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A national memorial for martyrs

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“Shaheedon Ki Chitaaon Par Lagenge Har Baras Mele, Watan Par Mitnewale Ka Yahi Baaki Nishan Hoga” wrote Pandit Ram Prasad Bismil, revolutionary Indian freedom fighter and poet, long ago before India’s independence. It means that the annual fairs at the tombs of the martyrs who die for the nation will be the only testimony of their existence. Does India have a national monument in the memory of the martyrs who fought for the country?

Many lives have been sacrificed for protecting the integrity and sovereignty of the Indian nation. Much blood has flown to defend the idea of India i.e. Bharat. The country has paid a very heavy price for achieving the independence in 1947 from the colonial British empire marked with partition into two nation states ─ India and Pakistan. Since independence, India has fought five major wars with its neighbours, Pakistan and China, in 1947-48, 1962, 1965, 1971 and 1999. Further, India is fighting war against insurgency and terrorism almost every day.

Thousands of soldiers have achieved martyrdom for the sake of our nation. The fathers and the mothers of our country have sacrificed their heart-throbs for the country. Be it Kashmir, north-east or any other part of India, the soldiers have fought with valour for the republic of India. In the memory of the martyred soldiers, one can find memorials at several places in the country. But India doesn’t have a national memorial for the dead soldiers; an integrated memorial for all the martyrs till date.

We don’t have a place to pay obeisance to the martyred soldier. Where should one go for laying wreath to the fallen soldier? A martyr’s memorial characterizes remembrance for the dead soldier. It is a salutation to the martyrdom of soldiers who have died in the conflict; be it war or counter-insurgency operations. We are sitting in comfort zones only because the men in uniform are wide awake and ensuring our security.

At present, the martyr’s memorial of the national status is India Gate. The monument, originally known as All India War Memorial, was built in 1931 to commemorate the martyrdom of more than 70,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives while fighting for the British Empire in World War I. Under the arch of India Gate, there is ‘Amar Jawan Jyoti’ (the flame of immortal soldier) which was unveiled in 1971. After India-Pakistan war of 1971, the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, paid homage to the dead soldiers on the eve of 23rd Republic Day and the custom continues till date.

If the British can make a memorial for Indian soldiers, why don’t we have one even after 65 years of India’s independence? When we can have statues and parks dedicated to politicians, why not one for our defence personnel? It is astounding.

A national memorial should be a place where one can go and relate with the martyrdom of soldiers. A national memorial will be an honour not only to the soldier but to the families of the martyrs. It connotes the honour and dignity of the nation and its people. The national martyr’s memorial will serve as inspiration for the citizens of our country especially for the youth who want to join defence forces. It will showcase the essence of the soldier. The nation should know who the martyred soldiers are. It should be part of our culture.

The least one can do for martyrs is to remember them. And for remembrance, we should have a symbol; a memorial. The country must have a national memorial for the unsung heroes. A national martyr’s memorial will be link between civilians and soldiers. The existence of the martyrs is symbolized through memorials.

The martyrs remind me of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s lines ─ “They are dead but they live in each Patriot’s breast. And their names are engraven on honour’s bright crest.” 

(Originally published in Rediff)

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Written by Varad Sharma

August 24, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Where is the prime minister?

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Does India really have a Prime Minister? Ask this question to yourself. I am sure that your answer will be ambiguous. Of course, India does have one officially. Dr. Manmohan Singh is the prime minister of India since 22nd May 2004. Who would have expected that an economist will head the nation? May be the destiny and loyalty to the dynasty made Dr. Manmohan Singh the prime minister of India. However, despite being the prime minster, his presence in political arena is hardly felt.

When a number of scams were exposed (and some may still be in the process of being unearthed), I fail to remember any timely strong move from our prime minister and his government. On the contrary, zero-loss theory was propounded by his cabinet colleague. Moreover, Prime Minster Dr. Manmohan Singh invoked ‘coalition-dharma’ to avert action against the tainted minster A Raja who was involved in the Rs. 1.76 lakh crore telecom scam. Thanks to our judiciary, appropriate actions are being taken against the individuals involved in the scams.

