On August 24th 2017, WikiLeaks published secret documents from the ExpressLane project of the CIA pertaining to the cyber operations the OTS (Office of Technical Services), a branch within the CIA conducts against liaison services. The OTS provides a biometric collection system to liaison services around the world with the expectation for sharing of the biometric takes collected on the systems. Additionally, the CIA has developed ExpressLane - a covert information collection tool to secretly exfiltrate data collections from these systems without the knowledge of the vendors as well.
ExpressLane installs and runs covertly behind a benign splash screen indicating a software upgrade and is used when OTS agents perform on site upgrades on the biometric system. The installation raises no suspicions other than the minor notices which don't appear to be out of the ordinary for a software installation.
The core components of the OTS system are based on products from Cross Match, a US company specializing in biometric software for law enforcement and the Intelligence Community. The company hit the headlines in 2011 when it was reported that the US military used a Cross Match product to identify Osama bin Laden during the assassination operation in Pakistan. This company also provides biometrics collection systems for UIDAI's Aadhaar in India.
The response to these revelations in India has been astonishingly muted. A foreign government having access to confidential and highly accurate information on citizens of India amounts to an attack on India's sovereignty. The existence of Aadhaar itself now becomes a government sanctioned weapon against the country and citizens. The Aadhaar must be destroyed.
The few reports in media restrain themselves to very conservative reporting of the actual leaks without committing themselves to stating the implications for the country. This too is concerning, because it indicates an inadequate comprehension of how tech works in the media and renders the media toothless when it comes to providing public oversight on the highly insecure progression of the Digital India project.
On its part, the UIDAI has issued its standard voodoo denials. No explanations, no data, no alarm, no need for any investigations, nothing. Assurances that "all is well, don't worry" is all the UIDAI appears to have on any of the mounting concerns about the Aadhaar being illegally imposed on the citizens of India with blatant disregard to repeated orders of the Supreme Court. And of course, flat out lies - the hallmark of anything supported by the Modi government. Here are some claims debunked.
Aadhaar system has stringent security features to prevent any unauthorised transmission of data.
And here we thought UIDAI filed a case against Abhinav Srivastava, co-founder ofQarth Technologies Pvt. Ltd, who released an entire app that made unauthorized use of Aadhaar data e-kyc, then let him go, because he didn't have bad intentions. And oh, they complained about unauthorized access and then also claimed that no data was breached. We get it. There was no breach. He was using an authorized api without being authorized. No breach. Just reading news on the UIDAI is enough to give anyone who understands tech security high blood pressure.
No, Aadhaar most certainly doesn't have stringent security features to prevent unauthorized transmission of data. Aadhaar devices were not even encrypted till well after UIDAI started claiming 90% enrolment across the country (another dubious claim, for another day).
“Some vested interests are trying to spread misinformation that since ‘Cross Match’ is one of many devices which are being used in biometric devices by various registrars and agencies in Aadhaar ecosystem, the biometrics being captured for Aadhaar are allegedly unauthorisedly accessed by others.”
This is complete bullshit. The vast majority of people objecting to Aadhaar have nothing to gain from its failure (other than national and personal security). In contrast, the vast majority of people defending Aadhaar without any data, independent audit, robust explanations of technology and worse are invariably employed by UIDAI or its affiliates or have founded them (or, in a recent trend, are anonymous handles - I wonder who, other than Sharad Sharma could be behind those). Where is the misinformation in CIA being a spy agency, or it being known to engage in illegal and digital spying or it being known to subvert democratic governments in countries? Where is the "misinformation" in a leak of secret documents on a site that so far has never been questioned on the authenticity of leaked information it publishes?
Aadhaar biometric capture system has been “developed within our own country and it has adequate and robust security features to prevent any possibility of any such unauthorised capture and transmission of data regardless of any biometric device that may be used”.
This statement can be true, only if the UIDAI spokesman is a US national, because even the UIDAI website offers driver downloads for Cross Match and L-1 devices. The same Cross Match and L-1 that have apparently got biometric capture systems from the OTS branch of CIA on the understanding of data sharing. And the Express Lane is the data theft on top of that.
“In addition, there are many other rigorous security features and processes within UIDAI ensuring that no biometric data of any individual is unauthorized accessed by anyone in any manner whatsoever,”
Golden rule in C-Sec is: If physical access is compromised, everything is gone. Wikileaks talks about physical access. It is about installing a backdoor on the source where biometric is acquired at the device driver level. Encryption argument is useless in that case. But encryption != Security.
(update: UIDAI has made some vodoo argument about how access is secured on UIDAI premises and what not. It is nonsense. Aadhaar data is collected out in the real world where the espionage would be happening. Whether UIDAI pickles the data or freezes in some on premises further access to foreign companies it makes no difference to that)
How much Aadhaar data and how much access do foreign BSPs have?
And this information is from an RTI filed by Col. Thomas, that the BSP (Biometric Service Provider) "may have access to personal data of the purchaser (UID), and/or a third party or any resident of India..." Further, Clause 3, which deals with privacy, says that the BSP could "collect, use, transfer, store and process the data".
