‘The joy of being drawn into a story is unparalleled’

Dr Nitasha Kaul, an author, academic, poet, traveler, photographer, is currently the Visiting Fellow at Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD), University of Westminster, UK. Author of Imagining Economics Otherwise: Encounters with Identity/Difference (Routledge, 2008), her novel Residue is the only debut novel shortlisted for 2009 Man Asian Literary Prize. In a freewheeling chat with Syed Zafar Mehdi, she talks about writing, publishers and Indian writing in English (IWE).

 

Q1. When did the idea of writing strike you first? Was it planned or it just happened?
As a child, reading stories, I would wonder what happened to the characters after the book ended. So, imagining their unwritten lives became a habit. I was, at one time in my teens, a member simultaneously of 5 libraries in Delhi, so there were some overdue fines for sure.  Reading, writing and being read was the best way I knew to make sense of the world even as a very young kid. The joy of being drawn into a story, of creating one’s own stories, is unparalleled.

Q2. How has your experience with publishers been?
They’re a curious and changing lot. Some more committed and sincere than others. In my experience, non-fiction publishers tend to be more focused. Fiction publishers, on the other hand, sometimes have a larger-than-life idea of ‘what the market wants’ which is not always borne out by reality.


Q3. What’s your take on Indian writing in English, especially in the context of budding writers and authors?
It is a diverse and challenging arena. I hope the newer authors will continue to bridge the vastly different worlds of the Indian surroundings and the English fiction reader. Indian Writing in English (IWE) has a privileged status in terms of remuneration and readership, and has sometimes courted controversy deservedly by presenting a picture of other places and other people (read Indian for other) that caters to the real or perceived taste of western readers. This may be the cliched and unending focus on spices, Raj, arranged marriages, customs and traditions, or on dire squalid poverty. This focus isn’t problematic if it is meant to portray or satirise the conditions of life elsewhere, but, when this focus alone becomes the sole identification label attached to such writing, then it becomes an issue
Q3. How difficult it is for budding authors in India to get published?
It seems that an online presence (through blogging for example) and burgeoning litfest-type events provide greater opportunities now.

Q4. Before the launch of your first book, did you go online to attract attention of prospective publishers or you got it easy?
My first book was a scholarly one, and I was approached by the publishers themselves who had heard me speak about my work. Getting a novel out there is an entirely different story.

Q5. What are the important traits that every writer should possess?
A curiously insane love of words, a lively imagination, a working memory, a facility for otherness, a capacity to work hard, and a store of patience.

 

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Food review: Tunde Kebabi, Daryaganj

Kebabs from nawabi kitchens

F3778, Autar Bhawan, Main Road, Near Jama Masjid, Daryaganj

Syed Zafar Mehdi

Recently, during his Lucknow visit, when Rahul Gandhi chose to feast on Lucknow’s famed tunde ke kebabs over a sumptuous dinner in a five-star hotel, it made news. But Gandhi scion is not the first big name to succumb to temptations of tunde kebabs, and he certainly won’t be the last either. There is good news for food lovers in Delhi. Now, they won’t have to board Gomti train to have a bite of kebabs. Tunde ke kebabs have come to their doorsteps now, with a franchise outlet in Daryaganj.

Tunde ke kebabs have inspired many a legends. The 100-year old Tunde ke Kabab in Lucknow is one-stop destination for kebab lovers, who come there from far-off places. There is an interesting story behind the name ‘Tunde Kabab’, as it was a specialty of a one-armed chef Mohammad Osman Haji. These kababs are unique because of the masala (homemade spices). An assortment of 160 spices is a closely guarded gastronomical secret from the kitchens of the last of the kings, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, who was a self-confessed food lover. There is something called ‘kachari’ that helps to tenderise the meat, and ‘pathar ka phool’ that lends kebabs a unique flavour.

Originally from Lucknow, they have now branched out to many places, including Delhi and NCR. Daryaganj outlet is already a hit with kebab lovers across the city. Located just next to popular Golcha cinema, it may not classify as a high-end eatery, not even the pedestrian outlet. If you expect luxury couches and soothing music running in the background, you will be disappointed. But once the aroma of kebabs fills the senses, you forget all other luxuries. They also have come up with an outlet in New Friends Colony.

Many of those who have tried kebabs from their Lucknow outlet are not very impressed though. But for starters, it is god-sent, almost.

