Tuesday, July 31, 2012

There is no Governance

The record-breaking collapse of the Northern Power Grid today was followed by another record-breaking failure, this time of not just the Northern Grid but the Eastern and North-Eastern grids too. If Monday's failure plunged 100 million into darkness, disrupted the Delhi Metro and parts of the Indian Railways, Tuesday's was even more spectacular, bringing down 600 million people, 300 long-distance trains and of course, the Delhi Metro.

Such was the severity that the one and only source of power left in all of Uttar Pradesh was the Narora Nuclear Power Plant; hydropower was purchased from Bhutan again; and Odhisha was forced to draw from the Southern Grid to restore some normalcy. And the greatest story to come out of this was that the Union Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who presided over this grand spectacle, has not been sacked, oh no, not even reprimanded. Instead, he has now joined the "big four" by being elevated to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Now, apart from that (which is actually not a big surprise considering what happened with Vilasrao Deshmukh), it is true that the blame lies with the states, Haryana, Punjab and UP to be precise. These three have been massively overdrawing from the grid. But then, anybody would do that, given the opportunity. And who gave them that opportunity? The UPA Government. When it was a fact that these have been regularly overdrawing and there is a danger of a grid failure, penalties should have been immediately put on them to prevent such an eventuality. Instead, the Union Power Ministry sat back and watched - something that any Government could have done. In fact, you don't even need a Government for that!

Now, like always, the Ministry has decided to do something after the crisis has happened. The CMDs of Power Distribution Corporations of the states in the Northern Grid have been summoned and fines have been mooted to prevent overdrawing. However, the truth remains that, apart from the massive leakages which are completely the states' fault, India is short of power. Nuclear power has not delivered because the UPA Government does not have the stomach or credibility to see it through; and renewable energy is still too nascent. At the same time, conventional sources are becoming more expensive and demand for power is rising.

This is a crisis of the finest kind: it proves that the UPA has managed this country so badly that everything is coming back to him them. And hard. Until and unless this misfit Government leaves office, nothing can improve. India does not need some mini-reforms, it needs a total and massive overhaul, starting with the very top first.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Another Consequence of Negligence

The ongoing violence in the Bodoland Districts of Assam, which has already killed too many lives and displaced thousands, is a clear consequence of negligence of the region and a policy of turning a blind eye to illegal migrants that the Congress has always followed albeit tacitly.

The first problem is the way the Assam and Central Governments have used the BTC as a sort of sub-contractor for what is their job. There has been no development in the areas, despite the autonomy given to them. Already, the Central Government is blind towards the Northeast and even the Assam Government does not seem to care for tribal groups, even the largest of them. Instead of dealing with political issues, the Government has always gone for short-term fixes like bringing in the Army, as though that has ever solved anything.

And speaking of political issues, the fact of the matter remains that the Congress has spared no attempt to protect illegal migrants from Bangladesh, who have now captured political power themselves and have displaced the indigenous Indians who belong to that land. This is a dangerous situation, one that will see even worse clashes in the future.

For the violence to end on a permanent basis, there is an immediate need for peace talks and real agreements without compromising Indian sovereignty. And that will not happen under the present UPA regime, which has proved time and again that it is thoroughly incompetent.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

World War 2: The Delhi Trials

After World War 2, the world witnessed the high-profile prosecution of Nazis at the Nuremberg Trials and the Japanese at the Tokyo Trials. However, in a forgotten part of history, another historic set of trials were held in Delhi - trials that, instead of bringing justice to the British Empire, led to the beginning of the end of the Empire itself.

The historic Red Fort Trials of INA Soldiers amalgamated the nation one last time before partition. OTFS brings you the story from the last stand of the British Empire in India.

World War 2: The Delhi Trials
Coming Soon

Friday, July 20, 2012

Not The End

At the time that this sentence was being typed, I had exactly one hour left in TU Munich. Although my work was done yesterday and I already collected my documents, I came one last day to fulfill my promise to work till July 20. Today.

To commemorate my final week, I've run a FB Status Update series #LastWeekInMünchen with some enviable quotes and poetry that capture my time here:

Journey Home - By Rabindranath Tagore

The time that my journey takes is long and the way of it long.

I came out on the chariot of the first gleam of light, and pursued my
voyage through the wildernesses of worlds leaving my track on many a star and planet.