In other words, the UIDAI has been deliberately undermining Indian security using Indian funds and flat out lying about its activities. The entire organization must be dismantled and its leaders investigated.
The war that was brewing on the internet since 2009 seems to have been unleashed on the country at large, and it is increasingly looking like the rotten framework of India is powerless to withstand it. A defeated, demoralized Congress cowers from the consequences of its own choices and is too busy navel gazing to see the larger picture beyond the "alarming" rise of the right wing. Liberal elites are content with posing opinions from the high perch of a supposed neutrality.
On the ground, the country is savagely sabotaged and enslaved in the worst of ways with the political collusion of the Congress that would rather protect itself from accusations by not provoking BJP. The demon of communal fanatism that the Congress let thrive in order to point at it and look angelic has cannibalized the Congress, the BJP itself and is headed for the country.
That BJP saw a winning horse in the success of the 2002 riots is hardly a secret, no matter how much "development" it is coated with. The relentless exploitation of every weakness of the system to cover up and present a facade of noble ideals has led to an unprecedented war on India from within. Defended staunchly when exposed, otherwise sinking into obscurity and letting the "development story" unfold.
While most of BJP supporters appear to be moderate, educated and supposedly law abiding, they have stood the test of time, never deviating from seeing Modi as the ideal, no matter what inhumanity gets exposed.
There is abundant evidence that the Gujarat state rewarded those guilty of riots and did its best to defend them. Maya Kodnani, responsible for several deaths and inciting mobs into murder got the Ministry for Women and Children. That bubble burst only with the dedicated efforts of activists (who were continuously painted as enemies of India). Babu Bajrangi's sting that shows a chilling insight into the matter-of-fact butchery. This ought to be enough for anyone who puts country over religion, political party or community to shun the BJP. But those accusing Muslims of putting religion over country are consistently doing it themselves. Very very few BJP supporters stopped being BJP supporters because Hindus killed Muslims who were Indians too.
This pattern repeats over and over. The Ishrat Jahan case showed clear extra-judicial murder. With complete disregard for the law and complete lack of apology for disregarding the law, BJP supporters insist that she was a terrorist, and that is why it is ok. Her being a terrorist is disputed, and even if she were a terrorist, a custodial killing faked as an encounter is cold murder. The acceptance of the Hindutva war machine disguised as the arms of the state replacing the judicial system makes a mockery of claims of patriotism.
Vanzara's letter from prison after the arrest of Asaram makes it clear that he had abdicated his duty to the country and had pledged his loyalty to the dictator in waiting and that the fake encounters were indeed fake. Aseemanand seems to take pride in his role in Hindu terror and is clear on the approval he got from the top leadership of the RSS. Revelations such as these get dismissed as "political conspiracy" even when they fit the facts better than the evasions and excuses BJP makes. Aseemanand's case is even more strange. His statement before a magistrate is apparently fake. His sting interview is apparently fake. Why? Because his lawyer says so. While Aseemanand himself consistently says something else.
The lack of convictions of BJP's guilt, when the state machinery being systematically misused to prevent justice and destroy evidence is abundantly on record. Cases transferred out of Gujarat have done better. It is no coincidence that Modi's sidekick Amit Shah was forced to leave Gujarat to protect the trials.
Over the years, BJP has successfully woven a story of its dictator in waiting being a victim of a false conspiracy to malign him and that he had tried his best during the riots and other bullshit, when Babu Bajrangi's video clearly states Modi's approval.
Modi's own speeches during his election campaign after the riots make no hint of any apology and in fact endorse the riots as a justified response by a majority to traitors within. This too is parroted by his followers by presenting "proofs" of Muslim duplicity, while Modi's speeches are conveniently wiped from public memory. The original videos are taken down from youtube - this is not possible without media collusion, because copies can be removed citing copyright violation, but the originals, uploaded by media channels must be deleted by the channels themselves. Yet content has a way of never dying on the internet, and the award winning documentary "The Final Solution" on the Gujarat riots (dismissed as a conspiracy) contains footage of the speeches (which cannot be dismissed as did not happen):
This, in no way sounds like Modi had any intention whatsoever of preventing the riots, as BJP likes to claim. Not only are BJP supporters keen to take whatever stand allows them to continue supporting Modi without embarrassment - however flimsy - they have over the years contributing to inventing his innocence through sheer repetition of their preferred interpretation and discrediting anyone who says otherwise. This has nothing to do with logic, but then critical thinking is the first victim of mental colonization.
This is clearly the formation of an alternative force within the country that follows its own laws and considers the country's laws and constitution to be optional, while creating a huge noise about patriotism.
There is no alarm that a woman was put under comprehensive surveillance, including surveillance of those she met - a deployment of security forces completely off the record, for the personal interest of the Chief Minister. The man she met, has - independently of this sting - been implicated in cases filed against him by the state government and he is appealing to the Supreme Court to investigate call records of an another Reliance number Modi used to verify his claims of being framed. BJP dismissed this sting with a letter from the woman's father that he had asked for the woman to be protected. BJP doesn't seem to have any problem with the idea that a Chief Minister uses state security for personal reasons without any record. Even if offered at her father's behest, why would protection have to be secret, so that the supposed person at risk doesn't know there is help if she needed it?
