History, India, Military

Operation Trident: A historic naval victory, when India’s ‘Trishul’ destroyed Pakistan’s pride

“युद्धस्य कथा रम्या”

(War stories are entertaining)

(Note: A version of this article is now published at swarajyamag.com)

Naval Ensign of India (Credit: Wikipedia.org)
Naval Ensign of India
(Credit: Wikipedia.org)

Date: December 3rd, 1971.

Time: 06:55 PM IST.

A secret squadron of Indian Naval Ships somewhere in the Arabian Sea received a message:


… and thus started a thriller of a naval operation, unparalleled in the history of the Indian navy, unheard of worldwide after World-War II.

The story starts with 1965 – the war India fought under Lal Bahadur Shatri of “Jai Jawaan, Jai Kisaan” fame. And as is the norm by now, the war started with a Pakistani adventure on the Indian border. Sardar Post in the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat near Kanjarkot saw Pakistan’s 51st infantry Brigade crossing over the international border and attacking the local Indian CRPF party on 9th April, 1965. After a brief fight, the CRPF party (led by post commander Sardar Karnail Singh) beat a retreat. Pakistan had captured the Kanjarkot area for the moment, but the local conflict lasted for about 2-months, till it was broken by India being forced to accept ceasefire under the pressure of the UK government. On June 30, a ceasefire agreement was signed where Pakistan agreed to withdraw forces but India agreed to allow Pakistan to use a road it had constructed in Indian Territory.

So much for “Jai Jawaan”. If Pakistan’s idea was to test the response and resolve of Shastri’s India, it clearly worked; and what Pakistan thought of Indian government’s resolve became clear 3 months later – with a full-blown war starting with two Pakistani operations on Indian soil: “Operation Gibraltar” and “Operation Grand Slam” (both focused on Jammu and Kashmir).

If the Sardar Post adventure was Pakistani army’s way of provoking a pacifist enemy to see how he reacted, the same initiative was adopted by the Pakistan Navy, with its “Operation Dwarka”. As the war across Jammu-Kashmir and Punjab border became intense, Pakistan decided to relieve that pressure by opening up a naval war-front.

Dwarka Seashore (Gujarat) (Credit: Wikipedia.org)
Dwarka Seashore (Gujarat)
(Credit: Wikipedia.org)

September 7, 1965. A day just like any other day in the quiet, small, holy town of Dwarka on the coast of Gujarat. Emergency had been declared a few days back, with the war getting started.

In the afternoon, a ship was spotted far in the sea, going from Bombay to Okha – upon inquiry it was found to be INS Talwar, patrolling the area. The day wore on, and at around 5:30 PM, the ship was spotted, sailing in the opposite direction. The ship sailed near the coast while keeping its lights on, adjusted itself back and forth, and finally settled down with turning all lights off. Was it INS Talwar again, patrolling the area and stopping for some maintenance? Nope, it wasn’t.


The ship had started firing its shells on the city, and the shelling continued for more than 20 minutes. A fleet of 7 Pakistani ships – PNS Babur, PNS Khaibar, PNS Badr, PNS Jahangir, PNS Alamgir, PNS Shah Jahan and PNS Tipu Sultan – had chosen Dwarka for attack, due to its historical relevance for Hindus and partly to destroy the radar station. Fortunately for Shri Krishna’s city, most of the shells landed on the soft soil but failed to explode, between the Dwarika-dheesh Temple on the banks of river Gomti and the Dwarka railway station few kilometers away. Human casualty was none. During this mayhem, INS Talwar was in Okha (a few miles north of Dwarka) for repairs – where she heard the explosions and transmissions of Pakistani warships – but could do nothing in response. Other Indian warships were serving the order of the Indian Navy of not getting involved in naval warfare with Pakistan – with Indian warships not even being allowed to either attack ships carrying supplies for Pakistani army or even go above the latitude of Porbandar for strategic operations. Pakistani fleet then headed back to Karachi, with no casualties to answer for.

Dwarka City (Credit: Google Maps)
Dwarka City
(Credit: Google Maps)

The biggest act of humiliation was of Indian warships not being allowed to attack and engage Pakistani fleet, even after it was getting back from Dwarka. All supplies of oil and weapons for the Pakistani army and navy was meanwhile continuing unchecked in the Arabian Sea, prolonging the war – with Indian warships not allowed to intercept even enemy supply ships. Anger in the Indian navy was palpable with many discreet shouts of “Karachi Chalo! (Let’s go to Karachi)” – this anger was to take shape of an operation 6 years later, in 1971.

Fast forward to March – 1970, with Admiral Sardarilal Mathuradas Nanda taking charge as the 8th Chief of the Naval Staff of the Indian Navy. Another India Pakistan war was approaching, with the genocide in East Pakistan reaching blood-curdling levels.

The new Admiral, along with chief of army staff General Sam Manekshaw was apparently thinking a lot differently – with his focus a lot more on attack rather than defense. The plan chalked out for the navy was:

(a) Surround the East Pakistan sea-coast and block all ports for enemy activity – which meant denying trapped Pakistani soldiers opportunities to flee and to stop the India hater duo Nixon and Kissinger from sending any military aid to Pakistani army through maritime routes.

(b) Karachi: The center of economic life-line and maritime interests of Pakistan (or should I say – the Mumbai of Pakistan). All the external trade and transfer through sea routes, including that of arms and ammunition concentrated on Karachi. The headquarters of Pakistani Navy as well as Oil storage tanks, Karachi was a city of Pakistan’s might and pride. If India had to win the war, it had to be dismantled. Admiral Nanda’s ambitious plan included the blockade of the port, destruction of the naval capability of Pakistan – which meant Pakistani navy not being allowed to indulge in warfare on Indian waters, nor would friends of Pakistan be allowed to help them by sending supply by ships. Time also was a crucial factor, as happened in 1965, there was bound to be pressure exerted on India by friends of Pakistan like USA – which meant that the target of freeing East Pakistan had to be achieved as quickly as possible – and the most crucial step required for this objective was India’s rule over the Arabian sea (and a virtual curfew for Pakistani warships). Also, there was the small matter of avenging Pakistan’s attack on Dwarka.

The usual preparation for Indian navy used to be centered on Bombay (Mumbai) since British times, and there was no significant change effected by India since then. The arrangement was for made in Britain vessels to be concentrated in Mumbai, while the Soviet vessels were to be concentrated in Vishakhapatnam (Vizag). Clearly this was not ideal as a naval fleet should be a good combination of all required warships, and Admiral Nanda set to change it after he took charge.

Admiral Sardarilal Mathradas Nanda
Admiral Sardarilal Mathradas Nanda

Admiral Nanda organized the navy in two independent fleets – Eastern and Western – on October 16, 1971. Considering the importance of manning the sea border of East Pakistan, the air-craft carrier Vikrant was transferred to the Eastern fleet; causing a lot of heartburn and anger among the Western fleet. The anger was clearly because of losing an absolutely irreplaceable component of a naval attack and blockade on an enemy port: an air-craft carrier. The Sea Hawk bomber planes and anti-submarine Alizé planes on Vikrant would have been an absolute necessity on an attack on Karachi. The anger reached serious levels and Nanda had to personally visit the leadership of the Western fleet to persuade them.

