Dear Barkha Dutt: The Buck Stops Where?


JANUARY 16, 2013

On the of latest edition, (telecast a few hours ago, on the evening of the 15th of January, 2013) of ‘The Buck Stops Here’, (a flagship news show on NDTV anchored by Barkha Dutt) – ‘India-Pakistan:Another Tipping Point‘, Admiral (Retd.) Ramdas, former chief of the Indian Navy said he knew that Indian forces have beheaded Pakistani soldiers in the past. Gen. (Retd.) V.P. Malik, former chief of the Indian Army contradicted him, and said this had never happened. Barkha Dutt was silent on this matter.

Below is a summary of some highlights of the discussion.

Around 21:15 minutes into the programme, Admiral Ramdas says, “Beheading of Troops has been going on from both sides has been for some time, I mean there is evidence of this…”

Barkha Dutt, eager to change the subject, nervously interjects and says ‘I want you to comment, Sir, on Sporting and Cultural ties, because that is what has been hit today…’. Why is she so anxious to change the subject? Is it because Admiral Ramdas is clearly speaking about something she personally does not want spoken about?

Then, a little later, Ms. Dutt asks Gen. Malik to speak, she also asks him to talk whether ‘Sporting and Cultural Ties should become the fall-guy’.

Gen. V.P. Malik says (around 24:40 minutes into the program), “…And I don’t agree with Admiral (Ram) Das that both sides have been doing this, I would like to see anybody give me one instance where this kind of inhuman act has been done by the Indian army… I know that with great respect, we not only buried their bodies with great respect…we returned any body that they asked for.”

Barkha Dutt knows what Admiral Ramdas was talking about. As has been pointed out before on Kafila, she has written about it (the decapitation of Pakistani soldiers by the Indian army during the Kargil conflict in the summer of 1999) herself in Himal magazine (June, 2001).

I had to look three times to make sure I was seeing right. Balanced on one knee, in a tiny alley behind the army’s administrative offices, I was peering through a hole in a corrugated tin sheet. At first glance, all I could see were some leaves. I looked harder and amidst all the green, there was a hint of black—it looked like a moustache. “Look again,” said the army colonel, in a tone that betrayed suppressed excitement. This time, I finally saw.

It was a head, the disembodied face of a slain soldier nailed onto a tree. “The boys got it as a gift for the brigade,” said the colonel, softly, but proudly. [Archived at The Hoot]

So that is an instance where ‘this kind of inhuman act’ did happen. So why did she not say so to Gen. Malik. She is not ‘anybody’, she was there, and this is an issue that is being discussed on a show that she is anchoring. How long can it be before she gets called out for the gross irresponsibility of her reticence on this very crucial matter. Was she lying in 2001, or, is she concealing the truth now?

But the buck, doesn’t stop here.

Then, a BJP Politician and spokesman for his party, Ravi Shankar Prasad is asked by Barkha Dutt about the NDA’s record on India-Pakistan relations. She mentions Vajpayee as the architect of the India Pakistan Peace Process , Kargil, Parliament Attack, Hijacking of IC 814, Historic Ceasefire of 2003 etc.

Ravi Shankar Prasad begins, not by immediately addressing Barkha Dutt’s question, but by contradicting Admiral Ramdas. Around 26:39 minutes into the program, Ravi Shankar Prasad says – “…Mr. Ramdas has been a distinguished Naval chief, but for him to make a comment that even Indian forces have been beheading, I am happy Gen. Malik contradicted him very conclusively, Admiral Ramdas you need to understand that Pakistani people will lap up your comment, and seek to condemn Indian army in no uncertain terms, I am seeing that happening, for heavens sake don’t make these sweeping comments.”

“Don’t call on Heaven, Mr. Prasad” (Admiral Ramdas says, attempting to interject) but Barkha Dutt doesn’t let him speak. Once again, she does not contradict, question or challenge Ravi Shankar Prasad. Her evasion in this matter, at this point, when it has popped up on her program for the third time now, is a truly sweeping statement.

Then, Barkha Dutt moves on to Congress spokesman, Avishek Manu Singhvi, and other matters, and other panelists, Ashutosh Varshney and Leela Ponnappa, the question that Admiral Ramdas raised is forgotten, but it lingers, silent, and sullen, like the ghost of a beheaded soldier in the studio.

At the end of the programme, Shahvar Ali Khan, a musician from Lahore, Pakistan says “All the peace loving people of Pakistan are with the grief of the people of India.” He hopes that the present situation will not affect cultural and social ties.

Ravi Shankar Prasad says that he loves Pakistani Ghazal songs, but says artists, sportsmen and people who want peace are “fringe players”.

Then, Barkha Dutt asks Admiral Ramdas for a comment. He says, “If for so many years things have gone wrong, the fault lies not with sportsmen and artists, why punish them for what why have not done?”

Who makes the constituency of peace a fringe, and who makes the dogs of war, the people Shahvar Ali Khan calls the ‘hate-mongers’, on either side of the LOC, occupy the centre-stage, again and again?

If an important television journalist like Barkha Dutt talks about the fact that both armies have committed acts of savagery, which, I repeat, she says she knows, because she has said that she has seen this with her own eyes, it will weaken the dogs of war. This admission, coming from a public figure like her, will make it more difficult for the war-party on either side of the LOC to point their fingers only at people across the border.

Nothing can strengthen the constituency of peace more at this crucial juncture, than a little honest and public introspection, on both sides. Let us hope that will occur. Barkha Dutt can set the ball rolling, if she chooses to. The buck, starts with her.