But then the BJP has consistently endorsed absolutely every show of force against minorities in recent times and every illegal action by an entity affiliated with them - no matter how illegal, inhuman or unpatriotic it is. BJP ruled states have consistently been soft on criminals supporting BJP terrorizing and assaulting citizens. The only exception is backing off on allowing Sri Ram Sene (of the pink chaddi, pub attack and hoisting Pakistan flag on govt building fame) leader Pramod Muthalik when reactions were impossible to defend against. Supporters who were horrified quickly got over their horror and purred that the BJP listened to them, quite ignoring that BJP did not see anything wrong with inducting him in the first place.
It is war, and it is psyops and disinformation and strategic use of force and whatever it takes to win it. "Truth" is whatever strategy for this win determines it is. An unaccountability is generated by keeping mouthpieces "independent" and "apolitical" as far as possible. Thugs are "unaffiliated". Other than bursts of spontaneous violence, violence that is congruent with the BJP views (and defended by BJP supporters and enjoys impunity in BJP ruled states) usually happens as the actions of random Hindu groups and not BJP - ideally, even RSS will claim to not be affiliated, though they may express approval and pride - as in the Mangalore homestay attack. The guy who assaulted Prashant Bhushan three years ago is now officially in BJP and distributing pamphlets of Kejriwal as Osama Bin Laden at last report. At that time BJP was pretending to support the Jan Lokpal Andolan and he was "unaffiliated".
This election has been a season where the masks fall off and it is too late to do anything about it. The media is already trained to juggle serious accusations and manipulate them into oblivion. Particularly the TV channels. Newspapers are more difficult to control. The internet is impossible to control, and it is here that you find abundant criticism and stripping of this party of treachery of India. But the penetration of internet for news in India is so miniscule, that the counter narrative rarely reaches those on the ground. The stage is set for the large machinery to swing into action, using seemingly unlimited and incomprehensible funds that are not explained by what they declare to the Election Commission.
The BJP propaganda machine claims a wave. And there is indeed a wave in propaganda. Modi stares at you from hoardings, from newspapers, from your TV screens, from internet websites you visit, from pamphlets slipped in your newspaper. The radio tells you to vote for Modi too. The money spent on this is a mind boggling 5000 crores. Yet, the BJP chooses to employ unethical means of disinforming the voter to dissuade them from other possible alternatives. Pamphlets declaring Kejriwal to be a terrorist are circulated in Varanasi before Modi calls him AK49 in a speech. Stories that expose wrongs by BJP are swiftly killed by a media that can spend hours of prime time discussing the imlications of a 10 year old blog post and toppled metal detectors, but not video tapes where "service providers" offer to trigger riots in the country or discredit Rahul Gandhi by spreading rumors that he participated in the gang rape of a woman just before the elections. Hours can be spent discussing a "fingertip rape" where the absolute of guilt is unequivocally discussed, but not the Muzaffarnagar rapes, which served to unite the Hindu vote in favor of BJP uniting dalits and Jats in an eerie echo of the Gujarat riots. Media glosses over those accused in riots getting honored in public ceremonies and getting tickets to contest elections, while the side kick of "Development Man" Modi goes around evoking the riots, claiming the aggressor as the victim and encouraging them to take revenge through the polls. Not unlike Modi's election campaign after the Gujarat riots, where he gave massive speeches explaining how Hindus had been wronged. He won those with a massive margin.
This too is not enough. BJP is so confident of a Modi wave in the population, that they and their allies are putting up fake candidates to sabotage chances of competitors. Media cannot see this as relevant to elections. Complete blackout. But then media themselves are using doctored surveys to project "people's opinion" to favor who they want to encourage people to believe some parties to be more popular and others less popular than they really are, and thus influence voting patterns with classic middle class Indian "everybody thinks". Why would they expose affiliated processes?
It is amazing that the AAP support continues to grow on the ground in spite of a sustained vicious campaign against them aimed at showing them everything from corrupt to terrorist, opportunistic, rapists, rioters and worse. It would seem that the real problem with a 67 year old India is a party that was formed 2 years ago. BJP clearly sees AAP as a sustained threat remaining after the Congress is rather visibly defeated.
And we have the final assault on the country. Aam Aadmi Party representatives have reported compromised poll booths at 110 places in Gurgaon with the nature of compromise ranging from some fake voting during parts of the day to completely BJP controlled booths with mobs of supporters outside, BJP volunteers pressing buttons on the voting machine on behalf of voters, non-secret voting with threats to voters, AAP agents forced to leave and more. This is the open assault on democracy - no matter what party does it and apart from stray reports like INLD in Mewat, it is clear that BJP is massively engaging in electoral rigging. Media has so far maintained complete silence on this. The toothless Election Commission appears to be severely compromised as well.
Given the BJP's sustained insecurity and methods employed to ensure success, it becomes clear that BJP does not care for democracy or India, and is merely interested in controlling the country to profit its undisclosed investors making expenses comparable with the country's.
