Monday, November 12, 2012

Harnam Sing - The Fedayeen

I always held this belief that a nation cannot be built without heroes. To become a human, it is not enough just to have skills and knowledge, but also honor and values. Our politicians are not a special breed of people; they are just a part of our society. They are corrupt because we are all corrupt. We cannot get rid of corruption in our society unless to teach our children honesty, self respect and hard work and self confidence. One way to do this is to put forward the examples of our heroes, who have scarified their life to protect the honor of their country. Here is the first installment of what I want to make a series of stories that tells how our heroes have loved their motherland and sacrificed their lives. I desperately hope that after reading this, a child will get some deterrence from growing up a corrupt, devoid of any honor. Let’s hope.

Below is the story of Harnam Sing, an illiterate village boy. He felt the humiliation of subjugation by foreign rulers that he was willing to lay down his life to rid the country of foreign rule. He knew full well they he will not be able to bring down the mighty British Empire. But for some people, honor matters more than the results. Let’s celebrate the death of these martyrs. Not for them. They are dead. They don’t care what we do, but for our children; So that they can grow up in a better India.

(Translated from an article by Ronjan Roy in Shuktara 1971 edition)
Ghadar leader Visnu Ganesh Pingle has returned from America. He told the Indian revolutionaries that Indian freedom has to be owned from Indian soil. Ghadar party workers are coming back to India en masse. Any ship coming from San Francisco via the Pacific or from Quebec via the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, is bringing back at least two dozen of Punjabi revolutionaries, who are determined to give up their lives for the emancipation of their motherland. They don’t dare to come in larger number in the same ship. They have not forgotten the incident of Komagata Maru, how the British brutalized the Indians on that ship. They are certain that if the British even suspect that any ship is carrying a large number of Indian revolutionaries, they will do the same thing again.
Pingle advices that money needs to be collected from India, Indian youth have to be transformed to an army by military training. Germany has promised arms supplies. But getting arms from there is complicated. Until that happens should we stay idle? Of course not. There is a lot of arms right here in India. We have to snatch them from the British.
“But how?” Asks Harnam Singh.
“By force” Pingle replies, “By robbery. We must raid such places where we will get bread and meat together. That means money and weapon. For example Government treasury, where you will get money of course, but also get guns from the guards, or banks or the collection offices of the landlords.”
“I don’t know about money”, said Harnam Sing, “But I can tell you how we can get five or six rifles easily from the Valla Bridge. There are five or six armed guards there. Each carries a rifle and a bag of ammunition on their belt.”
This Harnam is a fire eating lad. He entered the services of a Circus company at a very young age. His job was to clean the animal cages. Each cage has two parts with a partition of a spring iron door. The animal is restrained in one part, while the other gets cleaned. Then the door is opened and the animal is goaded to the clean part of the cage. Then the door is closed again. By that time the cleaner is safely out of the cage. Then he jumps to the other part and quickly cleans away. One day a terrible thing happened. The middle door is spring operated. That day the door malfunctioned. Harnam saw the door is coming down and he also jumped down. It should not take more than a second for the door to close. But when he jumped to the floor of the cage, he was dumbstruck! The door is only half closed and is not closing anymore. The spring gave up.
And the animal on the other side – a freshly captured Royal Bengal Tiger! Not tamed yet. The circus trainer is very doubtful it will ever be tamed. The owner will feel lucky if it can ever be used for a show. The royal Bengal Tiger is crouching on the other side, wagging her tail from left to right, as if to the tune of music unheard by the others. On the other side of the cage is Harnam, with broom in his right hand a three feet long iron spear in his left hand. This weapon is given to the cleaners for eventual emergencies. Harnam is in one side of the cage and the tiger is in the other. The door in between is open. The guard who minds the gate is shouting like crazy, to scare the tiger and to get help. But a freshly captured Royal Bengal Tiger does not heed to shouts. She jumped, one yellow lightning crossed over to the other end of the cage. She landed exactly the same spot where the lad Harnam was standing a moment ago. But he is not there any longer! The tigress jumped like a lightning and Harnam jumped like a bolt and stroke the tiger with his spear. The tiger landed a foot ahead. And Harnam – Did he see the Tarzan movies? How else did he learn these tricks? He jumped on the tiger and straddled her. He held her two ears back forcefully. The spear has penetrated deep on her shoulder. The whole circus area is reverberating with her roar. Help has come by now. The tigress is trying her best to release her ears from Harnam and bite his leg. Had the spear not stuck on her shoulder, she would have lied on her back to dismount her raider. From four sides of the cage they are trying to char the tiger on its paws and on the belly. They cannot afford to disfigure her body. A circus animal must not look ugly. While the tigress is busy defending herself, Harnam jumped up and got hold of the roof of the cage. The roof also had a bolted door. They rescued him opening the door. After this, the tigress became tame and the chief trainer Allahbox took Harnam as a trainee. But Harnam did not stay in that job for long.
