Monday, 13 April 2015

Some Thoughts On The 96th Anniversary Of The Jallian Wala Bagh Massacre

Exactly 96 years ago, on 13th April 1919, British Brigadier General Reginald E.H. Dyer ordered his troops to fire at will on a peaceful gathering at Jallian Wala Bagh, Amritsar, Punjab, causing more than 1,500 casualties. Over 1,650 rounds were fired and men, women, and even children were brutally massacred, making the incident the most barbaric civilian massacre in modern history.

On April 13, the traditional festival of Baisakhi, thousands of Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims gathered at the Jallian Wala Bagh, a public garden near the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar. An hour after the meeting began as per schedule at 4:30 pm, Dyer arrived with a group of 65 Gurkha and 25 Baluchi soldiers. 50 of them were armed with rifles. Dyer had also brought two armoured cars with machine guns. The vehicles were left outside as they were unable to enter the garden through the narrow entrance. The garden was surrounded on all sides by houses and buildings and had few a narrow entrances, most of them permanently locked. The main entrance was relatively wider but was guarded by the troops backed by the armoured vehicles.

Without warning the crowd to disperse, Dyer blocked the main exits. He explained later about this act: "…was not to disperse the meeting but to punish the Indians for disobedience." Dyer ordered his troops to begin shooting towards the densest sections of the crowd (including women and children). Firing continued for about 10 minutes. Ceasefire was ordered only when ammunition supplies were almost exhausted, after 1,650 rounds were spent. The official (then) GoI sources estimated that the fatalities were 379, with 1,100 wounded. The number estimated by Indian National Congress was more than 1,500, with approximately 1,000 getting killed.

And what happened to Dyer? He was removed from duty and forced to retire. But when he returned to Britain, he was presented with £26,000 raised on his behalf by the Morning Post newspaper, a women’s organization presented him with the 'Sword of Punjab', and a large number of influential Britishers, including Rudyard Kipling, thought he had done the right thing. He became a celebrated hero in Britain among people with connections to the British Raj.

In Dyer's own words:
  • It is only to an enlightened people that free speech and a free press can be extended. The Indian people want no such enlightenment.
  • There should be an eleventh commandment in India: "Thou shalt not agitate."
  • The time will come to India when a strong hand will be exerted against malice and 'perversion' of good order.
  • Gandhi will not lead India to capable self-government. The British Raj must continue, firm and unshaken in its administration of justice to all men.

The massacre caused a re-evaluation of the Army's role in which the new policy became minimum force and the Army was retrained and developed suitable tactics such as crowd control. Historians consider the episode as a decisive step towards the end of British rule in India.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Heil BBC

Dear BBC,

Thank you very much for having interviewed Mukesh Singh, the rapist awaiting appeal on his death sentence. Thank you for being concerned about “India’s Daughter”. Let’s for a moment set aside Leslee Udwin’s competency as a journalist; having read her report, I have second thoughts about her level of common sense itself. She had come to India expecting an 8-feet tall, one-eyed monster with blood dripping from his fangs, and is surprised to see that Mukesh Singh is a "normal common bus driver"!

Then, she is appalled at the lack of remorse demonstrated by him. She is appalled that the value systems held by Mukesh (which she generalizes to be held by all Indian men, by quoting some other bigots---people with poor English language skills and a vested interest of saving the accused to further their career prospects as well) consider women to be unequal and that woman is responsible for getting raped, and so on.

Dear Leslee, this is where the monstrosity lies, not in Mukesh's appearance, but in the value systems that he held and adhered to.

However, having watched the video as well, I have to thank you for the commendable effort made.

We Indians didn't know that rape was a crime. I guess that was why the whole of Delhi and Indian social media protested (rioted) against the crime immediately after it was committed. Maybe that’s why the culprits are behind bars, awarded the death sentence, awaiting appeal.

May I please request your capable journalistic effort in the following scenarios as well?

