Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Osama the Economist?

Even as the US economy appears to be tumbling towards the dreadful precipice of recession, a most unlikely personality comes into the context. Osama bin Laden. Yes, the very man who had vowed to terrorise America to its very end. Let us go back in time by about three years. The junior Bush was vying for a second term in the White House. The war in Iraq and his prodigal policies at home seemed to have eroded his popularity irreparably at that time. Just when all seemed lost, George W Bush found an unexpected benefactor in none other than his greatest adversary, Osama. Osama released another of his famous videos threatening to disrupt the peace in America once again. The video release worked like magic for Bush. Somehow, the American people believed that George W Bush was the best possible leader to have when it came to confronting the malevolence of Osama and his armies. The tables turned. Bush's popularity ratings soared once again. Americans showed an obvious preference for security over financial health. Bush stunned everyone including his staunchest detractors by occupying the most important seat in the US for the second successive time. Secretly though, Bush must have thanked Osama in his mind for turning the tables so dramatically in his favor, that too in the nick of time.

Given that Americans changed their voting preferences in fear of Osama, a few questions inevitably pop up. Firstly, did Osama actually time his appearance on TV for the benefit of the younger Bush? If so, why? After a lot of pondering, I have come to the conclusion that the answer to the first question might be 'yes'. The answer to the second may be found in the answers to more of the same. Osama had vowed to destroy America. Yet he remained in the oblivion of his secluded hideout all these years with no sign of activity. Was he in fact betting on Bush to do the job for him? Did he actually take advantage of the American president's impulsiveness and propensity for destruction to use him as an instrument of America's ruination? If the answer to these questions is yes, then Osama has to be a great analyst, nay, an economist, to prophesise America's downfall so precisely from the policies of George W Bush. It may just be possible that, at this very moment, the elusive terror chief is laughing his head off at America's misery.

Monday, September 22, 2008

In Search of God?

Almost surreptitiously, in one corner of the world, deep underneath the ground, a massive idea has been taking shape. Today, everybody knows about it. The Large Hadron Collider, the ultimate particle accelerator, will be the instrument in Man's attempt to unravel the mystery of this universe. On the 27 kilometer long accelerator, buried a hundred meters under the ground, rests the hopes of hundreds of scientists to achieve the unimaginable - to find the origin of all creations in this universe. The search ends in a particle that forms the core of all matter, a particle hitherto unseen and undetected by Man but one that has shown all indications of its existence. This particle, the Higgs Boson, named after 79 year old physicist Peter Higgs, also called the "God Particle" much to the chagrin of Higgs, who is a staunch atheist, promises to unravel the mystery of the birth of the cosmos. Detecting this particle as soon as it is born is the prime objective of the biggest experiment in particle physics till date. It is believed that this mysterious particle was given out a billionth of a billionth fraction of a second after the Big Bang that created the universe. So, it is during this infinitesimal time period that this particle, if it does exist, can be "seen" or detected. Scientists expect to recreate the conditions that existed during that flicker of a second after the Big Bang with the help of the Large Hadron Collider. Two beams of protons, accelerated to hitherto unknown speeds (almost equal to that of light) by means of powerful magnetic fields will be smashed against each other to release a scatter of subatomic particles among which might possibly be the elusive "God Particle". This particle, physicists believe, is the missing link in the Standard Particle Theory, the missing link between matter and mass. As Particle Physics has established, all known particles that constitute matter have no mass of their own. If discovered, mankind will have found a lot of answers to this vast, ever expanding cluster of masses in orchestrated motion we have come to know as the universe. Scientists round the world will be training their sights on the aftermath of the monumental collision inside the LHC through hundreds of detectors lining the walls of the accelerator in a hope of detecting the God of all particles. It might prove to be the turning point in modern scientific research.