The plan on Nanda’s mind was different: Attack Karachi with Missile boats. Name of the operation: Trident (त्रिशूल).

(Note: Users unaware of warship types can check this as reference while reading this post).

India had recently acquired 8 Osa-I class Missile boats from the Soviet Union in 1969 (after witnessing and being impressed by an Egyptian Osa Missile boat sinking the Israeli Frigate Eilat in the six-day war – 1967). Upon reaching Calcutta (Kolkata), the vessels were quickly unloaded and sent off to Bombay by towing. The Missile boats were inducted into the Indian navy under names: Nipat, Nirghat, Veer, Naashak, Nirbhik, Vinaash and Vidyut and were categorized as Vidyut class Missile boats.

Missile boat bio data
Weight (when fully loaded) 245 tons
Length 38.6 meters
Breadth 7.8 meters
Maximum speed 38 knots (Approximately 70 KMph)
Crew 30
Armament 4 SS-N-2 Styx missiles2 AK-230 30mm guns
Missile bio data
Weight 3000 KG
Length 5.8 meters
Diameter 0.76 meters
Maximum speed 1100 KMph
Type Anti-Ship missile
Engine Liquid fuel rocket
Guidance system Active Radar
Range 46 Kilometers
Weight of explosive 5000 KG

The boats were quickly polished, and tested near an unknown island off the coast of Bombay – monitored by Ilyushin Il-14 and Alizé aircrafts (to prevent any sightings by other aircrafts). Funnily enough, a Pakistani Naval officer had already booked a room in one of the hotels near the Mumbai harbor, and for some reasons, both the spy and the Indian navy did not know what the other was up to, almost till the war ended! After Pakistan declared a national emergency on November 23, 1971, three of the Missile boats were deployed at Okha to carry out patrols and gain experience. The entire Missile boat fleet was labelled as killer squadron – 25 (K-25) and was placed under Commander Babru Bhan Yadav (B. B. Yadav).

Commander BB Yadav (http://hindu-voice.blogspot.com)
Commander BB Yadav (Credit: hindu-voice.blogspot.com)

Due to their obvious weaknesses e.g. shorter radar range and a less than sufficient anti-aircraft system, a squadron made up exclusively of Missile boats was not enough to attack Karachi. Two anti-submarine Arnala class (Originally Soviet, “Petya” class) Corvettes (Frigates with a smaller size) – INS Kadmat and INS Katchal – were added to the squadron; as the Corvettes had better radar, anti-aircraft and anti-submarine defense systems, they were to provide cover to the Missile boats from an air or a submarine attack. The Corvettes were also intended to provide communication, control and identification of enemy targets (due to better radar systems). Due to unexplained reasons, INS Kadmat was replaced by INS Kiltan at the last minute.

Corvette bio data
Weight (when fully loaded) 1140 tons
Length 81.8 meters
Breadth 9.2 meters
Maximum speed 30 knots (56 KMph)
Crew 90
Armament 4 76mm anti-aircraft guns4 RBU 6000 anti-submarine rocket launchers3533mm torpedo tubesDepth charges, mines

Now that the squadron was decided, another worry was the lower range of Missile boats due to a smaller fuel tank (as well as a different fuel type than that of the Corvettes). The problem was solved by establishing special fuel depots at Okha and Diu (on Gujarat coast). And just to be safe, a fleet tanker ship INS Poshak (“पोषक”) was added to the squadron to be positioned halfway to Karachi, to refuel the Missile boats both before the final lap of the attack and after it.

Individual command of vessels
INS Nipat Lieutenant Commander Bahadur Nariman Kavina
INS Nirghat Lieutenant Commander Inderjit Sharma
INS Veer Lieutenant Commander Om Prakash Mehta
INS Kiltan Commander K.P. Gopal Rao

The entire squadron was placed under the command of Rear Admiral E C Kuruvilla – who was to be present on INS Kiltan to coordinate the operation along with Commander B. B. Yadav who was on INS Nipat. All details finalized, the squadron reached Okha to launch the operation – with INS Nirghat and INS Veer reaching on their own and INS Nipat towed by another warship INS Teer. The date (शुभ दिवस्) chosen for the attack: December 4th, 1971.

Any successful military attack on enemy soil has to involve neutralizing the air-attack capability of the enemy. In this case it was even more important, due to Missile boats not having adequate air defense systems. There were two airbases which would have served as springboards for Pakistani air attack – Masroor (مسرور, Karachi) and Badin. The request to bombard these two was promptly raised by Admiral Nanda, and agreed upon by General Sam Manekshaw who told a hesitant Air Marshal P. C. Lal: “असीं जंग करने जा रहे हैं … मोहब्बत नहीं! (We are going there for a war, not for making love!)”.

The proposal was executed swiftly. December 4th morning marked start of day long air strikes by Hunter planes taking off from Jamnagar airbase on Masroor and Badin, with the Badin radar station and warehouse getting destroyed. Pakistani navy, drunk with complacency (possibly due to the absence of INS Vikrant – the lone aircraft carrier – in the western fleet), thought these to be just another regular enemy airstrikes … but the plan on the Indian side was just heating up.

Afternoon, December 4th, 1971: Operation Trident kicked off. The squadron (4 Missile boats – INS Vidyut was added to patrol a few kilometers away from Karachi as a fully armed backup, 2 Corvettes, 1 Fleet Tanker) started its 500 kilometer long journey to Karachi from Okha. Due to shorter travel ranges, Missile boats were being towed till a certain distance to Karachi harbor. Complete radio silence was to be kept till the squadron reached the doorstep of Karachi naval base, as the success of the entire operation was dependent on the element of surprise. All internal communications of the Indian squadron might have been off, but all ears (inside the squadron as well as the western naval command) were constantly pressed on wireless to monitor Pakistani frequencies – with bated breath, just to keep up to date on whether Pakistanis had got a wind of what was coming to them. The squadron had formed an arrow-head formation, with INS Nipat leading the way, INS Nirghat 5 miles to its port (left side) and INS Veer on starboard (right side). Another advantage to the Indian squadron was the fluency of its crew in Russian – which was to be proven useful while communicating.

Operation Trident Routes (Credit: Google Maps)
Operation Trident Routes (Credit: Google Maps)

08:00 PM: The squadron was slowly sneaking up to Karachi at a speed of 24 Knots (approximately 44.5 KMph). Dusk had fallen by now and it was getting darker. There was a stroke of misfortune as well as a stroke of fortune for the squadron. The misfortune part had to do with the fact that it was a night of an almost full moon, making it frighteningly easy for the squadron to be spotted as six white stripes on the pristine blue Arabian sea by a Pakistani aircraft (as matter of fact a Pakistani patrol aircraft did indeed notice ‘unidentified ships traveling north-west’, but again, complacency got better of the Pakistani naval command).

