|E D I T O R I A L
P A G E
Sunday, September 6, 1998
ONLY a couple of years ago the
Taliban was little known outside the Indian sub-continent
and considered a local phenomenon confined to Afghanistan
and areas contiguous to Pakistan.
The moving spirit behind Taliban
ONLY a couple of years ago the Taliban was little known outside the Indian sub-continent and considered a local phenomenon confined to Afghanistan and areas contiguous to Pakistan. Taliban means students or disciples and now it has become the number one terrorist outfit, known in every part of the world. All this happened within a span of four years; thanks to the ISIs support and lavish assistance extended by the USA to the fundamentalists upsurge both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Islamic Taliban movement is only four years old yet its growth has been phenomenal.
The moving spirit behind this fundamentalist organisation has been Mullah Mohammed Omar, the one-eyed, one-legged village clergy. Very few have seen him and he, on his part, avoids foreigners. In the early days of his movement, Mullah Omar would cover his face with a veil while talking to foreigners. When someone close to him asked him why he did so, the Mullah replied: "I do not want the napak nazar (unholy sight) of Kafir (infidel) to fall on my face".
The Mullah lives in a modest but well-guarded house in Kandahar and the dwelling was constructed by builder-turned terrorist, Osama bin Laden. He is regarded as a demi-God by his fanatical followers and is fast emerging as an Ayatollah Khomeini of Afghanistan, say diplomats who have worked in Kabul. He treats his heavily armed men in the age group of 18 and 30 as his disciples and exercise the authority of an "Ustad". He once slapped his local commander in Kabul found talking to "Kafirs"; four foreign correspondents, including a woman. The 45-year-old Mullah is feared and revered by the Taliban and a section of the people.
In a rare telephonic interview to Time magazine two weeks back Mullah Omar stoutly rejected the US demand for handing over Laden, the brain behind bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, to US authorities and described him as a guest and a refugee. Without naming Pakistan, the Taliban has threatened that "if any government tries to hand him over to the USA, all good Muslims will overthrow it".
Mullah Omar came to the limelight with the fall of Kabul two years back and the gruesome hanging of Najibullah and his brother by the Talibans. The Mullah lost one leg and one eye in what his followers call "Jihad" against the erstwhile Soviet troops; possibly blown by a shell. Those who have seen him say he limps, moves fast with an artificial wooden leg and sports a grayist untrimmed beard.
Though a religious fundamentalist, Mullah Omar is a family man. Contrary to Islamic tenets, he has married only once and has a 22-year-old son, who like his father, is also a committed Taliban. The wife looks after her disabled husband with dedication. So strong are his religious leanings that the Mullah despises anything non-Islamic as sub-standard. When a group of Americans met him about two years back and talked about increasing poppy cultivation in Afghanistan and drug smuggling on a large scale, he sternly remarked; "The drug is meant for "Kafirs".
Having been educated in Islamic "madarsa", Mullah Omar himself became a "Ustad" at Miram Shah town of North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan and took to teaching. Soon he came under the spell of Harkat-e-Inquilab-e-Islam (HII) meaning movement for Islamic revolution, spearheaded by Moulvi Mohammed Nabi Mohammed. The HII was one of the seven Afghan Mujahideen groups who fought in the "Jihad", actively backed by Pakistan and the USA. Soon he developed sharp differences with Nabi Mohammed, having been disgusted with the power struggle among the Mujahideens and the corruption and crime they perpetrated.
Mullah Omar came to Kandahar and took to teaching, starting his own "madarsa". An incident changed the course of his life. A few women were kidnapped by a Mujahideen commander with the complicity of the Governor and raped. The outrage infuriated the Mullah and he took to arms, organised local people and wanted to weak revenge on the culprits. The Governor managed to escape but the local commander was executed. Omar became a hero.
He took full advantage of the situation, organised students of his religious school and preached that Mujahideens were corrupt and unislamic while the Talibans were pious. Mullah Omars movement became quite popular and, heading the Taliban militia, he captured Kandahar in September, 1994. He had the full backing of Pakistans ISI and the USA in this venture.
