Friday, January 30, 2009

Human Rights?

Eight bodies found in Pakistan valley

Taliban Country

Mahmud Sipra
Daily Times Pakistan
January 29, 2009
Every forest today is infested with the Taliban who are equipped with the most modern weaponry and a brutal extremist agenda to terrorise its people. Everyday brings in more of these marauders from the hills and the mountain passes. This valley is under siege

One often hears politicians of
every stripe nauseatingly proclaim every time they are near a microphone or a television camera how “every inch of Pakistan’s sovereign territory will be defended with every ounce of our blood.”

How about taking back almost five and a half thousand square kilometres that make up the once tranquil valley of Swat for starters?

I have to confess that I am probably one of those few people who, although having grown up in Pakistan, never got around to visiting what is one of its most picturesque valleys — Swat.

And now, I probably never will. Not in this lifetime, at least.

Swat was our Kashmir, in tourist attraction terms that is. That comparison must end here though. I heard Omar Abdullah, the newly elected rather young Chief Minister of Indian-held Kashmir, say that their Kashmir was “peaceful enough for actor/producer Aamir Khan to come and film there”. I am not aware if Mr Khan took him up on his offer.

I very much doubt if Mr Ameer Haider Khan Hoti, chief minister of the North-West Frontier, can say that to a filmmaker in Pakistan. We all know what nearly happened to Shoaib Mansoor when he was making “Khuda kay Liye”. That he somehow completed his film and lived to tell about it is in itself a miracle. Nevertheless, I am grateful to him for having given my young niece Sarah Tareen a chance to be his understudy on the project.

Swat was universally accepted as breathtakingly beautiful, calm and remote. Its gentle people, who trace their ancestry to the times of Alexander and Chandragupta, stood out from their cousins living in the alluvial plains with their blue eyes, fair skin and light hair, and are considered the most peace loving and hospitable people to be found anywhere in the region.

Those cousins have now become “distant cousins” simply because someone at the post was asleep and neglected to read the message written in the winds that a dark shadow was about to envelope this unsuspecting valley. That it has with such chilling ferocity and cold blooded brutality is something that should be borne in mind by those who still think that Swat is a long way from their apathetic way of life.

Today, this beautiful valley and its people have been subjugated and are being remorselessly terrorised by a cruel horde seeking to impose its brand of Islam on Swat’s inhabitants and turn in to an “emirate”. Never mind that Swat is sovereign Pakistani territory. Or is it?

That sovereignty is today being challenged, the writ of the Government flaunted, leaving the tranquility of this paradise on earth irreparably shattered. Sniper fire, bomb blasts, public hangings of peace loving elders, summary executions of defenceless women, demolition of children’s schools, and sharia courts have turned Swat into Death Valley.

The Pakistan Army is engaging this enemy of many faces, which seems to have infiltrated every sinew and strand of Swat’s tranquil life and scenic splendour, turning it into a vast killing field. It all seems too little too late. One doesn’t have to be a military tactician or a strategist in the Rommel or Guderian mould to have divined that Swat was eminently qualified to become the tantalising soft underbelly of the region where the Taliban would eventually strike.

No pre-emptive moves seemed to have been made to safeguard this strategically vital valley from those who hold sway there now. The historical and military significance of why invading armies — from Alexander to Mahmud to the Mughals right up to the British — found this valley in the foothills of the Hindu Kush a formidable and prized geostrategic natural fortress seemed to have been lost on those who ought to know better.

The result: every forest today is infested with the Taliban who are equipped with the most modern weaponry and a brutal extremist agenda to terrorise its people. Everyday brings in more of these marauders from the hills and the mountain passes. This valley is under siege.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman proclaimed in a speech carried by most of the satellite channels that the inadequate and belated response of the present government has led to the Taliban tweaking Islamabad’s nose by holding large swathes of the frontier province. Implicit in his lament is that the mandate of the “Federally Administered Tribal Areas” has been reduced to the status of a paper tiger and the once all powerful “Political Agent” is now a toothless tiger being held hostage by the trappings of his own office.

No surprise here when you consider that the authorities have been unable to search, jam and destroy even the FM radio stations that the Taliban continue to use effectively with
mobility for their propaganda. The Maulana is not exaggerating.

Prime Minister Gilani has categorically stated that “parallel courts” [read sharia courts — a declared Taliban stratagem in Swat] will not be permitted.” Good thinking that, Prime Minister, except their “chief justice” and his cohorts have already shown that their “dharna” is already firmly embedded in the region. It is going to take much more than a long march to snuff out their “oxygen”, sir!

Mahmud Sipra is a best selling author and an independent columnist. He can be reached at

as europe becomes eurabia


US Surrenders Educational Institutions To Islamic Radicals

By Herb Denenberg,
The Bulletin

Friday, January 30, 2009

There’s growing evidence that America may be meeting its educational Waterloo and that our educational system is being captured by radical Islamists. As Robert Spencer put it so well in his classic book, The Stealth Jihad, radical Islam is subverting America without guns or bombs.

The radical Islamists have scored dramatic victories in determining what students are taught in America about Islam, and we don’t even seem to know what is happening. The radical Islamists have managed a massive penetration of our educational system that teaches everyone from the youngest students all the way up to students at our colleges and universities.

Here is what the radical Islamists are doing at all educational levels, according to Mr. Spencer:

“Of all the arenas in which the stealth jihad is advancing, one of the most crucial is in our schools, where stealth jihadists have found a welcoming environment among teachers deeply steeped in the credo of multiculturalism. With the mandate of ‘tolerance’ robbing many educators of their ability to evaluate non-Western cultures critically, teachers are highly susceptible to an organized campaign by U.S.-based Islami c organizations and their primary benefactors, Saudi Arabia, to present a view of Islam that whitewashes its violent history and intolerant religious imperatives.”

In other words, if you can’t evaluate other cultures and decide whether our culture is better, you’re hardly in a position to defend your own culture against the rising tide of its enemies, including the radical Islamists also known as islamofascists.

You can’t effectively defend your culture if you think all cultures are pretty much the same.

The radical Islamist have launched a two-pronged assault on our educational system at the pre-college level:

1. In Islamic academies in America, with teaching materials from Saudi Arabia and other sources, the academies indoctrinate unequivocal hatred toward non-Muslims, and deep suspicion of our Western values.

2. The opposite approach is taken in our mainstream schools. U.S.-based Islamic groups place lesson plans and other educational materials that are about the opposite of the antagonistic materials placed in Islamic academies. In the mainstream public schools this is what Mr. Spencer says takes place: Islamic instruction “presents a picture of Islam that is so pristine and peaceful that it sometimes crosses the boundary from mere pro-Muslim bias to outright Islamic proselytizing.

So the radical Islamists are not only indoctrinating young students but may well be on the road to converting them to Islam.

The findings of a study released in June 2008 by th e American Textbook Council, an independent national research organization that evaluates the quality of textbooks, finds where we are now with educational materials used in our schools. Mr. Spencer says here is what it found about what ten of the most widely used middle school and high school social studies textbooks teach. They “present an incomplete and confected view of Islam that misrepresents its foundations and challenges to international security.” Mr. Spencer writes, “The report found that the books present highly tendentious constructions as undisputed truth, making common cause with West-hating multiculturalists to bowdlerize the presentation of Islam, denigrate or downplay Christianity and Western civilization, and transform many public school textbooks into proselytizing tracts.”

Incredible as that is, even more incredible is that this tendency has only intensified since 9/11.

California seventh graders use a text that defines jihad as follows: “Muslims should fulfill jihad with the heart, tongue and hand. Muslims use the heart in their struggle to resist evil. The tongue may convince others to take up worthy causes, such as funding medical research. Hands may perform good works and correct wrongs.”

Mr. Spencer writes, “It gives no idea that Muslims have ever viewed jihad as involving, in whole or part, warfare against unbelievers, or have ever waged war on that basis. Muhammad, meanwhile, far from exhorting his followers to subjugate unbelievers, ‘taught equality’ and was a prototypical compassionate liberal who instructs Muslims ‘to share their wealth and to care for the less fortunate in our society.’”

In other words, this is classic Orwellian inversion of the false into the true. What’s even worse, the Textbook Council found, “While seventh-grade textbooks describe Islam in glowing language, they portray Christianity in harsh light. Students encounter a startling contrast. Islam is featured as a model of interfaith tolerance; Christians wage wars of aggression and kill Jews. Islam provides models of harmony and civilization. Anti-Semitism, the Inquisition, and wars of religion bespot the Christian record.”

Mr. Spencer asks whether publicly-funded schools and even private schools should be allowed to teach doctrines that flatly contradict the Constitution, as Sharia does? Should our students be taught to remove all obstacles to the spread and dominance of Islam? Should students be indoctrinated with an anti-Christian and anti-American bias?

It’s time these questions are studied, discussed, and acted on by an informed citizenry. Otherwise, we stand to lose our culture and America, as we know it. We are in the process of surrendering our children and our nation to radical Islam and we seem to be unaware of what is happening.

If that’s not disheartening enough, I’ve told only half the story of what is going on in our educational system — only at the pre-college level. Our colleges and universities are also go ing down the tubes and are being turned into centers of anti-Americanism, indoctrination of students to favor Islam, and placing thought and debate on this subject in an ideological straitjacket favoring Islam.

Our colleges and universities have abandoned their function and are now in the business of radical Islamic propagandizing. Here is what universities are supposed to do, according to a University of California at Berkeley’s Academic Personnel Manual. This section was inserted by President Robert Gordon Sproul in 1934.

