Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mohd. Afzal Guru - Terrorist or Victim?

By now, most of us would have forgotten the attack on Indian Parliament on Dec 13th 2001 and the pandemonium that followed. We might vaguely remember that Delhi Police had miraculously cracked the case in two days flat - they had identified the terrorists who had been killed in the attack, tracked and arrested their accomplices and got their confessions also. Probably the name S A R Geelani would still ring a bell to some of us owing, mostly, to the media circus that had followed after his arrest. He was a professor of Urdu literature in Delhi University branded as a terrorist by media even before he was convicted. As a matter of fact, he never was convicted. He, along with Afsan Guru (another accomplice who was arrested) were acquitted by the Supreme Court. Out of the remaining two convicts - Shaukat Hussain (Afsan's husband) and Mohammad Afzal were handed 10 years imprisonment and death sentence respectively by the apex court.

Most of us would have probably dismissed the whole affair with either 'Good, one terrorist off the face of the earth is many lives saved' or ' In India one life less doesn't really matter' or a more callous 'Who cares? All this is happening in far away Kashmir/Delhi. It doesn't affect me in any way'. I, for one, would never have known the truth behind arrest, confession and eventually conviction of Mohd. Afzal Guru if I had not received this extremely insightful article by Arundhati Roy from a friend. Ironically, the day I read this article was the day the news of chief investigating officer of this case ACP Rajbir Singh (famously called Encounter Specialist of Delhi Police) being killed was flashing on all news channels.

What Ms Roy has very simply pointed out in her article (which, of course, the mainstream media has conveniently forgotten to bring to the notice of common people) would make even a layman see through the whole case and figure out that Mohd. Afzal is just a victim and not a hardened terrorist that he is made out to be. More importantly, Ms Roy's article also points out how the protectors of law & order (Police, Army, Judiciary) have abused the system and made a complete mockery of it. All the information that she has provided is, as she herself mentions, not a work of spectacular detective work on her part, but has been gathered through public records of Mohd. Afzal's trial.

The whole case is a myriad of false/doctored evidences, callous investigation, confessions extracted by torture, serious lapses of procedure - screaming to be noticed during Afzal's trial. But for most part of the trial Afzal did not have a lawyer (let alone a decent one) and during the most crucial part he was asked to cross examine the witnesses himself!! This, as all the lawyers appointed by the trial court had refused to take up his case. It comes as no surprise then, that Afzal has been convicted and given death sentence based on circumstantial evidence owing to the collective conscience of the society.

Afzal's death sentence and the incidents that led to it raise far more questions than answers. To me, he appears to be a victim and not the culprit. A victim of the failed system of the biggest democracy of the world. While he would be hanged some time soon, the real culprits walk free.

But is anyone listening? I don't think so ...

P.S. Afzal was scheduled to have been executed in October 2006 but he is still lodged in Tihar Jail, waiting to be executed. His clemency petition is lying with the President of India. If you believe Afzal should not be executed, here is an online petition you can sign.

Monday, March 24, 2008

What would you take - life or divorce?

Today's Bangalore newspapers were splashed with the news of a software professional first killing his wife for allegedly having an extra marital affair and then committing suicide. They were married for just one year.

Few years ago - another software professional was killed while returning home after an evening out with his wife. It appeared that it was a case of mugging-turned-murder. After some months of investigation, it was found out that the newly wed wife and her boyfriend had plotted to kill the husband. When I last heard - verdict was pending for the accused.

Both cases involved educated, upper middle class, supposedly responsible people. I don't understand one thing - why did these people choose to take lives of their spouses instead of just divorcing them? Is murder less condemnable a crime than being divorced? Or does love turn you so blind that the life of the person you love becomes less important than your love for him or her?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I really need to ..