09:00 PM: Few faraway targets had started appearing on radars of Corvettes (due to anomalous propagation – periodic but unique atmospheric conditions of Arabian sea between Gujarat coast and Karachi which allows electromagnetic waves to travel longer distances in a recognizable form), but were not attacked as they were not considered worthy of wasting missiles from a limited amount. The squadron simply changed course briefly to avoid them without getting noticed … and went ahead.

09:45 PM: Distance to Karachi was now 80 kilometers away. Everyone in the crew was tense and exited. The stroke fortune for the squadron had started to play its part. Pakistani navy had commanded all non-navy ships to stay out of the Karachi harbor at a range of minimum 112 kilometers between Dusk and Dawn. So any beacon identified on radars of the killer squadron could be safely predicted to be a Pakistani warship. Final checks on equipment in all vessels were performed – it had to work perfectly, or it had to be abandoned. The radars were constantly being monitored on all ships (INS Poshak stayed behind in Mangrol and INS Vidyut had stayed behind outside the Karachi harbor to act as a mobile refueling depot and as an armed backup respectively).

Loud, continuous roars reverberated on INS Nipat and other Missile boats and continued for some time: “हर हर महादेव!!! (Har Har Mahadev!!!)”.

10:00 PM: Radar in INS Nipat started beeping, showing two enemy targets. The moment had arrived. First target was 45 miles away to the north-west, and the second one was 42 miles away towards north-east. An excited commander B. B. Yadav quickly broke the radio silence and informed Rear Admiral Kuruvilla of what was about to happen. Operation Trident had now reached its most crucial lag. It was now or never…

Karachi harbor was now 35 kilometers away.

First target beeping on radar was now almost 27 kilometers away and had started moving towards the Missile boats, meaning it had noticed the Indian squadron. It was Pakistani destroyer PNS Khaibar – originally HMS Cadiz of the UK royal navy, acquired by Pakistan navy in 1956. It was the big fish, weighing 3290 tons when fully loaded, 345 feet long with breadth of 40 feet, and armed with 2-anti ship guns, 14-anti-aircraft bofors guns, 10-torpedo tubes and 1-mortar. INS Nirghat was instructed to take care of it with the help of INS Kiltan.

One of the Missile boats that took part in the attack on Karachi
One of the Missile boats that took part in the attack on Karachi

10:45 PM (PST): INS Nirghat moved swiftly, locking the target and launching its first Styx missile. Huge sound seared through the quiet night. The missile took off towards the sky in the shape of a bright light, and then zoomed down towards PNS Khaibar. Khaibar mistook the missile to be an aircraft diving in and started firing its Bofors anti-aircraft guns. Meanwhile crew in the Indian squadron listened to the sound intently, waiting for the blow – which came soon. The missile struck Khaibar on the starboard side below water level. The entire ship instantly lost propulsion, plunged into darkness and huge flames shot up due to explosion in the boiler room. Khaibar had started slumping towards the side of the explosion and sent an SOS to the naval headquarter: “Enemy aircraft attacked in position 020 FF 20.No 1 Boiler hit. Ship stopped.”

Clearly the Pakistanis had no clue of what hit them. All anti-aircraft guns located on Karachi harbor and Masroor airbase now started firing, in search of supposed Indian aircrafts.

10:49 PM (PST): INS Nipat launched its first missile, which struck Khaibar on the starboard side and proved to be a deathblow. The entire ship exploded, sending shockwaves across Karachi city. The sky was lit up in yellow and orange flames due to explosion of ammunition while Khaibar took its final journey towards depths of the Arabian Sea.

11:00 PM (PST): Meanwhile, after receiving the SOS, minesweeper PNS Muhafiz had changed directions to save whatever remained of Khaibar’s crew. Now it was the turn of INS Veer to fire its first missile, which struck Muhafiz squarely. The minesweeper exploded and disintegrated so quickly that it did not even get time to send an SOS. Almost all of its crew lost their lives; remains of Muhafiz took no more than 10-minutes to sink completely.

11:20 PM (PST): INS Nipat now engaging two contacts. An MV (Merchant Vessel) Venus Challenger and Destroyer PNS Shah Jahan – originally HMS Charity of the UK Royal Navy, acquired by Pakistan navy in 1958. MV Venus Challenger was completely darkened, due to it being a supply ship present inside the harbor. The ship was carrying US supplied ammunition from Saigon for the Pakistani army and air force. PNS Shah Jahan was another warship with almost the size of PNS Khaibar: Weight 2520 tons when fully loaded, length 363 feet with breadth of 35.75 feet and heavily armed with 6-anti-ship, 6-anti-aircraft guns, 2-torpedo tubes and 4-throwers of depth charges. Sadly, none of it was going to save the ship or any other warships. The second missile from INS Nipat struck MV Venus Challenger, blew up the ammunition and the ship sunk in less than 8-minutes, about 26 miles south of Karachi harbor. Most of the Pakistani crew on board was killed and the rest jumped into water to save their lives.

PNS Shah Jahan
PNS Shah Jahan

Third missile from INS Nipat struck PNS Shah Jahan, crippling it beyond repairs after INS Nirghat had struck it with its second missile. PNS Shah Jahan still did not sink due to partitioned structure in its underwater base – which prevented the base from filling up with water completely, but was rendered ineffective for the rest of the battle. INS Veer fired its second and third missiles to two separate targets: PNS Tipu Sultan and PNS Tughril, sinking both of them.

Watching its own predicament, Pakistani naval headquarters sent a message for help to Masroor airbase in Karachi, and got no reply. Reason: Indian air force was attacking the airbase, in coordination with the naval attack.

There were no more contacts left to engage away from the harbor. Threat of a retaliatory Pakistani air attack was looming large and anxiety had started to set in. The squadron was now ordered to assume anti-aircraft readiness, and all vessels were ordered to act individually and turn back to the pre-decided rendezvous point near INS Poshak for refueling and return journey. Two vessels did not return immediately. One of them was INS Kiltan, who got the message late due to a brief fade-out in communications.

Karachi City and Port (Credit: Google Maps)
Karachi City and Port (Credit: Google Maps)

The second vessel was Commander B. B. Yadav’s INS Nipat. Pakistani mischief at Dwarka still had to be avenged with interest, and Commander Yadav decided that it was time to make Pakistan aware of the reach of India’s long hands. Nipat continued in full steam towards the Karachi harbor, caring neither of the lack of surprise nor a possible air attack. It was time for a complete ‘Sarvanaash (सर्वनाश)’ of Karachi harbor, and Pakistan’s naval might. INS Nipat was now just 15 kilometers away from the Karachi harbor, and figures of crucial oil tanks and refineries started showing up on its radar. Nipat took aim, and launched two Styx missiles (missiles had inbuilt metal detectors, mistaking metal tanks with ships – a good misunderstanding though), second of which misfired. But the first missile struck the oil depot and refinery with a booming sound. A loud blast echoed across Karachi, along with flames as long as hundreds of feet – even visible to Pakistani citizens living near the Clifton beach. The ‘shah rag’ of Pakistani navy had indeed been broken, with an irreparable damage.

