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  Greetings to all our readers and patrons
         
Stewardship and Trusteesh
  By A.J. Philip  
  I ACCOMPANIED Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his visit to South Africa on the occasi  
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  DEVOTIONAL  
 
   
Letter to Metropolitan
  By Rev A.P. Jacob and five other priests  
  Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar  
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  COUNSELING
 
Back to infancy -- they n
 
  By Shaheen Chander  
  ENJOYING a relaxed weekend, I was checking updates on the Facebook page. I came across a b  
     
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  THOUGHT  
     
 
   
Beware pedestrians
  By Perumal Koshy  
  ALL through December 2007, my cycle rickshaw puller Surender Mandal faithfully waited outside my residence in Vardhaman Society to take me to my office in Noida Film City.

Long after I left India for Muscat, my office colleagues at the World Association for Small and Medium Enterprises (WASME) told me that Mandal waited in front of the society gate, day in and day out, not knowing I had left.

On a recent visit to Delhi, I made it a point to go to Mayur Vihar, where I met him.

Sadly, with the Delhi Metro and the police–MCD combine becoming stricter, his business is not as brisk as usual.

To make it worse, the field right across the National Highway and the road connecting Delhi and Noida, where he stays, is soon to be taken up for Commonwealth Games programmes and related beautification.

For those like Mandal, their only source of livelihood is under threat and might even be done away with completely.

For a long time now, the Delhi government has been working with a slogan called 'Clean and Green Delhi'.

Unfortunately, many of its actions have nothing to do with Green Delhi.

It would also seem that in the name of the Commonwealth Games extravaganza, a lot of money is being wasted and misused. For instance, buildings in Connaught Place are being chipped and re-plastered to get a brand new look. What purpose does it serve? Not only is it a waste of resources, but also puts a question mark on the genuineness of the Delhi Government's campaign.

Green Delhi should not just be about planting trees here and there and converting a few vehicles into CNG machines. If the same money is used to design eco- friendly cycle rickshaws or to introduce solar-powered cycle rickshaws and separate lanes, it would have made much more sense. It would have indeed led to a greener Delhi.

But, on the contrary, there are strict restrictions on movements of cycle rickshaws.

Instruction boards on sub-highways of the NCR (National Capital Territory) state that cycle rickshaws are not permitted. Interestingly, Noida is in Uttar Pradesh.

Till 2007, I travelled by a cycle rickshaw to Noida from Mayur Vihar on the national highway. Although there were no separate lanes, cycle rickshaws were permitted. It may not be a good idea to allow cycle rickshaws to ply on national highways, but they should certainly have separate lanes and permitted space on sub-highways.

But as more Nanos appear on the streets, planners will say that they have to ensure that there are no cycle and auto rickshaws on the roads. They may justify a 'ban rickshaw policy', by saying that Nanos consume less fuel and are, hence, greener.

But these cycle rickshaw pullers -- lakhs of them -- will slowly go back to their villages in Bihar or West Bengal, as torture and harassment by the police and MCD authorities increase. Apart from that, sooner or later, Indian roads will only be meant for private cars -- no auto rickshaws, cycle rickshaws, two-wheelers or cycles will be permitted.

And furthermore, there won't be any space for pedestrians as well.
---
The writer runs an NGO
 
   
   
When suicide bombs are a way of life
  By Kamran Chaudhry  
 
LAHORE UCAN) -- It is hard to live a normal life when you suspect that the person passing by you may be a suicide bomber.

The country's political leadership has admitted many times on television talk shows that it is impossible to stop a suicide bomber. They can be anywhere, anytime and are always on people's minds.

They discuss them while traveling in local public transport, security officials at shopping places never stop reminding people of their presence, suicide bombers even appear in funny text messages on cell phones.

Recent reports say 156 children and 522 men and women have been killed in the 80 suicide blasts and 497 bomb blasts since the beginning of last year.

Last week, five people, including two girls, were killed in two separate terrorist attacks in Peshawar, the provincial capital of the northern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

However it would be wrong to suggest that Pakistanis live a life of fear and confinement -- business goes on as usual. There is a buzz of discussion about the death toll which comes after the news of bombings but that gets less as each day passes.

But adapting to witnessing death almost every week is not easy.