It is the most distant course that comes nearest to thyself,
and that training is the most intricate which leads to the utter simplicity of a tune.

The traveler has to knock at every alien door to come to his own,
and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost shrine at the end.

My eyes strayed far and wide before I shut them and said `Here art thou!'

The question and the cry `Oh, where?' melt into tears of a thousand
streams and deluge the world with the flood of the assurance `I am!'

#LastWeekInMünchen


Be he a king or a peasant, he is happiest who finds peace at home.
- Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

#LastWeekInMünchen

Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.
-Henry David Thoreau

#LastWeekInMünchen

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – Tim Cahill

#LastWeekInMünchen

"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
-Winston Churchill

#LastWeekInMünchen #LastDayAtTUM

My last one will be tomorrow, after which I will be packing my laptop and leaving for Flughafen München (Munich Airport). As for OTFS, this summer we brought you 1966: The Bombing of Aizawl, The DAAD Files, End-Year Review and also a part of The making of IITR MUN 2012. We were not as active as last year, but that is understandable, given the little time left for blogging.

More will follow. But this could very well be the last post from Munich. The next one will be from India - home.

Where It All Began

I am tired. Yes, I have fought. Since the branch change altered my life two years ago, I have fought so many wars that I do not even care to count them anymore. But now, I am truly and in every sense of the word - tired.

Thanks to my German internship, which was a great experience, I could not even have a summer break to calm my senses. I shall have to start running from the word 'Go'. There are several challenges ahead - GRE, TOEFL, Applications, Intern Seminar, Major Project, Minor Project, Placements, managing the new faculty adviser for LitSec, keeping DebSoc alive... there is so much.

But I am willing to fight. Never have I refused to fight a legitimate battle, though I have had to fight several illegitimate ones.

I just know one thing - the symmetrical nature of the world demands that nothing ends until all the open chains are closed; until all the loose ends are bound. My journey, an extraordinary one that has seen me go from the abyss of no return to the heights of glory, from a small campus in Saharanpur to TU Munich, began in one place - DPT, Saharanpur.

I do not know how, I'm not sure if it is even possible, but that is where it began, and that it where it shall end.

(Series Concluded)

The Dawn of Empire

With the end of both The Great War as well as the Little War, I can now look forward to a year when the only war I shall have to fight is with myself.

The Wars have been murderous and have cost me a great deal. My relationship with my own year stands precariously balanced on my position within the Civil Union, something that can change at any time. I do not trust anyone in my own year. Silently, a great source of support and strength - my seniors - was taken away from me, although I should have of course expected it.

Physically,. the Wars left me with little control of health. For two years, I could control my body through my mind - sleep, routines, work were all efficiently managed.  But once the wars broke it, this edifice collapsed. To rebuild it will be the hardest task of all.

I now stand on the top of the Debating Club and #2 in the Literary Section (although I never work under anybody), establishing what I had dreamed of in my first year - an Empire. I now have that Empire an able deputies to aid me. I trust my juniors, perhaps more than I really should. And in that Empire lies my future for the year.

But having established Empire, whose thrown I shall assume on July 24, I realize that the Wars have left me a shadow of myself. TO rebuild, to recreate the magic that had lasted will be the true Final War.

The Many Little Wars

The last year has been a year of contant struggle for me. While the great war in the Literary Section was the focal point of it, there were innumerable smaller struggles - the many Little Wars.

The most hurtful war was in Kshitij, where my former friends in English Ed began to disgust me no end. It was here that I discovered that those that I had considered allies were actual an embodiment of evil. Part of it was a spillover from the war in LitSec, but this was mostly a separate war.

The Little War in Kshitij, of course, ended when our Triumvirate took control of the section and eventually completed all assigned goals and went on to push our own candidates through as our successors, but even in that, my recommendations for the English Ed met stuff resistance. While I did conquer Kshitij as a whole, English Ed remained an unconquerable edifice. In face, towards the end, I was not even interested anymore. It has no future.

Another Little War was within my own class - over the issue of CE-300. In this one war, I faced absolute defeat in the rhetorical terms. However, when it ended with a full A+ for me, and an eventual destruction of the Fallen Theory, it made no difference. Now, with the impending CE-403 seminars, it seems this Little War may be reignited.