But don’t be encouraged by what has been called a ringing affirmation of the commitment of the university to education, not propaganda. The universities are now in the business of propaganda, of brain washing, and indoctrination. It is no accident that this ringing affirmation of the true function of the university has been removed from its academic manual, as of 2003:

“The function of the university is to seek and to transmit knowledge and to train students in the processes whereby truth is made known. To convert, or to make converts, is alien and hostile to this dispassionate duty. Where it becomes necessary in performing this function of a university, to consider political, social, or sectarian movements, they are dissected and examined, not taught, and the conclusion left with no tipping of the scales, to the logic of facts.”

What goes on at our colleges and universities can be communicated in a case study of Professor Omid Safi, who should be called Propagandist for Radical Islam Safi. One of his assignments given students called for critical reports on Islamophobes, neo-cons, Western triumphalists, etc. included on a long list that named some of our greatest scholars and most distinguished authors such as Bernard Lewis, considered the West’s greatest authority on Islam, Samuel Huntington, Alan Bloom, Leo Strauss, Bat Yeor, Patricia Crone, William Bennett, William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, and many others.

Notice that Professor Safi labeled these people as Islamophobes or some other pejorative term to put them in the worst possible light. This is not teaching, but indoctrination, brain washing, and propagandizing. It is certainly not conducive to freedom of thought.

Would students evaluate these people on their own merits knowing that the professor is harshly condemning their work? Would a student say Bernard Lewis is a great scholar and his work represents some of the most important scholarship on Islam?

This is not a list of people to be evaluated on their merits. It is the professor’s enemies list and students are likely to write accordingly. You don’t get an A by proving your professor is a fool even if he is.

Professor Safi has abandoned all the traditional professorial ideal of pursuit of the truth, and is in the business of propaganda and thought control. He should have been fired immediately. So what happened?

He was teaching at Colgate, but his propagandizing soon meant he had a position at a more prestigious university, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Yes, our universities have come to that – academic promotions for propagandizing professors who have abandoned all the principles on which university education should be based.

Mr. Spencer says Professor Safi may not be a stealth jihadist, but he is certainly serving the cause of the stealth jihadists: “Professors who prevent their students from learning about Islam in an objective manner, and those like Safi who place an ideological straightjacket on their students, are performing a valuable service for the stealth jihad.

For in this manner Professor Safi signaled to students that any investigation of Islamic supemacism, violent or non-violent, would be classed as ‘Islamophobia,’ ‘unrepentant Orientalism,’ ‘Western triumphalism,’ and even ‘neo-conservatism’ — all the worst epithets in today’s academy.”

Professor Safi is all too typical of the propaganda professors and political agitators who have taken over many university departments and who are facilitating the programs of the stealth jihadists.

Professor Safi joined a whole team of like-minded people at the University of North Carolina. The school was in the news in 2002 when incoming freshmen were assigned a book on the Quran that focused only on passages that suggest relative tolerance and mutual coexistence between Muslims and nonbelievers. However, the doctrines of jihad and dhimmitude (second-class citizenship for nonbelievers), which mainstream Islamic scholars say supersede the more tolerant passages are not included in the book. So the passages that have proven so oppressive and even fatal to Christians Jews, and other non-Muslims throughout history are not in the book.

A North Carolina professor produced that sanitized version of the Quran. Another wrote a book, which said any criticism of Islam, was based on Jungian projection, i.e., the critics are projecting their negative characteristics onto others. Mr. Spencer asks whether 9/11 and a long list of other Islamic atrocities were somehow imaginary and merely projected onto the Islamists by critics.

The distorted thinking at the University of North Carolina is also illustrated by an experience Mr. Spencer had after speaking there on the threat of the stealth jihad. A University of North Carolina professor wrote a paper on Mr. Spencer’s appearance. That professor did not and perhaps could not challenge what Mr. Spencer said on the merits. So he said Mr. Spencer’s books were published by conservative publishing companies and were non-scholarly.

This shows how universities such as North Carolina have become propaganda mills, not true universities. The professor could not discuss Mr. Spencer’s ideas on the merits. He could only point out that they were published by a company that may be on the wrong side of the ideological fence.

North Carolina makes a perfect case study for another reason. That’s because on March 3, 2006, a 22-year old Iranian student drove his SUV onto the North Carolina campus and tried to kill people. He did injure nine people. After the incident, the student was pleased with himself and said he was “thankful for the opportunity to spread the will of Allah.”

In a letter, he explained why he set out to murder the residents of Chapel Hill “by running them over with my automobile and stabbing them with a knife if the opportunities are presented to me by Allah.” In the letter he says he is just “a servant of Allah.” He justifies his acts by saying in the Koran “Allah states that the believing men and women have permission to murder anyone responsible for the killing of other believing men and women … After extensive contemplation and reflection, I have made the decision to exercise the right of violent retaliation that Allah has given me to the fullest extent to which I am capable at present.”

He said further, “Allah’s commandments are never to be questioned and all of Allah’s commandments must be obeyed. Those who violate Allah’s commandments and purposefully follow human fabrication and falsehood as their religion will burn in fire for eternity in accordance with Allah’s will.”

Mr. Spencer says this tragedy might have been averted if the North Carolina professors would have stopped denying the jihadist ideology and the Islamic supremacism found in the Koran and elsewhere, and called on local Muslim groups “to develop comprehensive programs teaching against the jihadist ideology and Islamic supremacism.” If the North Carolina professors had acted as professors instead of propagandists for jihadists the tragedy might have been prevented.

To understand how this is all happening, Mr. Spencer says follow the money. Saudis and others have been pouring Islamic money into our colleges and universities to buy up professors and departments to propagate their propaganda lines. Elite institutions, such as Harvard, Columbia, and Georgetown have demonstrated they are for sale, and have been sold to these anti-American, pro-jihadist forces. Our universities have become intellectual houses of prostitution for sale to any high bidder.

For more details on what is going on, you should read Mr. Spencer’s book, Stealth Jihad. You will be shocked to the core, and also be shocked into realizing it is late in the game, and we better act now if we want to protect our nation, our culture, our freedoms, and our security.

Mr. Spencer says some of our first steps is to discard the politically correct orthodoxy that values “tolerance” of non-Western cultures above any objective search for truth.”

He says we are so far gone in the blindness of political correctness that “The mere suggestion that the jihadists’ hatred for us is rooted in the Qur’an [Koran] and other fundamental Islamic texts is simply not tolerated in academia. As a result, many American citizens as well as policy makers continue to cast about in vain for a way to satisfy our enemies’ grievances.” One such deluded policymaker is Barrack Hussein Obama who wants to talk to Iran and sweet talk them out of their firmly engraved objectives and ideologies.

Unless he is the Messiah the mainstream media claim he is, I can assure him his talking cure for terrorism and genocide is a waste of time and will simply give Iran more time to build a nuclear bomb.

Herb Denenberg is a former Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner, and professor at the Wharton School. He is a longtime Philadelphia journalist and consumer advocate. He is also a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of the Sciences. His column appears daily in The Bulletin. You can reach him at

Rules of the Game

January 30, 2009
New York Times

President George W. Bush, and his aides, could hardly wait to get rid of all those tiresome arms-control treaties when they took office. They tore up the 1972 antiballistic missile treaty to make way for a still largely pie-in-the-sky missile defense system. They opposed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and never made a serious effort to win a ban on the production of fissile material (the core of a nuclear weapon).

Mr. Bush grudgingly signed his one and only arms-reduction treaty with the Russians in 2002. That means that today — 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall — the United States and Russia still have more than 20,000 nuclear weapons, with thousands ready to launch within minutes.

The bad news, of course, didn’t stop there.

While Mr. Bush and his team were ridiculing treaties and arms control negotiations as “old think,” North Korea tested a nuclear device, Iran has been working overtime to produce nuclear fuel (usable for a reactor or a bomb) and many other countries are weighing whether they need to get into the nuclear game.

President Obama pledged to address these dangers when he was campaigning. In her recent confirmation hearing, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton argued that this country’s best hope of doing that is to restore treaties and a rules-based system. Now they have to translate that lofty intent into urgent action.

The first challenge is Russia, the only other country besides the United States with enough weapons to blow up the planet. The administration can start by negotiating a follow-on to the 1991 Start Treaty, which is set to expire in December. The pact contains the only rules for verifying any nuclear agreement, and it provides an opportunity for making even deeper cuts.

The two sides could easily go to 1,000 weapons each in this next round, down from the 1,700 to 2,200 deployed weapons agreed on in the 2002 Moscow treaty. Without any negotiations, the two can immediately take their weapons off hair-trigger alert.

We applaud the administration’s pledge to work for Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and to revive negotiations on a fissile material production ban. Neither will be easy to achieve, but both are essential if Mr. Obama is serious about reining in a frightening new world of ever-expanding nuclear appetites.

During the campaign, Mr. Obama opposed plans to build a new nuclear warhead. He was right. There is no military or scientific need. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is a strong advocate of the program. Mr. Obama should resist. If the United States is going to have any credibility in arguing that others must restrain their nuclear ambitions, it must restrain its own.

Mr. Bush repeatedly warned about the dangers of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. He was right. But he never put in place the strategy needed to ensure that that never happens. And he weakened some of this country’s most fundamental defenses, including its credibility.