In my view, a BJP win is still unlikely given that the BJP themselves appear to think that they need to use illegal practices to win. However, what is clear, is that BJP has declared war on India that it intends to win with any means possible. The idea of people of India having a right to choose is not a consideration, just as the rights of the country being attacked are not a concern for invaders . An immoral media is already on the side of colonists, before they have won, encouraging the people to believe that the entity that is actually silencing their right is what they need.
Regardless of the results of this election, India is entering a phase that will make or break it. BJP losing this election will likely expose this further (but not stop it). BJP winning this election will put us firmly on the Pakistan path, only with a "superior and tolerant" religion.
India has hardly faced such attempts at takeover for the first time. The Maoists tried it and were eventually banned as a party and became open about their not recognizing the Indian state as their government and have proceeded to capture parts of the country. BJP on the other hand has not made the mistakes the Maoists made in their bid for the takeover. They have successfully captured the media and business cartels before making their play. This is not unlike what the Congress did for years (which is also how they could "kick the Maoists out" of the legal stakes for representation), if only in a more subtle way, which leaves the government powerless to confront this takeover without wading through their own skeletons.
Not to mention the Congress being exposed in scams without adequate action has lost them support of people, and the little inadequate action they were forced to take has lost them support of the business cartels. They are effectively in a place of "dhobi ka kutta na ghar ka na ghat ka" that is going to be very difficult to recover without complete reinvention - which they so far seem unable to face. They are still clinging to the defaults that left them wide open to corruption for the sake of the support those cartels get - which has already left for other pastures, nicely persuaded by the media machine that the Congress is a corrupt party whitewashing the others in the process and ignoring that the UPA is the only power in rule since the RTI was passed - which is at the root of most disclosures. On a stray note, the Gujarat government was sitting on 14,000 unanswered RTI queries this time last year. That is one way of preventing scam exposes and looking honest, I guess.
BJP is hardly the only party to realize that no information to public is no exposing of self as all six National Parties ordered to institute a Public Inormation Officer by the CIC have simply.... not appointed them. So there is literally no way of getting information on who profits from the bullshit being fed to the country, who supports the spread of this bullshit and how much money goes into facilitating all this.
The Aam Aadmi Party is still young and powerless. Even if they won the elections with a sweeping majority (which they are unlikely to), they cannot match organized thug power that is entrenched into the very fiber of the country through sustained sabotage of democracy when the pillars of democracy themselves have been infiltrated.
And at this point, there is little difference between BJP and Modi. Senior politicians are sidelined. Opposing views sabotaged. The Modi cult prevails, the others must survive or exist. One only needs to look at the leadership within the BJP and the respect for diversity and differences to get an idea of what India is in store for - whether the BJP wins this election or not.
Regardless of who wins this election, India is in for a period of class struggles and violence - whether physical or economic. And we only have ourselves to blame for seeing only what we wanted to see till too late. A BJP government will result in India's undeclared Emergency and BJP not winning will result in immediate riots and less immediate attempts to topple whatever government forms. Whatever funding they have demonstrated so far is not going to sit idle and be okay with BJP not being in power. Return on Investment will demand that the piper be paid.
Yesterday, someone asked me to give three reasons to vote AAP. I understand that there is a lot of invented confusion, controversy and general mud slinging about AAP. The latest is BJP workers supporting pamphlets showing Arvind Keriwal as Osama Bin Laden, while Modi sly speeched him as AK-49. All this does sway minds. But there is plenty of verifiable information that no amount of fooling can hide. Luckily it is also the most important.
Here are five to ponder.
The birth and composition of Aam Aadmi Party
Aam Aadmi Party was born from popular discontent from existing politics. It aims to address the sources of frustration. It is easy to call concerns about price rise populist, but we have seen protest movements worldwide from the rise of inequality. The varied in intensity and result from the Occupy Movement to the Arab Spring, but the middle class has never risen so strongly in a long long while. The needs driving this are real. You can fool someone into thinking something. You cannot fool people into giving up comfort and contributing money and effort day after day for months on end without any guarantees on the end. There really are enough people who see the need to change the politics of India before it is too late.
And you see the difference in the composition of the party. Congress and BJP are offering you the same kind of candidates while promising better government. As Albert Einstein said...
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
What difference in corruption does BJP or Congress expect to deliver if it continues to offer a similar number of candidates accused in crimes, riots, and scams? What is the meaning of selling tickets or helicopter candidates that local teams oppose? Who will those candidates represent?
This is such a cliche that I cringe to list it here, but I have to. Aam Aadmi Party in its short lived government took countless actions that removed corrupt officials from access to their established opportunities. Helplines against corruption, improvement in admission procedures, drastic reduction in bribery and more is of immediate relevance to you.
The FIR against Ambani, though it would achieve little in terms of punishing the collusion in increasing prices nationwide, served to draw attention and raise the alarm, which allowed the action of preventing the immediate price raise that would be sneaked up on the people to become public and be stopped till after the elections. Undoubtedly, it will not happen if Aam Aadmi Party comes to power, and whichever party comes to power will have the responsibility of their actions, but this successfully and I think for the first time allowed people a taste of direct democracy - of voting in their interest on issues that impact them. Do you think the price rise is appropriate or not? Vote accordingly.