An ethnic Pathan journalist from the Northern Province, besieged by the Taliban, recently burst into tears on a news channel while talking about the psychological impact of violence on locals.

Peace in the past

Things were not like this before.

Peshawar, where I did my schooling, was a very peaceful city. I remember tourists taking pictures of copper utensils in the famous storytellers' market.

A group of Australian nuns lived in the compound of St. John's Vianney Church. They used to wear traditional Pakistani dress and go out each morning to buy bread and milk in the congested narrow streets. I used to hang around their house to collect stamps.

But the nuns left Pakistan for good in 2001, a few months after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York.

The military forces began cracking down on Taliban fighters along the border with Afghanistan three years ago. The operations continue today and prayers for peace have now become a regular part of the liturgy in churches, for Church life goes on and congregations at Sunday masses remain undiminished. Most Christians feel that praying before leaving the house is the only hope and protection.

Impact on Pakistan's economy

As ordinary citizens try to live in the shadow of terror, economic crises continue to add pressure. Tourism has slumped and according to the latest views from economists, the Pakistani rupee will weaken 4.2 percent to a record low this year.

Many Pakistanis have been arrested for involvement in terror attacks abroad, as in Mumbai in 2008, and most recently in the New York Times Square bombing plot.

Pakistani Muslim leaders have repeated time and again that a terrorist has no religion -- Islam advocates peace like other major religions.

But the situation is confused. Islam appears above the law or any other code of conduct in Muslim-majority Pakistani society. It is common to find Muslim clerics and Christian priests at odds over each other's recommendations in press conferences at the end of interreligious gatherings.

For many, the tendency of linking terrorism with religion is irresistible but that has only worsened the situation over the decade. What the current situation has taught us, though, is that any misinterpretation of jihad, the Islamic concept of struggle, is dangerous in Pakistan or elsewhere in the world.

Usually after a bombing, we start getting phone calls from family and relatives and this is at least one good thing that has come out of the horror. Violence has brought people closer together, something we had lost in the hustle bustle of daily life. Care is the best form of support we can offer each other and the prevalent terror offers an opportunity to express that while we still have each other.
——
Kamran Chaudhry has led UCA News operations in Pakistan since 2006
 
   
   
A different prayer
  By Joe Wright  
  Thought readers would enjoy this interesting prayer given in Kansas at the opening session of their Senate. It seems prayer still upsets some
people.

When Minister Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas Senate, everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is what they heard:

Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask for your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, 'Woe to those who call evil good,' but that is exactly what we have done.

We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.

We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.

We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.

We have killed our unborn and called it choice.

We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self esteem.

We have abused power and called it politics.

We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition.

We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.

We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, Oh, God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. In Jesus name we pray, Amen!

The response was immediate. A number of legislators walked out during the prayer in protest. In 6 short weeks, Central Christian Church, where Rev. Wright is pastor, logged more than 5,000 phone calls with only 47 of those calls responding negatively. The church is now receiving international requests for copies of this prayer from India, Africa and Korea.

Commentator Paul Harvey aired this prayer on his radio program, 'The Rest of the Story' and received a larger response to this program than any other he has ever aired.
 
   
   
Denominationists!
  By Mathew Jose  
  A.J. Philip's article "Interrogating caste: A 'Kayastha' Christian", published alongside, brought to the fore the frustrations accumulated, over the years, in my mind. It inspired me to re-start my habit of writing which was stopped around 25 years ago.

I congratulate Philip for exposing some of the hard facts of our society, rather the darkness of human mind. The question of the day, "What is your caste?" is asked in several ways in different parts of our country.

These types of questions are not asked in North India (probably this is a 30-year-old story) alone. Even now the practice of asking such questions is widely prevalent among the Keralite Christians or the Pravasi Christians.

In the case of Christians, the question is in a different form -- "which church do you go to?"

Whenever two Kerala Christians meet for the first time, the second or the third question during their conversation will undoubtedly be this one. What does it mean?

They are also asking the same question "what is your caste?" in an indirect way. Is it not? Because the inquirer wants to know whether the other person belongs to which denomination of Christianity? Whether Syrian, Orthodox, Latin, Roman or something else? These divisions are very strong among the Kerala Christians.