MUN 2012 was another Little War, but one on which I was fortunate to have a ring of allies. We came through like gold. Similarly, in the Nav Umang Little War, it ended with an astoundingly perfect victory for me and my allies.

The War of the Bhawan was the last war I fought, one in which I found myself rather isolated until the full force of the Civil Union came forth. This war, which, by benefit of hindsight, I can say I was destined to win, was fought in accordance with my doctrine of independent thought and action, whatever be the price. The enemies eventually lost not because I was much more powerful personally (I was not) but because they themselves were so weak and without any of the capabilities needed to fight such a war.

The Failure Theory was perhaps a phony war that gained currency. The idea was that because I had put my foot into so many Little Wars and the Great War in LitSec kept raging throughout, my academics were bound to take a beating. Indeed, even I had prepared for such an eventuality with the 0.2-mandate. The neo-ghissus were fighting on single-minded and were hungry for power. Eventually, and this shocked even me, my perfect 10 proved their theory false.

And such were the little wars fought.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Where you belong

This weekend, I decided not to go to Augsburg or Nürnberg again and instead take a hike around München itself. And a wise decision it proved, for I have fallen in love with this historic and beautiful city once again.

Over the last two months, we have used our public transportation passes fully, seeing all the famous parts of Munich. So whether it be the historic Odeonsplatz or the busy Marienplatz, the traditional tourist centres have been visited by us.

In the weekend, I went to what can be called a "temporary" wonder: the Theriesenwise, site of the Oktoberfest. And overlooking the now-empty ground is a magnificent statue  simply called Bavaria, constructed by König Ludwig. From the statue, I saw Munich. The old Munich - the one that you fantasize about.

Then I hopped onto a random bus which traveled for long with just one passenger. From Harass I went to Sendlinger Tor and from there to some of the most beautiful stations ever on the U1 -> Olympia Einkaufzentrum.

All in all, it was the first time I felt like a tourist in Munich. But it was different... so easy. And then I understood: I was not being a tourist, I was being a Münchner.

Munich. München. Whichever way you choose to live it, it was my home. And I will always have a sense of belonging to this beautiful city.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Final Week

The countdown has finally begun. In a few days from now, I will be on that much-awaited Lufthansa flight back to India. Here begins my last weekn in München, a city that I have come to love, despite all its shortfalls.

It feels a little funny to think of going back to my old life. Will I ever really be able to go back? Surely, something woukld be different. Would I also start randomly saying hello to perfect strangers? Would I queue up perfectly at every opportunity?

What have I learned from this experience? A lot - I have learned that I can indeed fend for myself, that I am indeed worth something. And I have learned that I need not be the one to always sacrifice, that I owe it to myself to think about me. But I have also learned how important friends can be to life.

In terms of history, I have stood on some of the most historical sites of European history. In terms of culture, I have tasted and ejoyed whatever I could. In terms of people, I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly and understood where I stand. And in terms of nationality, I have confirmed that I am solidly Indian.

So much in just two months! Leaving Germany or Europe is not of great significance to me - change is an accepted part of my life and I am actually very excited to see my old friends again and execute some plans I had in mind. I am disappointed to leaving München though - here is the first city where I lived, truly in every sense of the word - on my own. When to wake up, what to cook, when to clean, what to do: each and every decision was, for the first time, in my own hands. Few make these decisions this early in their lives, and I am one of the lucky ones.

My 21st birth anniversary came in München. It shall be a special moment forever: the year I truly learned to be myself. In this last week, I shall look to not just complete the work assigned to me - which is done anyway - but also to finish everything as it should be.

What does that mean? I will find out.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Grand Ending

Well, with all the extra-curricular activities and the sudden explosion of ghissupanti in CE-III, I did plan for my CGPA to take a hit this semester. Unusually, the plan failed this time - not only did I hit, yet again, my highest SGPA and CGPA ever, it was also the highest possible number: the first perfect 10 since I came to IITR!

Some of the grades were on expected line CE-300 was always in the bag, what with the coordinator being in the bag and my speaking skills already well-sharpened in the Debating Club. Speaking of the Debating Club, despite Vinayak's lousy jokes, I did get an A+ in PR-304, but only after Vinayak put up a brave fight against the new faculty adviser. Managing him will be a huge challenge next year.