President Obama must do better. He can start by restoring the rules of the game.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dalrymple on Pakistan and Mumbai

Volume 56, Number 2 · February 12, 2009
New York Review of Books
Pakistan in Peril
By William Dalrymple
Review of Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia
by Ahmed Rashid

Viking, 484 pp., $27.95

Lahore, Pakistan

The relative calm in Iraq in recent months, combined with the drama of the US elections, has managed to distract attention from the catastrophe that is rapidly overwhelming Western interests in the part of the world that always should have been the focus of America's response to September 11: the al-Qaeda and Taliban heartlands on either side of the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The situation here could hardly be more grim. The Taliban have reorganized, advanced out of their borderland safe havens, and are now massing at the gates of Kabul, threatening to surround and throttle the capital, much as the US-backed Mujahideen once did to the Soviet-installed regime in the late Eighties. Like the rerun of an old movie, all journeys out of the Afghan capital are once again confined to tanks, armored cars, and helicopters. Members of the Taliban already control over 70 percent of the country, up from just over 50 percent in November 2007, where they collect taxes, enforce Sharia law, and dispense their usual rough justice; but they do succeed, to some extent, in containing the wave of crime and corruption that has marked Hamid Karzai's rule. This has become one of the principal reasons for their growing popularity, and every month their sphere of influence increases.

The blowback from the Afghan conflict in Pakistan is more serious still. In less than eight months, Asif Ali Zardari's new government has effectively lost control of much of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) to the Taliban's Pakistani counterparts, a loose confederation of nationalists, Islamists, and angry Pashtun tribesmen under the nominal command of Baitullah Mehsud. Few had very high expectations of Zardari, the notoriously corrupt playboy widower of Benazir Bhutto. Nevertheless, the speed of the collapse that has taken place under his watch has amazed almost all observers.
NYR David Levine Calendar

Across much of the North-West Frontier Province—around a fifth of Pakistan—women have now been forced to wear the burqa, music has been silenced, barbershops are forbidden to shave beards, and over 140 girls' schools have been blown up or burned down. In the provincial capital of Peshawar, a significant proportion of the city's elite, along with its musicians, have now decamped to the relatively safe and tolerant confines of Lahore and Karachi. Meanwhile tens of thousands of ordinary people from the surrounding hills of the semiautonomous tribal belt—the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) that run along the Afghan border—have fled from the conflict zones blasted by missiles from unmanned American Predator drones and strafed by Pakistani helicopter gunships to the tent camps now ringing Peshawar.

The tribal areas have never been fully under the control of any Pakistani government, and have always been unruly, but they have now been radicalized as never before. The rain of armaments from US drones and Pakistani ground forces, which have caused extensive civilian casualties, daily add a steady stream of angry footsoldiers to the insurgency. Elsewhere in Pakistan, anti-Western religious and political extremism continues to flourish.

The most alarming manifestation of this was the ease with which a highly trained jihadi group, almost certainly supplied and provisioned in Pakistan, probably by the nominally banned Lashkar-e-Taiba—an organization that aims to restore Muslim rule in Kashmir—attacked neighboring India in November. They murdered 173 innocent people in Bombay, injured over six hundred, and brought the two nuclear-armed rivals once again to the brink of war. The attackers arrived by sea, initially using boats based in the same network of fishing villages across the Makran coast through which a number of al-Qaeda suspects are known to have been spirited away from Pakistan to the Arab Gulf following the American assault on Tora Bora in 2001.

In November, on a trip to Pakistan, I tried to visit Peshawar, which functions as both the capital of the North-West Frontier Province and the administrative center for FATA. But for the first time in twenty-five years, I was warned by Pakistani journalist friends not even to attempt going. In one week, an unprecedented series of events made up my mind for me.

On Monday, November 11, some sixty militants identified with the Pakistani Taliban looted thirteen trucks carrying military supplies and a fleet of Humvees going up the Khyber Pass to US troops in Afghanistan. Twenty-six people were kidnapped. The next day, a suicide bomber narrowly missed killing the governor and some of the ministers of the North-West Frontier Province, as they left a stadium. Three people were killed in the attack. On Wednesday of that week, unidentified gunmen shot dead Stephen Vance, a US aid worker, and kidnapped an Iranian diplomat, who joined the Chinese engineers, Pakistani truck drivers, and Afghan diplomats now being held in Taliban captivity. On Thursday, two journalists—one Japanese, the other Afghan—were shot at and wounded. Peshawar suddenly seemed to be becoming as violent as Baghdad at the height of the insurgency three years ago.

All this took place in the vacuum created by the temporary flight from the province of the chief minister and leader of the ruling Awami National Party of the NWFP, Asfandyar Wali Khan. This followed a suicide bombing on October 2 that killed three guests and a member of his staff while he was greeting visitors during Eid celebrations marking the end of Ramadan. Immediately after the bombing, a rattled Asfandyar fled from the province in a helicopter sent to him by Zardari, then flew straight on to Britain. He was persuaded to return only with some difficulty. In February 2008, Asfandyar's party had been elected with a huge majority, breaking the power of the MMA Islamist alliance, a coalition of Islamic groups that has been a major force in Frontier politics, and that had ruled the province for the previous five years. The election seemed to mark a moment of hope for Pakistani secular democracy; but that hope was soon shattered by the apparently unstoppable advance of the Pakistani Taliban out of FATA.

Since then there have been several more suicide bombings and a number of daring attacks on US convoys and depots in and around Peshawar, including one that led to the burning of two hundred trucks and dozens of Humvees and armored personnel carriers, and another that led to the capture by the Taliban of fifty containers of supplies. Other civilian convoys have been allowed to continue, but only after paying a toll to the Taliban, who now, in effect, control the Khyber Pass, the key land route between Pakistan and Afghanistan. At the moment more than 70 percent of supplies for the US troops in Afghanistan travel through the NWFP to Peshawar and hence up the Khyber Pass. The US is now trying to work out alternative supply routes for its troops in Afghanistan via several Central Asian republics—Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, which has the important Manas Air Base—all of which have themselves been markedly radicalized since 2001.

Far from the frontier, in Pakistan's artistic capital of Lahore, at the heart of the prosperous Punjab, the usually resilient members of the liberal elite were more depressed than I have ever seen them, alarmed both by the news of the Taliban's advances and by the economic difficulties that have recently led Pakistan to seek a $7.6 billion IMF loan. The night I arrived I went to see Najam Sethi and his wife Jugnu, editors of the English-language Daily Times and Friday Times newspapers, who now found themselves directly in the Taliban's crosshairs. Three weeks earlier they had begun to receive faxes threatening them with violence if they didn't stop attacking Islamist interests in their columns. One such fax had arrived that morning. The two have bravely survived years of harassment by various governments and agencies, but now felt powerless to respond to these anonymous threats.

Another old friend in Lahore, the remarkable human rights campaigner Asma Jahangir, had also received fax warnings—in her case to desist helping the victims of honor killings. Asma, who had bravely fought successive military governments, was at a loss about what to do: "Nobody is safe anymore," she told me. "If you are threatened by the government you can take them on legally. But with nonstate actors, when even members of the government are themselves not safe, who do you appeal to? Where do you look for protection?"

These events dramatically illustrate Ahmed Rashid's central contention in his brilliant and passionate book Descent into Chaos. Throughout the book Rashid emphasizes the degree to which, seven years after September 11, "the US-led war on terrorism has left in its wake a far more unstable world than existed on that momentous day in 2001":

Rather than diminishing, the threat from al Qaeda and its affiliates has grown, engulfing new regions of Africa, Asia, and Europe and creating fear among peoples from Australia to Zanzibar. The US invasions of two Muslim countries...[have] so far failed to contain either the original organization or the threat that now comes from its British or French cities who have been mobilized through the Internet. The al Qaeda still at large, despite the largest manhunt in history....

Afghanistan is once again staring down the abyss of state collapse, despite billions of dollars in aid, forty-five thousand Western troops, and the deaths of thousands of people. The Taliban have made a dramatic comeback.... The international community had an extended window of opportunity for several years to help the Afghan people—they failed to take advantage of it.

Pakistan...has undergone a slower but equally bloody meltdown.... In 2007 there were 56 suicide bombings in Pakistan that killed 640 people, compared to just 6 bombings in the previous year....

In 2008, American power lies shattered.... US credibility lies in ruins.... Ultimately the strategies of the Bush administration have created a far bigger crisis in South and Central Asia than existed before 9/11.

It is difficult to disagree with any of this. Eight years of neocon foreign policies have been a spectacular disaster for American interests in the Islamic world, leading to the rise of Iran as a major regional power, the advance of Hamas and Hezbollah, the wreckage of Iraq, with over two million external refugees and the ethnic cleansing of its Christian population, and now the implosion of Afghanistan and Pakistan, probably the most dangerous development of all.

Ahmed Rashid's book convincingly shows how the Central and Southern Asian portion of this tragedy took shape in the years since 2001. Rashid has long been an authority on the politics of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, and his welcoming house in Lahore has for many years been the first port of call for visiting journalists and writers. An urbane, witty, bookish, Cambridge-educated bon viveur, with a Spanish Galician wife, he is a writer whose high spirits can easily make one forget both the immense bravery of his consistently fearless reporting in such a dangerous environment over thirty years—Rashid was recently sentenced to death in absentia by the Pakistan Taliban—and the deep scholarship and research that give his work its depth. Rashid, a contributor to TheNew York Review, came to world attention after the Islamist attacks on America when his book Taliban1 was recognized to be virtually the only serious work on the regime that had given shelter to al-Qaeda. As a result it quickly sold nearly 1.5 million copies in twenty-six languages across the world.