  1. Please do a documentary on "UK’s Daughters". With a 2010 rape statistic of 28.8/100,000 population and ranking 6th in this crime (far exceeding India’s 1.8/100,000 and ranking of 54), I guess England also has a lot of daughters who have been raped. Their rapists also should get an opportunity to voice their views, right? Maybe you should do separate ones for penile penetration and penetration with other objects or body parts. That’s how your legal system compartmentalizes rape and sexual assault, right? While you’re at it, please don’t forget to call England the “rape capital of Europe”. I'm sure you’ll find equally graphic descriptions of crime in action within England itself.
  2. Speaking of ranking, why not do one on “South Africa’s Daughters”? They rank 1st with 132.4/100,000 population. Please call it “the rape capital of the world”.
  3. Maybe you should do a similar one on your colonial cousins across the Atlantic and Pacific. “America’s Daughters” and “Australia’s Daughters”. They rank 12th and 8th respectively. You should also do a comparison against yourself with these. It seems the successors of all the criminals and convicts that your ancestors exiled to these countries have reformed their younger generations to do better than you in treating women with respect. Or it’s because of the high rate of immigration from South Asian and Latin American countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Mexico (ranked 21st).
As my friend Ayan Chaudhuri puts it, if we are to see the report released by the Office of National Statistics for 2013 for England and Wales (, then the data for 2013 shows a total of 19,124 rapes (Page 13). Given that the population of England & Wales is 57 million people ( [53.9m + 3.1m = 57m for E&W only, not UK as a whole], that translates into a figure of 33.55 rapes per 100,000 population for England and Wales. So the figures given above are quite in line (in fact the latest figure as calculated above is actually higher, since the figures quoted are for 2010). Is the Office of National Statistics is as unreliable as Wikipedia?

These statistics do not prove anything about the general mindset (as the West loves to claim for India's case), because if they did, what is to be made of the mindset in the UK? The crimes are very serious and both societies need to solve them urgently with every resource at their command, but the holier-than-thou attitude of the West needs to be dropped first.

Would you DARE to do any of the suggestions that I put forth? No, right? I guessed as much.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Why The Indian Govt Must Declassify The Netaji Files – The Truth Must Come Out

It is common knowledge (or belief) now Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, unarguably the biggest mortal enemy of India’s British rulers, did not die in the Taihoku plane crash as was mentioned in a cover-up attempt. The fact that successive govts of Independent India have refused to declassify the files kept in its archives only serve to further reinforce the conception in the people’s mind that Netaji was murdered and did not die in a plane crash.

After the change of regime at the center last year, an event that also saw the utter rout of the guilty cabal of what is often referred to as the “surrogate children of the British rulers”, who have long suppressed the truth from coming out all these years, a change of approach and more clarity towards the Netaji Mystery was expected. However, we see the same lame excuses being vomited out to those seeking the truth (through RTI), sweeping aside all queries with the draconian dictum, “…as disclosures of the class of information may be prejudicially (sic) affect relation with foreign State and also there does not seem any larger public interest in the matter.”

The PMO's Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) has assumed—on the basis of what right, may we ask?—that “there does not seem any larger public interest in the matter”. If we assume that the “foreign State” being referred to here is the (former) USSR, then it is stretching the truth to its limits to say that relations will be affected with her as the USSR had crumbled into 15 different countries by December 1991! Moreover, the matter in question is over seven decades old!

Declassifying the Netaji Files will provide the documentary evidence to establish the truth and close the matter once and for all. It is widely held that Netaji was assassinated with the active collusion of the British stooges who were handed over power on 15th August 1947. The present govt that talks of a “Congress Mukt Bharat” and a burgeoning ”Digital India” is playing with fire by trying to keep the truth from coming out. The explosion of a social networking media, where each member is a mini-media entity rapidly replacing the highly-suspect mainstream media, has ensured that the People’s Voice cannot be stifled any more. The NaMo govt has over a billion hopes riding on it and one hopes it will not squander away the incredible directive the voters gave them to carry out the decades-old nationalistic objectives which couldn't be realized earlier ”due to lack of sufficient numbers in Parliament”.

To begin with, “Netaji’s ashes”, stored at the Renkōji Temple in Tokyo, Japan, must be DNA-tested; the very fact that this has not been done in the last seven decades is yet another glaring example of the hush-up operation conducted by the anti-national forces.

Claims of “the world's biggest democracy” can only be bolstered by actions that prove that the govt treats its people like the responsible, matured adults that they are, actions that help dispel the foggy shrouds of longstanding lies about the mysterious disappearance of one of its greatest sons who dedicated his entire adult life in the pursuit of the liberation of Desh Matrika (Motherland) as exhorted by his mentor Swami Vivekananda, the greatest guiding star of the present regime. Really, is it asking for too much?