CE-354 was somewhat expected, particularly since people goofed up the second MTE. But since my ETE was not that great, I was a little worried. But it worked out well. The same goes of IAH-02: I did very well in MTE-1 but everybody did well in MTE-2. But it seems that being the first to come to class did have a positive effect! CE-332 was a pretty close shave, with my MTE marks being good but not great. Of course, my PRS/CWS must have saved me, since I probably got a full score in both.

And then came the surprise: CE-362. My MTE was below what I had expected, the PRS was OK, the PRE was good and the CWS was supposed to bomb, what with the extra emphasis on handwriting! But it seems that I've managed to get the Transportation Engineering Group in my hand, which is what I had hoped for. An A+ here is a great way to begin what I hope will become a career.

And then the shock: an A+ in CE-352. This was one hell of a subject: I failed to understand a word of what I was doing, that IS Code extracted pure hatred from me . I just wanted to get over with it, I goofed up my ETE and God knows what else. And I got an A+! I suspect the reason for this is less my own achievement and more the under-achievement of the rest of the class. But then, that's the flip side of relative grading!

A perfect 10 has pushed my CGPA up to one of the highest ever in the Civil Engineering Department and I will get a cash prize for this. But the real challenge is to keep it going for one more year. And that challenge is named - CE-451!

Lunch, anyone?

Ah, the sandwich. The humble invention of a gambler too lazy to get up. What would I do without it? When I first came to Germany, I was told that I'd have to live on the stuff for two months, not a very appealing prospect. However, in Germany, I have managed to reinvent the sandwich with all sorts of exciting ingredients. With one week left, I present to you - The Munich sandwich.

It began with simple bread and butter. My flatmate accused me of being crazy by having it everyday for a week for breakfast. And then I discovered strawberry jam for €0.55 at PENNY - that, I thought, would be the ultimate snack for me. Oh, was I wrong. One day, I decided to experiment with pepper by adding a bit of pepper to my butter sandwich (I also tried it on jam, but that was a grand failure). Oh, heavens, what delight! The sharp tinge of the pepper coupled with the butter was fabulous.

And then, while browsing through the shelves at PENNY, I discovered some cheap mozzarella cheese. I had meant to take this to add to my weekly pasta, but one fine morning I decided to put a little over the pepper and then microwave it a bit to make it melt. And viola! A cheese and pepper sandwich! I continued to have that for a week, until I got a can of corn from REAL - a few cobs of corn in the sandwich added some great taste and fibre to it.

The final stage came when I tasted Sauerkraut at Haufbraeu House and then found it (really cheap) at PENNY. Add a bit of sauerkraut in the sandwich and microwave it for 30 sec more - that is one heck of a Munich sandwich!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bavarian Delight!

One of the most-loved dishes of Bavaria is the Pretzel (Brezel in German)... a thick, slightly salty bread shaped in a quintessential shape, much like a proud Bavarian mustache! A Pretzel makes for an excellent breakfast: it can be tossed in the microwave for just 15 sec after getting it out of the refrigerator.

The cost? Well, at a posh bakery in Munich, it would be €1.50 a stick! But hey, if you've lived in Munich, you'd know that it"s actually cheap, and that means that Penny and Lidl have cheaper options. Yes, €0.29 a stick at Penny - one of the cheapest breakfasts you can get here!

Now, Pretzels alone are great, but why not add a little zing? Traditionally, you eat them with a glass of cold beer, but that's not an option for me. You could have it with sour cream but that doesn't come out too well either. The best combination I've discovered is with Sauerkraut - another German speciality. It's essentially cabbage pickled in wine and spices. Be careful though, it can taste terrible cold. Always warm it and, if possible, put a few spices on top. A pack of 500g costs just €0.39 and lasts for over a week - I've taken to adding it to any random dish just for the great taste, as a sort of dressing!

So, my dear Bavarians, here's to another brilliant dish from Germany's most beautiful state. Guten Apetit!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

How do you write an intern report?

To an English puritan, this question would sound rather dastardly - the jailer waiting to write a report about an inmate, about to decide the future of a fellow being. Well, not quite. The report I mean is the report for my internship at TUM.

I love writing (you have probably guessed that already). But writing a formal report that too without copy-pasting everything is a new challenge. I took some friendly advice and googled it, to be told that my report must be divided into three segments and must begin with an abstract and a literature review. Well, the abstract (a non-technical summary) was easy, the literature review was the tough part. After all, when nearly all the literature comes from a German-speaking university, what do you review?!