Travel Feature: Lansdowne, Uttarakhand

 

Himalayan beauty 

Syed Zafar Mehdi

Meandering through the small hamlets and thickly forested countryside roads, you land up in an exotic place with breathtaking landscape, breezy air and a magnificent view of the snow capped peaks. The drive to Lansdowne is arguably one of the best.

Ensconced amidst the lush oak and pine trees of the Pauri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand district at an altitude of 1,700mts, Lansdowne with many natural treks and hiking trails is the place to be this summer. Lansdowne got its name from Lord Lansdowne, who was the then Viceroy of India during the period of 1888 – 1894. Presently, Lansdowne has the command office of the Garhwal Rifles division of the Indian Army.

Hitherto, owing to the strong presence of the Indian Army (Garhwal Rifles) where soldiers are trained on the huge parade ground right in the middle of the town, Landsdowne has maintained a low profile on the tourism map. The Army is believed to have hugely contributed to the Lansdowne culture, that is so evident in the surroundings and has even seeped into the moral and social fibre of the local populace.

Much to cherish 
At Lansdowne, there is something for everybody. If there is Siddhpeeth route for the religious, there is wild life route for nature and animal lovers, adventure sports for the health freaks and cultural tourist attractions for the rest.

For first timers, the places to be are Tip-n-Top (org: Tiffin Top), Regimental Museum, Bhulla Taal, St. Mary’s Church, Lover’s lane and Church Point.

Adventure trails 
The best adventure activity that the tourists can enjoy here is trekking. The trekking trails are held in the fine-looking fields passing through the dark and deep forests.

If you are fit enough, you can go for hiking, urges Rajendra Ghansela, a local. There are simple and tougher climbs to choose from. Or you can go for an easygoing and delightful nature walk. Then again, go camping, snow viewing and forest walking. Just make your own permutations and combinations, whatever works with you.

For an extra dose of adventure sports, you can visit the Kalagarh Wildlife Sanctuary, famous for the Asian elephants. The dam across the Ram Ganga River is a must-visit destination.

Around 50 kms from Lansdowne is Jim Corbett National Park. The easy route to reach there is through Dugadda, Dhountiyal Vatanbasha, 30 kms from park.

Religious tourism 
For those who love to make a spiritual journey, Lansdowne is home to number of temples and shrines. There is the Tarkeshwar Mahadev Temple, around 30 kms away, which has the distinction of being the oldest sidhapeeths in India. The temple is ensconced in the jungle encircled by mighty deodar trees, and has a kund where its a must for pilgrims to bathe in. “It is a haven of serenity, where you go for meditation and come back rejuvenated,” says Harish Jadli, Secretary, Uttarakhand Lok Manch. We second it.

Jwalpa Devi Temple is 47 kms from Lansdowne on the Pauri- Kotdwar Road. Other temples in the vicinity include Durga Devi Temple. Sidhbali Temple, Santoshi Mata Temple, Bhairav Garhi Temple. There is an ancient British church which isn’t well kept but you can visit it to see the beautiful stained glass windows and the mystical ambience. The mosque of Lansdowne is unique as both the Shia and Sunni Muslims offer prayers there.

Places to stay 
Amongst the old hotels here, there are the Blue Pine Resort, Fairydale Resort, Retreat Anand Jungle Resort. There are accommodation facilities also available at the local Forest Rest House and PWD Inspection House. There are more hotels and resorts coming up now. For queries and online booking, log onto http://www.uttaranchaltourism.in

Trends and Indigestion!

Syed Zafar Mehdi

Call it fashion fascism or showbiz viral, it has swept all across the board. Dudes and damsels are simply smitten by the mania. Fashion trends emanating out of tinsel-town, and idiot box sagas are catching faster than that HINI influenza.

In a bid to look sporty and chic and attract maximum eyeballs, fashionists today are pulling out all stops to make hippest of fashion statements and stand out in crowd. While many of such fads in vogue are incredibly good and perfectly in aesthetic taste, there are some fashion trends which go over the top. Let’s check out some of them:

Tattered trousers:

Earlier, one would get jeered and scoffed at for trying tattered and worn out jeans, but once Sallu Khan experimented with it, it became an instant hit with Gen Y. Anything these hero log touch turns into gold naa. Now even if you have got few nasty razor cuts on your pants, you would be excused, thanks to the worn-to-shreds jeans fad. Bizarre, to say the least.