All missiles fired, a coded message was transmitted to the Indian naval headquarters at Mumbai: “Angaar”. Jubiliation and celebration swept through the Mumbai naval headquarters at the success of a truly audacious attack.

There was still some suspense left. The squadron had to now turn back, with a longer return journey towards Mangrol (not Okha, as Pakistani air force might be anticipating it to be the return destination) and later Mumbai. INS Nipat and INS Kiltan turned around sharply and were immediately followed by Pakistan’s Jaguar patrol boats. Radio silence was again had to be followed, strictly. Due to a sharp turn and late arrival, INS Kiltan was initially mistaken by INS Veer (already at a reduced speed due to machinery issues), who even got ready to fire the missile; before things were cleared via urgent communication. Veer, Nirghat, Vidyut, Kiltan and Katchal had now started to move back towards Mangrol, as fast as possible – even with a journey at such a speed they were going to take around 10-hours.

INS Nipat was left behind, and then experienced a back-breaking problem. One of the oil pipes had broken off and oil was getting dumped inside the engine room. One of the two running engines now had to be turned off, and this severely reduced the speed of the vessel to less than half of its original speed. Engineers in INS Nipat quickly got down to manually transferring spilled oil to the other fuel tank whose fuel pipe was still in good condition. The problem was, with such a reduced speed, it was impossible to reach Mangrol in time with the rest of the fleet – forget Mumbai.

Commander B. B. Yadav then did something wild and imaginative. He ordered INS Nipat to turn 90 degree eastwards, towards the Gulf of Aden! Logic behind this move was quite sound though; as Pakistani navy and air force would never have suspected searching for an Indian missile boat towards Aden or the Coast of Makran (Balochistan). INS Nipat turned, disappeared and lost communication with the group…

Styx Missiles Launchers aboard a Missile Boat
Styx Missiles Launchers aboard a Missile Boat

Rest of the squadron reached Mangrol to refuel for the last leg of their journey towards Mumbai. The much anxiety inducing air retaliation from Pakistan never came, as attacks by Indian air force had damaged it enough for it to take a whole day to be repaired and recovered. Everyone was looking around for INS Nipat, which was nowhere to be seen. After Pakistan’s announcement of its planes sinking one Indian ship, the misunderstanding spread to the Mumbai naval headquarters as well, with everyone assuming Nipat having been destroyed and Commander B. B. Yadav and his crew becoming martyrs. The misunderstanding even prompted the defense ministry to announce posthumous gallantry award for Commander Yadav.

To everyone’s relief, INS Nipat appeared on the horizon of Mangrol at around afternoon (from where it had to be dragged by INS Katchal towards Mumbai as its second engine too failed to start again), promoting shouts of wild cheers and joy among the fleet. News of Pakistan radio turned out to be hilariously misplaced as it turned out to be a Pakistani vessel which was mistakenly bombarded and sunk by the Pakistani aircraft – prompting derision among Indian naval fleet in Mumbai.

And thus, one of the most audacious naval operations undertaken after World War II came to an end, resulting in a never seen before attack on an enemy port by a fleet consisting entirely of Missile boats.

  • Operation Trident firmly established India’s dominance of the Arabian sea during 1971 war, and was followed by Operation Python – another fierce attack on Karachi harbor 4-days later.
  • Commander B. B. Yadav received Maha Vir Chakra, while lieutenant commanders of all vessels were awarded Vir Chakra.
  • Admiral Sardarilal Nanda was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 1972 for his services to the Indian Navy. After retirement he took up an executive role for an arms trading firm headed by his son. Unfortunately, his later life got clouded by the involvement of his family in several high profile controversies. He died on May 11, 2009, and his funeral was given full military honors.


Yuddh ’71 – Harshal Publications,

Safari magazine issue-19 – Harshal Publications




Hindu, India, Islam, Politics, Society

Secular Phantom Menace and Communal Healing

You see the coefficient of the linear, is juxtaposition, by the hemoglobin of the atmospheric pressure in the country!

– Amitabh Bachchan (Amar, Akbar, Anthony)

Given the level of political and social acumen our secular mainstream media displayed in recent years, they might as well have uttered the above line on the issue of love jihad and would still have made as much sense as their entire coverage did.

In popular memory, the issue first surfaces (officially) in 1998, with Sikh organizations complaining about “sexual grooming of young Sikh girls by Muslim men” and later this BBC documentary on it. In India, it pops up on the official radar from time to time, from UP (2007), to West Bengal, and later Karnataka and Kerala (2009). The controversy that forced people to debate this phenomenon was that of a teacher in Meerut claiming she had been kidnapped, gang-raped and forcibly converted to Islam (ironically the woman in question has recently done a somersault, denying all charges). And the noise reached a crescendo with the case of national level shooter Tara Sahdev in Ranchi – who was duped in a marriage with a Muslim (Rakibul Hasan) who pretended to be Hindu – tortured, raped and pressurized to convert to Islam. Since then the official lid on this has been blown with cases from everywhere across India coming to light. Particularly tragic was a case of a girl from Darjeeling where a Hindu girl eloped with a Muslim boy, only to fall victim to human trafficking. She later committed suicide in Ajmer.

The level of attention this issue has grabbed can be judged by the fact that even national media was forced to report and discuss it. Check episodes on Love Jihad by Zee News here: Part-1 and Part-2.

The proverbial excreta has really hit the fan with the Rotherham horror in Yorkshire (UK), where about 1400 young white girls were raped, abused and trafficked for about 12-years by Muslims of Pakistani origin. While closer home, non-Muslim girls in Pakistan and Bangladesh routinely get kidnapped, forcibly converted and married off to Muslim men.

Clearly the issue is serious, or at least serious enough to engage in serious debates … but for the political realities of India.

Continuing with the glorious tradition of viewing only individuals rather than events, we have a set of people whose idea of India basically savages the problem rather than bringing up any solution for it. The strategy is called mixing up grain (Love Jihad cases) with chaff (regular marriages / relationships). Sample this.

In Leftist eyes: A right winger talking about love jihad
In Leftist eyes: A right-winger talking about love jihad

The leftist (I do not call them liberal as a matter of principle) strategy is based on a denial of the problem – with mixing up such cases of normal interfaith marriages with cases of crime. The idea is to make the love Jihad issue entirely about interfaith marriages – pretty smart since it does tend to put the other side on the defensive.

A section of the far right-wing seems to fall for the same interpretation – although the reason here is a subconscious reaction to attrition i.e. losing ‘our’ girl to ‘them’. At a deeper level, the psychological burden of a long history of Hindu persecution prompts that chain of thought, but regrettably such interpretation only ends up playing into the hands of leftists.