Mullah Omars rising clout came to the notice of the ISI and it was Pakistans the then Interior Minister, Nasrullah Babar, who helped in raising, training and arming the Taliban as early as 1994. Within three months of Pakistans support, the Taliban brought in its control (in September, 1994) the key city of Kandahar and made it their base. Its cadres were drawn from "madarsas" of NWFP and were highly motivated. They blindly believed in religious fundamentalism and anything non-Islamic was alien to them.
Talibans are basically Sunni fundamentalists and preach the intolerant side of their religion. Their militia constitutes a very restive force. As feared they have turned Afghanistan into a huge "religious laboratory", pose a threat to US establishments the world over besides training Kashmiri militants.
Comparing Tendulkar with Bradman
DO you remember the classic Laurel n Hardy routines today? They always seemed to end with the hapless Oliver Hardys signature line "Well, heres another fine mess you got me into!"
Those immortal words should be engraved over the Indian cricket boards conference table. Take, for instance, the recent decision to split the Indian cricket team into two. One half is to play Pakistan in the Sahara Cup while the other jets off to the Commonwealth Games. Is it possible that their lordships in the BCCI didnt realise that the timetables clashed?
In any case, if commitments made in thoughtless haste made Indias participation mandatory in both, the BCCI could surely have sent the senior team to Toronto and India A to the Commonwealth Games or vice-versa. Instead, we now see the peculiar sight of seniors mingling with raw recruits in both teams.
Let me add, however, that the ineptitude of the board is well-matched in the quasi-hysterical sorrow of some cricket fans. In the absence of a Sachin Tendulkar, they say, India may as well surrender the Sahara Cup to Pakistan right now. This is an insult to Saurav Ganguly, the hero of the last Sahara Cup. Why do some people believe that there is no future for Indian cricket without Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar?
Have we gone overboard in eulogising Tendulkar? No, he deserves most of the praise that come his way. Please remember that no less a judge than Don Bradman paid Tendulkar the supreme compliment of comparing the Indian master to himself. But it is just plain silly when some Indians try to paint the lily by stating that Tendulkar is greater than Bradman.
Yes, Sachin Tendulkar is undoubtedly a genius. Yes, he is the greatest batsman of this era, better by far than Brian Lara. But greater than Bradman? Isnt that rather like saying that K-2 overshadows Everest?
Forget about the fact that the immortal Don retired with a stupendous batting average of 99.96, roughly 40 runs ahead of any batsman playing today. Forget the fact that World War II deprived Bradman of seven precious years when he was at his peak. Forget the fact that Bradmans haul of Test centuries was overtaken long since by our own Sunil Gavaskar.
But can any lover of the game forget the 11th of July, 1930, as Bradman took on England at Headingley? He made a century before lunch, made a second between lunch and tea, and only 89 between tea and stumps. I should point out that in those days there was no rule stipulating that a minimum of 90 overs should be bowled in a day. Even so, Bradmans score at the end of the day was an amazing 309!
Even Jaysuriya hasnt played such a hurricane innings. And that wasnt a flash in the pan effort either. "Bradman bats, and bats, and bats, and bats..." was a headline on another occasion. And when the English bowlers had a rare success, English journalists crowded: "He is out!" There was no need to spell out who that "He" was.
Tendulkar is a young man and the modern game permits him the luxury of concentrating on cricket. (Bradman worked as a stockbroker because there just wasnt enough money in the game 60 years ago.) But the fact remains that Tendulkar is yet to make a single double century at the Test level. A day may come when he matches the Don, but it isnt fair to either man to make that claim right now. And Tendulkar himself shies away from such hyperbole.
Incidentally, the Don also
set an example to cricket administrators, not just
batsmen. As head of the Australian board in 1971, he was
the man who withdrew an invitation to a South Africa
ruled by the apartheid regime. Now there was a man who
got his priorities right, never sacrificing national
honour for more money in the till!