In the case of Hindus, they don't ask, 'which temple do you go to?' The upper caste Hindus always gives importance to their surname. By using that, they are declaring to the world that they belong to an upper caste. Hence there is no need to ask the question "what is your caste?"

Some of the lower caste Hindus (like the Ezhavas of Kerala) do not use any surname. The question 'what is your caste?' is applicable only to those lower castes. Probably this was foreseen by the great reformer Sree Narayana Guru and that could be one of the reasons of his slogan, "Ask not, Say not, Think not Caste".

We, Keralites, are always proud of the high literacy rates in Kerala. But even after approximately 20 centuries (after the arrival of St. Thomas in Kerala), we are still living like the pre-converted fundamentalist Brahmins.

We are still not "converted" or the actual conversion has not happened. At least those who accepted Christianity at that time were real revolutionists, compared to any of us in this ultra-modern era. We still hold that fundamental thought in our mind. That comes out when we look for brides and grooms for our children.

Some of the denominations do not permit marriage of their children to those who belong to some other denominators, although they all belong to the same religion.

The Cambridge International Dictionary of English says that, "A Christian is someone who believes in and follows the teachings of Jesus Christ". We never followed whatever He taught us. We only worship Him on all weekends. Then how can we call ourselves Christian?

With all respect to the great reformer and revolutionary Sree Narayana Guru, his followers are also doing exactly the opposite of what he taught them. One of his teachings was not to worship any statues. Instead, he asked his followers to place mirrors to see themselves in the mirror.

Interestingly, one can see hundreds of statues of Sree Narayana Guru throughout Kerala. People worship the same Guru who taught us not to worship idols. What a paradox! (Sree Narayana Guru was not against idol-worship per se as he himself did so -- Editor)

I often see question marks on their faces or raised eyebrows when I reply, "I don't go to any church" when they ask me the question, "which church do you go to?”

It is very difficult to make them understand that one can live like a real Christian without going to churches.

The other day someone asked me the same question. Later, after asking about my employer, he himself gave an answer: "Those who work in Deepalaya do not need to go to church".

Tailpiece: Till two months back, like any Keralite, I was proud about the unique story about the origin of the land of Kerala. Recently, I had an opportunity to visit Goa where my tourist guide told me that the land of Goa originated because of the "Axe effect".

Probably Parashuram had thrown the axe not from the Sahya mountains of the Western Ghat but from the Himalayan ranges!
---
The writer is Deputy Director (F&A), Deepalaya, a Delhi-based civil society organization. He can be reached at jose@deepalaya.org
 
   
   
Needed new sociology
  By Venkata Vemuri  
 
A.J. Philip's article "Interrogating caste: A 'Kayastha' Christian" published alongside brought back a lot of memories of my own stint as a journalist in Bihar.

A senior colleague of mine, the late Arvind N. Das, used to call Bihar the centre of the universe, given the state's social complexities. While I appreciate Philip's views on caste, and do abhor discrimination of any kind, I do like to point out a couple of things.

Discrimination is as Darwinian as oppression. The evolution of a society is studied through the many cycles of catharsis that it has experienced. Our sociologists and historians have been trying for centuries to simply understand what is India and why is India different from any other society in the world.

I have not found a decent answer yet in all my readings. I feel a society has to be seen in its living past and living present. Ignoring or denying any variable of that society and then attempting to study its evolution is a backfiring proposition.

We may abhor cateism, we may deny we are casteist, but that does not make casteism go away. For the simple reason that our actions of the present have their moorings not only in our geneology but also in our cultural past.

These actions define our identity, our location in society, whether we believe it or not. Our society has evolved over thousands of years, its culture influenced by societies from across the seas at frequent intervals of history, now more so and at faster intervals because of globalisation.

Some of the best Sikhs I know, professionals all in various countries abroad, came from Khalsa College. I know of two youngsters currently at an IIT who proudly say they are the alumni of the Brahman-Bhumihar Collegiate in Muzaffarpur.

I know of many families with liberal values subscribing to caste-based matrimnony publications. And so forth. Are these people casteist? I'd say yes. And any other answer conveys self-denial. More than ever before, I feel today the need for a full-fledged caste census in India.