In his new book, Rashid is particularly perceptive in his examination of the causes of terrorism in the region, and the way that the Bush administration sought to silence real scrutiny of what was actually causing so many people in South and Central Asia violently to resist American influence. Serious analysis was swept under the carpet, making impossible

any discussion or understanding of the "root causes" of terrorism—the growing poverty, repression, and sense of injustice that many Muslims felt at the hands of their US-backed governments, which in turn boosted anti-Americanism and Islamic extremism.... Bush did more to keep Americans blind to world affairs than any American leader in recent history.

Instead, terrorism was presented by the administration as a result of a "sudden worldwide anti-Americanism rather than a result of past American policy failures." Bush's speech to Congress, claiming that the world hated America because "they hate our freedoms—our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote," ignored the political elephant standing in the middle of the living room—US foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, with its long history of unpopular interventions in the Islamic world and its uncritical support for Israel's steady colonization of the West Bank and violent repression of the Palestinians. As the Department of Defense Science Board rightly pointed out in response to Bush's speech: "Muslims do not 'hate our freedom,' but rather they hate our policies."

It was partly the intense hostility to Islam emanating from both the press and the government of the United States that made it so difficult for moderates in the Islamic world to counter the propaganda of the extremists. How could the moderates dispute the notion that America was engaged in a civilizational war against Islam when this was clearly something many in the administration, and their supporters in the press, did indeed believe? It also had a strongly negative effect on policy decisions. By building up public hysteria and presenting a vision of an Islamic world eaten up with irrational hatred of America, an unspoken feeling was generated among Americans that, as Rashid puts it,

if they hated us, then Americans should hate Muslims back and retaliate not just against the terrorists but against Islam in general. By generating such fears it was virtually impossible to gain American public attention and support for long-term nation building.

It also made possible the comprehensive pattern of human rights abuses that the administration presided over—the torture and "rendition" program—that Rashid describes here with shocking and uncompromising clarity. As well as the damage this did to the image of the US abroad, it also encouraged repression among its regional allies: "By following America's lead in promoting or condoning disappearances, torture, and secret jails, these countries found their path to democracy and their struggle against Islamic extremism set back by decades," Rashid writes.

But while laying part of the blame for the current disaster on the "arrogance and ignorance" of the American administration, Rashid is also well aware of the large share of responsibility that must be put at the door of Pakistan's army and its Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, or ISI. For more than twenty years, the ISI has, for its own purposes, deliberately and consistently funded and incubated a variety of Islamist groups, including in particular Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba. Since the days of the anti-Soviet Mujahideen, the Pakistani army saw the jihadis as an ingenious and cost-effective means of both dominating Afghanistan—something they finally achieved with the retreat of the Soviets in 1987—and bogging down the Indian army in Kashmir—something they succeeded in achieving from 1990 onward.

As Hamid Gul, the director of the ISI who was largely responsible for developing this strategy, once explained to me, if the ISI "encourages the Kashmiris it's understandable." He said, "The Kashmiri people have risen up in accordance with the UN charter, and it is the national purpose of Pakistan to help liberate them. If the jihadis go out and contain India, tying down their army on their own soil, for a legitimate cause, why should we not support them?" Next to him in his Islamabad living room lay a large piece of the Berlin Wall presented to him by the people of Berlin for "delivering the first blow" to the Soviet Empire through his use of jihadis in the 1980s.

For Gul the usefulness of the jihadis was self-evident, and in this view he had plenty of company. As Steve Coll put it in Ghost Wars :

Every Pakistani general, liberal or religious, believed in the jihadists by 1999, not from personal Islamic conviction, in most cases, but because the jihadists had proved themselves over many years as the one force able to frighten, flummox, and bog down the Hindu-dominated Indian army. About a dozen Indian divisions had been tied up in Kashmir during the late 1990s to suppress a few thousand well-trained, paradise-seeking guerrillas. What more could Pakistan ask?[2]

It is for this reason that many in the army still believe that the jihadis make up a more practical defense against Indian dominance than even nuclear weapons. For them, supporting a range of jihadi groups in Afghanistan and Kashmir is not an ideological or religious whim so much as a practical and patriotic imperative—a vital survival strategy for a Pakistani state that they perceive to be threatened by India's ever-growing power and its alliance with the hostile Karzai regime in Kabul.

The army's senior military brass were convinced until recently that they could control the militants whom they had fostered. In a taped conversation between then General Pervez Musharraf and Muhammad Aziz Khan, his chief of general staff, which India released in 1999, Aziz said that the army had the jihadis by their " tooti " (their privates). Yet while some in the ISI may still believe that they can use jihadis for their own ends, the Islamists have increasingly followed their own agendas, sending suicide bombers to attack not just members of Pakistan's religious minorities and political leaders, but even the ISI headquarters at Camp Hamza itself, in apparent revenge for the army's declared support for America's war on terror and attacks made by the Pakistani military on Taliban strongholds in FATA. Ironically, as Rashid makes clear, it was exactly groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, which were originally created by the ISI, that have now turned their guns on their creators, as well as brazenly launching well-equipped and well-trained teams of jihadis into Indian territory. In doing so they are severely damaging Pakistani interests abroad, and bringing Pakistan to the brink of a war it cannot possibly win.

It was the military dictator General Zia ul-Haq, between 1978 and 1988, who was responsible for initiating the fatal alliance between the conservative Pakistani military and the equally reactionary mullahs that led to the use of Pakistan's Islamic radicals in the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan. Their recruitment was always controlled by the ISI, but was originally jointly funded by the CIA and Saudi intelligence. Militant mosques such as the Lal Masjid near the ISI headquarters in the center of Islamabad were turned into recruiting centers for potential Mujahideen, and places where the intelligence services could be in touch with young radicals.

This vital period under Zia, when the jihadis were first harnessed to the use of the Pakistani state, is brilliantly described in a history of the Pakistani army by Shuja Nawaz, the Washington-based brother of a former Pakistani army chief of general staff. One of the most telling passages in the book describes the "strange non-military atmosphere" in the ISI in the early 1990s at the end of the reign of one of the most overtly Islamist directors of the agency, the Zia-appointed Lieutenant General Javed Nasir. When his successor turned up to take over, he found that "the corridors were filled with bearded civilians in shalwar kameez," the pajama-like traditional dress, "many of them with their shalwar hitched up above the ankle, a signature practice of the [ultra-orthodox] Tablighi Jamaat to which Nasir belonged."

He was shown a strong room that once had "currency stacked to the ceiling" but was now empty as adventurist ISI officers had taken "suitcases filled with cash" to the field, including to the newly independent Central Asian republics, ostensibly to set up safe houses and operations there in support of Islamic causes. There were no accounts or any receipts to these money transfers....Most officers were absent from their offices for extended periods, often away for "prayers."[3]

Rashid's book takes up the story where Shuja Nawaz leaves off. Descent into Chaos breaks entirely new ground in making explicit, in strikingly well-researched detail, the degree to which the army and ISI continued this duplicitous and risky policy of supporting radical Islamic groups after September 11, 2001, despite President Musharraf's many public promises to the contrary. The speed with which the US lost interest in Afghanistan after its successful invasion and embarked on plans to invade Iraq, which clearly had no link with al-Qaeda, convinced Pakistan's military leaders that the US was not serious about a long-term commitment to Karzai's regime. This in turn led to them keeping the Taliban in reserve to be used to reinstall a pro-Pakistani regime in Afghanistan once the Americans' attention had been turned elsewhere and the Karzai regime had been left to crumble.

So it was, only months after Septem-ber 11, that the ISI was giving refuge to the entire Taliban leadership after it fled from Afghanistan. Mullah Omar was kept in an ISI safehouse in the town of Quetta, just south of the tribal areas in Baluchistan, near the Afghan border, while his militia was lodged in Pashtunabad, a sprawling Quetta suburb. Gulbuddin Hikmetyar, the leader of the radical Mujahideen militia Hizb-e- Islami, was lured back from exile in Iran and allowed to operate freely outside Peshawar, while Jalaluddin Haqqani, one of the most violent Taliban commanders, was given sanctuary by the ISI in north Waziristan, a part of FATA.

In order to keep contact with such groups beyond the radar of Western intelligence, the ISI created a new clandestine organization, staffed by former ISI trainers and retired Pashtun officers from the army, who armed, trained, and supported the Taliban in camps around Quetta. In view of the high level of military training of the Lashkar jihadis who attacked Bombay, it may well be that some similar arrangement involving former ISI officers was used to prepare the Bombay terrorists for their mission too.

By 2004, the US had filmed Pakistani army trucks delivering Taliban fighters to the Afghan border and taking them back a few days later, while wireless monitoring at the US base at Bagram picked up Taliban commanders arranging with Pakistani army officers at the border for safe passage as they came in and out of Afghanistan. By 2005 the Taliban, with covert Pakistani support, was launching a full-scale assault on NATO troops in Afghanistan. As Rashid notes in his conclusion:

Today, seven years after 9/11, Mullah Omar and the original Afghan Taliban Shura still live in Baluchistan province. Afghan and Pakistani Taliban leaders live on further north, in FATA, as do the militias of Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hikmetyar. Al Qaeda has a safe haven in FATA, and along with them reside a plethora of Asian and Arab terrorist groups who are now expanding their reach into Europe and the United States.

The foot-dragging response of Zardari to the attacks on Bombay last November shows the degree to which the two-faced dual-track policy of courting both the US and the various jihadi groups remains effectively in place with the Pakistani military. For the last decade Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, has been allowed to operate from Muridke, near Lahore. Although, in reaction to US pressure after September 11, Lashkar has officially been banned, in reality it continues to function under the name of Jamaat-ud Daawa, while Saeed continues openly to incite attacks on India and Western targets. The speeches quoted by Rashid show how easily such attacks could have been anticipated, and how they should have been stopped: "The powerful Western world is terrorizing Muslims," Saeed told an Islamabad conference in 2003. "We are being invaded, humiliated, manipulated and looted.... We must fight against the evil trio, America, Israel and India. Suicide missions are in accordance with Islam. In fact a suicide attack is the best form of jihad."