There are very direct actionable things that are already hitting corruption where it hurts. So, unlike other parties, a BIG difference is that you don't have to vote for Aam Aadmi Party for it to fight in your interest. It will fight with whatever authority it has. As the government, it made officials accountable. It filed a cheating case as a way of attacking wrongs beyond its reach. Out of any authority, it approached the Election Commission to prevent a drastic price hike and at least give people the chance to fight it, instead of being "automatically" upgraded to inflation. It will fight with whatever it has in hand. It will fight as much as it can reach. It has no intention of stopping. It is YOU who has the opportunity to give them more authority and reach, if what it does is useful to you. I mean seriously, fighting inflation is not useful to who? Which other parties are even attempting to discuss such a serious issue and talking actions that will go into it instead of grand promises?
This is one dog that has sunk its teeth in the fleeing thief and it won't let go. They are unstoppable. I have come to believe this after fully expecting them to be defeated several times, and I have just accepted that they refuse to be blocked with the same tenacity that the political power cartels refuse to let go of exploiting the country for the profit of a few. They flow. Blocked one way, they try another.
This blog was formed to see potential for the common man with limited resources reaching beyond limits. One thing that won my respect was the Delhi Government punching way above their weight class with the FIR against Ambani. It has no authority over gas pricing. It has no control over how the country deals gas resources. So it got creative. It does have the power to act against their citizens being cheated, and the higher prices than due was cheating citizens. And they went with that, instead of moaning about what they would do if they were in power. That shook everyone and his cousin in the power cartels. The time to finesse corruption with sophisticated talk had run out abruptly.
So you have a new avalanche of the evils of AAP. Because it no longer remained about merely a Lok Sabha Election - which no one likes to lose, but isn't the end of the world, as it will happen again in five years. It was now about the death of a cash cow. It AAP was reaching beyond limits this bad as Delhi government, them coming to power would leave little left to loot by the time five years were done. Not to mention Ambani is a proud sponsor of the two parties attacking AAP as well as many of the mega TV channels. So the vitriol against AAP is not merely about the Lok Sabha Election, but about the whole business model collapsing.
Which is how you hear big questions about AAP targeting BJP instead of Congress, but when was the last time BJP threw ink on the Rahul Gandhi they hate so much?
That is the AAP effect. Much is at stake in stopping them, and they are unstoppable. And more and more people are coming to realize it.
I am not going to feed you any statistics here. I urge you to look at the quality of candidates. How many scam accused have got tickets again? How many accused in serious criminal cases have got tickets? How come those accused in riots (that coincidentally consolidated Hindu and Dalit votes against Muslims) got tickets to contest elections? What popularity are they tapping into? How exactly are these parties offering to end corruption with the same kind of people who have allowed it to thrive year after year? How many are hand in glove with big business interests? How many have been accused of crimes against women? With the same formulas of triggering riots, hate, false slander about opponents... is this not the ugly India you were fed up of?
I am sure someone is going to bring up Somnath Bharti. I am not going to defend his actions in the drug and prostitution raid. I have criticized them on this blog. However, I am not convinced of the accusations leveled against him by Ambani's lawyer, Haresh Salve. The videos or witnesses do not speak of any public stripping of the women or being forced to pee on the street. The videos clearly show police presence. The action was still unwise, because people do not need precedents of leaders leading large mobs against women - even if the actions were not criminal, because the actions it sets a role model for cannot be predicted.
Regardless, a party that fields riot accused being all sanctimonious in this instance tells you all you need to, but I leave it to your judgment.
Somnath Bharti is not the only candidate AAP is fielding. Nor is he the only one to be accused of anything. Several candidates have been withdrawn in both the previous election and this one, when proof of illegal actions by them reached the party. Role holders in the party have been removed when it was found they sold tickets. The party is making a clear and transparent effort to offer you only the best.
Most of the AAP candidates are local to wherever they are contesting. Barring a few high profile "helicopter drops" - Arvind Kejriwal included - to challenge prominent candidates they want to defeat, all other candidates, to the best of my information are local people fighting for improvement wherever they are. You have civil rights activists, RTI activists, child rights activists business people, entrepreneurs, innovators, victims of state atrocities, journalists, and as of this morning, a Nobel Prize nominee. The mix is as diverse as the needs of the people they hope to represent.
It is up to you to decide who represents you better. All parties are offering. Take your pick.
Defeating existing power cartels
Regardless of who runs the country long term, at this point, you have most of the donations to political parties unaccountable and opaque. The donations accounted for include a large number of entities that have also profited significantly from government policies. There are politicians with businesses, business houses sponsoring candidates and parties, business houses owning stakes in channels and also channels affiliated with political parties, you have business journalists getting corporate jobs and vice versa, you have journalists entering politics and returning, and you have them mobilizing over and over to promote specific kinds of decisions. To make them in the Parliament, to opine on them in media to influence what people think is in their interest, to incentivize the whole thing well.
In a country of 1.2 billion people, media caters to the realities of 1%, influences the rest to believe that those are in their interest. People who earn well and dismiss inflation as reason for caution do not realize that as long as inflation grows faster than their salary increment, they are in reality getting poorer year by year, though fat incomes don't show weight loss that easy.