The consecutive disclosures of scams have put a big question mark on the ability of Dr. Manmohan Singh; leave aside the credibility of UPA government. Dr. Singh has been termed as an honest prime minister of India but when the tax-payers money was being skimmed off under his nose, the ‘honest quality’ got disqualified.

It is said that an individual learns through experience. But this principle doesn’t seem true of the prime minister. Though Dr. Singh has served the country as the prime minister for eight years, is he competent enough to lead? Dr. Manmohan Singh, whether in UPA-I or UPA-II, looks the same when seen through the lens of politics and leadership. I wonder what would have been the condition of the UPA without Pranab Mukherjee, especially during its difficult times. Senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee is more than just a cabinet minister. It will not be inappropriate to say that Pranab Mukherjee is the unofficial executive head of India (of course, with the blessings of Sonia Gandhi and her advisory council).

Take the recent issues like Army chief’s age row, irregularities in defence forces or Koondankulam nuclear plant; the ineptitude is all pervasive. In addition to this, the delinking of talks (with neighbouring country Pakistan) from terror reflected the tactlessness of the UPA Government and its head in particular.

The prime minister is the head of the government of a country. He is supposed to lead the nation and address the issues faced by the people. India is governed by a prime minister who has barely put forth his views on important problems in the public domain. He is termed as the ‘silent PM’ of India because of his silence on the problems, whether complex or not so complex, faced by our country.

This famous Kashmiri adage seems apt for Dr. Manmohan Singh who finds silence a key to evade any sort of uncomfortable questions ─ Tshop Chaiy Rop Sinz, Karkhai Te Son Sinz (The silence is as good as silver, if practised it is golden).

(Originally published in Rediff)

Written by Varad Sharma

April 17, 2012 at 9:30 pm

The Clemency Politics

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The passing of resolution by Tamil Nadu Assembly seeking clemency for killers of Rajiv Gandhi has set a wrong precedent in our country. The resolution was moved by none other than state Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and was passed unanimously on August 30, 2011. While on the same day the Madras High Court deferred by eight weeks the execution of Rajiv Gandhi’s killers – Murugan alias Sriharan, T. Suthendraraja alias Santhan and A.G. Perarivalan alias Arivu. The three convicts were to be put to death on September 9, 2011. The Bench admitted the petition observing that since 11 years delay had been caused in the disposal of mercy petition, it is now a question of law. Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India, was assassinated on May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur near Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The assassination was carried out by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Pro-Tamil organisations like MDMK, DMK, and PMK have been demanding the commutation of their death sentence to life imprisonment. MDMK leader Vaiko has been in the forefront on this issue. But families of victims who were killed along with Rajiv Gandhi want killers to be hanged. It seems so as to appease some sections; Tamil Nadu Assembly has passed a resolution which in a way expresses solidarity with the three killers who assassinated our former Prime Minister.

Taking a cue from Tamil Nadu Assembly resolution, Sheikh Abdul Rashid, who is MLA from Langate constituency of Kupwara district, has submitted a resolution to the J&K Assembly Speaker seeking mercy for Afzal Guru, Indian Parliament attack convict. The resolution will be tabled before State Assembly in the last week of the month. In his resolution, MLA Rashid said, “Let the house resolve that Afzal Guru be granted amnesty, on humanitarian grounds, against the death sentence granted to him by the Honb’le Supreme court of India, for his alleged involvement in the 13th December 2001 attack on Indian parliament.”

Isn’t it astounding that some of our politicians want clemency for the terrorists/killers? Think of those people who get killed in attacks. In Parliament attack, seven people were killed including five policemen and more than 20 got injured. Weren’t their lives important? The attack on Parliament of India was an attack on our democracy. Also, some sections in J&K State are apprehensive that if Afzal Guru is hanged, it will create law and order problem. Well, many people in Kashmir valley are not in favour of execution of Afzal Guru due to ‘obvious’ reasons.

Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Badal has written to the Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh seeking pardon for Devinder Singh Bhullar, a Khalistan Liberation Force leader, who is sentenced to death. Bhullar was sentenced to death for masterminding a 1993 car bomb attack in New Delhi that killed 12 people. Former Indian Youth Congress President M.S. Bitta was seriously injured. Various Sikh organizations − Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) and even former Punjab Chief Minister and Congress leader Amarinder Singh have supported the demand. It should be noted that Punjab Assembly elections are due in February 2012. In order to keep their vote bank intact, several parties/groups in Punjab want mercy for Bhullar.

Our judiciary provides enough scope for the convict to challenge the verdict of the trial court to the High Court and that of High Court to the Supreme Court. Even if Supreme Court holds the decision of death sentence, one can appeal to the President of India for mercy. After all this, there should be no two views on final verdict. Although the state assembly resolution is not binding on any institution as stated by Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid, yet a wrong example has been set. Seeking review of judicial verdict impelled by vote bank politics is deplorable.

Whether it is clemency for Rajiv Gandhi killer’s or Afzal guru or Bhullar; the motive behind this ‘clemency’ is same – the vote bank. The punishment whether life term, death sentence etc. need to be carried out. Let the sentiments remain as sentiments and not be set up as precedents.

(Originally published in Rediff & The Broad Mind)

Written by Varad Sharma

September 13, 2011 at 10:00 pm

13 July 2011: Terror revisits Mumbai

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13th July 2011, a new date adds to the list of ‘terror’ dates. Mumbai rocked once again with bomb blasts. Three blasts between 6.54 p.m. and 7.05 p.m. occurred at Zaveri Bazaar in south Mumbai, the second at Kabutarkhana near the Dadar suburban railway station in central Mumbai and the third at Opera House, also in south Mumbai. 21 persons got killed and over 140 are injured. Many attacks have occurred on the 13th or 26th of a month and terror revisited India on July 13th after less than three years of 26/11 Mumbai attack. Blasts in Jaipur (2008), Delhi (2008), and Pune (2010) happened on 13th while as Mumbai terror attack (2008) and Ahmedabad blasts (2008) took place on 26th.

Mumbai, the financial capital of India, seems to be a favourite of terrorists. The past terror attacks in Mumbai since 1993–

  • 12th March 1993: Serial blasts at 13 places; 257 killed and 713 injured
  • 29th October 1993: Blast in Matunga station; 2 killed and 40 injured
  • 2nd December 2002: Blast in bus in Ghatkopar; 2 killed and 49 injured
  • 6th December 2002: Blast in Mumbai Central station; 25 injured
  • 27th January 2003: Blast near Vile Parle station; 30 injured
  • 13th March 2003: Blast in train in Mulund; 13 killed and over 80 injured
  • 25th August 2003: Twin blasts at Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazar; 55 killed and over 150 injured
  • 3rd July 2006: Blast in Ghatkopar, 1 killed
  • 11th July 2006: Blasts in 7 suburban trains; 189 killed and over 1000 injured
  • 26th – 29th November 2008: Serial explosions and indiscriminate firing across Mumbai; 166 killed and over 300 injured

No terrorist organization has claimed responsibility for the 13th July bomb blasts (at the time of writing this piece). Defence and security experts while taking modus operandi of the barbaric attack into consideration suspect that Indian Mujahideen, a local but Pakistan affiliated group, may have carried out the bomb blasts. However, there is no official confirmation yet as who is behind this terror act. It is known to everyone that Pakistan overtly or covertly funds terror activities in India. Recently, we had foreign-secretary level talks in Islamabad with our neighbouring country Pakistan and we are going to have next level of talks in Delhi in the forthcoming week. Peace process should continue. But are we expecting peace on the expense of lives of our country men? Peace and bombings can’t go together. How can there be peace when our cities are bombed? How can there be peace when our people die day after day due to terrorism? These questions need to be answered.

Our President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Home Minister and other political leaders condemned the bomb blasts. World leaders also strongly condemned the attack and expressed solidarity with the Government of India and the people. Condemnation has become a usual affair. Isn’t it? Every time there is a terror attack, bomb blast etc. our government condemns it and the opposition flays the government for not protecting the nation against such terror attacks. And the petty politics starts and goes on and on. Press conferences by our leaders, visits to the sites etc. follow after the attack. There is exchange of statements and then unfortunately after a month or a two we tend to forget about such attacks and only remember it on their respective anniversaries by paying tributes to the victims.