Knee-length Tees:

This fad came from nowhere and turned the heat on everywhere. Robed in these shalwar-size Tees with huge pictures of CheGuevras, John Cenas, Micheal Jacksons; young lads are seen cat-walking all around. It’s mostly popular among Northeast guys, who carry it off with aplomb. But others sadly cut a sorry figure in it. Not for all, folks.

Low-waist jeans:

This trend, triggered by pop diva Britney Spears has lads and gals drooling over it. Taken initially as yet another flash-in-the-pan trend, its craze is refusing to abate. Sporting funky low-rise jeans, exposing sizeable section of bare mid-riff, these guys and gals flaunt their hippy tattoos on their bodies. At times, to embarrassment of onlookers, these jeans are dropped too lower down the waist for the comfort. This trend spins my head no end.

Body-piercing metals:

Not to lag behind their fairer counterparts, young lads have taken to this trend as duck to water. Eyebrow-piercing, lip-piercing, chin-piercing metal rings have become hot and hippy style statements today. One fails to understand why. Do they add zing to personality or they evoke sympathy of other sex. God knows better.

Ponytails:

King Khan turned it into a rage, after sporting it recently. Earlier Salman Khan’s tere naam, John Ibraham’s dhoom and Amir Khan’s Dil chahta hai hairdos had smitten youth same way. Ponytails may look sizzling, but it is strictly avoidable. There are better ways to hide your bad hair day. Aint it?

Huge pair of glares

You may have spotted Priety Zinta during IPL matches, hiding her aggravation under huge pair of glares, as her team took thrashing. You may even have seen certain Gauri Khan sporting them, to “allegedly” avoid unwanted attention. Well, these humungous glares are more of a protective “face-saving” weaponry than a fashion accessory. But look around and you will find wannabes wearing dark glares covering their entire faces and they think it’s cool and fashionable. What a pity! Anybody give them a reality check for heavens sake.

Handbags

Earlier, a small pocket sized purse would do it for girlfolks.Then came a slightly larger handbag and now of late, even huge kit bags look smaller for them. With time, handbags have been getting bigger and heavier for comfort, and yet nobody is complaining about the burden on their poor shoulders. Today even pint-sized girls can be seen carrying huge handbags, literally stretching down to their knees. Gosh, what fad this!

Sandals with socks

This trend has been picking rapidly of late. Sports sandals coupled with white unblemished socks, making for an unlikely combo. It looks straight out of Chacha Chaudhri comics. Fashion gurus would be scratching their heads, as such wildtrends fly thick and fast. This one is plain stupid, making no fashion sense, if there is any.

Food review: Moti Mahal Deluxe

 

Moti Mahal Deluxe

Branch: A-23, NH-8, Mahipalpur Extension

You associate this high-end eatery with sumptuous food, lavish interiors and warm hospitality. Highly popular with many bigwigs in political and biz circles, Moti Mahal’s greatest claim to fame are its signature cuisines, tandoori chicken, butter chicken and dal makhni. The legend is that Nehru was so impressed with Kundan Lal’s (founder of Moti Mahal chain of restaurants) dishes that Moti Mahal became a permanent fixture in all his state banquets.

The new outlet at Mahipalpura (there are 120 outlets in India), nestled in a tranquil setting, is the extension of larger-than-life brand that Moti Mahal has become. The dimly-lit space with soft music in background, and aroma filled in air is enough to stir your taste buds. As you start digging into eclectic cuisines, you can see the photographs of Kundan Lal and his grandson Monish Gujral with the likes of Jawaharalal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and APJ Kalam peeping overhead. “Our eatery is thronged by politicos across the political divide. Food blurs the lines,” says Gujral.

The food is highly spiced and delicious. Even after you are done with main cuisines followed by desserts, your tummy craves for more. Except for being tad expensive, this eatery is a must try.


Azadi means justice for every drop of blood

 