Even now, after the mass murder in Bombay, although Saeed is himself now under house arrest for masterminding the attacks (an accusation that he denies), his organization's madrasas and facilities remain open and appear to benefit from patronage offered by Pakistan's authorities. Only this year the Zardari government cleared the purchase of a bulletproof Land Cruiser for him. Zardari does indeed seem to be in what the Indian foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee, calls "a state of denial" about the involvement of Pakistani jihadi groups in the Bombay massacres.

Yet viewed in the light of Pakistani power politics, Zardari's position has a certain dangerous logic. Army insiders say that General Ashfaq Kiyani, the current chief of staff, who is already involved in a full-scale conflict with the Pakistani Taliban in the frontier tribal areas, does not feel sufficiently strong to open a second front with the jihadis in the Punjab; while Zardari, even though he may wish to be rid of Lashkar and the Punjabi jihadis, cannot afford to be seen to cave in to Indian pressure. It is a classic South Asian catch-22, which allows Lashkar to continue functioning with only cosmetic restrictions, whose main function is to impress the US. Yet the fact remains that until firm action is taken against all such groups, and training camps are closed down, the slow collapse of the Pakistani state will continue, and with it the safety of Western interests in the region.

Several factors will determine the future. Rashid makes it clear that only a radically changed policy by the United States under Barack Obama can hope to begin turning things around. He writes:

South and Central Asia will not see stability unless there is a new global compact among the leading help this region solve its problems, which range from settling the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan to funding a massive education and job-creation program in the borderlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan and along their borders with Central Asia.

As Obama has hinted, such an approach could be coupled with negotiations with some elements of the Afghan Taliban.

The second factor, of course, has to be reform of the ISI and the Pakistani military. The top Pakistani army officers must end their obsession with bleeding India by using an Islamist strategic doctrine entailing support of jihadists, and realize that such a policy is deeply damaging to Pakistan itself, threatening to turn Pakistan into a clone of Taliban-dominated Afghanistan rather than a potential partner of a future Indian superpower.

A third factor, which Rashid does not discuss in this book, is somehow finding a way to stop the madrasa- inspired and Saudi-financed advance of Wahhabi Islam, which is directly linked to the spread of anti-Western radicalization. On my last visit to Pakistan, it was very clear that while the Wahhabi-dominated North-West was on the verge of falling under the sway of the Taliban, the same was not true of the Sufi-dominated province of Sindh, which currently is quieter and safer than it has been for some time. Here in southern Pakistan, on the Indian border, Sufi Islam continues to act as a powerful defense against the puritanical fundamentalist Islam of the Wahhabi mullahs, which supports intolerance of all other faiths.

Visiting the popular Sufi shrine of Sehwan in Sindh last month, I was astonished by the strength of feeling expressed against the mullahs by the Sindhis who look to their great saints such a Lal Shabaz Qalander for guidance, and hate the Wahhabis who criticize the popular Islam of the Sufi saints as a form of shirk, or heresy: "All these mullahs should be damned," said one old Sufi I talked to in the shrine. "They read their books but they never understand the true message of love that the prophet preached. Men so blind as them cannot even see the shining sun." A friend who visited shortly before me met a young man from Swat, in the North-West Frontier Province, who said he had considered joining the militants, but their anti-Sufi attitude had put him off: "No one can deny us our respected saints of God," he said.

The Saudis have invested intensively in Wahhabi madrasas in the North-West Frontier Province and Punjab, with dramatic effect, radically changing the religious culture of an entire region. The tolerant Sufi culture of Sindh has been able to defy this imported Wahhabi radicalism. The politically moderating effect of Sufism was recently described in a RAND Corporation report recommending support for Sufism as an "open, intellectual interpretation of Islam." Here is an entirely indigenous and homegrown Islamic resistance movement to fundamentalism, with deep roots in South Asian culture. Its importance cannot be overestimated. Could it have a political effect in a country still dominated by military forces that continue to fund and train jihadi groups? It is one of the few sources of hope left in the increasingly bleak political landscape of this strategically crucial country.

—January 15, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire just doesn't cut it for me

33 Horrors And A Happy Ending

The episodic construction, the cardboard and one-dimensional characters, the 'garbage tourism' feel, which some have called 'poverty porn' -- it's all just slumbug.

Outlook (India)

I don't have a problem with anyone making a film on India's problems. (Or Mumbai's) . And I couldn't care less who makes a film, writes a book, tells a story, or sings a song about anything or anyone: insider or outsider. Gregory David Roberts or Satyajit Ray. Or which light it shows India in: shining or dim.

I loved Danny Boyle's earlier film Trainspotting. But Slumdog Millionaire just doesn't cut it for me as a film.

What didn't work for me was the treatment; three things in particular.

The episodic construction: 33 horrors and a happy ending (Shit. Acid blindings. Child prostitution. Begging. Rape. And so forth. You get the drift...)

The characters: cardboard and one-dimensional. (I've never seen a film before where every single adult is uniformly nasty, if not downright evil.)

The 'garbage tourism' feel, which some have called 'poverty porn': I have no objections to porn per se - there's good porn and bad porn. It all depends on the perspective. And on the treatment. The reason this has the touristy feel (as opposed to the travel feel, which is about curiosity, exploration and discovery) is because it is so singularly uncurious. If Edmund Hillary famously said he climbed Everest because it was there, this films a garbage can because it is there. But it doesn't do anything interesting with the garbage can. Yes, we all know begging, rape and child prostitution exist, not to mention acid blindings - but surely they need some treatment beyond, "They exist so let's shoot them."

Gregory David Roberts also located his bestselling novel Shantaram in the slums of Mumbai. And I loved it, including its pulp fiction form and feel. The lepers who sell fake medicines, the experience of shitting in the slums, the milieu, the energy, the characters. They were all mad and bad and wild and crazy. They had nuances. He did something with them - he didn't just stand there and say: "Oh my god! A slum! Gawp!"

So did Fernando Meirelles in his recent film Blindness, based on Jose Saramago's novel of the same name. Meirelles earlier made City of God, which is often invoked when Slumdog is discussed. In Blindness, he uses blindness as a central plot element - an entire city turns blind - and as an extreme backdrop to explore the human psyche. Sure, there are those who take advantage of the situation. And there are others who don't. And 'good vs evil' is not the only axis along which the characters are treated in the film. There are strong fictional characters. They have shadings. They have other elements to them.

While some groups have protested Blindness (saying it demeans the blind), that's not what I took away. But while Meirelles does not in any way - explicitly or implicitly - treat blindness as demeaning, Slumdog treats poverty as an outpost of hell, peopled by living monsters. Its treatment seems to imply that poverty creates uni-dimensional monsters, not real, rounded human beings. (It's not the poverty, stupid. It's the treatment.)

Going by the acclaim that Slumdog has gathered, should writers now treat all characters in poor settings as single-sheet cardboard and only those in more affluent settings as rounded flesh and blood? Or should poor 'characters' also get some scriptwriting attention and be constructed in ways that are unique? Can a protagonist be treated as a straight line just because he is poor? Would Ray's Pather Panchali have got such worldwide acclaim if Durga and Apu had been as unipolar as Slumdog's Jamal? And should we, as viewers, lower all our cinematic expectations just because a film is set in a slum?

Perhaps all this would not have mattered if a lesser-known filmmaker had made Slumdog.But when a filmmaker with Boyle's credentials comes into the picture, one does have expectations. And to be fair, some of these are met. The energy, the camerawork, the music - these are all Slumdog's strengths.

But I still don't understand why an ordinary fast-paced film is being treated as a cinematic masterpiece. As Namrata Joshi wrote, "Why is the world reacting as though someone has done something startlingly new to cinema?"

It's a mystery. More so since Boyle seems to have got his cues straight from Bollywood. Like Baz Luhrmann, who at least took the right things from Bollywood. He took the trappings: the glitz colour music dance spectacle. ("Spectacular! Spectacular" as one of the characters from Moulin Rouge says flamboyantly in a song whose lyrics include: "Elephants! Bohemians! Indians! and courtesans! Acrobats! and juggling bears! exotic girls! fire eaters! Muscle men, contortionists!")

That's Bollywood. The plot is irrelevant, the song sequences dazzling. Why think when you can see? Why meditate when you can levitate?

But who lifts plot elements from Bollywood? Or its characters and clich�s? (There is no doubt Bolly scripts and treatment are both improving with a new generation of directors and writers entering the fray - see Om Shanti Om, Johny Gaddar, Life in A Metro etc. But these are still exceptions, not the rule. And it is of course a supreme irony that while Bollywood has been struggling to get a foothold in the Oscar best foreign film category, a Bollywood wannabe may walk away with the top honours: Best Film in the English Language.

At the end of the day, this is nothing but a boy-meets-girl Bollywood pastiche shot in exotic slum locales. But on top of everything else, what Slumdog lacks is Bollywood's trademark strengths: The oomph. The sizzle. The razzmatazz. And the masala. Where's the masala?

In its place is a gaping void. So how many horrors does a film need to fill a black hole? 33 and a happy ending? Who knows? Who cares?

Anyway, in the end, boy gets rich, boy gets girl, everyone's happy -- and it's all just slumbug.