South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) Condemns Exchange of Fire and Killings along the LoC #India #Pakistan


 

SAHR is deeply disturbed with the recent exchange of firing and report of the beheading of two Indian jawans along the LoC. The firing and killing of two Indian and one Pakistani jawan is highly deplorable and no sane person or society can accept such unwarranted and gruesome incidences. The said incidences have a potential to derail the ongoing peace process that has shown remarkable progress in recent times in easing the visa regime, improving trade relations and securing many other confidence building measures that hold great promise for both the countries.

 

Initially Pakistan alleged one Pakistani soldier was killed and another injured in an unprovoked Indian firing and accordingly they summoned Indian Deputy High Commissioner Mr. Gopal Baglay and lodged their protest. The report of Pakistani troops crossing LoC in the Mendhar sector of Jammu & Kashmir on Monday and killing two Lance Naik’s is also shocking. The report also says that the body of one of the soldiers was mutilated. India summoned Pakistan’s High Commissioner to protest the gruesome incident. If true, it is reprehensible and must be thoroughly investigated to punish the guilty and ensure such terrible incidences do not recur.

 

We have learnt that the Director General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of both countries have spoken to each other after the incidents. We urge that suitable mechanisms must be evolved and implemented immediately to ensure that the concerned authorities on both sides are in constant touch to avert recurrence of any such incidences, rather than meet after some damage is done.

 

We sincerely appeal to both the countries to take immediate steps and see such incidences do not occur in the future. We propose an enquiry by third party be it the  United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) or by any other credible international organisation on the beheading and firing across the LoC. They should also resume normal trade across the LoC and enhance people to people contacts by easing the Visa regime further. According to the New Visa Agreement, visa on arrival facility for senior citizens above 65 years of age at Attari-Wagah Checkpost is to begin on 15th January 2013 and SAHR will see that it is implemented.

 

Such incidences will only help war mongers and enemies of peace when the need of the hour for both sides is to take the peace process forward. SAHR also does not support the reactionary responses to the incidence by the media and other forces. At the same time we appreciate the position taken by both India and Pakistan governments to continue to push the peace process forward.

 

We are confident that such dastardly incidences will not affect the dialogue, as it has to be uninterrupted and uninterruptible till we secure complete friendship and peace between our two countries.

 

 

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASE-Appeal from Civil `Society of Poonch to Govt of #India and #Pakistan



*APPEAL * *FROM THE CIVIL SOCIETY OF POONCH TO THE GOVT. OF INDIA AND PAKISTAN*

Peace process means different things for the people living
in different parts of Jammu and Kashmir. For the people residing alongside
103km long LOC in Poonch region, ceasefire of 26 November 2003 had brought
peace,securityand created conducive atmosphere fordevelopment in border
areas. This was important as this region and   the people and their
socio-economic needs had remained neglectedfor 58 years,due to continues
firing and shelling across the LOC. These conditions had subjected people
to limitless pain and sorrow, Death and injuries and filled their life with
miseries and tension before ceasefire. *

*However  in November  2003, For the first time after 58 years, the people
of border areas got relief from war like situation. When the LOC CBMs were
introduced in 2005, and the cross LOC bus service started. It provided
opportunities for the divided families to meet their relatives after
decades. In 2008 tradersfrom both side of the LOC were able to
establishtrade relations. Thus an atmosphere of peace and hope was created
during the past ten years and the people residing alongside the LOC started
the journey of progress and prosperity.*

*                However in last few days this peaceful atmosphere has been
disturbed due to unfortunate incidents of firing and brutalkillings across
the LOC at various places in Poonch and Uri areas. These incidents have
shaken the confidence of the people. There is a lot of tension and panic
among the public.We the people of border areas who have enjoyed the fruit
of peace and the LOC CBMs following  the ceasefire on the LOC donot want
the escalation of the situation and lives being disturbed as a result
ofmore killings.*

*The members of civil society of Poonch would like to make a humble appeal
to Governments of India and Pakistan to take immediate steps towards the
restoration of peace on the LOC and implement in letter and spirit the
ceasefire agreement of November 26, 2003.

We urge that all efforts be made to defuse the tension on the LOC and restore trade venture and weekly bus
servicefrom Poonch –Rawalakote routeso that  we the people of border areas
can live in our houses and localities near the LOCwith a sense of  peace
and security in conducive atmosphere. This, we believe is in the utmost
interest of the people residing on both the sides of LOC.*

*Name of the signatories*

*1.       **Iftikhar Ahmed Bazmi                            Secretary BAR Association Poonch*

*2.       **Inder Raj Sharma                                     President BaparmandaPoonchl*

*3.       **S. Karishan Singh                                     Gen.Secretary Cross LOC Trader`s Association Poonch*

*4.       **S. Harbajan Singh                                    President,Journalist Association Poonch*

*5.       **MohdFarooq                                             Imam,Jamia Masjid Poonch*

*6.       **K.K.Kapoor                                                                Peace,Activist*

*7.       **Molvi Abdul Razaq                                  SarpanchPanchayat HariBudha*

*8.       **S. Divinder Singh                                     OwnerKhidmat Centre*

*9.       **Prof. MussarafHussain Shah               Chairman, SyedHabibullah Memorial Society *

*10.   **Muzaffar Ahmed                                     President,Public Peace & Development Foundation  *

*11.   **K.D. Maini President Heritage Centre Poonch*

*12.   **ZakiHaider
President Anjuman-e-Jaffria*

* *