“Why are you quitting?” Asked the proprietor.
“There are more dangerous animals outside; the two legged whites.” quipped Harnam, “Now I will deal with them.”
The same Harnam Sing was entrusted to lead the raid on Valla Bridge. Only six miles from Amritsar, this is a bridge on a midsize canal. Around a hundred trains cross this bridge every day. There was one guard on each end of the bridge earlier. After the start of the insurgency, the guard has been increased. Now two men guard each end of the bridge and there are two mobile guards doing rounds across the length of the bridge. Only six riflemen. To engage them, Harnam employeed for dare devils. They are Channal Sing, Kala Sing, Amta Sing and Banta Sing. “Why don’t you take a few more?” Someone asked. “Why?” retorted Harnam. “We will raid in the middle of the night. Before they realize, we will finish two of them. After that they are four and so are we”. One of us will be on the watch. Railway bridge, there is no dealings of money here. The only attractions are the six rifles with the guards and their ammunitions. But weapons are so precious with the revolutionaries these days that they are willing to give up six lives for six rifles. At morning 4 AM one train will cross the bridge. The raiders will hide behind the train. On the north end of the bridge, habilder Chitra Sing and private Phool Sing are on watch. As soon as the train left the sentry post, they were greeted with rifle fire. Before they could grasp the situation, they were wounded. The wounds were not serious. They grasped their rifle and started shouting for their comrades. They were looking around because they could not spot their attackers. When they did, they could not resist. Four kukris snuffed their lives out. But the raiders could not risk leaving them behind alive. Because if they regained strength, they would fire upon the revolutionaries. So they kept stabbing them and finally fired upon them to make sure they are down. The guards on the other end did not hear the sound of fire immediately. The roaring sound of the train masked the sound of the bullets. But finally they heard and realized. But they did not flee. But rather came rushing to help their comrades. They fired while they ran. But they could not aim at the raiders. But Harnam’s mates were firing standing. They killed all four of them easily. Six guards were killed and six rifles acquired. But the revolutionaries refused to see this as murder. From their perspective this was required. The dead are also the son of the soil. Harnam considered them as six dead brothers. But without their death, the revolution could not gain six rifles. India has a lot of people, but alas, very few rifles. By the inevitable rule of supply and demand, a rifle is in more demand than a life! With their booty of rifles on their back, the revolutionaries got off the bridge. The day is clearing up. Another train is coming. There is no time to lose. They were going towards Palasour along the fields. They cannot risk going to Amritsar directly. They were carrying two rifles each and had blood strains on their clothes. They intended to cross Kaleng River near Palasour and hide in the nearby forest. They wanted to reach Amritsar in the cover of the night. The sun came out and with it a few villagers. They are looking at the pary with suspicion. Each carrying two rifles, Harman carrying three! On top of arousing suspicion, the load is becoming unbearable on them. But it seems there is a solution. A rider comes along with a blanket on the saddle. This was a golden opportunity. They can carry their rifles on horseback covered with the blanket. The rider was galloping along but stopped suddenly. He smelled danger seeing four stout riflemen carrying double rifles. Gulab Sign suspected they were robbers. They came to know later that his name was Gulab Sing. Gulab Sing is fleeing. He cannot be allowed to escape. He will reach the village well before Harnams party and alert the villagers and the police. The whole village will be ready for the raiders with whatever implants they have. Only the Guru knows how many innocent lives will be lost in self defense. Dejected, Harnam raised his rifle and fired. Gulab Sing’s body fell down from his horse. Now five rebels stacked their rifles on horseback and covered them with blanket and continued their journey. At midday they reached Kaleng River. If they can cross the river, they can take refuge in the forest. But the boatman is a stubborn suspicious man. He will not let five men with blood stains on their clothes and their horse on his boat. Meanwhile he could hear uproar behind. Villagers have discovered Gulab Sings dead body and organized a search party. So they had to kill the boat man also. They boarded the boat and started for the other bank. But the villagers have arrived on this side. The land lord’s son had a gun. He started firing towards the boat. So Harnams party was forced to fire upon them. Two of the villagers were injured and then they dispersed. They were relieved after entering the forest. The villagers cannot pursue them here. But they cannot rest there indefinitely. They have left blood trail behind. The police will follow their trail and apprehend them. All the police stations around are already being alerted. So they started their journey again. Not towards Amritsar but in the opposite direction, towards Kapurthala. They hoped that they may be able to hide in the native state. But their hopes were dashed. Kapurthala was already alerted. They were arrested as soon as they entered Kapurthala.
They were hanged on 9th August 1915.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Good article by John Gray

This is a remarkably refreshing idea. I will try to elaborate on it in my next post.