July 13 is a chilling reminder that people in our country are not safe, despite claims of our huge security establishment. A failure on part of our well established intelligence agencies, security systems etc. In our country, terror strikes happen one after the other. It is evident that there is wrong somewhere in our system. Our internal security system needs to be overhauled. It should be noted that after 9/11 attack there hasn’t been any terror attack in United States of America and that is commendable.

The terror attacks need to be foiled. How many more terror attacks we have to tolerate? Haven’t these attacks, blasts etc. become a part of our life unwillingly? Heart goes out for the victims and their families who were killed in bomb blasts. The loss is irreversible. At the end of the day, human suffers!

Written by Varad Sharma

July 15, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Politics over Tricolour

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Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah recent warning to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over flag hoisting at Lal Chowk (Srinagar) has created a furore. Omar’s statements have not gone well with nationalists. Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) has organized “Rashtriya Ekta Yatra” which begins from Kolkata on 12th January and end up at Kashmir on 26th January. The rally will pass from 11 states covering distance of 3002.54 kilometres. BJP has launched this rally as part of national sovereignty campaign.

Omar Abdullah didn’t issue any warnings when some fundamentalists have hoisted Pakistani flag at Lal Chowk, Srinagar last summer during Intifada. The hoisting of Pakistani flag is not new in Kashmir. The supporters of Independent Kashmir ‘Azaadiwaalahs’ and those who support Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan, have waved Pakistani flag during their protest against Indian State. Nobody has ever questioned such incidents of waving of Pakistani flag. The Indian Government as well as J&K State Government has always kept silence over such anti-nationalistic activities.

We can’t ignore BJP’s political motive behind such rally. BJP is using nationalism as a political tool to evolve as strong political party at the central level. Same is the case with Omar Abdullah who is heading coalition government of National Conference & Indian National Congress. The basis behind Omar Abdullah’s remarks may be to keep the vote-bank intact in the Kashmir valley. The reason of security concerns is an excuse made by Omar.

The hoisting of national tricolour at historic Lal Chowk will give strong message to communal separatist forces in the valley that are always busy in keeping Kashmir on edge. If Omar Abdullah wants to defeat separatist elements, he must ensure that Indian flag be hoisted at Lal Chowk, Srinagar. Also, J&K Government must provide security cover to all those people who are coming to hoist the flag so as to prevent any unwanted activity.

It seems that majority people of Kashmir have some problem with national tricolour or maybe they are scared of it. This ‘tricolour phobia’ needs to be removed in Kashmir.
And irony is that hoisting of flag has now become an issue in India. Our national flag is caught in between dirty politics.

I wish national tricolour is hoisted in every hook and corner of Kashmir Valley on 61st Republic Day!

Written by Varad Sharma

January 7, 2011 at 1:00 am

Youth in Politics: Need of the Hour

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India is the largest democracy in the world. At present, around 46% of our nation’s population comprises of youth. Youth is full of energy and enthusiasm. Youth can do wonders. The power of Indian Youth is well acknowledged by sociologists, political analysts and commentators, economists etc.

Every young individual should be conscious politically. Young people should take active participation in our nation’s politics at every level especially grass-root. A common perception about ‘politics’ is something related to wrongful activities; even the usage of word ‘politics’ has something to do with negation. Generally that’s the reason of indifference towards ‘politics’. This attitude needs to be changed. ‘Politics’ means power; power to work for the betterment of the society, power for empowering the people, power to eradicate the evils of the society.

Usually, in India, the elected representatives (whether an MLA or a MP) are senior/aged individuals who cannot look after their constituencies very well due to one reason or the other. So there arises need of youth people in politics. It does not mean that senior ones should retire but they should always be there for the help of young ones. They should be like ‘Guru Dronacharya of Mahabharata’. Our nation should develop fast if we hand over the command to youth. If there are some wrong things happening in our system, it is our duty to clean up the mess so that we can make better future for ourselves and also for upcoming generations. Only complaining about the system prevalent in India is not the way. We are part of the system, so it is our duty to resolve the problems of our society. We, the youth of India, should fight against the unfair system by entering in the system. Youth has the ability to lead our nation.