Syed Zafar Mehdi

In a throwback to early 90s, life in Kashmir remains crippled. The political leadership has failed and economy is in shatters. Notwithstanding the ‘bantamweight’ interlocutors being dispatched with the task of dousing the flames, normalcy seems like a far-fetched dream right now. The fate of the strife-torn state hangs in balance. As the youth on streets would tell you, it is no more about the political or economic packages, the half-hearted pronouncements, or the cosmetic confidence-building-measures. The resounding war-cry on the streets of Kashmir is Azaadi, which roughly translates into freedom from oppression and humiliation.
Here in Delhi and elsewhere in India, the definition of Azadi still appears hazy. “What do Kashmiris want,” asks a friend of mine from South Delhi. “Azadi,” I say. He seems bemused. “But what does Azadi mean to you. Aren’t you Azad already,” he asks with a puckered brow. “If living under the shadow of terror and breathing through the barrel of Kalashnikovs is what you call Azadi, then we are Azad,” I retort. He draws back.
There is no need to press the panic buttons, I keep telling my Indian friends here. Azadi is not a strange beast, or any hydra-headed monster. It means people are demanding their basic and fundamental right to lead a dignified life. Azadi, more than anything else, is about breaking free from the specter of repressive laws like Disturbed Areas Act, the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, and the Public Safety Act, which provide the armed forces with extraordinary powers to search, detain, and use lethal force, ultimately leading to grave human rights abuses. Azadi means justice for one lakh odd Kashmiris killed in last two decades of conflict. Azadi means justice for 7000 odd custodial killings, and 3700 odd people who have gone missing under mysterious circumstances in past two decades.
There are different interpretations of Azadi, depending on which camp you align with. But the definition of Azadi will be best given by the thousands of orphaned children and widowed women, who have been the victims of this decades old strife. For the vast majority, Azadi means justice for the cold-blooded crimes committed by men in khakhi as much by the Pakistan-sponsored militants. A 45-year old physically challenged Abdul Rashid Reshi is shot dead on January 07 near CM’s high-security bungalow in Srinagar. A 17-year old Amina falls to bullets on May 12, 2009 in “exchange of fire”. Neelofar (24) and Asiya Jan (17) of Shopian are allegedly raped and murdered on May 29 2009. A B.A. final year student Amina Masoodi of Doolipora Trahgam is killed inside her house during the night intervening of July 8 and 9, 2009. Inayat (16) is shot dead on January 08, 2009 followed by Wamiq (13) on January 31 and Zahid (16) on February 05. Habibullah Khan of Handwara, a beggar, is mowed down on April 13 and passed off as veteran militant. Shehzad Ahmed and Riyaz Ahmed of Rafiabad are mowed down in fake encounter in Machil and dubbed as militants.
Tufail Ahmad (17), whose death gave fresh impetus to the spirit of rebellion among Kashmiris, is killed while returning from tuitions on June 11 2010. Asif Ahmed Rather, a nine year old from Baramulla is literally beaten to death. Mukhtar Ahmad Sheikh, 68, a father of five children, including three daughters is shot dead allegedly by Army’s 21 Rashtriya Rifles in the Bawan Watser forest area. Army says the sexagenarian man was killed in an encounter between militants and the Army. These are followed by more brutal killings of Ishtiyaq Ahmed Khanday (15) on June 29, 2010, Shajat- ul- Islam (18) on same day, Muzaffar Bhat (17) and Abrar Ahmad (18) on July 06 et al. An 11 year old Irshad Parray of Islamabad fells to the pallets fired by police while protesting against the earlier incident of women’s beating by police and CRPF. One injured boy dies on his mother’s lap near Batamallo Bus Stand during curfew on August 2010. And I am not counting all of them. There have been over 150 killings at the hands of men-in-khaki in last one year.
Even journalists face the music. A Srinagar-based correspondent of New Delhi based Hindi news channel was thrashed with bamboo sticks, injuring his arm. “Who is DC? We don’t follow, but give orders,” the scribe later quoted a cop as saying to him. Another journalist, working with local daily was attacked by CRPF men even when authorities had announced relaxation in the curfew. He was hit with bamboo sticks on his legs, right arm and head. He had three stitches in head at Bone and Joints hospital and X-rays showed fracture in the arm. All the talk about freedom of expression and free media, in context of Kashmir, is hogwash.
Nazima Jan of Tathmulla Uri in Baramulla district has been waiting for her “missing” three brothers, since past one and a half decades. She, along-with the kiths and kins of other missing persons, gathers in the Sher-i-Kashmir Park Srinagar on the 10th and 28th day of every month to register their protest against involuntary disappearances in Kashmir. They have formed Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and their Azadi means getting to know the whereabouts of their loved ones and ensuring justice for them.
There have been over 150 killings at the hands of men-in-khaki since last one year. Despite the inquiries ordered by CM, there has been no action against the erring cops. “Isn’t that a reason enough for us to adopt extreme measures,” asks Suhail Khan, (22) who has been booked for stone-pelting twice. Suhail, a final year student at Kashmir University hasn’t been to college since May, because of unremitting curfew. Azadi for him means, “Justice for every single drop of blood shed by the innocents in Kashmir”. That actually is a war-cry.