For, never before has our society seen seismic social and cultural changes as now, what with India in the vortex of globalisation. There are many who predict a homogenous mass of peoples in a few generations' time. That would be the time of a society, truly classless and casteless. That would also be a time to forget where this society came from because for the citizens of that future society, their past would be an alien, long-forgotten, un-understandable phenomenon.

In short, the legacy of this society of our times and our past will not remain even a memory. Why? Because nobody in our times cares to write a true account of it in the first place. I challenge any sociologist or historian to refute that their research of the Indian society is based on half or quarter knowledge considering the singular fact that never in our history has an accurate study of the caste composition been made available.

Furthermore, histories and social texts are constructed realities and mediated by the ideologies of their authors. For example, I want to recall the controversy created when social and history theoreticians of the Left and Right fought over the origins of Ayodhya in the 1990s. Secondly, histories are written by conquerors, whether Hindu, Pashto, Iranian, Persian or Christian.

And we have never had any clear interest in the subaltern and native histories except some works which in any case have never become mainstream reading material. For example, how many Indians even know what Kamban Ramayan is? See, even our so-called national epics have not escaped the scalpel of a divided society.

So, when I say I am a Vaidi ki Velanati Brahmin from Vemuru village in the coastal Andhra region of south India, am I speaking the truth? I have no way of verifying it. None of us Indians has. The point is, when we talk of caste even if to deny it, we have no historical or cultural basis to do so. That is why I support the caste census.

Let us at least know what is that multi-cultural society we are a part of? We have already lived quite long in a social oblivion, basing our identities and ideologies developed out of socio-cultural castles built merely on belief. What we need is a new sociology of our not-so-new past.
---
The writer is a London-based academic and former journalist
 
   
   
Mobocracy
  By Rajendra Prabhu  
  I AGREE entirely with AJ Philip's condemnation of the demand of many people to hang the Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab in public.

The Law Minister of the country has gone even further and says that the terrorist found guilty of mass murder at the instance of Pakistani bosses, would be hanged within a year.

All this demand for hanging Kasab publicly or otherwise, reeks of vengeance and thereby it detracts from the pure judicial process that was adopted in deciding on Kasab's guilt giving the accused all the defence available to him under the law of the land.

It is time we recognise that the punishment meted out to him that he should hanged to death was a judicial pronouncement, not a free rein for the country to take revenge on this killer.

The Union Law Minister and his government come into the picture first as prosecutors and then as executors of whatever the judicial process finds should be done. If the verdict was to let him off as was done in the case of two of the several accused, the government would have had no alternative but to release him.

Even the government cannot and should not execute the man without exhausting all the procedures open to him to save him from the gallows.

By calling for immediate hanging we are opening ourselves before the world to the charge of a bloodthirsty nation which India certainly is not. There should be no return to medievalism and mob lynching however horrible the crime may be.

Otherwise, once you allow such sentiments of mobocracy to prevail, it won't be long before the rule of law and the Constitution itself would be betrayed in a whole lot of cases.

Worse, I was shocked to find some media reports describing how the rope for hanging is under preparation somewhere in Bihar and who are all likely to be the hangmen.

Should we reduce what has been hailed by the world as a perfect process of sensible law, to a khap panchayat's horrible and bloodthirsty verdict in which parents were asked to hang their children?
 
   
   
League of honour killers
  By Raja Jaikrishan  
  WITH municipal polls due on May 20, followed by panchayat polls, both ruling Congress and opposition INLD are out to pamper caste panchayats in Haryana. These caste councils have launched a campaign against same-gotra marriages.

On March 30, a Karnal court awarded death penalty to five persons and sentenced two others, including a Khap leader, to life imprisonment in connection with the honour killing of a same-gotra couple.

The state with 60:40 Jat–Dalit ratio was recently in the news for inter–caste violence in Mirchpur village. Here Jats burnt to death a Dalit father and his physically challenged daughter in retaliation to an altercation.

The spread of literacy and politicisation has changed the traditional power equation in the villages. Dalits are reluctant to take up traditional jobs. Migrants have stepped into their shoes.

In the Mirchpur incident, 25 Jats were arrested after protests from Dalits. Rahul Gandhi paid a visit to the village and went to the house where the father and daughter were burnt alive, to garner Dalit support for the Congress.

