The Gorkhaland strike in the hill directs of West Bengal – now into its fourth month – has taken severe toll of the local economy. The disruption has affected education, with the closure of its public schools. The suffering endured by the ordinary people, mostly Nepali-speaking, and supporters of the Gorkhaland demand, has prompted to ask if mindless violence and confrontation is the best way forward to this goal. Hence, there has been a breaking of ranks in the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), which is spearheading the movement. Its erstwhile leader, Bimal Gurung, is on the run, with the police on his trail. He is charged with violence and arson.
His one-time associates, Anit Thapa, struck a conciliatory note during an address to supporters at Kurseong. ‘I believe in a peaceful and democratic agitation for Gorkhaland. But with the indefinite strike now entering its fourth month people – including tea gardens and chinchona plantations workers – are fed up. The strike has taken a massive toll. I know Gorkhaland is the sentiment of the people. So I leave it you, the people of Darjeeling, to take a call on withdrawing the strike,’ said Mr Thapa. Thapa and Binay Tamang, former Chief Coordinator of the GJJM, have distanced themselves from the absconding Bimal Gurung (Times of India September 18)
Unlike Gurung, Binay Tamang is the acceptable face of the Gorkhaland agitation. As a mass movement its goal of Gorkhaland is as good as assured, whatever the time line. Binay Tamang will be better fitted to be its chief minister.
UN debate on Rohingyas
India’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Syed Akbaruddin, issued a statement calling on the international community desist making a hasty conclusion on Indian policy on the issue. India was fully aware of its moral and political obligations to fleeing refugees and had given sanctuary to many refugees in the past. In the case of the Rohingyas, India had dispatched relief supplies to camps in Bangladesh. However, offering sanctuary in India would entail demographic and security issues, which were under consideration (Times of India September 18).
Meanwhile, the Government of India has lodged its confidential intelligence files with the country’s Supreme Court as it considers the petition of Rohingyas challenging the government’s deportation order. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has claimed that their presence in India constitutes a threat to national security, as there were links between Rohingya groups and international terror organizations such as Islamic State and al Qaeda ( Hindu September 22).
Breakthrough arrest in Delhi
The Delhi police anti-terrorist cell made one of its biggest catches, when it tracked down and arrested 28 year-old Samium Rahman, a British national of Bangladeshi origin, who had come to the capital to establish links with Rohingyas for terror operations in India
The government also maintained that Rohingya deportations were the province of the executive and not the courts (Times of India, Hindu, Mint, Telegraph September 19).
PM’s Narmada Dam dedication to India
Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the Narmada Dam to the nation, but made a party political speech in doing so. The Dam’s foundation stone was laid by India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, reduced to ‘unperson’ status these days in the BJP lexicon. In similar vein, on his first visit to Bangladesh, Prime Minister Modi spoke of Atal Bihari’s role in the liberation of Bangladesh, when Bangladeshis, overwhelmingly, credit Indira Gandhi’s contribution as paramount. Under her leadership India thwarted the machinations of the United States and China to keep Bangladesh in thrall to Pakistan.
World Bank opposition
Prime Minister Modi referred to the numerous hurdles faced by the project. True enough. But these emanated from the World Bank, which refused it funding for environmental and humanitarian reasons involving displacement of tribal communities. These contentious issues were closely monitored by the Supreme Court of India. Justice was done, and seen to be done. An engineering marvel has emerged, fit to rank with the Grand Coulee Dam in the US. Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh are the principal beneficiaries. Their well-being is India’s as well.
Staying relevant, Maruti Suzuki
Maruti Suzuki’s success in India has exceeded the expectations of the company and sceptics alike. Originally, a second tier company behind Japanese giants Toyota, Honda and Nissan, Maruti Suzuki’s entry into India has made it a global brand. Its lead in the market is substantial; never content to rest on its laurels it kept ahead of the game with its niche Nexa model, a great hit with the younger generation of Indians wishing to break the mould of their fathers and grandfathers. Having understood this with careful market research, Maruti came up with the more expensive Nexa, and ensuing success across India has surprised sceptics (Hindu September 18).
India bids farewell to Arjan Singh
Tributes poured in from every corner of India for Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh who passed away on September 16 at the ripe age of 98. He was the IAF’s only five star officer, and by common consent the best loved and respected both for his heroic deeds in the skies and his rock solid deeds on the ground. He joined the air force as an 18 year old in 1938, and became Air Chief Marshal at 44.
As air chief in 1965, he led the IAF against Pakistan after its military regime gambled on a quick victory, believing mistakenly that India was permanently crippled as a result of defeat at the hands of China in 1962. Under Arjan Singh’s command, the Indian Air Force achieved total air superiority over the enemy, following a few initial glitches. Through valour, dedication and integrity, he helped build the IAF into the formidable force it is today. He was a mover and shaker, and hence was delighted when the IAF inducted its first three women fighter pilots.
Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh was cremated with full military honours, including a fly past by IAF aircraft, in the presence of all three service chiefs (Hindu, Times of India September 18).
Astra ready for IAF strike force
Following extensive trials over the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Air Force has approved the induction of Astra, the beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile, which will be integrated with the Sukhoi-30M KI multi-role aircraft. Astra, which has a range of 110kms, has been designed and developed by the Defence Research & Development Organization. State-owned HAL was responsible for the integration of Astra with the Sukhoi aircraft, and will manufacture the missile, whose sub-systems were contracted out to private sector firms. The Astra is a game-changer (Business Line September 19).
Shabir Shah’s confession
Kashmiri Hurriyat leader Shabir Shah has confessed to receiving funds from Pakistan through hawala transactions. He also admitted to a close relationship with Pakistani terror mastermind Hafiz Saeed, who planned the 26 November 2008 Mumbai jihadi operation in which 167 innocent citizens perished. Shah’s close aide Aslam Wani has also been singing like a canary, revealing to his Indian interrogators details of his extensive Pakistani links.
India’s Enforcement Directorate and the National Investigation Agency had records of mobile telephone conversations between Shah and his hawala contact in Pakistan; Shah frequently conversed with Hafiz Saeed.
Indian intelligence has zeroed in on the mountains of cash stashed away by Hurriyat leaders, most notable of all is Syed Ali Shah Gilani. The arrests of Hurriyat leaders have been a significant boon to India’s counter-insurgency operations in the Kashmir Valley, with more emboldened members of the public coming forward with vital information to the security forces and the police (Times of India Se4ptember 24).
Big Data analytics for military intelligence
Analytics is spearheading military intelligence and taking it onto the next level. With the armed forces investing in integrated Command, Control Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C41) capabilities information overload is leading to a deluge of data.
India has a roadmap focused on the applications of Big Data analytics in the armed forces (Business Line September 19).
Naming and shaming
In a naming and shaming exercise, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs has made public the lists of disqualified directors across India as well as those associated with companies struck off the legitimate list. Former Kerala chief minister Oomen Chandy, serving Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh P. Khandu, jailed politician V.K. Sasikala, Leader of the Opposition in the Kerala legislative Assembly Ramesh Chennithala and Gulf-based business tycoon M.A.Yusufally are some of the names that figure in these lists (Hindu Sept 19).
Mahindra, Ford reunite for future
Mahindra &Mahindra and US carmaker Ford were partners in the mid 1990s, before going their separate ways. In the face of new challenges – from electric cars, for example – the two companies have decided to move back to a partnership to secure their futures. Their competitors are treading a similar route to intended salvation, with Maruti Suzuki in talks with Toyota on collaboration in Research and Development in new technologies. The list of companies seek partners lengthens in the automobile industry, as it does among motorcycle manufacturers. (Business Line September 22).