Military policy of India
IMPORTANT information was vouchsafed by Mr Burdon, Army Secretary in replying to a series of questions by Mr Sivaswamy Iyer and Dr Gour on military matters. He said it was not in the public interest to publish the report of the Military Requirements Committee but all members of the Incheape Committee were made fully aware of the recommendations in coming to conclusions on the War Office in respect of the military policy of India.
The proposal to admit Royal Engineers Services had not yet been agreed to. Indian officers fulfilling the same conditions as British officers were eligible to join Auxiliary forces.
Admissions of Indians to the Royal Air Force, which is a British service establishment, had not been agreed to, nor was the proposal for the creation of an Indian Sandhurst yet adopted.
It was considered impracticable at present to take a definite step to establish in India, training and educational institutions for several branches of the Army. The Government of Indias views on the question of establishing short-term service followed by a few years in reserve were now before the Secretary of State.
Mr Burdon also made a
statement regarding the results of military operations in
Waziristan. The situation in the Waziristan was at the
present time better than it has been for many years past.
The Mahsuds had surrendered and since the middle of
February no active operations of importance had been
undertaken in Waziristan. Road construction was
progressing and the manner in which Khassadars were
carrying out the duties justified the hope that the
Khassadars Scheme would prove to be a success.
Three Indians to perform with Madonna
NEW YORK: Pop icon Madonna has selected three Indian American Odissi dancers to choreograph and perform with her at the famous MTV Video Music Awards show that will be broadcast live from the Hollywood Ampitheatre on September 10.
On the advice of her yoga teacher, Madonna zeroed in on the Patnaik sisters, Laboni (20), Shibani (17) and Shalini (16) of San Diego, California, her personal manager Caresse Norman said.
Madonnas yoga teacher runs the Ahimsa Yoga Studio on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. The teacher apparently saw the Patnaik sisters performing in early August at the rath yatra held on Venice Beach, California, organised by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).
"Madonna was just very impressed with their talent, they are very talented for their age," Norman said in a telephone interview.
Madonna, sometimes still referred to as the "Material Girl" after one of her first hit singles, began moving towards spiritualism and Indian philosophy signified by her recent album "Ray of Light," nominated for eight categories at the MTV awards.
She will be accompanied by the Indian trio for "Shanti/Ashtangi," one of the songs in that album. In it Madonna recites a hymn from the ancient Yoga Taravali, a Sanskrit classic on Hatha Yoga, considered a difficult yoga.
"She (Madonna) has been very influenced by the whole (Indian) culture since the time she was pregnant," said Norman.
When the Patnaik sisters were singled out and asked to send a video tape of their performance and then a video of their choreographing of "Shanti/Ashtangi," Madonna made her decision, Norman said. But "we have not even got them in a room together," she added.
"This was not at all expected," exclaimed Shalini Patnaik. "This will be our first on such a large scale and with such a big star."
"Its a really good exposure for Odissi," said Shibani.
The three sisters began learning Odissi when they were five to ten years of age. Theyve been trained in the United States, but have also had a live-in teacher brought from India.
"Ive been educating myself" on Madonna and her music, said Purna Patnaik, the girls father who is an environmental scientist with Maxwell Technologies, San Diego. Their mother, Gopa, is an academic counsellor at Rosemont College, San Diego.
The Patnaik sisters have performed at numerous multicultural festivals, temples, conventions, museums, libraries, universities and dance festivals, including the "Nations of San Diego," a festival produced by the San Diego Area Dance Alliance. A dance critic for San Diego Union wrote about the event: "The artistic high point came with the performance of the Patnaik sisters."
This year the alliance honoured Shalini as the best female dancer in the ethnic/folk category of Tommy Dance Award.
The sisters are students of Guru Gangadhar Pradhan and Manoranjan Pradhan of Bhubaneswar, Orissa. Laboni is a junior at the University of California, San Diego, Shibani is a senior and Shalini a sophomore at La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad, Los Angeles.
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