Swami Agnivesh, activist from Haryana, says: "Gotra is a lineage sourced to sages i.e., Gautam, Parashar etc. In Haryana, gotra names don't follow this convention. A gotra, for example, Tomar is found among Rajputs, Jats and Dalits. How can an inter-caste marriage in this case be an intra-gotra marriage?

Quoting the 'Satyarthprakash', the Swami adds: "Swami Dayanand Sarawsati did emphasize the importance of distance in matrimony. The politicians are succumbing to the blackmail of panchayats to ensure vote and support in the ensuing elections. They remain quiet when these kangaroo courts give directions leading to honour killings by family members".

"Indian National Lok Dal party supports the ban as it is against the tradition and wrong medically. We will bring a proposal in the state assembly. If the government brings in an amendment bill in this regard, we will support it."

Party chief Om Prakash Chautala said this after giving a memorandum to home minister P Chidambaram seeking changes in the Hindu Marriage Act favoring the ban.

After the Khap panchayats threatened to lay siege to Congress MP Navin Jindal's Kaithal house, he attended the Sarvjatiya Sarvkhap Mahapanchayat khap on Sunday.
Jindal, an industrialist and MP from Kurukshetra, had sent a letter to representatives of Khaps, acknowledging their "yeoman" service rendered to society.

On May 2, Khap panchayats at a meeting at Pai, near Kathal, had put all elected representatives in the state on a one-month notice to support their demand for amending the Hindu Marriage Act seeking a ban on same-gotra marriages.

Jindal's letter to the Khaps followed Chautala's support to the ban on same-gotra and same-village marriageas. Chautala beat Naveen in the race to take up the Khap demand with the ruling party by giving the memorandum to Chidambaram.

Madu Kishwar, social activist, saw a point in the demand of Khap Panchayats seeking a ban on same-gotra marriages. She said the Constitution has provided for a personal law for each religious community. The Hindu Marriage Act has a provision, which bars a marriage if it violates local customs of kinship.

By taking up the panchayat demand for amendment to the Act, Jindal has put the demand on a democratic course.

The mahapanchayat, called against the backdrop of a Karnal court verdict, had thundered last month: "We don't want a constitution or a law that goes against our age-old tradition." As of now, "the Congress stand is clear. No customary law or practice can possibly be excused or condoned in any manner if it involves killing of any kind in the name of honor, tradition or heritage".

Jindal's condemnation of honor killings and support for the ban on same-gotra marriage lays bare the paradox of electoral politics.
 
   
   
Superman Jairam
  By Sarvjeet Singh  
  WHY are our lawmakers and policy-makers so prone to committing public gaffes merely to get noticed in the international press?

The latest public policy disaster has been the Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh's claim that the Indian delegation led by him saved China from the "ambush China" strategy of the Western powers that included the USA during the Copenhagen Climate summit.

He made this startling (for everyone concerned, I guess) claim at the Foreign Correspondents' Club in China. Jairam Ramesh held forth with great flourish much like a schoolboy recounting his exploits on the football field on the Copenhagen summit.

He told his audience that India was instrumental in Brazil, South Africa, India, and China directly striking a deal with President Obama bypassing an intransigent EU. It is difficult to assess the impact of these flippant remarks on India-EU relations, but they would have surely embarrassed the USA, a long-standing ally of the EU and, particularly President Obama.

He further described how the Indian delegation employed its mastery of English and the tremendous negotiation skills to effect the spectacular save for China.

What is implied in not too subtle manner is that Jairam Ramesh (as the dynamic leader of the delegation) turned the world around. "Chinese know it in their hearts", he added. One hopes that Chinese gratitude, visible only to Jairam thanks to his ability to read hearts, will result in Indian concerns on wide-ranging issues to be addressed.

Jairam Ramesh himself is of the considered opinion that all those issues are a figment of the imagination of the Home Ministry which is "paranoid" about China.

The ground reality check, however, throws up facts quite contrary to this romantic worldview.

Apart from an aggressive stance on the border dispute, claims on Arunachal Pradesh, a series of cyber attacks on Indian establishments have emanated from China in recent times. The repeated border incursions widely reported in the media earned a terse advice to 'control' the Indian Press.