The output of such analysis is a muddled representation of issues In the name of balance, which serves up ideological rhetoric but kills any hint of a real solution based on facts.

Now there could be a genuine argument of considering such cases as a regular law and order problem. However, as it generally happens, when crimes of a particular nature get repeated over a significant number of times, its pattern has to be recognized (as our moral compass holders like to do in secular matters like caste violence).

The real problem Love Jihad suffers from is lack of the clear definition and terminology among large sections of society. Many in the far right view Love Jihad as an organized conspiracy; which may not get adequate serious attention unless proven by a government-sanctioned investigation. However, check out cases of Islamist attacks on Kashmiri Pandits which included slogans like “We want our Pakistan, without Pandit men, but with their women.”, or the genocidal history of medieval and modern Islamic invasions (ISIS for example) that included taking women as slaves and war booty, and its possible existence starts to make sense.

In my view, Love Jihad is a gender crime or a fraud committed on a non-Muslim girl; which involves attempt for a religious conversion to Islam or has an Islamic motivation behind it – individual or organized.

While there is no official report of an organized international conspiracy, even casual observations throw up interesting facts. In Kerala for example, as per figures provided by CM Oommen Chandy, 2667 young non-Muslim women converted to Islam (2195 Hindu + 492 Christian) as opposed to 81 young Muslim women leaving Islam (2 to Hinduism and 79 to Christianity). Now unless you term it as more than a 1000 Hindu women spontaneously developing an informed love for Islam compared to 1 Muslim woman going out, kuchh to gadbad hai. If it is indeed only about love, why are statistics so strikingly lopsided towards non-Muslim (specifically Hindu) girls getting married to Muslim boys?

Looking more closely in reported cases (we have to assume the same for cases not being reported), some clear patterns seem to be emerging. Mostly the cases involve identity fraud (Muslim man pretending to be non-Muslim, at least for a good part), rape or sexual exploitation of the girl (before or after the marriage). The girl being in her teens (or fairly young) in many cases – one who is not likely to be legally or socially informed. One interesting aspect of many such cases is Muslim men being helped by Muslim women (1st wife, sister etc.) in trapping Hindu girls – demonstrates the focus on religion over other temptations.

Clearly there seems to be a problem. Question is, what can be done about it?

Answer: A lot of things, if we – as a society and a state – are ready for them.

“If you desire healing,

Let yourself fall ill

Let yourself fall ill.”

Hindu society has three options:

Option-2 explained (Picture courtesy National Geographic)
Option-2 explained
(Picture courtesy National Geographic)
  1. Do nothing and depend on Hindu politicians to form scores of laws.
  2. Get inspired from glorious traditions of Taliban and restrict choices for women even further.
  3. Be mature and empower your own.

My way: The counter to every social issue has to be twofold – legal and social, and both have to focus on the same thing – women empowerment.

Legal counter
  • Police Reforms: Most power-hungry politicians tend to exploit a social problem, not fix it. The only way out is to lessen their influence on Police. Efficient and speedy implementation of law has to be a guarantee, else victims will inevitably be caught in a political fight and will be subject to pressure and in some extreme cases, violence.
  • Air-gaping different legal regimes: When non-Muslim girls marry into Islamic fold, are they making an informed choice? Do they always exactly understand what legal position they are in? One of many disastrous impacts of secularized “Idea of India” laws has been the creation of parallel (and totally different) legal systems for marriage. This has to change – by ensuring that girls are perfectly aware of the legal rights they have; before and after such marriages.
  • Common Civil Code: There is no way around moving towards a reform in Muslim personal law (empowering Muslim women, stopping child marriage etc.) and a final goal of a common civil code. Nothing more can be said than what is said here.
Social counter
  • Why can’t more Muslim girls marry Hindu men? There has to be a level playing field here, and the inconvenient truth is that Muslim girls don’t exactly enter the fray as much as Hindu girls do. Result: The totally lopsided nature of inter-religious relationships. The social mingling (bluntly put, frisking) is mostly one-way; and it feeds a significant part of the Hindu anger. Part of the solution is to encourage education in Muslim society, empowerment of Muslim women – though this alone won’t be enough. Unless…
  • Erase or reform Caste divides in Hindu society: Originally, the four castes in the Hindu society were never watertight compartments – they were more about lifestyles and duties, rather than plain identity by birth. Social restrictions on inter-caste marriages have to go.
  • Why do Hindu girls (or in some cases even Hindu boys) tend to leave Hinduism more easily than say Muslim girls and boys tend to leave Islam? Why should an inter-religious marriage almost always involve conversion of the non-Muslim partner? Hindu parents need to understand the importance of Hindu spiritual education and inculcation in their children (this is in no way contradictory to allowing freedom of life when these children grow up)
  • Hindu society should eliminate (or at least lessen) the social ignominy and stigma for girls who are victims of such activities – allow them to come back and live a life of dignity and freedom – so that they feel emboldened to come back whenever they want to and are not forced to compromise with their predicament. Many girls simply decide to make peace by conversion – why? Because they think they can’t come back to where they belong.
  • Hindu society has to be more accommodative towards Hindu boys marrying non-Hindu girls. In a number of cases, the fear of social ostracization tends to discourage Hindu boys from pursuing such relationships, or in some extreme cases, force Hindu boys to embrace Islam in order to live with their love. Marriage too is a way of entering a society, and Hindus have to be far more accommodative towards Muslim and Christian girls who are willingly entering their society by marriage. Rather than just focusing on stopping exits from their own fold, Hindu society has to also encourage entries into it. Any society that doesn’t reform itself with time, will die out.

Political parties tend to respond to social issues, they cannot create one themselves. Love Jihad or make-women-non-believers-believers-jihad is not a seductive right-wing phrase, created out of thin air by evil armies of the Hindutva underworld. Like Ram Janmabhoomi movement in 80’s, this is an undercurrent of social anger – silently simmering but always ready to break out in bursts. BJP or any right-wing leadership will be forced to raise it due to the enormous groundswell, but they would be well advised to be sincere about it. The primary focus has to be on solution, not exploitation.

P.S. The biggest face-palm for me was ABVP going after couples in live-in relationships – making it even easier for jholas of Jamia and JNU to call all of us sexist misogynist Philistines. I mean fellas, why worry when we have such razor-sharp understanding of real issues?

Note: A version of this article has been published at IndiaFacts.


Case for a Right Wing pressure group

Brief History

As we know, after India’s independence, we have had a neo Marxist regime starting from Jawaharlal Nehru till P. V. Narsimha Rao.  Implications of this regime on India’s economy as well as national security are well known.
But there is also another aspect in which this regime hurt India, namely social and secular balance. Our whole society was broken up in social groups, fighting to get ahead of each other and get the largest share in the resource pie. Minorityism was made a state policy, social conflict either ignored or encouraged and social imbalance became state practice under a perverse “Idea of India” label.