All I had was a very complicated thesis from ETH Zürich and some research papers. Well, that will have to suffice. Now, I decided to write my report on Google Docs, so that I can write both at home and in office without worrying about syncing it (incidentally, it's now called Google Drive). Well, good for me, but Google Drive is no MS Word: I cannot set up an auto contents page or add captions directly (which is funny, because I can in Blogger) or even set up a two-column text, which is actually easier to do in Office 2000 than in Office 2010!

So obviously, I will have to export all my work to MS Word eventually and then publish it to a PDF file. But that's later: I need to write my report first. Germany has some tough IP laws, which means I might have to hide the fact that I flicked all their code till I get back home! Fortunately, their code gave me two appendices and about 15 pages for free. I've divided my work into some chapters based on what part I've covered (introduction image processing, calibration etc.). I do fear that there is too much C++ code in it, but then, I've added enough pictures and image analysis to make up for that.

Even better: I have a set of readings. Not the final set, sadly, but eighty readings, which I could actually present in my final report and make up some calibration values (not recommended though).

A senior told me that the research in DAAD is not so great. Well, that's not entirely true: realistically, I've done very little work but I need just a few more days to finish this thing, which is great, since I have a dozen-odd working days left. Now, if I can just get to finishing that report...

In the Background

After the delegates and the EB were set (although that process really never ended till the moment the MUN began), it was time to focus on domestic affairs. Fortunately, Harshit and I had very little to do in that - our co-coordinators had come i.

The first priority was to get a set of volunteers and International Press Corps. Of course, to avoid too much WONA-influence, I did  get a Kshitij member (and one with a bit of a political history). Thanks to our co-coordinators Mrigaunk and Aditya, we found good candidates pretty easily.

And then came the logistics - any MUN requires one thing in large quantities: PAPER. Although the need for that has reduced since laptops became cheaper, you still cannot substitute placards with LCD screens (yet). And so we (they!) began the arduous task of making placards. There's an interesting tale here: with all the cancellations, Harshit and I sat together in his room and worked out what countries we were sure would be represented. That list we forwarded to the co-coordinators, who gave it to the volunteers for the placards.

But come D-Day, and we found ourselves short of placards! We had so many people whom we never thought would come. And then we realized we had to get more. But with participants flowing in, Harshit and I had no time to spare. It was then that the co-coordinators took it up to get the printouts and make some emergency placards - that moment made me proud. We had chosen the right people, after all.

A few other things were needed for the MUN: while I handled the venue (which the Cogni people dutifully mixed up!), Mrigaunk took care of the hammer. Getting the venue cleaned up, making sure the IP knows what to do... that and much more were the invisible things that happened behind the scenes at IITR MUN.

Once the event began though, it was nothing: just passing chits around! Of course, without Mrigaunk & Aditya's quick moves to get us extension cords, and the last-minute jugaad for Internet, it wouldn't have been so easy. IITR MUN 2012 was successful because we had such a great team with us - that is the secret of success.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Cut-Throat Competition

In selecting delegates for a MUN, there is one golden rule: do not be fooled by the numbers. Every MUN gets a vast number of applications, but very few of them actually intend to make good their commitments. Add to that the fact that, like most things in India, there is stiff competition between different MUNs for delegates (and the number of councils in a MUN seems to just keep rising) and you can be sure that getting delegates is the hardest part.

For IITR MUN 2012, we expected no more than 100 application, and that's why we insisted on the second committee being very small. We got 250 applications in the first round!  And above that, the applicants were behind our backs for plum appointments: the going seemed good. I can recall many, but I will mention two: TJ, a Law student, and DK, a desperate engineering fresher.

Now, TJ was the perfect applicant: she fretted about her application being on time, she called several times, she begged for great allotments (we gave her UK - a plum post indeed!), we obliged her by lowering that allotment (to Italy). She, in turn, kept calling us and even proved that she had booked her train by sending us the PNR Number. And then, after second allotments, we discover that she and her friend cancelled on us. We normally took cancellations with a pinch of salt - we knew that they happen - but this was different. It was outrageous. We called her and asked for an explanation and what we got was shocking -some dumb story of being hacked and followed. "My life is in danger" - this bitch clearly saw too many TV serials. We were disgusted, but had to move on.

