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”

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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”

2012, Karachi, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

On Jinnah turf, Nitish hugs safe silence

Sankarshan Thakur, The Telegraph

Karachi, Nov. 10: The mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah verily became the burial site of a famed political career back home. When L.K. Advani came here in the summer of 2005 and pronounced a paean to the founder of Pakistan he invited a hail of disapproval from his Parivar. Even those he considered close in the BJP rushed to censure him, the RSS screamed sacrilege, and Advani was given an organisational shove he is yet to recover from.

As Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar padded up the marble steps of Jinnah’s grand memorial in central Karachi this morning, he would have been reminded of the consequences of the overreach of eloquence. He chose silence. Continue reading “On Jinnah turf, Nitish hugs safe silence”

2012, Karachi, Reportage, Telegraph Calcutta

Zardari’s armoured limo for Nitish

Sankarshan Thakur, The Telegraph

Karachi, Nov. 9: The red carpet rolled out for Nitish Kumar is actually a black Mercedes. It is an especially souped-up limo, double-proofed against bullets and bombs, and it is the same vehicle that Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari uses when he comes home to Karachi.

It says at least two things that the Bihar chief minister has been accorded President Zardari’s car. One, that he is being feted at the highest level in this province and provided the utmost care. Two, and probably more important, that Karachi is the most dangerous city in Pakistan. A third could well be a subtle signal to a people who foreground their grumble over the export of terror that Pakistan itself lives a shivered and precarious existence. Continue reading “Zardari’s armoured limo for Nitish”