Other provocations from China include stapled visa for residents of Jammu and Kashmir. The China-made globes show Jammu and Kashmir as a separate nation.

Now something of relevance to Ramesh; Debbie Banks of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) concluded that Chinese Army officers are acting as patrons of the illegal trade in tiger and leopard body parts from India.

Unfortunately, the Environment Minister's familiarity of Chinese hearts has not helped in eliciting co-operation from China to prevent our national animal from reaching the verge of extinction. It also could not be used to voice India's legitimate concerns over the Brahmaputra dam being constructed by the Chinese.

Now, one hopes that Jairam Ramesh, fresh from his success of saving China, would focus on saving our own environment and the tiger.

Going by his superman act at Copenhagen, this should be not be very difficult for Jairam Ramesh when he returns from the cool chimes of Beijing.
---
The writer is a student of national security and Assistant General Secretary of New Delhi YMCA
 
   
   
All is not well
  By Sarvjeet Singh  
  THE curtains have finally come down on the sordid saga of Ajmal Kasab's crime and punishment.

The trial process which saw intense media coverage holds lessons for lawmakers and legal experts on plugging loopholes in our legal system that have a bearing on our ability to take on crimes of such magnitude and delivering swift justice.

Looking at the reactions on the judgment from different parties, this is unlikely. BJP MP Shahnawaz while welcoming the judgment reminded the government of Afzal Guru and expressed apprehension that Kasab's case may also see a protracted wait for final delivery of justice.

The Home Minister and Law Minister see a strong message for Pakistan in the process. Our honourble ministers need to understand that the message going to Pakistan and the fringe elements there is not one that will deter more Kasabs from enlisting in the terror camps that feed on religious frenzy and disinformation about India and its multi-religious character.

Mix this with unemployment and poverty and the perfect recipe for making human machines of mayhem and carnage is ready. In fact, the media focus on the trial with each and every move of his in the courtroom making headlines is precisely the kind of publicity Kasab's handlers sitting pretty in Pakistan must be gloating about.

We must ask ourselves whether we need to know on day to day and hour to hour basis the tactics of prosecution and the defense counsel. The process also involved testimony of an SSG commando. One cannot think of any country where elite forces first fight heavily armed terrorists and then give account of the same to court for facilitating conviction.

Surely the process of trial would have been watched closely by forces inimical to the country's interest and lots would have been drawn from it for future strategy. The defense counsel while pleading for leniency once again referred to Kasab's age and absence of previous criminal (sic) record at the the time of pronouncement of sentence.

Is the archaic criminal justice system of the country adequate to deal with crimes of this heinous nature? The sentencing of Kasab has come close on the heels of the Supreme court's ruling against narco test and brain-mapping without consent. The argument by the Honourable Court is that it impinges on the human rights and dignity of individuals which the law must uphold at all cost.

The Hon'ble court while giving the ruling conceded that it may benefit hardened criminals but it was a risk worth taking for the cause of upholding human rights. While the spirit of the judgment is indeed laudable, it is for the government to separate normal criminals from the terrorist crimes if this country is to be protected from repeated assaults.

If information gathered through such a test helps in preventing a terrorist strike which can take hundreds of human life, it must be done. There has to be a political consensus built of response to terrorist crimes especially on making irresponsible statements aimed at respective political constituency. All political parties, be it Lal Krishna Advani of the BJP on Abhinav Bharat or Digvijay Singh of the Congress commenting on the trajectory of bullets in the Batla encounter which lost one police officer have done this shamelessly compromising on the national ability to respond to the challenges thrown by the terror-mongers.

It is time to leave all that behind and move ahead united to take on those who speak the language of hatred, bloodshed and destruction. Kanab's conviction does not signal enduring victory against terror but it should make us wiser and stronger to face it.
---
The writer is a student of national security and Assistant General Secretary of New Delhi YMCA
 
   
   
Kasab gets what he gave
  By Raja Jaikrishan  
  CONVICTED of 26/11 mayhem Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab should be "hanged by the neck until he is dead," Judge ML Tahaliyani said at the Special Court at the Arthur Road Jail Thursday.