Bishakha Datta, a writer and filmmaker with extensive media experience, is the programme director of Point of View

'Why Slumdog fails to move me'
BBC online
Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle's new film based on a rags-to-riches tale of an Indian slum boy, has already become one of the hits of the year. The BBC's Soutik Biswas wonders whether it is really the "masterpiece" it is made out to be.

Slumdog Millionaire poster
The film has been called a Dickensian take on the city of Mumbai

Like his protagonist, a gutsy 18-year-old slum boy who is on the verge of winning 20 million rupees (about $400,000) in a popular TV quiz show, Danny Boyle has hit an unlikely jackpot with Slumdog Millionaire.

And much like Jamal, a child who nobody believes could get this far on the TV show without cheating, Boyle is being roasted by some critics for taking an easy shortcut and "using" poverty to serve up a we-are-poor-but-we-are-happy story.

After picking up four US Golden Globe awards and raking in nearly $50m at the box office in the US and Britain already, Slumdog, unquestionably, is the flavour of the season.

With its mixed cast, the much-feted and hyped film is also Boyle's paean to Mumbai (Bombay), India's edgy metropolis of extremes, and Bollywood, the world's most prolific film industry.

Everybody loves a good underdog. That is why Slumdog touches a chord

Your comments on this review

Some have called it a moving Dickensian take on Mumbai thanks to its portrayal of the city's stifling and colourful squalor and the people who live in it. Others have derisively called it poverty porn. One critic called Boyle's work "slum chic".

Well, yes, in the shadow of rubbish mountains, mothers get hacked to death in front of their children in religious rioting and a movie star-struck slum boy defecating under the open sky falls into a slush of excreta. Children get their eyes burnt with acid, and girls are forced into brothels by rakish young men.

Dharavi slum in Mumbai
Slumdog is based in Mumbai's teeming slums

On the eve of the film's release in India, NGOs invite reporters to meet the "real slumdogs". "Off the back of Slumdog Millionaire," says one invitation in my inbox, "we can offer access to the slums of Delhi and interview opportunities with the real 'slumdogs' - children who live in absolute poverty every day."

Poverty, like a lot of things, is good business in a free market. But India is also exceedingly cruel to its poor and callous towards its children, and is one of the most unequal societies in the world.

I have no issues with Boyle's cheery depiction of the resilience of slum children and the sunny side of slum life: it is part of the unchanging popular oriental stereotype of poverty equals slums equals dirty, smiling children. Been there, seen that.

In fact, Indians appear to have come to terms with Western filmmakers' depiction of the country's crushing poverty.

I remember the sets - a vast slum, what else? - of Roland Joffe's multi-million dollar City of Joy, starring Patrick Swayze, being firebombed by arsonists in the city of Calcutta in the early 1990s. They charged him with selling poverty. Joffe had to pack up his bags, leave the city and finish the film at London's Pinewood studios.

My quibble with Slumdog Millionaire lies elsewhere. The film doesn't move me.

I suspect what Boyle tries to do is a Bollywood film - the dirt-poor lost brothers, unrequited love - with dollops of gritty realism. But at the end of it all, it is a pretty callow copy of a genre which only the Indians can make with the élan it deserves.

The realism skims the surface, and in spite of some decent performances, style dominates over substance. And the film does not grip me in the way, say, the story of the life in Rio de Janeiro's favelas in the 2002 Brazilian crime drama City of God did.

See also:
A dangerous fairy tale

Horror on Malaysian Airlines

Horror flight on board MH161
Radhika Iyer-O'Sullivan | Jan 20, 09 3:55pm


I am a Malaysian currently residing and working in Dubai. On Dec 25, 2008, I flew with Malaysian Airlines flight MH161 to Kuala Lumpur to visit my parents. I was in seat 36H (an aisle seat) and the seat next to me, 36K (window seat) was vacant. The flight stopped over at Karachi for an hour.

In Karachi, more passengers boarded the plane. One male passenger boarded, showed his boarding pass to a stewardess and she pointed to seat beside me (36K). The man looked at me and said, ‘She's a Hindu, I cannot sit beside her.’ The stewardess responded, ‘So what? What's wrong with Hindu?’ The man then began to yell and shout that he would not sit next to a Hindu.

The crew insisted that he had to because there were no other seats available because the plane was full. Then this passenger sat down but began to verbally abuse my faith and the crew members. I sat in my seat but was physically cringing away from him. The flight supervisor was summoned and until then the man was still seated next to me. Imagine my shock, horror and fear in being next to a hostile, abusive person.

One steward did stand next to me but did not offer any help and I did not feel safe or reassured. I reached out and told that steward that I did not feel safe anymore. I said this to him softly in English and he told me to sit and wait. He then walked off and a female crew member took his place. All this time I was under the impression that this hostile passenger beside me was a Pakistani.

I then told the stewardess in Malay that this man should not be seated beside me after what he had said about me. There were other Malaysian passengers sitting in the same area and all of them heard me. She smiled and merely nodded.

Finally, the flight supervisor, ‘SB’, approached the passenger and after an angry exchange, the passenger said, ‘Move her then!’ and SB replied, ‘Yes, we will move her’. More angry words were exchanged and it was revealed that the passenger was actually a Malaysian. When this news was revealed, the passenger actually stood up with his fists up, ready to be physically violent. I was then hauled out of my seat and taken to the back of the plane. I was kept in the kitchen.

By this time I had gone into shock and was crying uncontrollably. I was shaking with rage because I was in a position where there was nothing I could do to defend myself. No one else seemed to be doing anything too.

I could not see what was happening from the rear of the plane but I did see uniformed security personnel approaching my original seat. I could not hear or make out what was happening as there was a group of people standing around my original seat. Eventually, the group left and it was announced that the plane would be taking off.

All this time I was in the kitchen, shaking and crying. All that was done for me was crew members taking turns to ask me if I was okay and offering me Coke and water! The plane began to taxi and I was then taken to another seat (42H). As I sat down, I asked the steward, ‘Is he off the plane?’ and the answer was, ‘No.’ I was appalled.

After the plane took off, the flight supervisor, SB, came and sat beside me. He explained to me that they could not put him off the plane because he was a deportee and if they had insisted on putting him off, then the plane would not have been cleared for take off. I was still crying at this point. I asked, ‘Why am I in a different seat? He should be!’ but my question was not answered.

The plane was not full. There were eight seats vacant in the rear, four on the right aisle and four seats on the left. Seat 42H, where I was put, was one of those vacant seats in the rear. If the MAS crew knew there was a deportee boarding, should they not have made arrangements to place him at the rear of the plane? What kind of airline policy allows a deportee to sit beside a female passenger travelling alone?

I spent the next five and a half hours on the flight in tears. I was not able to sleep because I knew that a hostile passenger was only six rows down from me. I was not afraid but in rage. My friends who are reading this would know the kind of person I am. I have always stood up for my rights and for the rights of people whom I love. I would not usually tolerate such abuse and I would not have hesitated in defending myself.

What stopped me was knowing that I was on a plane, in a confined space and that there were other passengers around me too, women and children. The abusive passenger was not removed from the plane and when we landed at KLIA, he disembarked like a normal passenger and was not escorted or arrested. I also disembarked knowing that I was now in the same terminal, on my own, as this hostile passenger.

I am very disappointed with the way MAS dealt with the incident. That passenger should have been taken to the rear of the plane and restrained. I was the victim of the incident yet I lost my chosen seat that I had paid for. Apart from offers of water, Coke and some verbal reassurances, the crew did not do anything else for me.

I have contacted other major airlines and this is how they would have dealt with the matter: I would have been moved to Business/First Class and I would have been escorted into the terminal until I safely exited the airport. MAS did not do anything for me. First of all, they jeopardised my safety and well-being by forcing the passenger to sit beside me knowing that he was hostile towards me and then they did nothing else to keep me safe.

I was in the same cabin as that passenger, wondering if he was going to walk by or pass me. I spent the entire five and a half hours in tears because I could not stand up for my rights and also because I had to keep my own rage pent-up.

Once I landed, I rang my husband in Dubai and related the events to him. He took immediate steps to contact MAS but to no avail. I stayed for one week in Malaysia and every single day, I tried to call their Customer Complaints Department. All I got was a voice mail. I left numerous messages but no one called me back. No one contacted my husband in Dubai. It is only after he put it up on the MAS blog that we have received some kind of response. Fourteen days after the incident, someone from MAS called me to offer an apology.

My husband also received an email from someone who has offered me 25 percent discount on a return flight from KL to Dubai and actually referred to that abusive passenger as a ‘fellow customer’! She also clearly stated that measures taken were to prevent that passenger from getting angrier. So in other words, they do admit that.

These are the questions I posed to MAS:

Why force a passenger who is racially abusive and hostile to my appearance and faith to sit beside me? There were other seats available at the rear as I discovered later.This was not a passenger who was merely fussing about his seat, this was a passenger who was potentially a threat to another passenger.

Why did the flight supervisor immediately give in to his demands and agree to move me? I was not the passenger causing trouble.

Upon retrospect, I think I was lied to. I do not think the passenger was a deportee. It was a lie told to me to keep him on the plane and keep me quiet. If a lie was told, that means that the crew took measures to protect the hostile passenger and themselves but not me, the victim. If so, then the MAS crew perpetuated the racism and discrimination initiated by the passenger.

If this is the case, then the entire crew participated in jeopardising my safety and appropriate action should be taken against them. If the passenger was truly a deportee or an INA (inadmissible because of visa) then the plane captain should have documents about him. If a deportee or INA caused trouble on a flight, the captain should have been informed immediately.