Hindu Agenda

As Koenraad Elst points out in his article on Swarajya, when the first BJP government took charge for a full term under Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee it was expected by the right that social balance and concerns of the majority will be addressed, but unfortunately the primary focus was given to economy and national security while focus on BJP core issues e.g. a uniform civil code was off.

Right of Center (Hindu Nationalist) issues that need addressing

Now that a newer, modern and stronger BJP government has taken charge under Shri Narendra Modi, the following issues need to be addressed to restore social balance and fulfill the Hindu Nationalist agenda (declared when Hindu Mahasabha was conceived):
Note: All this issues are subject to discussion in our first hang-out.

  • Uniform Civil Code
  • Freeing Hindu temples from state control
  • Encouragement of research, scholarship and start of a right of center narrative in academia – especially history where a vast content of information has been deliberately suppressed by ruling Marxist academia so far
  • Removal of “Idea of India” laws which discriminate against the majority, create a level playing field for Hindus (e.g. IDMI, also check this post – Hinduism vs. proselytizing religions in the market of ideas)
  • Judicial imbalance in treating religious practices of minorities vis-à-vis those of Hindu groups
  • Fraudulent or forced proselytization and steps to check the same (includes discussing the concept of proselytization itself)
  • Propagate a modern (and not protectionist or restrictive) idea of Hindu nationalism

Our Aim

Create a pressure group that creates awareness on intellectual and political Hindutva and builds public opinion on issues mentioned above. Towards that end, we would read and write on intellectual and political issues concerning Hindus. Writing on intellectual issues could start from reviewing and summarizing, with the intent of enhancing the reach of, the masterpieces of original Hindutva scholars like Sitaram Goel, Ram Swarup, Koenraad Elst, and Arun Shourie. We should dwell on the history of Hindus, starting from the ancient to current genocides, as much as we can in our public discourse. The political element would concern reading and writing about the discriminatory aspects of legal and administrative practices of different state and central governments.
In short, intellectually strengthen and popularize the Hindu Nationalist narrative.


To be discussed in the hangout. All suggestions and perspectives within the ambit of our broad agenda are welcome.

Ahmedabad, Gujarat, History, Social Issues

When Black turned Red

[Warning: Long Post]

Ahmedabad - Panorama from West side. (Picture courtesy wikipedia)
Ahmedabad – Panorama from West side. (Picture courtesy wikipedia)


Pronounced locally as “Amdavad” (similar to “Calcutta” being pronounced “Kolkata”. ), Ahmedabad is a city which is to Gujarat what Mumbai is to India, a city previously known as “Manchester of the East” due to its once booming textile industry, a city which represents both business and busy-ness of Gujarat; a city which was established by a Muslim sultan, but currently inhabited by a Hindu majority. The river Sabarmati divides the city into two distinct parts: Eastern Ahmedabad or old Ahmedabad, with its congested localities and roads-with a concentration of most of Ahmedabad’s Muslim population, along with Hindu locals. It is also the centre of traditional business and the location of the city’s biggest markets. Western Ahmedabad is the opposite, with its malls, restaurants, gardens, coffee shops, call centers and posh localities. Dominated by Hindu population, the only areas in the west which have significant Muslim populations are Sarkhej, Paldi and Juhapura, both on the outskirts of the city.

It is the city where I was born and spent 22 years of my life-till my job forced me to move to Bangalore.

Riots and Ahmedabad do have a history. When I was a kid, I heard frequent news reports of riots breaking out in the eastern city, historically the epicenter of Hindu-Muslim enmity in Ahmedabad since the 1960’s. Areas like Kalupur, Jamaalpur, Daryapur, Shah-I-Baugh, Naroda, and Maninagar were quite infamous-especially amongst Hindus, and I do remember my father discussing among my other relatives to avoid these places during all major Hindu festivals. The famous Kankaria Lake was to be avoided during Fridays, for obvious reasons. Outbreaks of stone-pelting and curfew were routine those days and yet, quite ironically, business between Hindus and Muslims continued unabated after those temporary irritants had passed. It was a part of life in Ahmedabad as much as nine days of Navratri.

I do remember that there was a little precursor to the horror. Just a week before the Godhra carnage, this had happened, which I watched with some curiousness on Doordarshan in the evening news that night. And when the actual brutality in Godhra took place, there was a strong suspicion in my mind that it, quite possibly, had its inspirations in Egypt. Anyhow, when it did happen, the first reaction, obviously, was of shock and anger. VHP and BJP called for a bandh the next day, and all the shops were forcibly closed in early morning itself. The atmosphere was unusually charged across the entire city, different from those days of routine unrest in eastern Ahmedabad.

I was preparing for my SSC (10th standard) exams late afternoon that day, having a leisurely stroll on the terrace. Faint shouts from a group of people were heard somewhere from the east, and turning around I saw a trace of thick, dark smoke erupting in a slum (known amongst my community for having a dense, uneducated Muslim population). I remember a gentleman coming home for a daily evening tea, and casually saying-“Have bahu thayu. A wakhate aa loko ne saaf kari naakhva joyiye. (Enough is enough. These people should be cleansed out this time around. )”. It had started.

And start it did even though the declared bandh did not last long. As for me and others of my generation the most important news was that the exams had been postponed. And yes, the eastern Ahmedabad was to be avoided at all costs, according to my parents. Local news papers too played their part, not shying away from reporting gory details and even some inflammatory news-for example mentioning that Godhra actually had a ‘Karachi colony’, a subtle message open for interpretation. I remember a picture of a burnt body of a child on the front page of a prominent news paper one morning, with the following humanitarian caption-“Is this what we want?”. Direct references to the communities were avoided, replaced by subtle ones; a Hindu was referred to as-“vyakti” (person in Gujarati) while a Muslim as-“Isam”(person in Urdu). Right on cue, a lot of rumors had started doing rounds, most notable of them was one that was about a group of women from that ill fated train in Godhra jumping off and getting abducted by a bunch of rioters. Masjids with loud speakers, Temples and Slums were the first to be targeted.

As was the case all these years, people who both did and face the maximum damage were from the lower sections of the society. The gentleman who visited our house one evening for a cup of tea, said-“Aapni maate ladai to lower caste naa loko e kari chhe sheher maa. (It is the lower caste that has fought for us in the city. )”.

Roads in Kalupur-a place of City’s biggest cloth market during happy days-now bore a strange sight, riddled with blood and stones. A day later, out of curiosity, I had lied to my parents and wandered off on my bicycle to tankshal road from Lal Darvaja (entrance to Kalupur) I was unfortunate enough to stumble upon a corpse of a boy (presumably Muslim) crowded by a group of Muslims, but fortunate enough not to have been recognized by them as I drove off quickly. When I remember it today, I remember that feeling of fear, of being recognized as a Hindu, of my heart-beat quickening.