Hearing the judgment, Kasab, 22, broke down. Gone was the bravado: "If the punishment is hanging, then go ahead and hang me," he displayed during the course of trial. Like a schoolboy, he asked the judge permission to drink water. He walked slowly while being led back to the courtroom, wiped tears before returning to the dock and sat with his head bowed.

Judge Tahaliyani awarded death penalty, as 'there was no chance Kasab could be rehabilitated'.

Kasab shook his head when asked if he wanted to make a statement. He looked irritated and again sat down.

The judge repeated the question, this time in Hindi: "Do you want to say something?"
Kasab looked at the judge, shook his head and sat down. He was later seen wiping his face and talking to a policeman.

Born and brought up in Pakistan, Kasab was the only one captured alive during the attack on Mumbai. He was found guilty on Monday on charges, including murder, waging war on India and possessing explosives.

The judge upheld the plea proffered by special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam on Tuesday. Nikam called Kasab a 'merchant of death' and a 'mad dog'. He found Kasab depraved for, the photographs revealed, he smiled while killing innocent people. "He smiled with vengeance as people died", Nikam pleaded before the Special Court Tuesday.

Concluding his plea, Nikam told the court that it must take into account all alternative punishments before awarding him capital punishment to meet the ends of justice.

After the guilty verdict Monday, the victims' kin and their sympathizers, including journalists and peaceniks from Pakistan, have been seeking death for Kasab. Views seeking life term, and solitary confinement were drowned in hysterical panel discussions.
Kasab can appeal against the order to the higher court and seek clemency from the President of India. All this can take years. Till then he will be in death row.

Interestingly, around the time of verdict, there were terrorist activities in Delhi, Hyderabad and New York making it clear that terror cells opposed to the US wars for resources can strike at will.

Security forces in India and the US succeeded in foiling an attack on the US audit firm Deloitte in Hyderabad city; attacks in New Delhi over the weekend and Adampur Air Force station in Punjab.

The severe security measures saved the repeat of 9x11 in Times Square last weekend. Faisal Shahzad, 30, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Pakistan, has been charged with trying to detonate a bomb in busy Times Square. Hours later of Shahzad's arrest late Monday; ISI detained two Pakistani nationals. He faces life sentence, if convicted.

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has said it was the 11th thwarted attack on New York City since 9x11.

An Afghan immigrant who admitted to receiving al Qaeda training in Pakistan, Najibullah Zazi, pleaded guilty to plotting a suicide bombing campaign on Manhattan's subway system last September.
 
   
   
Spooky Saturday
  By Raja Jaikrishan  
  THERE was apprehension of a terror strike in the Capital this weekend. The police did all it could to meet any such threat. Instead, terrorists struck at the Times Square in New York.

New Yorkers went on making whodunit queries till Sunday morning (April 2). Delhiites passed the weekend glued to TV sets hoping no bad news came from the targeted markets.

In the globalised terror, dry and drab places away from terrorists' reach are heaven, but spotting those on the map will take more than a lifetime.

The traffic on NCR roads was less dense. There were more checks of vehicles and pedestrians. The reason: A US advisory had warned of a repeat of the 1996 bomb attacks in busy markets of the Capital.

There was a drastic fall in the number of visitors to Connaught Place, Lajpat Nagar and Sarojini Nagar markets. Many innocent lives were lost in these markets during the serial blasts of 1996.

Delhi Police had fanned out in the capital. Mobile police vans and CCTVs monitored the places. There were regular announcements over the public address system advising shoppers to be watchful.

Police Chief Y S Dadwal refused to comment on the recent security alert advisory of the US, Canada, Britain and Australia. He beamed with confidence on April 1, saying, "Delhi is safe."

He was right. The terrorists spared the Capital and went for New York's Times Square bristling with tourists and theatergoers. Timely alert by a Vietnam veteran helped the police defuse the car bomb that could have killed many weekenders.

Terrorists don't ring a bell before entering the door. They shoot and scoot. They also strike and awe. No government worth its people's support can ignore any tip-off on their actions.

A plot to set off suicide bombs in the city's subway system was unraveled earlier this year. And last year, four New Yorkers went on trial accused of plotting to bomb synagogues in the city and fire missiles at military aircraft.
 