You have scams exposing these incestuous relationships over and over. You have scandals and leaks showing how law was manipulated. There is no illegality in these exploitations of the country. laws and processes are designed to give some the advantage.
You cannot break this while participating in it. This is why the existing parties may offer the moon on corruption, but they cannot end it, because you cannot pick up the stool you are standing on. You have to get off it first. What they can do is spin pretty words and tell people that it isn't such a big issue, and what they are offering is better than some dubious upstart party with god knows what ancestry. They can raise questions about evils done by its representatives to shake your faith. For example the "Somnath Bharti porn domain dealer" or "Somnath Bharti spammer" episodes. They are not true. But even if they were, how is it relevant to the country whether someone sent spam emails ten years ago? Particularly when it eclipses far more serious actions AGAINST the direct interests of the people of the country - like the reports on paid news, like the reports on Social Media to create unrest and trigger riots, like the rigging up of poll surveys to fool people into thinking some parties are more popular than they really are and some are less popular than they really are?
Do you not think with elections coming up, this is of more immediate and serious concern to a democracy? Illegal actions that may hijack people's voice expressed as votes through disinformation, danger and outright prevention?
It is time to rise, people, Aam Aadmi Party is a new party. If it goes wrong, there are enough crazies in it to rise against wrong doers within as well. They have done it before and they can do it again. There is no entrenched power here. There are no opaque funds serving undisclosed interests. What you see is what you get.
The question is, do you have the courage to take it?
The Baloch are sitting ducks. With the sea on one side, and Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, they literally have nowhere to go. The world watches in horror as a steady trickle of deaths flows through the news on a daily basis. I call it “The Baloch Black” in my mind – the season’s color, except the season doesn’t end. No one seems inclined to take risks with safety or popularity for these people – no matter what they sufer.
Pakistan holds a unique record in the world. A six decade old country with killing sprees – state sponsored killing sprees in four different places. Bangladesh, Kashmir, Afghanistan and Balochistan. In each instance, there is documented involvement of the country’s armed forces acting in collaboration with various militia – be them the Razakars, the various Kashmiri militants, the Taliban or in the case of Balochistan, the local militia. And we are not looking at torture videos from FATA, etc, because I don’t know what slot to put them in. Let’s call them extracurricular.
This, on an average amounts to one genocide every fifteen years, so to say. Not counting the boundary skirmishes with Afghanistan and India including out and out wars, not counting the terrorist training infrastructures, not counting indoctrination for conducting human rights abuse, not counting possible large scale radiation poisoning of the region, not counting sabotage of US+NATO interests and lives after explicit agreements of cooperation.
I see here a worldwide conspiracy of silence. The US in particular. The idea seems to be to not say anything that makes Pakistan unhappy unless absolutely needed. This idea is also backfiring, because career terrorists can simply change employers to remain perfectly safe, and they can take up new job opportunities once the market in Afghanistan opens on US exit. There has been no US comment on the kill and dump policy against Balochistan, there has been nothing on the massive JuD rallys with a few journalists raising alarm. Pakistan is an ally and that is that, except for selective condemnation. The rest is the gift of impunity in return for goodwill.
It is easy to say that Pakistan is a nuclear power, but that applies only to the Kashmiri Pandits. They were driven out of Kashmir, but the actual people dead by all accounts is less than a thousand. But for the other three genocides, Pakistan’s nuclear bombs cannot be called an excuse. The United States, for its own interests in the region “cultivated” Pakistan, making the Pakistani Army disproportionately powerful. Did they not have an ethical responsibility to monitor how that power was used? Wouldn’t today’s war on terror and its immense losses in life and money be prevented? Where is the accountability?
Today, the carte blanche that the world gave Pakistan has resulted in an Army/ISI state within a state. They have dragged the country into surprise wars with India, they have butchered people in their own and in neighbouring countries. The government is helpless to prevent anything they do. US itself is now helpless and expects the government to put their Frankenstein’s monster in the box again. The Pakistani on the street is living in an increasingly deprived and difficult situation, children are deprived of education and health, but the Army’s budget knows no bounds. By Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani’s own confession, in the aftermath of the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the Army stood thoroughly discredited on a moral and defensive perspective, yet their salaries were doubled as the country lived on in staggering insecurity and anger.
News reports speak of the Pakistan Army supporting the Taliban in anticipation of the US exit from Afghanistan. The astonishing part is that the strategic analysts are still peddling this as news – something that any ten year old in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Balochistan and possibly India too could have told them on the first day of the war. The pretense goes on, the drama goes on. In the meanwhile, there are people paying hideous costs. 2.3% of Afghanistan’s total population is DISABLED. The Baloch black – as I call it – just unrelenting doom and gloom in the news, continues.
Today, Balochistan is fighting desperately for independence as the world continues to watch. They have no alternative if they must live. Most Pakistanis insist that the real problem is the human rights abuse and not independence. But there is no question of human rights in Balochistan. Human rights are for humans, and there seems to be no indication that the Army/ISI think that Baloch are humans as they are kidnapped, killed, assassinated, murdered .