Why was the captain not informed and if he was, why did he not come to see me? I have been informed that KLIA security had been called but there was no one waiting when the plane landed. The abusive passenger disembarked like any other normal passenger. Why was he not nabbed or restrained? Why did not the crew ensure my safety in the terminal too?

I am demanding a formal, written apology from Malaysian Airlines. I want a truthful, reasonable explanation for all the five points I have listed above. I want some compensation for what I suffered. So far, I have only received an e-mail informing that the matter is under investigation.

Pub attack unacceptable act of hooliganism: Rajnath

27 Jan 2009, 1605 hrs IST,

BANGALORE: Describing the attack on women in a Mangalore pub as "unacceptable", national BJP president Rajnath Singh said the party condemns the incident in totality. ( Watch )

He told reporters here on Tuesday that Karnataka government has already initiated strong action against the unacceptable act of hooliganism that took place in Mangalore on Saturday.

Faced with mounting criticism from all the quarters, the BJP termed the incident as act of hooliganism and came down heavily on the political opponents, who are levelling allegations against the party of supporting the incident. Singh retorted stating that they should comment after verifying facts. "It is unfortunate that our political opponents and the so-called secularists, suffer from an RSS-BJP phobia. They tend to level allegations without even verifying the facts," he said.

Around 20 to 25 activists belonging to Sri Ram Sena organization, had barged into a local pub in Mangalore on Saturday night and beat up women accusing them of behaving in an obscene manner and going against Indian culture and tradition.

Reacting to the incident, union women and child development minister Renuka Chowdhury on Monday termed the incident as an attempt to Talibanize India. she also sought an explanation from the Karnataka government. "I am absolutely horrified at the insensitivity on the eve of Republic Day. I will seek an explanation from the state government as well as the self-styled Sri Ram Sena. This incident is an attempt to Talibanize India. There is no place for these kind of acts in India as it is a democracy," Renuka said.

Meanwhile, the National Students Union India (NSUI) has called for an all college bandh on Wednesday condemning the attack on a pub and a house by SRS activists.

NSUI Dakshina Kannada district president Thejaswiraj said incidents of goondaism in the name of protecting culture has increased in recent times and the police had failed to control anti-social elements who were taking the law into their own hands.

Indian,Pandit,says:Can anybody please make these over enthusiastic people understand that we should stop doing moral policing. Let the people decide themselves what is good or bad and what culture they want to embibe. These "samaaj ke thekedar" are actually useless people who are not good at anything else, so they are spending their brain and body for such acts.
[27 Jan, 2009 1425hrs IST]

Shivan,UAE,says:By this act in Mangalore pub and courtesy Raj thackerays thrashing of Bojpuri peaople in Mumbai school while celebrating Republic Day yesterday, BJP has lost many votes for the coming elections.
[27 Jan, 2009 1423hrs IST]

Gaurav,New Delhi,says:One questions for these hooligans. Is hitting women Indian Tradition and Culture? Who in the hell are these people to define Culture? Cowards!!!
[27 Jan, 2009 1325hrs IST]

Sri Ram Sena VP among 10 more arrested in pub attack case

Hindustan Times
January 27 2009

Ten more members of Sri Ram Sena, including its Vice-President Prasad Attavar, have been arrested for allegedly attacking women in a pub in Mnagalore over the weekend, taking the total number of those held to 27.

Attavar and nine other activists of the sene were arrested in a late night operation, police said.

Protesting the arrest of Attavar, suspected activists of the outfit on Tuesday stoned some buses and set afire a lorry at Alpe on the city outskirts.

However, no one was hurt in the incidents, police said.

The activists pelted stones at two Karnataka State Road Transport Corproation (KSRTC) buses, damaged window panes and set afire a lorry at Alape on city outskirts, police said.

When the crowd torched the lorry, people who were nearby immediately doused the fire, police said adding they have launched a manhunt to arrest those who indulged in the violence.

Police had issued notices to media, including television channels, under Karnatka State Police Form No 28, to provide information regarding the assault in the pub.

Meanwhile, a key activist of Sri Ram Sene, Dinakar Shetty, who owned the responsibility for the attack, is still at large.

More than 25 Sriram Sene activists barged into the pub on Saturday night and assaulted the weekend revelers, including girls, there, after claiming they were dancing in an "obscene manner".

The incident has sparked national outrage with the attack being termed as an act of hooliganism.


Sri Ram Sena chief: These girls are like my sisters

Vicky Nanjappa | January 27, 2009 | 13:33 IST

Last Saturday was a black day for Karnataka when a group of girls were beaten up and allegedly molested at a pub in Mangalore by a group of 40 men, reportedly members of the Sri Ram Sena.

The demand for the closure of pubs in Karnataka by the Sri Ram Sena reminds one of the famous argument advanced by C K Daftary, the former attorney general of India, before the Supreme Court, 'A Republic without a pub in it will be a mere relic.'

The Sena, which has donned upon itself the responsibility of moral policing in the state, seems unapologetic about the incident. Sena chief Prasad Attavar says a big issue is being made out of nothing.

Attavar, who is now in police custody, spoke with's Vicky Nanjappa minutes before his arrest.

Do you agree that it is a shameful incident or are you proud of it?

I am not proud of it. It is a minor incident in Mangalore which has been blown out of proportion.

Girls were beaten up and also molested. Isn't that cheap behaviour?

It is wrong. These girls are like my sisters and I would not approve of anyone raising their hand on my sisters. In a group when people react, things are bound to go wrong. But let me also remind you that this is an issue that has been blown out of proportion.

There is a BJP government in Karnataka and the Opposition would do anything to ensure that name of the government is tarnished.

This is the first time that such an incident is taking place. Hasn't the Sena given Karnataka a bad name?

No. We have not given Karnataka a bad name. Some action was necessary and once again, I say the media hyped it and the Opposition took advantage of the situation. Such incidents have taken place in the past and such a big issue was never made out of it. Why are you singling us out?

You attack women and say that it is just hype. What sort of justification is that?

Once again let me remind you, the Sena's policy is not to attack women. It was just a protest and in a group when people protest, at times, things are bound to go wrong.

It is clear that you are taking advantage of the fact that the BJP is in power in Karnataka and you think that you can get away with anything.

Please correct yourself and stop hurling accusations. The BJP is in power alright. But that does not mean that we are taking advantage of the situation. The government has cracked down on the incident and so many arrests have taken place. In fact, the government has given the police a free hand to act on the matter.

You say that the issue is being hyped up unnecessarily. Why would you stress so much on that point?

It all depends on the victim. In this case, the women are from well-to-do families and have strong financial backing. This is the reason they are able to go to power centres and argue their case.

There are so many atrocities being committed against women across the country and many of them are from the lower strata of society. Do such cases come out in the open? They don't and this is for the simple reason that they cannot afford to do so.

Why don't the likes of (Union Minister for Women's Welfare) Renuka Chaudhary take up these cases too and make a big issue out of it? Let her fight against dowry and other atrocities, and if she does then I could call her fair.

Girls drinking in a pub is nothing new. Who has given you the authority to don the role of a moral policeman?

There is a need to preserve our culture and there is no denying that. In fact, we will continue to fight to preserve our culture.

Are you saying that women should go to pubs and drink, and do drugs in skimpy outfits? Does even Renuka Chaudhary approve of this?

I promise you that I will put an end to this fight if parents of these girls give the police an undertaking that they are fine with their daughters drinking and doping with skimpy clothes on in pubs.

Earlier, you said that these girls are like your sisters. You being the chief of the Sena could have stopped your men from misbehaving with these girls. Why did you keep quiet?

I was not in Mangalore when the incident took place. By the time I returned, the incident had already taken place. If I was around, I would not have approved of the misbehaviour with women.

Is this the first step by the Sena to make its entry into politics?

The Sri Ram Sena is not a political organisation. We are not interested in politics and we are not rowdies. We only preserve the values and culture of Indian society.

Once again I would like to say that it is a small incident which has been blown out of proportion.

Pakistan Continues To Deny and Defy

By Gopika Kaul
East Bay Express

Imagine this. One of the terrorists from the 9/11 attacks is caught alive, and he reveals that he is from Pakistan where he and the others trained intensively in terror camps. He gives details about his village where he grew up. Then, the FBI finds satellite phones used by his fellow attackers containing detailed records of calls made between the attackers and their native land. Those calls are then transcribed, and chilling details of their conversations are decoded, in which the latter instruct the former to kill in cold blood. In the light of this disturbing and unmistakable evidence, America asks Pakistan to cooperate in bringing the guilty to trial. Pakistan not only refuses, but also makes inflammatory statements that whip the country into war-time hysteria. America, however, continues to amicably try and solve the issue, looking for help in these efforts from friends around the world, all of whom know fully well that the bloody trail leads to Pakistan, but, for some reason or the other, walk on eggshells, skirting the real issue. The perpetrators of terror walk free.

Unimaginable? Not if you're in India.

This is pretty much what has been happening in India after the Mumbai attacks in November last year. No matter what the evidence or its authenticity, Pakistan has denied it point blank. So far, it has got away with this unacceptable behavior - though, hopefully, not for long.

The Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, who has shown exemplary restraint in handling Pakistan's offensive tactics, has decided to take the diplomatic route, not the military one in response. War, he knows, is not the answer, though he is painfully aware of the fact that his way - the diplomatic one - is sure to take more time. His patience, however, is wearing thin, as time ticks by and the Pakistani government keeps up its see-no-evil, hear-no-evil act. In his strongest statement made since the attacks, Dr. Singh, on Tuesday, did not mince words as he said that attacks of this scale, of such sophistication and military precision must have been carried out with the complicity of the some of the official agencies in Pakistan.

