2012, New Delhi, News, Telegraph Calcutta

The Violence of the Lambs

Sankarshan Thakur

New Delhi, Dec. 29: Well before the candles were lit this evening, the one at the centre of it all had been blown. Jantar Mantar was aglow with the light of the extinguished one — a suffering life that had stopped to struggle in the dead of night and given on to a morning of outcry and crying, condoling and condemnation.

Well before the Singapore hospital gurney was cleared of the remains of a feast of cannibal lust, well before she returned home for her final journey, her tragedy had been robbed the courtesies of silence, her wake abducted to a raucous stage of bickering over who’s to pay. Continue reading “The Violence of the Lambs”

Advertisements
2012, New Delhi, News, Telegraph Calcutta

Gujral dead, not the drama of that day

Sankarshan Thakur, The Telegraph

New Delhi, Nov. 30: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could credibly claim he acceded to the job without having to try. Inder Kumar Gujral, who died today aged 92, was one better — he became Prime Minister without trying or even knowing.

He was lying in bed reading at his Maharani Bagh home in southeast Delhi, quite unaware that he was about to become collateral beneficiary of a succession battle between United Front chieftains that none was prepared to lose but none could win.

April 1997: Delhi had become capital of a kingdom without a king. The Congress, led then by Sitaram Kesri, had withdrawn support to the H.D. Deve Gowda government in a spike of pique. The United Front, for all its protestations over principle and annoyance with the Congress, had resolved to sacrifice Gowda, not the government.

But for a week and more after Gowda’s near-lachrymal exit from power, they hadn’t come to agree on a successor. India’s prime ministership had become an agonising palaver not much unlike the murky palace intrigues that littered the latter decades of the Mughal empire, a swing-door of namby-pamby figureheads who were foisted and finished off as often as the nobles pleased.

None of the court nobles of 1997 wanted Gujral. The problem was they wanted each other less. Continue reading “Gujral dead, not the drama of that day”

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”