A week later, that gentlemen, while having an evening tea said-“e aa loko ne seedha kari nakhshe. (‘He’ will straighten these Muslims out. )”. To be frank, there was no him or his representative out there on the roads nor any shred of evidence of him being involved, baying for blood, but when madness reigns, burden of proof goes for a toss; and it was supposedly comforting for some to assume that power of the administration was with them. It did change though, when few days later army was called and the city slipped into an uneasy calm; at least for a while, waiting for aftershocks.

My uncle worked in LIC, and one day, was told by a female Muslim colleague-“Tame amaaru kalu karyu, ame tamaaru laal karishu. (You painted ours in black; we will paint yours in red. )”.

If round one of the horror was about burnings, round two started with stabbings-which according to my relatives was the specialty of the ‘other side’; mostly carried out by mobs on unsuspecting business men and college students. I was too scared to wander off this time around, but did hear about two elderly Hindu gentlemen getting hacked to death near Idgah. One afternoon, I and my parents had to go and console one of my neighbors. In a completely disheveled and shocked state, he and his wife told us what had happened with him when he went on to meet his factory manager-a Muslim-in Jamaalpur. Halfway across a stone-ridden, deserted street, he was apparently spotted by a teenage Muslim boy, who asked his name and shouted it loud-inviting maniacs carrying swords and knives. The poor guy received some token bruises, but managed to run off barefoot-zigzagging across a few congested localities for some 20-minutes, hiding temporarily inside a closed bank building. Just a day ago, my grandfather had a worried phone call with my uncle in Paldi (another area with significant populations from both sides), who said that they had decided to stay awake for the whole night after hearing shouts of-“Islam khatre mein hai! (Islam is in Danger! )”. Residents of most of the localities across Ahmedabad had made a routine of taking turns to keep night time watch on their respective gates with lathis, knives and metal rods.

My Ahmedabad had become a city of enemies.

The madness continued sporadically for a few months, quite horrifically, even after the dates of board exams were finally announced. Perhaps it was emblematic of the tragedy that the last victim of the blood bath-one that was triggered far away in Godhra-was actually a class 12 Muslim student going to attend his Physics examination in Surat. Hearing this, the gentleman, who accompanied my grandfather daily for an evening tea, who had earlier talked about teaching lessons to Muslims, surprised us by saying-“A kharaab chhe. Ek waar chamatkar dekhadi didho etle bahu thayu. (This is bad. Whatever had happened the first time around was enough. )”. The popular mood for now was stopping and realizing what had happened … and what was left after it did.

What summed up the venom coursing through veins, ironically, was what I saw in a local newspaper much later after the riots had ended, on the day of elections in Gujarat in 2002-a huge advertisement by a prominent right wing organization (not BJP), featuring a photocopy of a press release by a local Masjid, asking Muslims to vote for a certain party. The advertisement had a question, presumably for Hindus-“Now you decide who you will vote for. ”

Years have gone by, and being in a rapidly progressing state means you have a number of things to be happy about. It also helps that there have been no riots since the horror of 2002. There is still a fear that if a certain political party comes to power, Ahmedabad will again experience those routine riots it did for some many years preceding 2002. Whenever there is a news report on the riots in 2002, there is certain anger-“Why do they never show atrocities committed by the ‘other side’? Why do they not talk about Assam?”. My parents still have a few Muslim friends and co-workers, although what happened in 2002 is never mentioned. The ghost of 2002 is still present at the back of our minds, but we do not let it run riot on the streets. In a way, a lot has changed for us, no more routine riots in the east, no more routine curfews, something we did not grow up with.

Some say it was necessary, to ‘pay back’ for other atrocities, some say it exposed Ahmedabad’s dark underbelly, some say it was just another riot amongst countless others. Almost all avoid discussing it.

Not exactly our moment of glory, you see.

Social Issues, Uncategorized

Grief … Why???

Blame me for being nostalgic, or dark, or brooding – one instance from my childhood still flashes past my thoughts every now and then.

It was an unremarkable day. I was playing cricket at my mom’s house in afternoon as a lot of kids without play station tend to prefer. A dark skinned, thin and filthily dressed kid – about my age – stood at the gates and gestured me to come towards him. Being unusually shy, I simply looked on. There was something in his eyes which begged for an arm around him. The smile on his dry lips seemed frozen but expectant. His clothes looked every bit as old and worn out as any every day beggar in any street would hope to show us to drop a chiller (change) out of sheer sympathy.

... is grief bad ?
… is grief bad ?

Moments dragged on…few auto-rickshaws on the nearby main road rustled past. His dirt-ridden hair and even dirtier clothes fluttered in the hot summer wind. He gestured again for me to come towards him. I still looked on – obviously, the boy couldn’t speak (or was conjuring up an excellent performance – as a cynic would say). He then dropped a pamphlet towards me as I realized that was why he wanted me to come closer. I still looked on in sympathy – abandoning the cricket bat in my hands. In the meantime, my aunt came out and checked the nuisance outside. She gestured back, asking the boy if he wanted something to eat. The kid gestured back – asking to take the pamphlet. Aunt had a brief look at that piece of paper dropped on ground – again asked the boy what he wanted (assuming him to be a beggar). Seeing the lack of response, she made a final, carefree gesture to the boy to get going. The boy did so without further gestures.

I see no point in pointing out what actually was written in the pamphlet – even today that sounds immaterial to me, but what I do not forget is the strange feeling of sadness – or pity.

Why it is that pain which should quite clearly be obsolete doesn’t remain so? Why it is that a tragedy affects our inner self in the most personal way? Why it is that a calamity on someone such as family of the Delhi brave heart invokes a passion of sadness so strong that I still remember it – even at the time of a personal triumph? Is this just another weakness or an affect of too much thinking-too much negativity on one’s mind – whatever that means? What’s so special about it?

One of the master-strokes of Christopher Nolan for the Batman saga was to show the heroism of Bruce Wayne in a much more basic and different way than the previous turkeys. Sure he has money and some cool gadgets – but it is his darkness that defines him. Beneath his cape and hood, lurk a tortured soul and a tragic fate. He is a hero, because he has allowed his darkness to become his shadow…an extension of the good inside him. In a way, he being a hero is about him being more ‘human’ than any other human. He fights with the grief inside him, just as any ordinary human does, and in the process, brings out a personality that any ordinary human hopes to be.

As a fellow human, a fellow Indian, the Delhi incident has left an imprint on my soul – just as the mute kid on that summer afternoon did. As I brood on, I keep feeling the pain – but the pain is much like pain of a surgery – something I must live with for some time, because rather than be drawn inside or suffocated, I must choose to make darkness an extension of the good inside me…

Perhaps the hero who is inside all of us is not about being larger than life…it’s our journey of being human. The grief I feel is not my enemy, but my guide.

Social Issues

Looking For Hope

“Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” – Andy Dufresne (The Shawshank Redemption)

(Warning – Long Post)

News and the way they are reported and read is something I have always felt, exposes our nature as a society. Cases in point being the way news items of cricket or bollywood are read, occasionally with furious discussions along with a cup of tea.

