The Nabha jailbreak in Punjab involving Khalistan Liberation Front (KLF) inmates hit the media headlines. Fortunately the ring leader Harminder Singh Mintoo, who had escaped with colleagues Kashmir Singh and Gurmeet Sekhon, was captured in Delhi, where had sought refuge, by the Delhi police within hours f his flight. The giveaway was a mobile call to a relative, already under police surveillance. The rest is history. Mintoo was arrested at one of the capital’s railway stations as he prepared to board a train to Mumbai. A diary recovered from him indicated links with his Pakistan handlers.
Under interrogation he said the KLF and kindred Khalistani terror groups had developed links with the drugs mafia in Punjab. Drug abuse in Punjab has almost reached pandemic proportions, what with high youth unemployment and declining job opportunities allied to a sluggish economy (Times of India November 28)
As a postscript to this grim report, one recalls the late General JFR Jacob, as Punjab Governor during the Vajpayee dispensation, saying that the Akali party was the most corrupt he had seen in fifty years of public life.
The Congress party as the only credible opposition in Punjab is poised to do well in the forthcoming State Assembly polls. Its local leadership is led by the competent and able Captain Amerinder Singh whose articulation of the crisis in Punjab appears to have struck a chord with the general population. The BJP is a coalition partner of the Akalis, and Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadami party appear to be a rabble.
Khalistani tried in US
Khalistani Balwinder Singh, 42, an Indian citizen with a green card was arrested and brought to trial before a Federal Court in Nevada, admitted that he conspired with terrorists to assassinate government officials in India. ‘Singh attempted to provide material support to terrorists to create violence abroad,’ said Assistant Attorney General M ary McCord. The prosecution said that one of the conspirators was caught at San Francisco as he was attempting to board a flight to Bangkok. Balwinder Singh and his accomplice, Baljit Singh, could face 15-year jail sentences if found guilty (Times of India December 1)
Seven soldiers die in jihadi attacks
Seven soldiers, including jawans and officers, and two jihadi terrorists, whom the Hindu newspaper likes to describe as “militants,” - in keeping with its soft approach to Pakistan and China - were killed at the Nagrota Army base in Kashmir, about 20 kms from Jammu city. A fidayeen group had infiltrated from across the Pakistan border and launched an attack that clearly caught the Army by surprise. The attack was launched in the early hours in darkness. The terrorists were heavily armed and disguised in police uniforms.
In a separate attack on the Ramgarh Border Security Force (BSF) base three jihadis were killed and three BSF men injured in the ensuing firefight. In an accompanying report, the newspaper suggested that the Indian Army was taking a major hit in this attritional conflict, listing 89 soldiers killed in a year. An unnamed source was quotes as saying that in any war, from now on, the Army would be short of officers. There was a sinister pitch to the piece. One dead is one too many. That clearly is a cause for lament. But when men and women enlist for armed services, they do so knowing well that they are putting their lives on the line. As for the hypothetical “war” mentioned by the source, one must marvel at his blindness:: India is already at war with Pakistan – an unconventional war, maybe, but still a war. (Hindu, Times of India Telegraph November 30, December 1)
However, the media have underlined the growing concern across India, that infiltrating jihadis keep getting through military - witness Pathankot, Uri and now Nagrota.
Movement to Islamise India
The goal of the ‘Base Movement, a home-grown terror outfit is to Islamise the country. On January 26, 2014, N. Abbas Ali (27), a painter in Madurai (the temple city in Tamil Nadu) took an oath with four friends to establish the ‘Base Movement’ in India, a recently exposed terror group responsible for the explosions at courts in Mysore and other cities in southern India. They sought affiliation with Al-Quada.
With each bomb blast, they set their sights higher, baffling the police initially because their presence had not been on the official radar. Eventually Abbass Ali and his accomplices, S.Suleiman, 23, Karim Raja, Mohammed Ayub Ali,25, Karuvayam Samsudeen, all members of the Salafi branch of Islam, were caught and brought to trial (Hindu December 1)
Agriculture spurs growth
GDP growth accelerated to 7.3 per cent, thanks to a robust performance by the agriculture sector in the second quarter (July-September) of the current fiscal. First quarter growth (April-June) was 7.1 per cent. The next two quarters are expected to register subdued growth in the aftermath of demonetization. However, the government’s Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian pointed to factors that encourage a measure of optimism, saying: ‘Nominal GDP growth picked up a fair amount, accelerating from 10.4 per cent to 12.1 per cent in the second quarter, showing signs of the underlying strength of the economy.’