Now the question arises - do we really want to find God, or even move forward in that direction? Although physicists are eager to find the root of all existence, I am not so sure mankind as a whole would be better off solving this particular riddle. In fact, it wouldn't be surprising if some would be more scared of this than the prospect of possible black holes emerging in the aftermath of the collision. Among others, the two things that have held this world together for ages are faith and belief. Belief in the supreme designer and creator of all matter in existence - God. As the mysteries of the universe are explained more and more, the fascinations that have held mankind in awe of the universe and the Supreme Power behind it may gradually disintegrate. There may even come a time when religion and rituals may indeed become irrelevant. Of course, the evolution of a final theory explaining each and every aspect of this universe seems far, even improbable at this point but anything even close to that will be enough to loosen the leash of the Supreme Authority on this world. As a natural consequence, lines that divide good and evil, God and Satan, honesty and dishonesty, virtue and immorality may gradually fade into nothingness. Is mankind ready to live in a Godless universe? A million dollar question, if there ever was one.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Is India Impotent or Waiting for D-day

Time and again, terrorists have targeted innocent civilians in India by blasting bombs at public places. The blasts in Delhi have made one thing very clear. Terrorists can bomb any place in India whenever they choose to. In spite of continued inhuman acts of destruction and death, the Indian government can do little but stand, watch and release press statements condemning the acts. These events are now turning out to be nothing more than opportunities for opposition political parties to lambast the government and fodder for television channels. The need of the hour is to formulate and develop a consensus on an effective terrorism policy to prevent further loss of innocent lives. However, it seems that human life in India comes too cheap. A few days of sensational news and debates on TV and a few statements of condolence and condemnation from the political fraternity are all that result from these heinous attacks on human life and property. A similar threat to lives of citizens in the US has prodded that country to virtually comb the planet in search of the terrorists. After 9/11 (New York) and 7/26 (London), there hasn't been one successful attempt by these die hard fanatics on the lives of citizens in the west. Whereas in India, there have been three successive serial blast events in Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Delhi and we are still content to sit and watch with our arms folded. It is not that the Indian govenment does not realize the fact that the root of all terrorism in India is in Pakistan and Bangladesh. What it lacks is sufficient courage and will to go after these fiends. The pretext of respect for international jurisdictions is now obsolete. If the US can go after its foes anywhere in the world, what's keeping India from blasting the terrorists out of their hideouts in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Maybe it's fear. Fear of China, fear of losing Bangladesh's duplicitous friendship or maybe just plain fear. Even after so much carnage imported from across the borders with its notorious neighbours, the Indian government does not have the guts to seal its borders completely. Even today, any person can walk across with nonchalance across the India-Bangladesh border and with a little bit more difficulty across the Indo-Pakistan border. The country needs a leader of iron will to take hard decisions to safeguard the lives of its citizens. At present though, there seems to be no light at the end of this tunnel. Maybe we are waiting for the D-day. Maybe, human life in India has just no value.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Chinese Chicanery

Finally, after a real roller coaster of a journey, India has managed to squeeze the Nuclear deal through the ensemble of NSG member countries. However, the passage of the waiver bid would have been much smoother than the stumbling finish that was achieved had China not played major spoilsport in the whole process. China had indeed played out its role of a surreptitious and pernicious party crasher to the hilt, with a devious intent to derail India's foray into the Nuclear community. Unfortunately for China (and fortunately for India), all of its backdoor politics came to nought in the face of an overwhelming support from the rest of the NSG members, and especially due to counter diplomacy by the United States. That China has proven to be the most untrustworthy friend as far as India is concerned, has been established beyond an iota of doubt. Untrustworthy and dangerous. Behind their friendly exteriors, the Chinese leadership was most definitely seething at the prospect of India emerging as a major force in Asia, which is why they lobbied so desperately to garner opposition towards India's bid. Now that the inevitable has happened, the Chinese are least likely to sit on their haunches and watch India prosper. In fact, disconcerting sounds are already emanating from the den of the Dragon advocating a similar Nuclear deal for Pakistan. The Chinese foreign minister during his visit to India a couple of days ago innocently refuted all allegations of Chinese opposition to the NSG waiver for India. Appalling. What this means is that China has not regretted its actions. What this again means is that China is getting more and more dangerous for India. China now sees India as a major ally of the US, and it will do all it can to undermine India's preeminence in Asia and the world. If that means empowering Pakistan with more Nuclear capabilities, so be it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

is the ULFA in Slumber or Just Plain Scared??