DK was the opposite - his application was so poor that we rejected it outright in our points scheme. But he was adamant - two phone calls a day, a scandalous wall post and several e-mails. We wondered why he wanted to come - we got the standard answer. "Oh it's an IIT, so big and great" and trash like that. But we had grown desperate, so we finally gave him an allotment. Finally, of course, is two days before the event! But he did come - by whatever means, with his senior and without following the rules strictly, he did show up, he did participate and he did not cause us any more trouble.

These are two tales from either side - the good and the ugly. Everything else lay in between. Is this MUN system maintainable at this rate? I don't think so - but at least ours went well. Others, like VIT or ITM, weren't as lucky.

Oh, July!

It's July: just a few weeks of my internship left and I can look forward to going back to Roorkee. In celebration of that joyous feeling, a little couplet.

The month is July,
It's time to return,
Return to where it began.

And go back we shall,
One last time,
To meet an honourable end.

The month will be July,
It will be time to end,
It shall end where it all began.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Final Peace

From Chittagong, the Mizos continued to attack the Indian Army's positions in the Lushai Hills every now and then. Then came the 1971 War of Liberation in Bangladesh, which annihilated the base of the rebel movements in the North East.

By 1967, to move people away from the insurgents, the Army regrouped villages and improved physical infrastructure there under the control of an Army Officer. Eventually, the insurgency was localized to a few small hamlets.

Battered, bruised and sidelines, the MNF saw value in ending their armed struggle and entering mainstream politics. On Jan. 21, 1972, the MNF agreed to give up arms and in return, the Union Territory of Mizoram was carved out of Assam.

In 1986, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's government negotiated and signed the Mizo Accord, under which the Union Territory was made a State with its own official language and policies. Pu Laldenga became the first Chief Minister of the State under the MNF party symbol. He took oath under the Indian Constitution.

Lessons Learned
The Mizo Uprising of 1966 was the result of inhuman indifference towards a suffering Indian population and the total lack of development in the region. Neither of these two have gone away and hence, insurgency in the region continues. Until and unless we recognize the region as an integral part of the very foundation of the Union, there will be no end to this war.

The bombing of Aizawl, officially denied but confirmed by several sources both within and without the Armed Forces, remains the darkest moment in the history of the region, when a dictator of a Prime Minister demonstrated that country came before nation. The same questions were asked when the Union Cabinet, in 2009, debated whether to use the IAF against Naxals in Chhatisgarh. Fortunately, the idea was rejected.

Some lessons have been learned. Some have not.

(Concluded)

To Crush a Rebellion

The MNF created a military wing, the Mizo National Army (MNA), that was divided into eight infantry battalions and organized much like the Indian Army. The MNA consisted of 2,000 trained soldiers as well as an equal number of armed, irregular volunteers.

The MNF received training and support from East Pakistan, which was seeking to make use of the insurgency to weaken the Indian Army's hold on Kashmir. The MNF began to extort local businesses and collect an illegal tax from the people to fund their uprising, while additionally receiving hardware from Pakistan. They also used weapons seized during raids on the BSF and the Assam Rifles. By 1965, the MNF was a powerful insurgency that had weakened the Government's hold on the Mizo hills.

The Turning Point
In 1965, the Indo-Pakistan Kashmir War broke out and the MNF jumped at the opportunity. A plan was laid out to attack and disarm the local police force as well as the BSF and the AR, which would be preoccupied in the War. Two key components of the plan were the local support inside the police and Armed Forces that the MNF enjoyed since its MNFF days; and the remoteness of the region which would make it difficult to send in reinforcements. Under the so-called Operation Jericho, the MNF hoped to raise its flag over Aizawl for 48 hours so that friendly countries such as Pakistan would take up its cause at the UN. It was to be a lightning strike.

The War Begins
On the night of Mar. 1/Feb 28, 1966, the MNF launched operations simultaneously against 1 AR, 5 BSF and the local Police. By Mar. 7, their operation turned out to be a major success, with all major posts under their control and all important, non-Mizo government officials under their custody. The insurgents also destroyed phone links to Shillong and Silchar, which further helped their battle.

On Mar. 1, 1966, Declaration of Mizo Independence was read out. Laldenga read it out in Aizawl and called for all Mizos to rise up against the "illegal Indian occupation." Except for the main post of 1 AR, Aizawl had fallen by Mar. 2 and Mizo prisoners set free to loot and burn Government institutions.

