The news that Chandrayaan-I has sent back scientific data as intended is excellent. ISRO has my warm congratulations at last! Iron is apparently very abundant in lunar rock so discovering it is not revolutionary but even so, the fact India has a successful lunar orbiter which is sending back signals and scientific data is simply delightful. It brings good cheer in a season marred by the Mumbai massacres and the clouds of war.
On November 9 2008, I had incidentally diagnosed the basis of my own earlier pessimism about Chandrayaan as follows, reproduced here again:
“I have been very pessimistic about Chandrayaan-I’s prospects and I am delighted to hear ISRO say it has been successful in placing the spacecraft in lunar orbit. I have had to wonder where, precisely, my pessimism was mistaken. The answer is that I had completely left out in my thinking the vast technological progress that has taken place in telecommunications and telemetry in the last 40 years. I had surveyed the history of similar attempts by the USSR and USA in the 1960s and that was a history littered by failures of many sorts. Let aside rocket-launch failures, the other main sources of failure were in trajectories and in communications. I have been deeply concerned that India was simply going to fall in the same pitfalls along the way. But what I neglected was that our attempt was being made forty years later and the world has seen enormous technological progress during that time, especially in telecom. The Soviet and American missions took place in the early 1960s when, for example, colour television hardly existed. Today, in 2008, ISRO seems to have managed control and guidance systems that have been up to the (very complex) task of placing the spacecraft in lunar orbit. Hats off to ISRO if it turns out they have succeeded, and cheers if they actually manage to get the scientific data they have wished to receive.
The same mistake that I made here in a field not my own is what I have myself pointed out being made in a different context regarding the current world financial crisis. Viz., I said in my September 18 2008 Business Standard article “October 1929? Not!” that the world since the 1929 stock market crash had witnessed so much technological progress that the current crisis could not be compared to the one back then.”
Hats off to all at ISRO!
I am glad that although I left Washington in early 1994 and returned only momentarily in 1997 and 1998, I am still able to read it a bit.
After two weeks of pointblank denials that Pakistan had anything to do with the Mumbai massacres (“the Mumbai incident”, “the Bombay event” as Pakistan’s social butterflies put it), Pakistan’s diplomats are now asking for Consular Access to Kasab, the lone captured terrorist! The cheek of it! Would they please request Consular Access instead to the nine dead terrorists who were Kasab’s companions, and who are presumably in a Mumbai morgue at present because India’s Muslims have denied them a burial? It is certain the Government of India would be relieved and delighted to hand over full custody of the mortal remains of these nine Pakistanis to representatives of His Excellency the High Commissioner of Pakistan to New Delhi for transfer back home to Pakistan.
As for Consular Access to Kasab, the Government of India will doubtless inform His Excellency that His Excellency may appreciate that in present circumstances in which the individual Kasab, not to put too fine a point on it, is singing like a canary, the Government of India deems the security of India could be jeopardised by any possibility of such a song becoming jeopardised. The Government of India will however doubtless assure His Excellency that Kasab is being well cared for in custody and has reported as such to the magistrate.
The crime of murder is that of deliberate homicide, that of mass-murder is the murder of a mass of people. There is no doubt the lone captured Mumbai terrorist, “Kasab”, has committed mass-murder, being personally responsible for the murder of probably 20 or 30 wholly innocent people he had never met. He killed them by machine-gun fire and grenades at CST/VT railway station on November 26 2008 before being shot and captured by police. He is also a co-conspirator in the mass-murders carried out by his associate at the railway station and those elsewhere in Mumbai. There is no doubt he should serve rigorous imprisonment for life in an Indian prison for his crimes.
And yet…. And yet…
If the Government of India is sensible, it needs to describe and comprehend the moral subtleties of the circumstances surrounding Kasab’s life, especially during the last year. Here was a stupid, ignorant, rather primitive youth misguided by others first into becoming a petty robber, later into becoming a terrorist-trainee in hope of advancing his career in thievery!
Bakri-Id 2008 has just occurred – it is on Bakri-Id a year ago in 2007 that Kasab reportedly first ventured into volunteering for terrorist training as a way of learning how to use firearms! It is almost certain he had never met a Hindu or an Indian in his life before then, that he knew absolutely nothing about the subcontinent’s history or politics, that he would be ignorant about who, say, Iqbal or Jinnah or Maulana Azad or Sheikh Abdullah or Mahatma Gandhi ever were. Within less than a year, that same youth had been brainwashed and trained adequately enough by Pakistan’s terrorist masterminds to become a robotic mass-murderer in Mumbai’s railway station. Now having been caught and treated humanely by his captors, he has confessed everything and even expressed a wish to write a letter to his father in Pakistan expressing remorse for his deeds.
If I was the judge trying him, I would sentence him to a minimum of twenty or thirty years rigorous imprisonment in an Indian prison. But I would add that he should be visited in jail by a few of India’s Muslim leaders, and indeed he should be very occasionally allowed out of the prison (under police supervision) in a structured program to offer Namaz with India’s Muslims in our grandest mosques. He should learn firsthand a little of the lives of India’s Muslims and of India’s people as a whole. Perhaps he will become a model prisoner, perhaps he may even want to become in due course a potent weapon against the terrorist masterminds who ruined his life by sending him to murder people in India.