AFSPA: Kashmir and Northeast quagmires

 

Syed Zafar Mehdi

Talking of human rights scenario in this country, Kashmir and Northeast quagmires instantly flash to mind. Both so-called “disturbed areas” have been reeling under worst kind of human rights violations for a long time. Army and Police have been indulging in grave human rights abuses, so do the “out-lawed” armed resistance groups. International and national observer groups have been documenting these gross infringements, stressing upon the need to address the “problem” in right earnest. Despite that, the awful juggernaut rolls on. In both places, men-in-uniform enjoy free hand in the garb of stringent and repressive laws granting them immunity from action or punishment. So in the name of fighting resistance groups and terrorists, they end up committing heinous human rights abuses, making mockery of the “noble task” they have been entrusted with.

Kashmir:

“Would anybody who depends on Indian mass media for information know that about 80,000 people have been killed in Kashmir since 1989, most of them Muslims, most of them by Indian Security forces? Most Indians would be outraged if it were suggested to them that the killings and disappearances in Kashmir valley put India at par with any banana republic”, remarks firebrand activist and author Arundathi Roy in her book “Ordinary Man’s Guide to Empire”.

Kashmir insurgency that triggered in late 80’s has so far claimed more than a lakh people, mostly innocent civilians. Incessant human rights abuses and impunity have been a cause and fuel for the simmering cauldron that has over the years turned from bad to worse. “Under Jagmohan’s regime, (who was Governor when secessionist movement picked pace in early 90’s), India’s response to the protests was brutal with indiscriminate firings on unarmed protestors. The atrocities committed by Indian troops in the state has been acknowledged by senior Indian officials including Rajiv Gandhi, Chandershekhar, Narsimah Rao during their tenures and even G C Saxena (when he became Governor later)”, says noted Kashmir expert Balraj Puri (Kashmir: Towards Insurgency; New Delhi, 1993).

Human Rights are violated both by militants and security forces with impunity. Militants have been responsible for indiscriminate bombings, grenade attacks, landmine blasts, targeted killings, kidnappings, and murderous assaults on Indian soldiers and pro-India politicians. Abuses continue incessantly despite several rounds of talks on various official levels and through backdoor channels between the two estranged neighbours. Accountability of Indian troops remains a niggling problem area. Notwithstanding PM Manmohan Singh’s promise of zero-tolerance for human rights abuses, troops continue to indulge in cases of arbitrary detention, custodial deaths, encounter killings, torture, enforced disappearances, extra judicial executions an a much larger scale.

Indian security forces claim to be fighting for and to protect Kashmiri people from militants, “Pakistan sponsored terrorists and religious extremists”. On the other hand, militants claim to be fighting for Kashmir’s independence from “occupied forces”, and to defend Kashmiri masses from “murderous Indian army troopers”. But, the fact is both sides are committing large-scale and horrendous human rights abuses of international humanitarian law, creating among civilian population a pervasive climate of fear, distrust and sadness. Years of impunity have led to vicious cycle of continuing violence. Indian State has officially given its forces a free run; while Pakistan backed armed groups are only making matters worse. In between, the sandwiched common Kashmiri is paying dear price.

It is not possible to gauge the true extent of violations in this troubled state. Detailed information about torture and other abuses are hard to obtain, since access to interrogation and detention centres is restricted even for legal counsels. Most torture testimonies come from villages raided in counter-insurgency operations and from former detainees. Curfews are on for long durations frequently; roadblocks and check posts are at every mile policed by security forces that curb the free movement of people. Indian Identity card is an obligatory thing to carry along when you step out, lest you are taken to task. Even Journalists, Doctors or lawyers are not spared the trouble.

Indian security forces supposed to be custodians of people’s human rights routinely violate them with impunity. And more regrettably, Indian federal govt rarely prosecutes members of army or paramilitary forces for their wrongs in a fair and transparent manner. The net result has been steep increase in rights abuses in the strife-torn state. Dreaded laws like AFSPA, PSA (J&K), DDA have spawned abuses to highest degree and form. Section 197 of Criminal Code of Procedure provides security forces virtual immunity from crimes committed during the course of duty. Draconian law like AFSPA only aggravate the situation. On AFSPA’s 50th anniversary recently Human Rights Watch came up with a 16-page report— “Getting away with murders: 50 years of AFSPA”. It described how AFSPA has become a tool of state abuse, oppression and discrimination. Law grants the military wide powers to arrest without warrant, shoot-to-kill, and destroy property in so-called “disturbed areas”. It also protects military personnel responsible for serious crimes from prosecution, creating a pervasive climate of impunity.