The killing of Brahmadagh Bugti’s sister and niece in Karachi has been understood and condemned for the chilling expansion of the war against the Baloch that it is. Yet what difference does that make? What does it mean that people understand what is happening, if it cannot result in any change what so ever? There is NO ONE in Pakistan that can prevent the Army/ISI from doing what they want. The Court has not succeeded in bringing about justice for the numerous crimes against the Baloch stagnating and accumulating.
In a post Fukushima world jittery about radiation, the Baloch are living with alleged significant contamination of their area with no recourse to even measuring for confirmation and identification of risk areas. There is no monitoring, there is no information on if and how much radioactive contamination exists. Last year, American soldiers who served in Afghanistan had radiation levels in their urine. They have been attributed to tactical nukes by commentators, and denied as inexplicable by the official speakers. What if they are from the contamination of the area they worked in? It is close to the area of Balochistan that has been contaminated.
There is no information about the real situation except for photos of deformities and descriptions of illness that can match radiation exposure, but there is no way of knowing without tests being allowed, and Pakistan doesn’t allow independent access to the region for such work. Pakistan had even refused humanitarian assistance access to this area after the flood claiming that they would do it themselves. So the Baloch people are tired of asking for help, but have no other option open to them other than asking for help. No matter how many walls of silence they bounce off. Some of the walls are you and I. They are fighting a heavily unequal war for survival. Militarily, politically and even on health and humanitarian terms. Where is our own humanity in this story?
There literally is no way out for them unless something is done specifically to bring them relief and solutions, and the ethical responsibility for this assistance lies on the world and particularly the US that stood complicit in Pakistan Army’s use of weapons supplied by them on civilians. Even more, because the US is doing precisely the kind of rescues worldwide, for ages that it is refusing Balochistan – a victim of torturers armed by them. The Leahy Law prohibits U.S. military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity. It doesn’t get more impunity than this, it doesn’t get more blatantly human rights abuse than this, and it doesn’t get more studiedly ignored than this. So, in calling Pakistan a partner, arming their Army, funding them and refusing to exert any preventative influence on their human rights abuses is blatantly flaunting its own laws. It is a question for Americans why have a law like that if it will not be followed?
What needs to be done is a matter of strategy and the Baloch people should be consulted. It also needs to be a practical and sustainable solution. It doesn’t make sense to only separate into independence a sparsely populated region sharing a border with a country that overflows every national border they have to commit human rights abuses. They would do the same thing in Balochistan that they are planning in Afghanistan – install proxies, subjugate people again. It is their default mode. There needs to be a comprehensive political regional solution – a sustainable one that ensures that boundaries that allow the Baloch safety are established.
The 10th Anniversary of 9/11 came and went and everyone has on their minds the big question of terrorism. India is no stranger to terrorism, though we started calling it so mostly post 9/11. Till then, blasts were blasts and the perpetrators were militants. Then, we found a parallel with what we suffered in what the world was willing to fight - terrorism. I suspect part of our wide adoption of the word terrorism lies in the validation we felt in our suffering at the hands of covert elements and the blind eye the world turned to it till. There is an aura of "we have suffered this exact thing for a long time".
India's disbelief that Pakistan could sponsor terrorists and become an ally in fighting them is also reasonably vindicated in the decade that followed. How we experienced Pakistan is largely understood by the world now, and we are able to make more obvious overtures for reconciliation now that the overtures don't mean denial.
On another note, I want to look at the effect of radicalization and extremism in Pakistan on India. What the radicalization did to Pakistan is evident. Less evident is how it led to subtle radicalization in India. If the majority religion in Pakistan is Islam, the majority in India are Hindus.
While the overt influence that we see in Pakistan - officially changing narratives in history books, encouraging calls to arms in the name of religion etc are missing in India, the outrage over the Pakistani attitude has led to several less visible thoughts along the same lines. Visibly they may be in direct opposition, but they follow the same way of thought.
This is natural. This is automatic. If I say apple, you may say orange or red or fruit, but it is unlikely you will say desert or something totally unrelated. That is a process of coherent response. Our response is relevant to the stimulus if it is to be rational. If we don't like, we may do or say the opposite, but we play the same game unless we make conscious choices to disengage. We validate a dysfunctional premise of mistaken actions by countering actions.
Some ways I see it playing out here:
Focus on Muslims as potential terrorist agents. While it is true that covert agendas have tried to recruit Muslims, we play the same game when we investigate Muslims, or we defend them - both. If we don't agree with military alliances in the name of religion, we need to stop thinking from a religious perspective or at the very least narrrow the scope so much that we avoid that same broad match. Frankly, while it may be useful for terrorists to recruit in the name of religion, it is more difficult to investigate people based on religion rather than suspicious behaviour, because while influence can be exerted at a religious place, monitoring will have to happen in the wild.
Carte blanche to agents with "our" agenda. Terrorists summarily execute people who don't fit in with their agendas. To counter terrorists, we created anti-terror squads with similar carte blanche or made laws like the AFSPA. Both were difficult to control for a fundamental similarity - a belief that a certain kind of "good" people will kill only "bad" people - without the recognition of those people as individuals with their own ideas of loyalty, integrity or even who was wrong. Pakistan did it on a massive scale and has almost lost the country to them, India did it on a more cautious scale (also as a retaliation rather than initiative) and suffered fake encounters and police brutality overall. Both these plagues are difficult to control. Both these plagues continue on an assumption that they are "necessary". Terrorists are necessary for Pakistan's "strategic depth", and our extra legal powers of killing them are necessary for our "security".