   
   
Who Can Mock This Church?
  By Nicholas D. Kristof  
  www.nytimes.com

JUBA, Sudan

MAYBE the Catholic Church should be turned upside down.

Jesus wasn't known for pontificating from palaces, covering up scandals, or issuing Paleolithic edicts on social issues. Does anyone think he would have protected clergymen who raped children?

Yet if the top of the church has strayed from its roots, much of its base is still deeply inspiring. I came here to impoverished southern Sudan to write about Sudanese problems, not the Catholic Church's. Yet once again, I am awed that so many of the selfless people serving the world's neediest are lowly nuns and priests -- notable not for the grandeur of their vestments but for the grandness of their compassion.

As I've noted before, there seem to be two Catholic Churches, the old boys' club of the Vatican and the grassroots network of humble priests, nuns and laity in places like Sudan. The Vatican certainly supports many charitable efforts, and some bishops and cardinals are exemplary, but overwhelmingly it's at the grassroots that I find the great soul of the Catholic Church.

The Vatican believes that this newspaper and other news organizations have been unfair and overzealous in excavating the church's cover-ups of child rape. I see the opposite. No organization has done more to elevate the moral stature of the Catholic Church in the United States than The Boston Globe. Its groundbreaking 2002 coverage of abuse by priests led to reforms and by most accounts a significant reduction in abuse. Catholic kids are safer today not because of the cardinals' leadership, but because of The Boston Globe's.

Yet the church leaders are right about one thing: there is often a liberal and secular snobbishness toward the church as a whole -- and that is unfair.

It may be easy at a New York cocktail party to sniff derisively at a church whose apex is male chauvinist, homophobic and so out of touch that it bars the use of condoms even to curb AIDS. But what about Father Michael Barton, a Catholic priest from Indianapolis? I met Father Michael in the remote village of Nyamlell, 150 miles from any paved road here in southern Sudan. He runs four schools for children who would otherwise go without an education, and his graduates score at the top of statewide examinations.

Father Michael came to southern Sudan in 1978 and chatters fluently in Dinka and other local languages. To keep his schools alive, he persevered through civil war, imprisonment and beatings, and a smorgasbord of disease. "It's very normal to have malaria," he said. "Intestinal parasites -- that's just normal."

Father Michael may be the worst-dressed priest I've ever seen -- and the noblest.

Anybody scorn him? Anybody think he's a self-righteous hypocrite?

On the contrary, he would make a great pope.

In the city of Juba, I met Cathy Arata, a nun from New Jersey who spent years working with battered women in Appalachia. Then she moved to El Salvador during the brutal civil war there, putting her life on the line to protect peasants. Two years ago, she came here on behalf of a terrific Catholic project called Solidarity With Southern Sudan.

Sister Cathy and the others in the project have trained 600 schoolteachers. They are fighting hunger not with handouts but with help for villagers to improve agricultural techniques. They are also establishing a school for health workers, with a special focus on midwifery to reduce deaths in childbirth.

At the hospital attached to that school, the surgeon is a nun from Italy. The other doctor is a 72-year-old nun from Rhode Island. Nuns rock.

Sister Cathy would like to see more decentralization in the church, a greater role for women, and more emphasis on public service. She says she worries sometimes that if Jesus returned he would say, “Oh, they got it all wrong!"

She would make a great pope, too.

There are so many more like them. There's Father Mario Falconi, an Italian priest who refused to leave Rwanda during the genocide and bravely saved 3,000 people from being massacred. There's Father Mario Benedetti, a 72-year-old Italian priest based in Congo who fled with his congregation when their town was attacked by a brutal militia. Now Father Mario lives side by side with his Congolese congregants in the squalor of a refugee camp in southern Sudan, struggling to get schooling for their children.

It's because of brave souls like these that I honor the Catholic Church. I understand why many Americans disdain a church whose leaders are linked to cover-ups and antediluvian stances on women, gays and condoms -- but the Catholic Church is far larger than the Vatican.

And unless we're willing to endure beatings alongside Father Michael, unless we're willing to stand up to warlords with Sister Cathy, we have no right to disparage them or their true church.
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I invite you to comment on this column on my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook, watch my YouTube videos videos and follow me on Twitter.
Courtesy: www.nytimes.com
 
   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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