This does not come as a surprise to India, or for that matter to the world. Pakistan's Intelligence agency the ISI is known to have links with terror groups, a fact that even the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency warned of, well before the Mumbai attacks took place.

Almost every time there has been a terror attack in India, a Pakistani connection has surfaced. In July, 2008 the Indian embassy in Kabul was attacked by the Taliban, and evidence of Pakistan's involvement had emerged. At the time Dr. Singh had, despite this evidence, continued with peace efforts with the recently elected civilian government in Pakistan. His efforts, it now seems, were in vain. That's yet another reason why he has now made his feelings clear on the matter, saying with very little equivocation that Pakistan has utilized terrorism as an instrument of state policy and aided groups who are against India. Predictably, Pakistan has not taken well to Dr. Singh's remarks and has again accused India of creating tension in the region. And so, the blame game goes on.

Meanwhile top U.S. officials are convinced that the terror situation in Pakistan is cause for concern not only for India, but for the rest of the world as well. U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley on Wednesday admitted that Pakistan is going to be a big challenge for the Obama administration and that problems in Afghanistan cannot be solved without solving Pakistan. The problem isn't limited to one state; it's regional in scope. It needs a regional solution as Dr. Singh's efforts underline.

Knowing what we do about the terror nexus - the connections between Pakistan's state agencies and extremist groups - it is a shame that no serious action has been taken against the country. The squeaky wheel is being allowed to get away, with some token wrist slaps. This dangerous for all of us. What message are the terrorists getting? Surely, they can't be running scared. They probably can't believe their luck at having gotten away. This will only encourage more attacks, which are probably being planned as I write this.

It's only a matter of time. Copyright (c) 2007, SteelWill, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Spot On is a trademark of SteelWill, Inc.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Indonesia bans yoga for Muslims

Muslims in Indonesia have been banned from doing yoga if they engage in Hindu religious rituals during the exercise, the chairman of the country's top Islamic body said on Sunday.

The Telegraph
25 Jan 2009

About 700 clerics from the Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI) agreed to ban the practice of yoga over fears that the use of Hindu prayers could "erode" Muslims' faith.

"The yoga practice that contains religious rituals of Hinduism including the recitation of mantras is "haram" (forbidden in Islam)," Ma'ruf Amin, a spokesman for the group, said.

"Muslims should not practise other religious rituals as it will erode and weaken their Islamic faith," he added.

The council said Muslims could do yoga as long as it is was only for physical exercise and did not include chanting, mantras or meditation.

The MUI has carved a key role for itself in Indonesia and its pronouncements on everything from Islamic banking to halal food can have a powerful influence. The fatwas are not legally binding but can influence government policy and it is considered sinful to ignore them.

Yoga, an ancient Indian aid to meditation dating back thousands of years, is a popular stress-buster in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.

Indonesia, which is officially secular, has the world's largest Muslim population. Nearly 90 per cent of the country's 234 million people are followers of Islam.

Shocked by Slumdog's poverty porn

Danny Boyle's film is sweeping up awards, but it's wrong to revel in the misery of India's children

The Times (UK)
Alice Miles
January 14, 2009

There are many reasons why you might want to see Slumdog Millionaire - it is directed by the brilliant Danny Boyle, it is set in the sensual feast that is Mumbai and it has won awards for music, directing and acting. And then there is the fact that critics and its own publicity have branded it a feel-good movie. Call me shallow, but that ultimately swung it for me.

A few hours later I was wincing in my seat. The film opens with a scene of horrible violence: a man hanging from the ceiling of a police station, being tortured to unconsciousness, a trickle of blood running from his mouth. It moves swiftly into scenes of utter misery and depravity, in which small starving children are beaten, mutilated and perverted.

Mothers die horribly in front of their sons, small girls are turned into prostitutes, small boys into beggars. I hope it won't spoil the feel-good surprise if I tell you that one particularly sadistic scene shows a young boy having his eyes burnt out with acid to maximise the profits of street begging. Charities working with street children in India seem unaware of any instances of this, although Save the Children emphasises that similar violence against children by beggar mafia is well documented.

The film is brilliant, horrifying, compelling and awful, the relentless violence leavened only by an occasional clip of someone working his way through the questions on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?. You might want to look away, but you can't and, despite the banal storyline, I can see why it is pulling in the awards.

Yet the film is vile. Unlike other Boyle films such as Trainspotting or Shallow Grave, which also revel in a fantastical comic violence, Slumdog Millionaire is about children. And it is set not in the West but in the slums of the Third World. As the film revels in the violence, degradation and horror, it invites you, the Westerner, to enjoy it, too. Will they find it such fun in Mumbai?

Like the bestselling novel by the Americanised Afghan Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Slumdog Millionaire is not a million miles away from a form of pornographic voyeurism. A Thousand Splendid Suns is obsessed with rape and violence against women, the reader asked to pore over every last horrible detail. Slumdog Millionaire is poverty porn.

Here is the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) summary of the film. It judged it suitable for viewers aged 15 or over (I would add another ten to that): “Strong violence is seen in a scene where a group of Muslims are attacked and killed in the street - together with general chaos and beatings, there are some stronger and more explicit moments, such as the deliberate setting of a man on fire... We also later see strong violence that includes a knife held to a woman's throat as she's forcibly snatched off the street, an impressionistic blinding of a young beggar boy, and torture by electricity in a police station. The BBFC has placed this work in the COMEDY genre.”

Comedy? So maybe that's it: I just didn't get the joke.

I wonder if India will, or whether, as with Aravind Adiga's Man Booker prize-winning novel, The White Tiger, people will feel more ambivalent than in the West. An editorial in, a Mumbai-based online newspaper, read: “The miserable existence of the average slum dweller, which we in India know so well, is novel to the Western viewer... The awarding of the Booker Prize to The White Tiger shows that the seamier side of the Indian dream continues to have a resonance in Western sensibilities. The White Tiger's victory left many Indians underwhelmed; who is to say that when Indian audiences finally see Slumdog they will not be equally put off?”

As a review on the same website by Vrinda Nabar, an Indian professor at a US university, put it: “Slumdog's eventual victory comes at a price. When the selective manipulation of Third World squalor can make for a feel-good movie in a dismal year, the global village has a long way to go.”

Quite. The Mumbai Mirror dubbed it “Slum Chic”, and notes that the term “slumdog” is not widely recognised in India: “It appears to be a British invention to describe a poor Dharavi kid in a derogatory way.”

I am being highly selective: mostly, India seems in thrall to the brilliance of Slumdog and how it has put Mumbai and Bollywood on the map.

That said, most Indians have not seen the film, because it will not open there until next week, a delay that has raised an eyebrow or two: did Mumbai not deserve to see Slumdog first? Instead, pirated copies are doing the rounds while America watches a film that Hollywood refused to fund, because “who wants to see misery and street kids?”.

Boyle describes the film as “very subversive”. He has forestalled potential criticism about plundering another country's horror as entertainment by employing many Indian actors, including Bollywood stars and an Indian composer. Much of the dialogue is in Hindi.

And it may be that the brilliance of the film rescues Boyle from criticism: he is a film-maker, not a social commentator, and nobody doubts its cinematic brilliance. As The New York Times put it: “It's hard to hold on to any reservations in the face of Mr Boyle's resolutely upbeat pitch and seductive visual style.”

That very seductiveness is the problem. But if Boyle may be absolved from criticism, I am not sure the same can be said of the audience. “Slumderful!” declared the New York Post. When we are suckered into enjoying scenes of absolute horror among children in slums on the other side of the world, even dubbing them comedy, we ought to question where our moral compass is pointing. Boyle's most subversive achievement may lie not in revealing the dark underbelly of India - but in revealing ours.

See also:

Another Husain

Sunday, January 25, 2009

2 Pak terrorists killed in Noida on R-Day eve
Hindustan Times

First Published: 08:12 IST(25/1/2009)
Last Updated: 01:20 IST(26/1/2009)

Two suicide terrorists were shot dead Sunday on their way to Delhi to carry out terrorist strikes during Republic Day celebrations, the police said. They were both from Pakistan and heavily armed.

A police team, which had been trailing them, tried to stop them as their car — a stolen Maruti 800 — entered Noida’s sector 97. In the exchange of fire that followed the two men were shot. They died on the way to the hospital.

One of them spoke to the policemen before dying. He told them he was Farooq and came from Okra in Punjab, which is also home to Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the Mumbai 26/11 attacker in police custody now.

He also told the police his associate’s name was Abu Ismail and he came from Rawalkote, which is in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir.


The Noida terrorists belonged to a group tasked with carrying out strikes during Republic Day celebrations, said Intelligence Bureau sources. Investigators were now looking for more members of this group.

“Anti-terrorist squad officers based in Noida were working on a module of a terrorist outfit for the last one and half months,” said Brij Lal, UP police’s additional director general of police.

“Yesterday (on Saturday), the squad received information that two suspects with AK-47s have been seen in Lal Kuan, Ghaziabad on their way to Delhi,” he said, adding, "that’s when we decided to act”.

The police said they seized two AK 47 assault rifles, four magazines, 120 rounds of ammunition, five hand grenades and nine “RDX rods” from the terrorists. Plus three detonators, a Pakistani passport, and Rs.18,000 cash.

Officials of the squad said the type of arms and explosives seized indicated that the terrorists “had planned to trigger explosions at public places and were prepared to tackle resistance from security forces”.