Saturday, November 22, 2014

Operation Blue Star by KS Brar


Its 1984, Punjab is burning. Sikh fundamentalists are spawning the flame of communalism. The movement for a separate Sikh state, Khalistan, is being spearheaded by the legendary Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Bhindranwale's popularity has reached a crescendo, hailing from the Damdami Taksal, the sikh educational organization, Bhindranwale became a symbol of resistance to the perceived hegemony of the Indian state in the minds of the ordinary Sikhs. Some Sikhs even branding him as the 11 Guru of Sikhs.

Bhinderwale had unleashed a host of terrors on the minority community and all who opposed him, he had unmitigated control over the affairs in Punjab and the elected government had just become a puppet. He had set up his base in the Golden Temple, which is the holiest shrine for Sikhs and had put up personally over the room above the Akal Takht. Golden Temple had been turned into a military fortress with fortifications on all side, backed up by motivated, hardcore fundamentalists Bhinderwale looked invincible. Reports from the temple suggested that there were at least 500-600 militants holed up inside threatening the security and integrity of the Indian state.

While Lt Gen KS Brar fails to go into any details about the reason for discontent in Sikhs, he goes into intricate details about the Blue Star operation itself. Brar, a Sikh himself was handpicked to conduct one of the most dangerous and emotionally charged operations.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

India's Biggest Cover up by Anuj Dhar

Japan had been defeated by the Allied Powers and the INA was defeated along with them. All hopes of Independence of India through an armed struggle were dead. Japan surrendered to British on 15 August, 1945. was it a mere coincidence that India was granted independence on Aug 15, 1947?

On Aug 18, 1945, Subash Chandra Bose, former president of the CWC and the head of the INA died in a plane crash in Taipei while he was on his way to Tokyo to negotiate a separate surrender for the INA to the Allies.

This is what all of us have read in NCERT text books, but things are not always what they seem. Anuj Dhar claims that Bose or Netaji as he was lovingly called by his followers, did not die in the plane crash, and it was all a conspiracy hatched by Netaji and some of his closest followers.

I'm a total skeptic when it comes to conspiracy theories, the evidence and the arguments put forward by Mr Dhar have convinced me that there was some cover up, something happened on the fateful day of Aug-18 1945 that we are still struggling to comprehend.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army's Way of War by C. Christine Fair

There is a famous saying about the Pakistan Army "Most countries have an Army but the Pakistan Army has a country". Right from Ayub Khan to Zia to Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan has had multiple, able and strong military rulers. Pakistan's history is full of coups by the Army and weak civilian governments who are almost always backed up the military.

The Pakistan army is the most powerful and enduring organization in Pakistan. Even during civilian rule it is the army which has controlled its defense and foreign affairs policy. No civilian leader can become a success there without the tactical help and tacit approval of the army. Pakistan's over reliance on the army has led to disastrous consequences for its economy, International standing and human rights.

The author, Christine Fair, argues that the Pakistan Army is the chief propagator of the two nation theory, which was floated by the Muslim League before India's independence the theory states that India should be split into two based on religious lines Pakistan for Muslims and India for Hindus. Pakistan Army always lives in fear of India's hegemony whether real or imagined. Kashmir is a central issue in their policies and the Pak army feels that they were cheated, when India annexed a huge part of Kashmir including the capital Srinagar. After the partition Pakistan also got the NWFP as a responsibility from the British, perhaps the most unmanageable area in the world where Osama and his gang hid for years. Pakistan Army felt cheated that they got only a fraction of resources after the partition but had to take care of the majority of problems which includes a large hegemonic neighbor, unstable and non friendly Afghanistan and the NWFP.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

From Fatwa to Jihad by Kenan Malik

Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, is perhaps one of the most controversial books of all time. Avid Muslims blame the author of portraying Islam and the founder of Islam, Muhammad, in poor light.

In "From Fatwa to Jihad", Kenan Malik chronicles England before the release of the book and its impact on the world post release. I had little or no idea about the controversy surrounding the book, it was flabbergasting to read about anti Rushdie protests in the heart of England, book burning, riots and murder attempts on publishers and proponents of the book. You expect such things to happen in UP, Kerala or Peshawar but to hear all this happening in so called civilized and progressive Europe is disturbing and worrying.

It made a sad story that Salman Rushdie who was a hero to Muslims and other minority communities in England became a villain overnight just because of one book. Rushdie was a strong critic of rampant racism in England and was a darling of the South East Asian community. Rushdie, who is regraded as one of the most gifted English authors of our time, reached infamous notoriety because of Satanic Verses.

Friday, September 12, 2014

North Korea Undercover by John Sweeny

I'm trying to expand my horizons by reading more non mystery books, I have become especially enthralled with books about Politics and History. I expect myself to read and review more and more books from this genre. I will continue to read mysteries but those are going to be rare as I have already read most of Carr, Christie and Sharadindu but will always be on the lookout for exceptional mystery novels. To the book review now...

John Sweeny, a former BBC correspondent for Panorama, travels to North Korea with a bunch of LSE students. John poses as a Professor of LSE to gain access to the enigmatic state. Free media is not allowed inside South Korea's poor cousin so John and his crew had to go undercover. BBC crew and the LSE students travel to different places in North Korea, starting from the capital city Pyongyang. All along the trip they are accompanied by minders who carefully plan their trip so the "tourists" are never able to see the real face of the totalitarian state, but that does not prevent the tourists to get a good glimpse of the horrors and absurdity that prevail in the communist nation. John keeps describing in each chapter the different places he visits in DPRK(official name of North Korea). He also keeps referencing to the immediate history of North Korea, how Kim Il-Sung took over North Korea n 1948 with the help of his Soviet allies and established a cult of personality in the country which would later be maintained and expanded by his son, Kim Jong-Il, who the author keeps referring to mockingly as "Bad Elvis" because of his obsession with Elvis Presley, the regime is now run by Kim 3, Kim Jong-Un, who according to the author is the Fat Kim.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Mystery of the Fortress and other stories by Saradindu Bandyopadhyay

I managed to get hold of the elusive "Mystery of the Fortress", an English translation of Saradindu Bandyopadhyay's stories about his favorite creation Byomkesh Bakshi. Originally written in Bengali this book enumerates 5 different stories, each a puzzling mystery one after the other. The translation has been done by Mr. Shankar Sen, and I must admit he has done a fine job of it. After a few disaster translations of Saradindu Bandyopadhyay's works like "Rhythm of Riddles" I was afraid that these fine stories would leave an indelible bad impression on the readers mind due to sub par translation.

It's been two years since I last read a story about the Seeker of truth, I hope I don't have to wait another two years to get hold of another Byomkesh book.

Following the old tradition of my blog, I'm going to do capsule reviews of the quintet.

The Invisible Triangle - A really short story of a murder of a married woman, who is an intelligent, independent business woman and has only a formal relationship with her impudent husband. The identity of the murderer is no secret but Byomkesh has to prove how the murder was done. An average read by any stretch of the imagination, good characters, good build up but a disappointing end.