TERROR THREATS
Does publicity negate them?
CHILDISH but far from amusing are the union home minister and chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir engaging in a public slanging match over whether there is a heightened terrorist threat to the upcoming Amarnath Yatra. Responsibility requires both the Central and state government to join forces to protect pilgrims who will be setting forth later this month, and such bickering only indicates to the terrorists a lack of policy coordination ~ hopefully that will not trickle down to the boots on the ground. For while the Yatra has progressed generally untroubled these past couple of years, the earlier “strike” does throw up painful recollections. Does publicising a threat serve to negate it? Publicity has often been described as the terrorists’ “oxygen”, and without firing even a single shot they are getting it ~ free. If would-be pilgrims call it off because of these warnings the terrorists would have scored a point, one more if the pilgrims are so scared on their trip that they fail to savour every element of the sacred exercise. Omar Abdullah could be out on a limb on this one, the home department of the state government has issued an alert, Army sources have also spoken of receiving such inputs.
Are those with direct responsibilities making excuses in advance? If Sushil Kumar Shinde is amplifying information furnished by the Intelligence Bureau that could well be the case, though what purpose will be served by doing so remains unclear. For years now, in the run-up to the Independence Day and Republic Day festivities the IB rather publicly informs Delhi Police that certain terrorists have entered the city, on occasions their purported photographs have been released to the media. That is “insurance”: should anything go wrong North Block could wriggle out of trouble saying “we had issued a warning” ~ though most police agencies bemoan the IB not furnishing them “actionable intelligence”. The home minister appears to subscribe to that kind of “warning” thinking: did he not a fortnight ago caution against a revival of Khalistani activity, perhaps to bolster New Delhi&’s case for the NCTC. Omar too would have a vested, though contrary, interest in trivialising threats. He is campaigning hard ~ for valid political reasons ~ to have the Armed Forces Special Powers Act withdrawn from his state ~ and an admission of terrorists being active enough again to endanger the Yatra would weaken his case. The security aspect of the Yatra has become a vehicle for a couple of ego-trips.

GODSPEED DICKY
You enlightened, entertained
TURNING the clock back is never easy. Doing so conjured up pleasant memories, but a degree of remorse too at what triggered that process ~ the passing of veteran cricket writer and broadcaster Dicky Rutnagar who had been read in newspapers the world over, The Statesman included. In the era before television and commercialisation elevated, or condemned, cricket into the realm of mass hysteria followers of the game depended on the newspapers and radio to tell them what was happening or had happened on the field. Few did a better job of that than Dicky. While for the latter, longer, part of a career that took in covering some 300 Test matches Dicky was London-based it was in India, Bombay in particular, that he earned his professional spurs. In the press box he worked alongside SK Gurunathan, Ron Hendricks, SV Sheshadri, KN Prabhu, Sydney Friskin, CSA Swamy and Cyril Flory; he shared the AIR microphone with Pearson Surita, P Ananda Rao, Vizzy, Berry Sarbadhikari and Dev Raj Puri.
It was an era when descriptive power and accuracy counted for as much as flair and analytical comment ~ Rutnagar was blessed with power to both enlighten and entertain. While he never ducked controversial issues he did not think it was a journalist&’s business creating or fuelling it. That he retained his professional reputation even after TV turned the game on its head confirms the basic glories that a straight-bat ensures. Dicky was a “character” too, many a boyish prank enlivened the press box. He once described Kotla Ferozshah as “a slum which even Sanjay Gandhi could not demolish”. When typing out his “copy” at the ground one evening a number of admirers gathered  around as he pounded his portable typewriter. Pleading with them to leave he explained, “the circulation guys will kill me… so many fewer copies of the newspaper sold tomorrow morning.” When he retired in 2005 it was joked that he had done so because a ban had been imposed on smoking in cricket grounds. Unlike so many of today&’s “media personalities” no event was too small for Dicky: he reported the County Championships with as much diligence as he did a Test match, proof that he had never abandoned his roots in the Ranji Trophy and Kanga League. Truly a professional who earned, retained respect. If cricket is played in the world beyond, Dicky will surely grace that arena.

OUTSIDERS OUT
Fresh initiative in Manipur
THE Manipuri move to stop outsiders (including those from different parts of India) or drive away those staying illegally, has entered a tense phase with volunteers of the Joint Action Committee on Inner Line Permit System taking upon themselves the task beginning this month. Several newcomers were said to have been forcibly turned away while trying to come to Manipur via Dimapur(Nagaland) and Silchar(Assam). When Manipur was a princely state, it was mandatory for visitors to obtain Inner Line permits to pass through Kohima and enter the state and these were readily available at the foothill checkpost of Nichuguard (now Chumukidema), a few kilometres from Dimapur. The JAC tries to justify its agitation on the grounds of safeguarding the state&’s cultural identity and wants the restoration of the Inner Line Permit system,  discontinued in November 1950.
The JAC is concerned that out of the state&’s population of 22,93,896 (according to the 2001 Census), the Meiteis numbered just 751,822, indigenous tribes 67,782, Manipuri indigenous Muslims (called Pangals) 167,204  and the rest 700,000 are outsiders. It fears that if the flow is not checked the Meities will soon be reduced to a minority in their own homeland, as has happened in Tripura. While the JAC might believe its stand is justified, it must ponder how it will tackle the influx when regular train services run between Jiribam and Imphal in another four or five years. Despite the Inner Line permit system being in vogue in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram, they have failed to check infiltration. Since voluntary services by students and civil organisations to flush out infiltrators have often led to unpleasant situations in the past, the state government must ensure that while identifying and detecting outsiders no bona fide citizens are harassed.