It bears to be remembered that in an incredible act of Christian forgiveness, the widow of the Australian missionary Graham Staines forgave the cold-blooded murderers who burnt alive her husband and her young sons as they slept in a jeep in Orissa. The family of Rajiv Gandhi may have done the same of those who assassinated or conspired to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi. This is the land of Mahatma Gandhi, who had woven a remarkable moral and political theory out of the Jain-Buddhist-Hindu doctrine of ahimsa as well as Christian notions from Tolstoy and Thoreau of forgiving the sinner.
Of course there cannot be forgiveness where there is no remorse. Kasab’s behaviour thus far suggests he will be remorseful and repentant; there are many other thieves and murderers in the world who are not.
Reported statement of Mohammad Ajmal Amir ‘Kasab’, 21, to police after arrest: “I have resided in Faridkot, Dinalpur tehsil, Ukada district, Suba Punjab state, Pakistan since my birth. I studied up to class IV in a government school. After leaving school in 2000, I went to stay with my brother in Tohit Abad mohalla, near Yadgar Minar in Lahore. I worked as a labourer at various places till 2005, visiting my native once in a while. In 2005, I had a quarrel with my father. I left home and went to Ali Hajveri Darbar in Lahore, where boys who run away from home are given shelter. The boys are sent to different places for employment. One day a person named Shafiq came there and took me with him. He was from Zhelam and had a catering business. I started working for him for Rs120 per day. Later, my salary was increased to Rs200 per day. I worked with him till 2007. While working with Shafiq, I came in contact with one Muzzafar Lal Khan, 22. He was from Romaiya village in Alak district in Sarhad, Pakistan. Since we were not getting enough money, we decided to carry out robbery/dacoity to make big money. So we left the job.
We went to Rawalpindi, where we rented a flat. Afzal had located a house for us to loot… We required some firearms for our mission… While we were in search of firearms, we saw some LeT stalls at Raja Bazaar in Rawalpindi on the day of Bakri-id. We then realised that even if we procured firearms, we would not be able to operate them. Therefore, we decided to join LeT for weapons training. We reached the LeT office and told a person that we wanted to join LeT. He noted down our names and address and told us to come the next day. The next day, there was another person with him. He gave us Rs200 and some receipts. Then he gave us the address of a place called Marqas Taiyyaba, Muridke, and told us to go to there. It was an LeT training camp. We went to the place by bus. We showed the receipts at the gate of the camp. We were allowed inside… Then we were taken to the actual camp area. Initially, we were selected for a 21 days’ training regimen called Daura Sufa. From the next day, our training started.
The daily programme was as follows: 4.15 am — Wake-up call and thereafter Namaz; 8 am — Breakfast; 8.30 am to 10 am — Lecture on Hadis and Quran by Mufti Sayyed; 10 am to noon – Rest; Noon to 1 pm – Lunch break; 1 pm to 4 pm – Rest; 4 pm to 6 pm – PT; instructor: Fadulla; 6 pm to 8 pm – Namaz and other work; 8 pm to 9 pm – Dinner
After Daura Sufa, we were selected for another training programme called Daura Ama. This was also for 21 days. We were taken to Mansera in Buttal village, where we were trained in handling weapons. The daily programme was as follows: 4.15 am to 5 am – Wake-up call and thereafter Namaz; 5 am to 6 am – PT; instructor: Abu Anas; 8 am – Breakfast; 8.30 am to 11.30 am – Weapons training; trainer: Abdul Rehman; weapons: AK-47, Green-O, SKS, Uzi gun, pistol, revolver; 11.30 am to Noon – rest; Noon to 1 pm – Lunch break; 1 pm to 2 pm – Namaz; 2 pm to 4 pm – Rest; 4 pm to 6 pm – PT; 6 pm to 8 pm – Namaz and other work; 8 pm to 9 pm – Dinner.
After the training, we were told that we will begin the next stage involving advanced training. But for that, we were told, we had to do some khidmat for two months (khidmat is a sort of service in the camp as per trainees’ liking). We agreed. After two months, I was allowed to go to meet my parents. I stayed with my parents for a month. Then I went to an LeT camp in Shaiwainala, Muzaffarabad, for advanced training… We were taken to Chelabandi pahadi area for a training programme, called Daura Khas, of three months. It involved handling weapons, using hand grenade, rocket launchers and mortars.