The "good" protector guys. Atrocities by a certain kind of people getting a blind eye. These are usually the custodians of the "National Agenda". Their actions are immune from punishment because of one of three reasons. First - they "protect" against the bogeyman. If the bogeyman for the Pakistan Army is India, the bogeyman for the Indian Armed forces is terrorists. Because these guys "protect" the country, they cannot be called to account. Second - they are too powerful. It is an open secret that people can't do a damn thing against the Pakistan Army. India has a veneer of civilian control over Armed Forces - at least on a policy and decision making and salaries level. But the ground reality is untested. The control may exist, it may get thrown off - we tread carefully and avoid confrontations. The local public on the other hand has a healthy fear of their protectors and their potential to destroy their well being - and not just in areas with insurgency. Many wrongs by Armed Forces go unchallenged because they are fighting terrorists. Third - the voice of the majority and extra-curricular pressure. Challenging these protectors will quickly get one dubbed anti-national, targetted for verbal victimization, etc by a large number of people who believe in their heroism.
The role of the Army. Here there are opposite extremes. The Pakistan Army and ISI pretty much rule the country. They have thrown over governments, they have directly vetoed government statements... the works. The Indian Army on the other hand is firmly under the civilian thumb - at least on an official level. It got neglected for several years in terms of weapons upgrades, it is very low key in terms of a National presence, even top generals will rarely communicate to the media (and thus the public) directly about anything on policy or decisions. The few times they do, it is a big sensation and very marked deviation. The smallest disagreement, even if it isn't a conclusive refusal hits news instantly and reinforcing news articles will hit about the hierarchy in India. One would think that there is no similarity. But there is. There is a very serious fundamental similarity - the assumption that the Armed forces are a threat to the country's autonomy in India is similar to the reality in Pakistan - but it actually has no factual basis in India. The understanding of the nature of Armies seems to be influenced. They either take over, or they need to be kept severely in check. This is in spite of the fact that our Armed Forces have showed no actual inclination to do any such thing and in fact seem in agreement with the power distribution. This is in spite of the fact that lower attention to needs of the forces will be counterproductive to national interest. This is a largely unconscious thing, but the manifestations are visible. It is also interesting to note how the stronger the presence of the Army in National decision making became in Pakistan, the more low key it became in India.
Other similarities are obvious - religious extremism on the rise. Majoritarian justifications of injustices against minorities, and a strong opposition to minority supporting initiatives. This domination of national space on the basis of religion may have been more visible during the times of communal conflicts, but it is actually stronger now. It looks peaceful because there is no need to fight. There IS no fight for the most time. A fight needs a strong opposing force to exist in order to happen. The riots were hideous, but that force was at least present. Now, while a large number of minorities are reconciled to the National vision, the few that are not are small, explosive pockets with no ability to overtly take on the majority. Pakistan is far ahead of us on this road, and the extremists are actually in a war with the state for running it over entirely.
Both countries live under the illusion that extremists are a minority. In fact, extremism is on the rise in both. It is less visible in India, because there is a diversity of extremists, but make no mistake, there are actually very, very few people who are tolerant in both countries. Even liberals are what can only be described as "extremist fundamentalist liberals" who have extremist fundamentalist prejudices about non-liberals - paradoxical as it seems. Most of the people have concrete alliances of beliefs they have made and there is little space for tolerance or negotiation. This is risky for both countries. More visibly for Pakistan, but India has more to lose.
There are victims who are known victims who rarely get any assistance or acknowledgment - be it tribals or Kashmiris or people in the north east, or the Baloch or Pashtuns or Pok Kashmiris.
This may seem like a strange article, because it speaks of none of the obvious differences, or visible factors. What I am trying to do here is bring up the dynamics in the society and the processes influencing our thoughts.
There are many common patterns that trigger parallel versions across the border. We are born of one region. These Jekyll and Hyde games both countries play only help to blur the picture in unhelpful ways.
So what can be done? Responding rather than reacting. If we don't like something, there is no need to react to it no matter what the provocation. Some think that reacting to provocation is needed as a show of strength or whatever, but there is no strength in dancing to another's tune. We can explore all the options we have and choose ones that will be most useful rather than doing tit-for-tats like an unending game of table tennis.
Even better, if we can really understand how these influences work, we can use them to initiate transformation. Borders are for lands, not thoughts. If we can understand how our actions invoke relevant responses, we can invite change through what we do. Some very different patterns for interaction with Pakistan that disengage from previous dysfunctional patterns are described in "Hold your missiles". There can be more. There can be others.
More importantly, we can initiate transformations within the country to disengage from compulsive extremism and dysfunctional mistrusts. While I don't think these are some kind of Pakistani copyrighted rule, learning to avoid reactive behavior will help tone down a lot of reactive anger as well. We can deal with more transparency and tolerance.
I do think it will take dedicated minds to lead this change. Ideally social scientists, but politicians, media, civil leaders or any influences with high EQ could work too.