‘Expect this year to be a year of two halves, as the drive to demoneetize is likely to have a negative bias in the numbers in the near term,’ said Anis Chakravarty, Lead Economist, Deloitte India (Hindu December 1)
Core sector growth accelerates
India’s core sector grew 6.6 per cent in October, driven by robust output in the oil and steel sectors, which jumped 16.9 per cent, clocking double digit growth for the third straight month (Hindu December 1)
India-US deal for 145 howitzers
Following years of negotiations, India and the United States last week (November 30) signed a $750 million dollar government-to- government deal for the purchase by India of 145 M777 Ultra Light Howitzers under the Foreign Military Sales Programme. The manufacturing BAE Systems will conclude an offset agreement estimated at about $200 million. Twenty-five guns are to be imported and the rest made in India (Hindu December 1)
India-Russia pact on Kudankulam plant
The general framework agreement between India and Russia for the third stage (for units 5 and 6) of the Kudankulam nuclear power project in Tamil Nadu is expected to be signed very soon, very likely before the year is out, said a Russian spokesman. The plant’s Blocks 3 and 4 will be commissioned in 2022 and 2023 (second stage). ‘So we are now working with our Indian partners, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and are approaching to sign the documents for the two new units (5 and 6),’ said Nicolay Spassky, Deputy CEO for International Relations at Russia’s Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom. As for efficiency, he said the Kudankulam plant was India’s best. (Business Line December 1)
Bangalore to set up re-skilling workshops
IT capital Bangalore is to set up re-skilling workshops for engineers because of the increase in automation and changing technology required by companies. ‘Job creation is getting difficult and in this light setting up of an incubator in tier II cities where we feel that the talent can be at par with metros,’ said Karnataka Industries Minister R V Deshpande (Business Line November 29)
India’s tribute to Fidel Castro
The death of Fidel Castro at 90 has led to a flood of tributes to his memory across Latin America and much of the Third World. An iconic figure to the post-war generation, he liberated his island nation from the stranglehold of the 35-year-old Batista dictatorship, backed in its tyranny by the shameful support of the United States. During this dark period Cuba was reduced to a playground and bordello for rich American tourists. The Cuban revolution in 1959 replaced this servitude with radical social and economic change. Education and medical services achieved a phenomenal reach, attracting poor African America to travel to Cuba for the medicare that was unaffordable back home. Cuba’s black community were empowered as respected citizens of a socialist republic
The US never forgave Cuba for its perceived insolence to go its own way and imposed an stringent economic blockade of the country.
Fidel Castro had a warm emotional regard for India. It began with his meeting Jawaharlal Nehru in 1960 and reached a high with Indira Gandhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi described Cuba as one of India’s closest friends, and Home Minister Rajnath Singh led a delegation of Indian MPs to Havana to pay their respects to the memory of a truly great figure of our time.
Business daily Mint issued a scornful comment on ‘Castro and Stalin as dictators,’ who had violated democracy and the rule of law, and the principles of the free market. Neither man. It is true, was a liberal democrat, but each in his own way left a platform that changed history. The Allied victory in the Second World War, which destroyed the abomination of Nazism and its death camps would have been impossible without, in Churchill’s words to Parliament in 1944, Russian valour the leadership of Joseph Stalin, who also transformed a backward agrarian society into a global superpower. Building nations bottom up is invariably work in progress. What great revolutionary leaders leave undone can be taken up and done by their successors. This is how history should be read and understood.
As for the rule of law, the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq and its devastating consequences are tragedies to mull over. Pondering the findings of the damning Chilcot report highlights the culpability of Tony Blair, his ministers, the intelligence agencies and the British media. Democracy and the rule of law were violated at every stage.