2012, New Delhi, News, Telegraph Calcutta

Ajmal Kasab: Boy who took the wrong lane and ended up in a dungeon

Sankarshan Thakur, The Telegraph
New Delhi, 21 November 2012

Deep in my dungeon
I welcome you here
Deep in my dungeon
I worship your fear
Deep in my dungeon
I dwell
I do not know if I wish you well
Deep in my dungeon
I welcome you here
I worship your fear
Deep in my dungeon
A bloody kiss
From the wishing well

— an old prison rhyme quoted in The Executioner’s Song by Norman MailerThere are two images of him from that November night four years ago.

One suggested the menace he’d been trained in — hair dishevelled, face blood-scarred, eyes at once devilish and furtive, hands at the ready to fire from the weapon they held. That was Ajmal Amir Kasab just after the mayhem he’d left behind in the concourse of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). He had charged across the overbridge and was about to leap down the unlit Badruddin Tyabji Lane en route to more havoc at the Cama Hospital. Continue reading “Ajmal Kasab: Boy who took the wrong lane and ended up in a dungeon”

2012, New Delhi, News, Telegraph Calcutta

A blip, if that, in Pak ties: A ‘pawn’ for his country, not a ‘catch’ for India

Sankarshan Thakur, The Telegraph

New Delhi, Nov. 21: This will be a passing blip, if that, in the jagged course of India-Pakistan ties. Ajmal Kasab was a trifling in the 26/11 terror project, his extermination is unlikely to either create new bilateral frictions or close unaddressed grievances New Delhi has with Islamabad.

It might seem an irony that the hanging of the man who became the emblem of the most audacious peacetime assault on India will weigh minimally on the long-term consequences of his bloody assignment. But there are good reasons for it.

Pakistan was quick to disown Kasab despite his well-recorded origins. Father’s name: Amir Shahban Kasab. Mother’s name: Noor Illahi. Domicile: Village Faridkot in Okara district of Pakistani Punjab. These clues vanished swiftly after Pakistani media teams traced Kasab’s roots, and the denial of any association with him lasted to the very end. Continue reading “A blip, if that, in Pak ties: A ‘pawn’ for his country, not a ‘catch’ for India”

2012, Pakistan, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

Certificate for Nitish, Made in Pakistan

Sankarshan Thakur, The Telegraph

Lahore, Nov. 18: There’s a bequest chief minister Nitish Kumar has carried back home from Pakistan that escaped the customs authorities at Wagah.

He has been gifted so profusely over the past week by his hosts, it required a station wagon to be added to his road caravan; the aircraft hold on the final lap to Patna would probably have choked on their burden — trophy plaques, a rainbow range of traditional hats, piles of shawls and chadars, carton-loads of tomes on a shared civilisation and history.

But the takeaway that neither registered nor bleeped on the crossover X-ray ramps is what Nitish might want to treasure most from his trip — it’s endorsement from a constituency that has dogged and harried generations of Indian leaders, a certificate of recognition and respect, Made in Pakistan. Continue reading “Certificate for Nitish, Made in Pakistan”

2012, Reportage, Taxila, Telegraph Calcutta

Nitish goes in search of Chanakya

Sankarshan Thakur, The Telegraph

Taxila (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Nov. 15: There was a day thousands of years ago that a mastermind called Kautilya decided to leave the faculty of Taxila University, the most hallowed portal of learning of its time.

He descended these hills and travelled far down the plains to arrive in Patliputra and become Chanakya, the philosopher who inspired Chandragupt to emperorship and empire.

Yesterday, that journey was traced all the way from the reverse end. Patliputra’s current king, Nitish Kumar, arrived at Taxila, but there was neither sign nor signature of Chanakya to be found.

As a regent of the great Magadhan kingdom, Chanakya was the central toll of his times. It’s not a name that rings a bell any more. Its echoes have so expired you have to shout the name aloud and invent a resonance of your own. “Channakiya?” asked Naseem the guide as he led us up hillside steps to partial remains of the campus at Jaulian, “Kabhi suna nahin, yahan to sirf ryoons hain (Chanakya? Never heard of him, all we have here are ruins).” Continue reading “Nitish goes in search of Chanakya”

2012, Islamabad, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

Captain Nitish on Imran turf

Sankarshan Thakur, The Telegraph

Islamabad, Nov. 14: Never before in his career as cricketer or as politician has Imran Khan vacated his high head-of-the- table seat.

On the sprawling hillside lawns of his Bani Galla estate yesterday afternoon, the towering icon in crisp salwar suit made way for a diminutive man in creased khaddar and sat listening to a lecture he has hitherto assumed to be his sole prerogative, whether it was the cricket dressing room or the party parlours of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

“Main yahan koi takreer nahin karne wala, Nitishbhai, I and my team have much to learn from you, questions to ask and answers to find, so this floor is yours,” Imran announced as soon as the Bihar chief minister spilled out onto the manor terrace. Thereon, for an hour and a little more, he was rapt, apprentice-like, ingesting Nitish Kumar’s governance mantra, cricket’s emperor gathering the ropes of the new realm he is bidding to conquer: government. Continue reading “Captain Nitish on Imran turf”

2012, Larkana, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

Bhutto heirs ride Nitish tour

Sankarshan Thakur, The Telegraph

Garhi Khuda Baksh (Larkana), Nov. 12: An unscheduled two-hour detour became the centrepiece of Nitish Kumar’s touch-down-and-take-off scurry across the Sindh countryside on Sunday. It was an alteration of course bid from the “highest levels” and its implications could resound in Pakistan’s domestic politics well after Nitish’s departure home.

He was meant to turn left into the Mohenjo Daro ruins upon exiting the tiny eponymous airfield. His party turned right, instead, and headed to probably the most significant political address in contemporary Pakistan — a nondescript village called Garhi Khuda Baksh deep in Larkana’s abundant ruralia, home to the Bhutto clan and resting place of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto, both former Prime Ministers, one hanged by the military dictatorship of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, the other assassinated during the “democratic” dictatorship of Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Continue reading “Bhutto heirs ride Nitish tour”

2012, Mohenjo Daro, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

Journey to womb of civilisation – Boisterous welcome for Nitish at Mohenjo Daro

Sankarshan Thakur, The Telegraph

Chief minister Nitish Kumar gets a briefing from a guide at the Mohenjo Daro site. Picture by Sankarshan Thakur

Mohenjo Daro, Nov. 11: The womb of civilisation is dry as dead; life has leapt out of it to prosper elsewhere in the great and teeming habitations of the subcontinent. Mohenjo Daro, or Moen Jo Daro, as Sindhi locals spell it, is much like a shrivelled placenta, critical to every human birth but rejected soon after. It’s a hard and ochre land that permits nothing on it other than shrubs and nettles; imagination must leap to sustain the sense this is where living cities were born.

Dust swirls around the ancient site’s single mound — the great citadel of the first settlement of man in our parts — and there’s little else around but the evidence of an unfinished autopsy into its origins and sudden demise, an elaborate dissection table of archaeologists led by John Marshall in the early 1920s. Continue reading “Journey to womb of civilisation – Boisterous welcome for Nitish at Mohenjo Daro”