.. do something about my habit of noticing spelling mistakes. I mean, I really really need to (and that makes 3 reallys in 2 sentences). I did the same thing in Goa too. Sometimes I feel all these bad spellings make themselves distinctly visible when I am in the vicinity so that I can take a note. Anyway, enough of my conspiracy theory. Noticed these during my Hyderabad trip -

You are hear - on a board giving directions inside Salar Jung museum

Credit card mission not working - on a placard in the bookshop at ISB

Way to face/hand reeding - on a board in Shilparamam

And this one was written on almost all the walls in Hyderabad - Genious Men's PG

Alongside Genious Men's PG were Happy Home Women's PG ads at most of the places. So men are expected to be genius and women are expected to make happy homes?

Monday, March 17, 2008

In Hyderabad

What struck me most about Hyderabad as soon as I stepped out of the airport was its wide roads and smooth flowing traffic. This, in spite of it being a work day and morning traffic. I guess being from Bangalore does that to you - it seemed quite unbelievable. On my way I passed by beautiful bungalows in Banjara Hills & Jubilee Hills and true to their names, these places had been hills as I could still see some rocks being cut to make space for another bungalow. But for me the best place was the sprawling campus of ISB in Gachhibowli. On entering the campus, for some distance you don't see anything except greenery and after about half a kilometre, the main structure - the Atrium suddenly appears. It is a huge circular building where classes and most of the academic activities are held. The circular courtyard is so huge that there were children practising roller-skating :). The weather was extremely good the first day making campus tour by Rajesh & Anshuman very pleasurable.

After seeing the new Hyderabad, it was time to discover the old one the next day. Unfortunately, it was hot, sunny & humid but that did not stop us from heading to Salar Jung Museum at Dar-ul-Shifa. It is a palace owned by the Salar Jung family who were the Diwans of Hyderabad Nizams. The museum houses personal collection of luxurious artifacts of the family - from Persian rugs, ivory horse-carriage, marble statues, paintings and sculptures from all over the world (Europe, China, Japan, Egypt). The main attractions in the museum were an Italian sculpture of 'Veiled Rebecca' whose sheer veil was so fine and her coy expression so real that Amit almost fell in love with her. The other main attraction - the tower clock was a little disappointing.

Once out of the museum, we headed straight to 'Eat Street' immediately owing to our hunger pangs. Eat Street is a food court like those in shopping malls - except there is no crowded shopping mall to spoil the fun .. just the beautiful (and a little dirty & sometimes stinky) Hussain Sagar lake along side. All three of us (Rajesh, Amit & me) ate almost everything that was available - frankies, button idlis, roomali rotis, paneer butter masala, Chinese, kulfi, falooda, rabdi ... yummm!
A short walk to the near-by Necklace Road MMTS station in hot sun was more than welcome. And there I saw, arguably the cleanest train station in India. It was quite unexpected because MMTS is not a metro rail but a regular local train service. It took just a 20 minute train ride to reach Hitec City which earlier in the day we had covered in more than 2 hrs!!

Next - Shilparamam.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


My parents celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary on 9th March. It was a quiet family affair; just four of us - dining at Gufa and later cutting the cake at home.

I kept annoying them by asking how they managed to be together for so long without getting bored of each other :)

Sunday, March 9, 2008


Did you know that while playing Sarod, the strings are not pressed with fingers (like in guitar or other stringed instruments) but with the tip of the nails? If the strings were pressed with fingers, the sound would be very flat. That's why you will see Sarod players filing their nails on stage many times during a concert.

This small bit of information was given by Ayaan Ali Khan during a spirited performance given by him along with brother Amaan Ali Khan on the last day of February at Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Bangalore. It was a Hindustani classical concert with a pinch of fusion music. Apart from the usual ensemble of tabla, mridang & taanpura the other instruments in their band included keyboard and percussion pads. The brothers also rendered some vocals - a piece by Ameer Khusro and then one from their album Reincarnation.

Unfortunately the event lasted only an hour and a half. I wouldn't call them maestros yet, but Amaan and Ayaan performed extremely well and left us all asking for more...