The daily programme was as follows: 4.15 am to 5 am – Wake-up call and thereafter Namaz; 5 am to 6 am – PT; instructor: Abu Mawiya; 8 am – Breakfast; 8.30 am to 11.30 am – Weapons training, handling of all weapons and firing practices with the weapons, training on handling hand grenade, rocket-launchers and mortars, Green-O, SKS, Uzi gun, pistol, revolver; trainer: Abu Mawiya; 11.30 am to 12 noon – rest; Noon to 1 pm – Lunch break; 1 pm to 2 pm – Namaz; 2 pm to 4 pm – Weapons training and firing practice; lecture on Indian security agencies; 4 pm to 6 pm – PT; 6 pm to 8 pm – Namaz and other work; 8 pm to 9 pm – Dinner
There were 32 trainees in the camp. Sixteen were selected for a confidential operation by one Zaki-ur-Rehman, alias Chacha, but three of them ran away from the camp. Chacha sent the remaining 13 with a person called Kafa to the Muridke camp again. At Muridke, we were taught swimming and made familiar with the life of fishermen at sea… We were given lectures on the working of Indian security agencies. We were shown clippings highlighting atrocities on Muslims in India. After the training, we were allowed to go to our native places. I stayed with my family for seven days. I then went to the LeT camp at Muzaffarabad. The 13 of us were present for training. Then, on Zaki-ur-Rehman’s instructions, Kafa took us to the Muridke camp. The training continued for a month. We were given lectures on India and its security agencies, including RAW. We were also trained to evade security personnel. We were instructed not to make phone calls to Pakistan after reaching India.
The names of the persons present for the training are: n Mohd Azmal, alias Abu Muzahid n Ismail, alias Abu Umar n Abu Ali n Abu Aksha n Abu Umer n Abu Shoeb n Abdul Rehman (Bada) n Abdul Rehman (Chhota) n Afadulla n Abu Umar. After the training, Chacha selected 10 of us and formed five teams of two people each on September 15. I and Ismail formed a team; its codename was VTS. We were shown Azad Maidan in Mumbai on Google Earth’s site on the internet… We were shown a film on VT railway station. The film showed commuters during rush hours. We were instructed to carry out firing during rush hours — between 7 am and 11 am and between 7 pm and 11 pm. Then we were to take some people hostage, take them to the roof of some nearby building and contact Chacha, who would have given us numbers to contact media people and make demands. This was the strategy decided upon by our trainers. The date fixed for the operation was September 27. However, the operation was cancelled for some reason. We stayed in Karachi till November 23. The other teams were: 2nd team: a) Abu Aksha; b) Abu Umar; 3rd team: a) Abdul Rehman (Bada); b) Abu Ali; 4th team: a) Abdul Rehman (Chotta); b) Afadulla; 5th team: a) Abu Shoeb; b) Abu Umer.
On November 23, the teams left from Azizabad in Karachi, along with Zaki-ur-Rehman and Kafa. We were taken to the nearby seashore… We boarded a launch. After travelling for 22 to 25 nautical miles we boarded a bigger launch. Again, after a journey of an hour, we boarded a ship, Al-Huseini, in the deep sea. While boarding the ship, each of us was given a sack containing eight grenades, an AK-47 rifle, 200 cartridges, two magazines and a cellphone. Then we started towards the Indian coast. When we reached Indian waters, the crew members of Al-Huseini hijacked an Indian launch. The crew of the launch was shifted to Al-Huseini. We then boarded the launch. An Indian seaman was made to accompany us at gunpoint; he was made to bring us to the Indian coast. After a journey of three days, we reached near Mumbai’s shore. While we were still some distance away from the shore, Ismail and Afadulla killed the Indian seaman (Tandel) in the basement of the launch. Then we boarded an inflatable dinghy and reached Badhwar Park jetty. I then went along with Ismail to VT station by taxi. After reaching the hall of the station, we went to the toilet, took out the weapons from our sacks, loaded them, came out of the toilet and started firing indiscriminately at passengers. Suddenly, a police officer opened fire at us. We threw hand grenades towards him and also opened fire at him. Then we went inside the railway station threatening the commuters and randomly firing at them. We then came out of the railway station searching for a building with a roof. But we did not find one. Therefore, we entered a lane. We entered a building and went upstairs. On the third and fourth floors we searched for hostages but we found that the building was a hospital and not a residential building. We started to come down. That is when policemen started firing at us. We threw grenades at them.
While coming out of the hospital premises, we saw a police vehicle passing. We took shelter behind a bush. Another vehicle passed us and stopped some distance away. A police officer got off from the vehicle and started firing at us. A bullet hit my hand and my AK-47 fell out of my hand. When I bent to pick it up another bullet hit me on the same hand. Ismail opened fire at the officers in the vehicle. They got injured and firing from their side stopped. We waited for a while and went towards the vehicle. There were three bodies in the vehicle. Ismail removed the bodies and drove the vehicle. I sat next to him. Some policemen tried to stop us. Ismail opened fire at them. The vehicle had a flat tyre near a big ground by the side of road. Ismail got down from the vehicle, stopped a car at gunpoint and removed the three lady passengers from the car. Since I was injured, Ismail carried me to the car. He then drove the car. We were stopped by policemen on the road near the seashore. Ismail fired at them, injuring some policemen. The police also opened fire at us. Ismail was injured in the firing. The police removed us from the vehicle and took us to the same hospital. In the hospital, I came to know that Ismail had succumbed to injuries. My statement has been read to me and explained in Hindi, and it has been correctly recorded.”