Please read about the present govt’s rejection of the Netaji Files RTI here:

Also, please sign this petition: 

More additional reading: 

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Jeeves Is Back!

Generations have grown up on—and marvelled at—the pleasures of PG Wodehouse's masterful creations, and it can be safely said that several more generations will follow them. As can be well imagined, it is an Herculean task for any writer to match up to PGW's standards. But surprisingly, Sebastian Faulks does a more-than-decent job with "Jeeves And The Wedding Bells".

The plot is standard Wodehouse; the execution neat, the writing smooth. Faulks pays a free-flowing tribute that stays true to the original style, but also introduces some new flavours that mix well. The last two chapters, covering the denouement, seem a little flat and could probably have been done better, but that is the only complaint, and a pretty small one at that. And the plot twist in the final chapter, while not entirely unforeseeable, is not unpleasant either.

The last time Faulks wrote a Continuation Novel, the James Bond adventure "Devil May Care" (2008), he did a truly terrible job. With JATWB, he more than makes up for that hash job. Well done, Faulks. Supremely delightful and highly recommended.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

AAPka, Mera, Hum Sab Ka LoRD

Well, the story goes that RD Burman, who was a perfectionist when it came to his work, was known to be quite messy around the house, so much so that on one occasion, Asha Bhosle gave him a "jhaadu" (broom) as a birthday gift.

I have no idea how true the story is, nor—if it is true—the particular year when this incident happened. But in any case, with timeless blockbusters like "AAP ke kamre mein koi rehta hai", "AAP ki kasam", and "AAP ki aankhon mein kuchh", he certainly knew how to rule the hearts of the 'Bharatiya Janata', thereby proving again and again that he was no 'Aam Aadmi'.

P.S.: I just needed an excuse to swoon over my favourite melody-maker, so there!!

P.P.S.: More importantly, I also wanted to channelise my inner frustrations at the latest political developments in the country (Delhi, to be precise) into something light-hearted yet meaningful and completely non-political, hence this brief piece (inspired by something I spotted on Facebook today).

Friday, 6 February 2015

Love, Life, And Hope


A tiny little four-letter word, often found lost, wandering unwanted in a wilderness populated by other, more vicious four-letter words.

When Kuttush, our Family's "Adopted Sister-come-Daughter" (a.k.a. our pet) passed away on 16th January 2012, she left behind a Family so distraught that we never imagined that we would ever fully recover. For the first time, we came to know Despair like we had never known before: a gut-wrenching, burning-your-insides kind of Pain that just wouldn’t go away.

The first year after Kuttush's passing away was especially hard. Baba (my Father) missed his devoted Companion and Daughter terribly. So badly was he cut up, we could almost see the bleeding heart inside. And that was a seriously worrying matter: we were not sure his heart would hold up to the immense psychological strain.

What made things even more difficult for all of us was that we, his biological children, were living several hundred kilometres away from him at the time (we still do), and professional and personal commitments rendered it greatly difficult for my Sister and me to keep visiting our Parents in Kolkata frequently.

But we needn't have worried. The tradition—of being a Constant Companion to my Father—was kept alive. By someone who looked like a mirror image of Kuttush.

Kiara. Her Daughter.

Kiara took over from where her Mother had left off. Like Kuttush, she became what her Mother was: Baba's constant Companion, Friend, Shadow, and a rich substitute for his absentee children. She would not let Baba out of sight for even a second, going without food and water for hours, indeed, even days on end if her Master stepped out of the house. During the day, her shadow would merge into his; at night, she would snuggle up next to him in bed and fall asleep—but with one eye open and trained on him, just as her Mother used to do, just as she had learned from her Mother.

And Baba lived.

His love for the Mother turned itself upon the Daughter and found a new lease of life, even as Kiara bloomed under his loving eye. Over the years, they became as inseparable as the Baba-Kuttush duo: eating and playing together, going out for the occasional walk, sharing a pillow during nap times, and generally living it up in each other's splendid company.

And my Family came to recognize the healing power of Love. We realized that if Death is the one great truth of Life, Love is the other; Death will take away and Love will replenish the void.

Because Love will always find a way.

(This post was originally published on Tanya Munshi's Lifestyle Portal on February 1, 2015. This version contains some edits/changes/updates. You can read the original article here.)