The Response
Alarmed by the MNF's blitzkrieg, the Government of Assam invoked AFSPA in the hills and called for resolute action. AFSPA allowed military action against civilian insurgents. However, for the Army to reclaim positions, it was necessary to hold the insurgents back. And that called for the Air Force to step in.

On Mar. 4, 1966, the IAF sent its Toofani jets to strafe targets in Aizawl. The next day, more extensive bombing of civilian areas was carried out. The relentless bombing of Aizawl saw massive fires engulf the city and mass immigration. As the Army was finally able to step in, it adopted a strategy of relocating whole populations to villages along the highway. The overall control of the operation was under the Eastern Army Command under Lt. Gen Sam Manekshaw, who later became India's only Field Marshal. This strategy effectively crippled the insurgency, but also destroyed the tribal cultures that are linked intimately with their hills.

By Mar. 7, the MNF retreated to Lunglei and prepared for a final showdown. Fortunately, two Christian clergymen managed to orevent further airstrikes in Lunglei and also convinced the MNF not to attack the ground forces, The Army took control of Lunglei on Mar. 13. The MNF command went into hiding in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of East Pakistan.

(Continued...)

From Famine to Independence

When the British Empire began to crumble and leave its crown jewel, India, the states in what is now Northeast India were merged together into one Assam state. The state was probably the most diverse in the Union, with thousands of tribes and languages and varying topography. The state was also the most neglected of the lot, because of its small population, remoteness and the Mongoloid racial features of its inhabitants. Yet, Assam remained a part of the Union, its easternmost province, rich with mineral wealth.

In 1966, the silence of Assam was broken when the Mizo National Front took control of the district headquarters of Aizawl and declared Independence. The MNF began as a relief team for a famine that ravaged the Mizo Hills but was entirely ignored by the Government and people of India. How did a relief team turn itself into an armed rebellion, the first of many? How did the Government of India respond? And what lessons are we to learn from it?

OTFS investigates...

The Mizo Hills
Subsequent to the formation of the Indian Constituent Assembly after the creation of the British-Indian Dominion, a special subcommittee was formed under the Chairmanship of Gopinath Bordoloi to decide on the future of the tribal hills in the Assam province. The British has conquered the Northern and Southern hills where the Mizos lives from Burma and had merged them into the Lushai Hills district in 1898 with Aizawl as its headquarters. The Constituent Assembly chose to retain this system but give the tribal people more autonomy under what became the Sixth Schedule.

The Government of India was not too interested in the tribal affairs of Assam and chose to sublease that work to the Government of Assam. In terms of numbers, that means that the Assamese were given the power to decide the future of all the tribes in the region, a fact that was a cause for resentment. The introduction of Assamese as the only official language of the state after the States Reorganization Commission was a source of further tension.

Mautam
The term Mautam means "bamboo death." It signifies a cyclical explosion in the growth of bamboo in the Lushai Hills once every 85 years. Because of the increased bamboo population, the number of rats also increases. By 1959, the rats had eaten every grain in the hills and the Governments of both Assam and India ignored the starvation deaths in the region. People were forced to hunt for roots and leaves to provide sustenance to their children: it was a natural disaster for the people.

In 1959, amongst others, the Mizo Cultural Society was founded by Pu Laldenga as a relief group. As the devastation grew, the Society increased the scope of its activities and accordingly renamed itself the Mautam Front. It later became the Mizo National Famine Front. The MNFF became hugely popular amongst the youth in this process and boasted of thousands of members.

In 1961, thoroughly disillusioned with the way the Mizos were treated as second class citizens in India, the MNFF turned itself into a political front - the Mizo National Front under Laldenga with the ultimate goal of achieving Mizo Independence. The MNF began a series of armed uprisings all over the hills, which culminated in the 1966 capture of Aizawl.

(Continued...)

The French Voyage

For any traveler in Europe, a must-see place is Paris. For anyone planning to stay in Europe, a must-avoid place in Paris. This is the dichotomy I discovered on my way to France. Though the journey was also memorable - €11.50 reservation on CNL, the worst train in Europe, the train that is supposed to be a night train but is so well-designed that you can never get any sleep on it.