“Pakistan – A Hard Country” – A critique

It seems that this book was written with just one purpose, to present an alternative point of view of showing how good Pakistan is, in the guise of a balanced well researched treatise and be a big hit in Pakistan and colonial guilt ridden liberal West (So-called). It so devoid of truth that it seems like it was written about a fantasy land in the authors mind rather than the real country of Pakistan. What is most obnoxious is the style. The author writes in a tone that is similar to a theoretical analysis of a hypothetical society and gives tons of scholarly advice to the policy makers. It hardly contains any fact.

So far I read only the introduction and glanced through the chapter on religion. The following sentences from the introduction scream for an explanation.
  1. “When terrorist groups attack India, or Western forces in Afghanistan, their actions enjoy a degree of instinctive, gut sympathy from a majority of Pakistanis – not because of Islamist extremism, but because of Muslim nationalism and bitter hostility to the US role in the Muslim world in general and Pakistan’s region in particular.”
    Then the author goes on explaining how this is not religious but rather hostility to the West. But he never bothers to explain why attacks against India are so popular. Also, as far as I know, The West is always a friend to Pakistan rather than an enemy. America and Britain actually helped Pakistan to stand on its feet defend itself against India, developed its economy, infrastructure and military, poured in billions of dollars of aid. Then why are attacks against the West and Israel are so popular in Pakistan?
  2. “Nonetheless, tough they are; and unless the USA, India, or both together invade Pakistan and thereby precipitate its disintegration, the likelihood is that the country will hold together, and that if it eventually collapses, it will be not Islamist extremism but climate change – an especially grim threat in the whole of South Asia – that finishes it off.”
    Remarkably fantastic! Where in the whole world did the author get the idea that either the USA or India is even remotely interested to invade Pakistan? Why? The last thing, the USA wants to do is to invade a “on the face” friendly country without any natural resources and land in the biggest mess of their military history, even if there is imminent threat of the nukes falling in the hands of Jihadists. They will rather bomb them to dust than put soldiers on the ground. As for India, there is no military or strategic interest or political dividend to attempt such madness. Pakistan to India now is an irritant rather than a threat. And gone are the days when attacking Pakistan will win a party an election.
  3. “Finally, Pakistan possesses nuclear weapons and one of the most powerful armies in Asia. This means that the option of the US attacking Pakistan with ground forces in order to force it to put pressure on the Afghan Taliban simply does not exist – as both the Pentagon and the Pakistani military have long understood.”
    This statement contradicts the suggestion put forward in the last point. Let’s analyze the conclusion. Pakistan has a powerful army. As far as I can tell, Indian army is one of the most unorganized, under trained, ill equipped army in the world. Pakistani army, armed with superior American arms compared to the Russian supplied Indian army, looses against India repeatedly, even when their numerical strengths are same. They always lose against the Taliban, Baloch rebels, even when they apply the most ruthless and savage repressions against their own civilians. They cannot defend their own establishments in their own country against the terrorists. This shows the strength of Pakistani army. Judging from the Iraqi defeat in two weeks, it seems to me that Pakistan will not last more than two days against a determined US attack. Now about the nukes. What good are they against a US invasion? Even if I assume that Pakistan has weapon grade nuclear device (very doubtful), how can they used it either against America or their allies? They only two types of delivery system they have are mules and Jihadists. They cannot strap a nuclear device to either of them and send them to Tel-Aviv. If America can ensure that they will shoot down every plane out of Pakistan, which they are quite capable of doing, that will ensure that all nukes will explode inside Pakistan.
  4. I have just glanced through the chapter on religion. But so far I could not find any discussion about the brutal persecution of religious minorities like Hindus and Christians. Forced eviction of non-sunni Muslims like the Sufis, Bahais, Ahmedis, Shias. It does not try to explain why the liking of the anti-blashphemy-law minister was so popular in Pakistan. It does not talk about the Mohajirs. It just tries to gloss over and justify Pakistan as an ideal radical and extremist Islamic state. An oxymoron.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Female Communist