“In J&K Police, SOG (Special Operations Group) is particularly notorious for human rights violations. Better known as STF (Special Task Force), they are modelled on Punjab pattern, but suffer from more ills than its predecessor,” says a working group report by Kamal Mitra Chenoy and Co, presented at a seminar organised by Kashmir Foundation for Peace and Development Studies in Srinagar few years back. “But the most notorious insurgency group” says the report, “is surrendered militants, known in local parlance as Ikhwanis. They are widely believed to be guilty of every conceivable human rights violation. Some believe they were behind infamous massacre of 35 Sikhs at Chattisingpora many years back”.

Northeastern states:

Over 200 hill tribes live in seven sister states of northeast India. They accuse Indian Govt of neglect and exploitation and thus demand autonomy or independence from it. Some have even taken up arms in that hot pursuit. Security forces were first dispatched to Northeastern states in 1950’s. Ever since, widespread human rights violations have been attributed to army, particularly notorious Assam Rifles, who report directly to Central Govt’s Home and Defence Ministries.

There are many armed resistance groups active in the region like ULFA (United Liberation Front of Assam), ULFM (United Liberation Front of Manipur).
Incidents of torture, custodial violence, killings, atrocities, rape and harassment has been reported from these sister states. Though mainstream Indian media has not always highlighted such cases but regional media are full of heart-rending stories of army atrocities, including heinous crimes of people being picked up without any rhyme or reason, women being raped and houses raided at uncanny hours. But as Sriram Ananthanarayanan says, “The hegemony of Indian state in the region doesn’t just have implications along the lines of direct violence and human rights violation but also extremely harsh material conditions of labouring masses and rural poor”. (northeasrdiary.blogspot.com).

Civil liberty organisations have played pivotal role in documenting human rights violations in Northeast. Human Rights Watch reported on Sept 14, 2008, “Indian govt should fully prosecute army, paramilitary and police personnel responsible for killing and torture in Northeastern states especially Manipur”. It added, “human rights violations by Indian security forces have fuelled the army opposition in Manipur. Armed groups have carried out torture, killings, indiscriminate bombings, landmines and engaged in forced recruitment and conducted widespread extortion”.
“If your parents are harassed and killed without any reason, what will be your reaction towards armed forces? When women are made to deliver babies in open ground and men’s anus is penetrated with stick, women are molested and raped in front of their kin, loved ones are shot dead mercilessly, how can people tolerate and bear the situation” asks TK Thouke Pou (nagarealm.com June 03, 06).

It may be recalled that Manipur had hit the headlines when Manorama Devi was allegedly raped and killed by Paramilitary Assam Rifles in 2004. Entire state had erupted in anger, demanding revocation of draconian AFSPA legislation from the state.
Human Rights Watch’s 79-page report “These fellows must be eliminated: Relentless violence and impunity in Manipur” documents the gross failure of justice in the state, where for 50 years, army empowered and protected by AFSPA has been committing serious human rights violations. The report says, “Soldiers and police are protected under laws granting them immunity”. It also details the failure of justice in killing and rape of Manorama Devi by Assam Rifle troops, saying “repeated attempts to identify and punish those responsible for her death have been stalled by the army, which has received protection under immunity provision of AFSPA.

In Assam, situation is equally worrisome. Sanjib Baruah writes in “India against Itself: Assam and Politics of Nationality, Oxford Press”, “There is little doubt that ULFA and other insurgent organisations are remarkably callous about human life… But that doesn’t change the fact that the means Indian state has used to deal with ULFA violates the global and human rights standards and seriously undermines respect for India’s democratic institutions”.

T C Bose writes in his paper, “Human Rights in India and Article 2(7) of UN Charter” in “Human Rights in India” ed Dr Mehartaj Begum, 2000): “In connection with situation in Northeast and Kashmir… People have not only been arrested on suspicion, there have been innumerable cases of rape and ill-treatment of women by army and paramilitary forces for perceived support of armed insurgencies”.

So unless, the thorny and contentious issues of Kashmir and Northeast are not resolved for once and ever, and the whirlpool of human rights abuses by State machinery not addressed in right earnest, the juggernaut would only roll on. More importantly, the already battered “secular” image of this country would take a further beating.