Even as the people of Assam are gearing up to have another go at the menacing problem of illegal infiltration across the border from Bangladesh, there is one group that has been very conspicuous by its absence in the whole build up that is happening in the state. The group in question is none other than the ULFA (United Liberation Front of Assam). The self styled "protectors" of the Assamese people are nowhere to be seen or heard at a time when the Assamese citizens are unanimous in their demand for an Assam free from the burden of illegal foreign migrants. It is indeed a big surprise. Where has all the patriotism in the ULFA gone? Where are our "brave soldiers" in our hour of need? Where are the guys who rant about Assam being only for the Assamese? Are they in a deep, convenient slumber? or are they infuriated that the Assamese people are up in arms against their brethren, the Bangladeshis? Are they too ashamed to speak now that their lie has been exposed? These are some questions that the ULFA can never find any answers to. Because the ULFA is well aware of the fact that if they utter even one word in support of the anti-infiltration movement, the Bangladesh government may boot them out of that country, stripping them of their homes, businesses et al. So, they are intelligent enough to realize that it is in their best interests to keep quiet and enjoy life with the money "collected" from Assam. The problems of Assam and its people can wait. Patriots indeed!! If at all they have any feelings that resemble patriotism, those feelings are for Bangladesh and the Bangladeshis living in Assam. They do not give a damn whether Assam lives or dies, so long as they continue to live, that too at our expense.

Assam - The Second Coming

There is something very interesting brewing in far flung Assam, in the North-East region of India. The perrenial issue of illegal infiltration of Bangladeshi nationals across the long, porous and thinly guarded Indo-Bangladesh border or more appropriately, the Assam-Bangladesh border into Assam is raising its head again. This looks to be the second coming of the AASU (All Assam Students Union) under whose leadership the first edition of the anti-Bangladeshi agitation took place. Although, this time too the AASU is in the forefront of the agitation, the nature of the movement that is silently simmering within the state is significantly different from the revolution that took place between 1979 to 1985. This time there is a distinct method to the whole process of protest as against the fractious and hyper-emotional surge in the 80's. This time, there has been a conscious effort to garner support from all sections of society living within the state, including even Bangladeshis who have migrated to Assam before the cut off year of 1971. What's more encouraging is that it is working. Bangladeshi muslims who had come to Assam before 1971 have openly come in support of the movement to deport post-1971 migrants. Again, this time round, the AASU has taken the ethnic tribes and tribal organizations into confidence in formulating every step of the movement. Even like minded political parties have been taken into the fold. These pragmatic measures have given this particular agitation a potential to attain a more redoubtable stature than any that have preceded it. The AASU has shown tremendous maturity and intelligence in dealing with the whole situation and my hat off to them for that. The present Congress-led Assam government, headed by Tarun Gogoi, has often been accused of protecting the interests of the foreign nationals from Bangladesh in return for votes. There have even been reports of the government agencies facilitating issuance of citizenship certificates to the foreign nationals in an attempt to create 'blocks' of guaranteed votes in the state. Now is the time for the Congress party to disprove these allegations. It is a golden opportunity for the government to prove its patriotism by joining hands with the AASU and its affiliates in formulating and implementing a foolproof plan for detection and deportation of all illegal migrants post 1971. If the government turns away from this situation now, the Congress party will surely be branded as a party of traitors in the eyes of the people of Assam. I am sure they do not want that to happen.

Trapped in The Web

With the turn of the century, I graduated from inland letter cards to email; from landlines to mobiles; and from social visits to socia...