings. The Kasab family should be an example for more poor families across the globe & Kasab an example for such misled souls that life is doomed.