Wish more people would pay attention to their country’s politics than films on it. Even the most educated proudly proclaim they are ‘not interested in politics’. It means that they are not interested in having rights or duties and in effect, being civilised. It means they are not interested in the prosperity of their nation.

The apathy towards politics amounts to saying that what happens to the country is not my business. It amounts to abdicating responsibility which leads to saying ‘politics’ is bad and politicians are bad. We are so holy and pure that we want to stay away, as if politics and governance are going to be any good by the abdication of responsibility for it. But the same people keep complaining about governance and politics.      

We have to be in the system to fight against the system. I quote father of the nation- “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Let us hope with the advent of 2011, more and more youth will take interest in politics if they are curious for change. Otherwise it will be presumed that they are satisfied with the prevalent system.

Written by Varad Sharma

January 1, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Posted in India, Politics

Tagged with , , , ,

Blend of Politics and Poetry: Atal Bihari Vajpayee

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee was born on 25th December, 1924 at Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh. Vajpayee studied at Victoria (now Laxmibai) College, Gwalior and DAV College, Kanpur. He holds a master’s degree in political science. Vajpayee is a well known poet, orator, eminent journalist and social worker.

Vajpayee’s entry into Indian Politics can be dated back to time when he was arrested during Quit India Movement in 1942. He then became a follower of Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the founder member of Bharatiya Jana Sangh. He was the President of Bharatiya Jana Sangh from 1968 to 1973. Vajpayee was detained during emergency period (1975-77). Vajpayee was became the External Affairs Minister (1977-1979) in Janata Party Government headed by Morarji Desai. After fragmentation of Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Vajpayee, with his close associates Lal Krishan Advani and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, founded Bharatiya Janata Party. Vajpayee served as first President of BJP from 1980 to 1986. Atal Bihari has occupied a number of distinguished positions during his long and illustrious political career. Vajpayee was conferred ‘Padma Vibhushan’ in 1992 in recognition of his services to the nation.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Prime Minister of India from May 16-31, 1996 and a second time from March 19, 1998 to May 13, 2004. National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government was the biggest coalition government in India. NDA comprised of 24 political parties. The man behind the coalition was Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Atal Bihari Vajpayee introduced the concept of ‘Coalition Dharma’ in Indian Politics. Atal Bihari Vajpayee took retirement from politics in 2005. The retirement of Vajpayee created a void in Indian Politics and BJP in particular.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee is a great Hindi poet and journalist as well. He edited ‘Rashtradharma’ (a Hindi monthly), ‘Panchjanya’ (a Hindi weekly) and the dailies ‘Swadesh’ and ‘Veer Arjun’. His published works include “Meri Sansadiya Yatra” (in four volumes), “Meri Ikkyavan Kavitayen”, “Sankalp Kaal”, “Shakti-se-Shanti”, “Four Decades in Parliament” (speeches in three volumes 1957-1995), “Lok Sabha Mein Atalji” (a collection of speeches), “Mrityu Ya Hatya”, “Amar Balidan”, “Kaidi Kaviraj Ki Kundalian” (a collection of poems written in jail during Emergency), “New Dimensions of India’s Foreign Policy” (a collection of speeches delivered as External Affairs Minister during 1977-79), “Jan Sangh Aur Mussalman”, “Sansad Mein Teen Dashak” (speeches in three volumes 1957-1992) and “Amar Aag Hai” (a collection of poems). Vajpayee’s poetry reflects human values and nationalistic fervour.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee turns 87 on Christmas 2010. May God give him good health!

Atal Bihari Vajpayee is the living legend of Indian Politics. To take forward Bharat, I yearn to follow up his couplet: “Aag Lagakar Jalna Hoga, Kadam Milakar Chalna Hoga.”.

Written by Varad Sharma

December 25, 2010 at 11:00 am