Anyway, in Paris, we were fortunate enough to have some great local friends to show us around. The first stop was the Louvre Museum, the largest museum scheduled for our Eurotrip (yes, I have used that word at last!) where we set aside a good four hours. The Egyptian section was my personal favourite, although the Graeco-Roman section was also very good. The cherry on top of the cake was the Mona Lisa - the real thing - which was much smaller than the other paintings but drew the largest crowds.

From the Louvre, we made our way to the Eiffel Tower. As expected, there was a serpentine line awaiting us. After an hour of standing in line (during which we ate a little bread too!) we were greeted to a man attempting to scale the Tower, forcing the police to rearrange the line and pushing up front. We declined to walk up to the second level because we were so tired, so we paid a good €12.5 for the full elevator - and it was worth it! The Eiffel Tower is an absolute must-see for any Parisian tourist.

The cheapest thing is Paris is the metro day ticket - €3.55 for three zones. The Paris metro sucks of course, and a vast number of people manage to get in without a ticket. The metro rails themselves are ancient, crowded and difficult to use, especially if you compare it to Munich's U-Bahn/S-Bahn system. The most expensive thing in Paris is food, which we did buy plenty of for the night stay at a friend's.

The next day we say some more great places, including the Cathedral of Notre Dame (and a great little souvenir store run by Indians/Pakistanis) and La Defense, the new and modern city on the RER (which is the more modern, long-distance metro system). With that ended a trip to Paris - and was I glad to be back to Munich or what!

A Funny Place

Last weekend, we went on a trip to the netherworld or Europe - Amsterdam and Brussels. Brussels was just to shop for Belgian Chocolates (which are delicious) and the real trip was to Amsterdam.

The whole country of the Netherlands (whose Dutch-speaking area is call Holland) lies below sea-level, which means that they are at constant war with water. That made the Dutch expert hydraulics engineers, who designed a complex, concentric system of canals that run through the city and keep the water at bay. The canals are supported by the traditional windmills whose job is to pump out water from the reclaimed land.

The canals have now become prime real estate in the city, with houseboats standing with regular settlements. Because of the lack of land, houses were taxed by width, which explains the very narrow houses in Amsterdam! The houseboats even have their own addresses and electricity connections and are taxed just like regular property!

Amsterdam is an expensive city, but there are a number of sales going around at this time. There is no need to buy any metro pass since the actual diameter you can possibly see is just 7km. A visit to I Amsterdam is a must - a beautiful park with witty designs makes for a great afternoon with friends.

And then there is the night tourism - the red light district. Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands and is actually a well-regulated industry competing with itself. Thousands walk through the area - individuals, couples, groups - to see what was a strange sight. The prostitutes did not even seem human somehow: digital, business-like... it felt like a human zoo. Some would enter and make use of their services (at €50 an hour) but most would walk by. Pictures are strictly banned.

Drugs are also legal here and the weed-cakes (space cakes) are a part of the tourism. Though we walked, the best way to see the city is by bike (bicycle, but don't call it that) - there are more bikes that cars in Amsterdam!

As for Brussels, the European Capital is a delightful place, small and beautiful with very helpful people. The rain spoiled out day there but not before we tasted and purchased some amazing chocolates!

Here's the Heat


The city of Munich lies deep to the South of Germany, close to the border with Austria. As with all things south in the northern hemisphere, the weather can get very extreme. This summer just experienced the hottest day yet in Munich, with the maximum temperature hitting 33C.

Now, 33C might seem low by Indian standards, but even then, it is pretty high and certainly higher than one would expect from a European country! Supposedly, it can go even upto 35C, which is certainly hot even by Indian standards. Add to the fact that the river Isar flows through Munich and the terrible humidity (RH of over 50%) that it creates, and Saturday was indeed the hottest day yet!

We went to a number of places - Koenigsplatz, Englischer Garten (the only point of relief), the Arena and Dachau KZ Memorial - despite the heat with friends from Duisburg in the North. Their comment was also that it is extremely hot. For some reason, MMV's buses do not have windows, which means that the ten minutes journey to and from Dachau Bf to the KZ Memorial was terrible. The U-Bahns are better since you can open the vents. The S-Bahns are the best because they are temperature-controlled.

When I came to Germany, the last thing I expected was to sweat as though I was running around in Chennai. Well, that just about happened. New experiences!