Communism is supposed to be aboiut equality of all human being, particularly between men and women. When I was young and an ardent communist, I used to argue with capitalist friends that communism is better because it promotes equality between men and women. But where are female communist leaders. I am looking at the picture of Chinese peoples congress and asking myself, where are the women? Even in capitalist counties like US, India Germany we have women like Clinton, Gandhi, Markel. Where are their counterparts in communist world? Even India, where are the female communist leaders? Brinda is a leader because she is married to Prakash, that's all. Other than Rosa Luxemburg, I do not know the name of any notable female communist. This is really strange. What's wrong with the communists?

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Is beard associated to knowledge, intellect? The prophets had beard, Moses, Abraham, Rabindranath, Aurobindo, Socrates. Do we still associate beard with intellect? Why else do Pronoy Roy, Daniel Dennet keep a beard? It's uncomfortable, it's probably unhigenic. To me, It's disgusting (I am not passing any judgement here. Just a very personal opinion). Then why do they keep it?

Sunil Ganguli

I am not a big fan of kobita. But I like kobita. I loved Sunil because of his Kakababu stories. Difficult to accept there will be no more Kakababu-Sontu. I also liked a few stories of Neellohit. I loved his aricles in Anandabazar. Thanks a lot Sunil Ganguli. We will miss you.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Let’s be proud for what we do

Last night I was reading the viewers comments on an “Economist” article about the war in Afghanistan. There were many comments by viewers from different parts of the world, from America, Japan, India, China, Pakistan. They were discussing the futility of war and debating their ideas. I was amazed how technology has made it possible for people from all over the world to exchange ideas and discuss opinions online and instantly. This was unthinkable merely 20 years back. I was reading this while taking break from working on our latest product (I am an engineer at Infinera, a leading manufacturer of optical switches). This new feature that I am working on will make the internet faster, cheaper and better. Then suddenly it hit me that my work is directly contributing to this amazing phenomenon of global communication.

Today we take the Internet for granted and tend to think of it as a tool to pay phone bills, transfer money or buy air tickets. All these things are very important because they optimize our usage of natural resources thereby reducing the strain on Mother Nature. But the Internet is much more than that. Its bigger contribution is communication and ability to exchange ideas. It is used by Arab revolutionaries to organize protest marches, it is used by pacifists to stop politicians from starting wars, it is used by charitable organizations to collect money that fights hunger and eliminates disease. And we help in all these efforts by making the Internet available. How much more gratifying can someone’s job be? When people ask me why I don’t donate for charity or do voluntary work for the underprivileged, I do not have a good answer. But now I realize that my work helps more people than I can ever dream of by doing such voluntary activities. Agreed I get paid for my work. But nonetheless, it has more impact than any charity work that I can do.

Karl Marx and Adam Smith tried to create a more just and humane world with their revolutionary ideas. Their intention was noble and their vision was revolutionary. But they could not achieve it because they did not have the necessary tools to make that change. What these visionaries could not achieve, we, a ragtag army of Indian software engineers, are achieving. We are helping to make the world more just, more humane, more egalitarian, more harmonized than ever before, one bug at a time, one feature at a time. Our work is helping people to stop war, eliminate disease, fight hunger, uproot injustice, every day, every hour, every minute.

The Internet has more impact on our society that any other invention in human history. Fifty years from now, people will look back and see what a change our work has brought to human civilization. It is more profound than any other period ever. And we are the foot soldiers of that revolution. So let’s take pride in what we do. We are making this happen, with our blood, sweat and tear. (May be not! We don’t sweat because we work in air-conditioned offices, we don’t shed blood and I have never seen any software engineer crying for work. May be some :)

Friday, February 03, 2012


Today I stumbled upon an amazing idea. All our life we try to optimize the resources of life. We try to save money, health, social reputation, energy, even the planet earth (such audacity). All these rules stems from our instinct to survive. God has programmed us to survive as long as possible and procreate as much as possible. But God has also made us thinking entity. So what if we just wipe off this one rule. Suddenly everything changes. We are no longer obligated to play by the rules of the nature. Instead of creating life, we can destroy it; instead of preserving nature we can waste it. Instead of finding beauty, we can make things ugly. It’s an amazingly liberating experience. I just felt it momentarily.

Of course you cannot fake it. You really have to eliminate your desire to survive. I think I kind of know now, what goes inside the brain of a suicide bomber.