News of crime – especially the ones about rape never stirred me in the way analysis of the last finished cricket match did. The biggest reaction it ever generated would be a somewhat curious glance on the details inside – an occasional shake of the head (India is great / What was the bastard thinking / What was the girl doing at that time) – even more shamefully, an occasional smirk if I felt there was something fishy with the girl’s claim. Perhaps the way it was reported – making the girl a nameless/faceless – was the reason why I could never personally be moved. Generally I would surf through the other news, robbery, accidents, and editor’s columns. I never followed up to check if the rape in question generated more than an occasional stir in the neighborhood.

Those were ignorant years too. Being a Gujarati and brought up in a comparatively liberal minded city like Ahmedabad, and living in a society where women security is thankfully a much smaller menace than 800-k gorillas like road issues, electricity issues and Narendra Modi’s efficiency as a chief minister (Smaller too when compared with places like Delhi), reading occasional news of rape never quite generated the amount of concern they should have. Hindi film industry would have a role to play too, showing stalking, forcing and lecturing a woman on her virginity as heroic and ‘signs of a real man’, corrupting generations in the society where the mere news of having an active sexual relationship with a boy-friend would make the girl squirm with humiliation (along with her parents). I was living a paradoxical life where reading books, politics and social issues were necessary for me along with studies, television and a decent job.

The news of the 23-year old brave heart, somehow, hit me hard. Was it something that news channels never let up on, forcing the daily updates through live tickers at the bottom? Was it Arnab Goswami-rapidly grilling guests on news hour with movements of his head that reminded you of Amir Khan in “Ghajni”? Was it the protests-something which I saw last year following Anna’s vigilantes on corruption? But how come it never hit me the way this “news” did?

I think again. The reason was somewhat obvious – something in my face.

The girl’s family had moved to Delhi (a big city) from a smaller one. This was something which families of my parents did too – settling in Ahmedabad from Saurashtra and North Gujarat respectively. The socio-economic platform provided to that girl was modest – something which I had to live with too. Her parents did not have a business raking in money (her father worked as a loader in some airport in Delhi), something which my parents too suffered from. My parents had a business of soft toys- enough to pay the bills but not much more than that. Just like me, the girl had to carve her ascent in the society by completing further studies and getting a job. She was learning physiotherapy, while I had to complete B. Tech. and get a job as an IT professional, something which was unheard of in my family or community till my time. Like me, the girl was perhaps that one hope – one shot at a better future for her family. An aspiring young Indian, working her way up through India’s newly formed middle class – just like me.

She was coming back from watching a movie at a reasonably late time of night, something I used to do during the initial year of my job in Chennai (Satyam theatre near Anna Salai was the usual one) and later on when I had moved to Bangalore, working as an employee in Hewlett-Packard.

As I followed the news of her horrible fate on that day – 16th December, I watched with terror in my heart as one news flash after another revealed what her body had gone through. “Don’t let her die” – I prayed to god. This continued for the next 10-12 days. Every day I would come back from office, and instead of going through the usual routine of watching English movie channels-would start by watching a news channel which a hope that she was still fighting, still alive. “God, please don’t let her die” – I would look towards heaven and pray. If she lived, my hope lived, as did the hopes of her better future.

Saturday the 29th was like any other day. Just like usual for a week-end, I had woken up at 9 AM, going to the local market for buying bread and other items, and later starting the day with watching movies. I had started with “Atithi tum kab jaoge” followed by “Rock On!!!”. For some reason, I had not started watching news, which I did at around 2 PM and got the shock of my life – the girl had died.

I was numb with shock. “But I did pray to you right???” – I asked looking towards the picture of god. There was a frantic surfing through the news channels, hoping to vent my anger through the collective anger on the streets, television studios, Arnab Goswami, news reporters. Somewhere, somehow, hoping to hear people blasting the police, the government for what happened – occasionally I would increase the volume of my TV if I found something resembling the anger inside myself, the anger which somehow hoped to shake the world with my bare hands. Facebook, Twitter and Google became shoulders for me to cry on, posting messages of anger and sharing those which were the same. I had perhaps gone through almost every blog on women security in the next few days. I stayed alone in my apartment, which were both a blessing and a curse when I was in such a mood.

Time passed, more details regarding the girl emerged, which only increased my pain. Hearing about her and finally knowing her as a person, made it worse, as it resulted in “what if” questions. What if she had picked another bus, what if they had just let her live after the rape instead of ripping her organs, what if the boy had found a way to stop them, what if she had survived with the treatment she received in the hospital? Every time the news channels showed something related to her personal life, the pain would increase.

The sane part in my mind said – “These questions are never blessed with answers”, “If she weren’t the victim, another girl might have been”, “The society needs such dramatic example to be shaken”, “I had nothing to do with her death”, “She is just one of countless other unfortunate ones, at least she had the fortune of having her rapists caught”, “She will be remembered by the country, unlike others”. But then the bottom-line would hit my mind like a bucket of cold water – “She is no more. She died through no fault of her own.”, and I would look towards a picture of god with tears in my eyes – “But I did pray to you right?”

Days go by, there is now a quiet determination – “I wouldn’t let any bastard misbehave with a girl in front of my eyes from now on”, “I would make sure my voice is heard through taking part in as many protests as possible”. Somehow, news items now about a rape would hold a different meaning to me – now they are the ones with a face I never had the fortune of knowing. I would avidly surf through for any good news for rape victims across the country; I came to know about a few which I had never known before – the Suryaneli case, the Patiala case, case of a girl in Bihar who was raped by the very person supposed to protect her. Some of those cases showed progress, and my pain eased a little. “Keep praying to god, maybe he will reduce the pain of her family, keep her happy wherever she is now”, and I would keep praying whenever I felt like it.

I started hoping I had a sister, or a female friend/wife/daughter, whose hands I can hold and promise – “I will never let anything bad happen to you, I will always be there with you, for you.” – A way to ease my guilt by protecting someone. I would repeatedly call my father, tell him of the story and ask him for a way to ease my pain. I still do. I would keep thinking of my mother, and hope she was with me.

I hear the interview of the girl’s friend on a TV channel, and the pain increases. “God, how could a bunch of humans turn into blood-thirsty monsters?” – would be my question. “Maybe I feel like this as I have seen such news for the first time, the pain will ease up with time”, I tell myself. The pain should ease with a hope, some hope, from somewhere.

Now there is a quiet determination, to prevent crime against women whichever way I can, there is an anguish because I could have done nothing to save my unknown sister on that fateful day, and there is a fierce effort, to rally others with me, to use their vote for women’s issues whenever next election comes around. Perhaps the guilt would be less if she had lived. But never mind, I have my other duties too. OK, the judiciary might still surprise me, by hanging the 6-accused. Oh, I forgot about the juvenile (anger joins the pain inside me.). I desperately hope I can see that our brave heart “Damini” is happy, wherever she is…

My search for that one hope continues…