Death wins over life in Siachen

“We, the willing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, with so little, for so long, we are now qualified to do anything, with nothing.” Notes from the diary of a soldier who served in Siachen. (Original quote by Mother Teresa.)

India and Pakistan may have their guns aimed on each other at Siachen, but in reality they are both fighting nature, nature defeating them and being defeated by them. At 20,000 feet the world’s largest glacier outside the North and South Poles, Siachen is the world’s highest battlefield.

Till 1984 neither India nor Pakistan had any presence on the glacier, the distrust on Siachen began over mountaineering expeditions. As per the 1949 Karachi Agreement, the cease-fire line between India and Pakistan for disputed Jammu and Kashmir was described as running to map coordinate NJ 9842 and “. . . thence north to the glaciers”.

This line was never demarcated over the glaciers keeping in view the utterly inhospitable climate of Siachen. While India interpreted that the LOC here should extend to the last demarcated point NJ 9842 northeasterly along the Saltoro Range to the Chinese border, Pakistani interpreted that the LOC extends straight from NJ 9842 to the Karakoram Pass towards the Chinese border. The 2003 ceasefire has ensured cessation of military hostilities, but fatalities have not stopped; more soldiers have been killed by the extreme weather conditions than by the conflict.

Military presence at Siachen costs India almost a million US dollars daily, annual costs for maintaining the Siachen outposts for India are around 300 million US dollars and for Pakistan about 100 million US dollars. Although both Indian and Pakistan have not been divulging any causality figures but we know that Indian soldiers are killed every now and then.

Soldiers stationed in temperatures as low as -60 C with fierce snowstorms that can reach speeds of 300 km per hour (150 knots) takes more toll than any military confrontation here could.

Majority of Indian outposts are above 18,500 ft altitude (some at 22000 ft), Indian Army controls the Siachen heights while Pakistan Army controls the Gyong La passes. In terms of accessibility Pakistan army is better off since the road head is only 20 km away from its farthest post, while on the Indian controlled side the road head is about 80 km away its farthest post.

Soldiers coming back from these posts often suffer from vision problems, hearing and memory loss (prolonged use of oxygen masks). Frost bite in such places may lead to loss of feet and hands.

Of all the issues between India and Pakistan, Siachen should have been the easiest to resolve since it involves a lifeless chunk of ice that is inhospitable for any human population. But like other issues between the two countries, this one is also been converted into a ‘nationalistic pride’ by hawks on both sides. It is these extreme elements who have been ensuring that any resolution aimed, confidence building between the two countries are held hostage to a general mistrust. All war mongering experts on both sides of the divide who advocate continuance of the Siachen war should for a change be asked to walk their talk by serving at least one soldier’s term at these outposts.

Supplies on both sides for thousands of troops stationed there and the leftovers have created Siachen as the worlds ‘largest and highest’ garbage dump. Whatever of supplies and ammunition goes up the Siachen glacier never comes back. Almost more than 40% of the thousands of tons of garbage left at Siachen are plastic and metal. Worn out ammunition, crashed transport, supply canisters, rotten and done away food, plastics, discarded cloth and missed para droppings; everything forms part of this irretrievable garbage dump.  Since the ice glacier lacks any biodegrading agents, whatever garbage is dumped at Siachen percolates into the glacier system and eventually releases harmful toxins like cadmium and chromium into the glacial water system, polluting the water that flows downstream into Shyok and finally into Indus. The waters of Indus feed millions of people downstream both in India and Pakistan.

The Siachen conflict is seen as a pointless battle, where the human and economic costs far overweight the achievements. A withdrawal from Siachen region would not put India and Pakistan at any loss if proper monitoring mechanisms were put in place. The challenge however is to put in place a withdrawal system where no side is shown to have lost face or security.

The hawks may portray a withdrawal from Siachen as a window for Kargil type incursion; in reality such hype may not have any basis or connection to the strategic location of Siachen. The deployments across pockets of Siachen are so tough and thinly placed that any major advances from these areas may not be possible. Implementation of efficient monitoring systems could easily counter such concerns. If Sharm-al-Shaikh on the Sinai peninsula, Egypt could be designated an ecosystem, jointly managed by Egypt, Israel and Jordan why can’t the wilderness of Siachen be?

Siachen being a part of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir, the tussle between India and Pakistan on this piece of ‘real estate’ is seen more of egos, than of strategies.

Leaving Siachen as an eco-park where either of the militaries have no presence can not only stop the glacier from further degradation, save countless human lives downstream, but also set precedence for resolving the bigger Kashmir issue. If India and Pakistan cannot come to terms on a Godforsaken habitation less glacier which neither controlled till 1984, how can they ever come forward to resolve the more contentious Kashmir issue where human tragedy has been endless?

The posts of Siachen are obscure islands where each soldier, each human is left to fend for himself, cutoff from the real world.  It is these places sanity and insanity coexists closely in the same mind and body, the tripping point towards insanity so thin and undefined. It often becomes a race against a still time when civilization is reduced to a kerosene fume filled snow bunker in the midst of a white, unforgiving desert. In such situations it is not the opposite side that is a soldier’s biggest enemy but the merciless nature. The cost of an inconsequential battle is often unseen by the state, borne by the uncelebrated soldier. It is high time peace and sanity prevails over jingoistic nationalism. India and Pakistan can surely find better use to the money, men and efforts that they are freezing in the high wilderness of Siachen. Let Siachen lead the way for Kashmir.

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है प्रीत जहाँ की रीत सदा – इंदीवर

A truly patriotic song which can be heard all over India on 15 August and 26 January. It is informative as well. I like this song as it is not jingoistic or boasting. Some may disagree that India is getting regressive or such progressive society is a long gone story. I only have to say that even if one falls on the road for a moment, he/she doesn’t become any less important. India will rise up to its core values and we all have to work towards it – One person at a time.

जब ज़ीरो दिया मेरे भारत ने, दुनिया को तब गिनती आई
तारों की भाषा भारत ने, दुनिया को पहले सिखलाई

देता ना दशमलव भारत तो, यूँ चाँद पे जाना मुश्किल था
धरती और चाँद की दूरी का, अंदाज़ लगाना मुश्किल था

सभ्यता जहाँ पहले आई, पहले जनमी है जहाँ पे कला
अपना भारत वो भारत है, जिसके पीछे संसार चला
संसार चला और आगे बढ़ा, ज्यूँ आगे बढ़ा, बढ़ता ही गया
भगवान करे ये और बढ़े, बढ़ता ही रहे और फूले-फले

है प्रीत जहाँ की रीत सदा, मैं गीत वहाँ के गाता हूँ
भारत का रहने वाला हूँ, भारत की बात सुनाता हूँ

काले-गोरे का भेद नहीं, हर दिल से हमारा नाता है
कुछ और न आता हो हमको, हमें प्यार निभाना आता है
जिसे मान चुकी सारी दुनिया, मैं बात वही दोहराता हूँ
भारत का रहने वाला हूँ, भारत की बात सुनाता हूँ

जीते हो किसीने देश तो क्या, हमने तो दिलों को जीता है
जहाँ राम अभी तक है नर में, नारी में अभी तक सीता है
इतने पावन हैं लोग जहाँ, मैं नित-नित शीश झुकाता हूँ
भारत का रहने वाला हूँ, भारत की बात सुनाता हूँ

इतनी ममता नदियों को भी, जहाँ माता कहके बुलाते है
इतना आदर इन्सान तो क्या, पत्थर भी पूजे जातें है
उस धरती पे मैंने जन्म लिया, ये सोच के मैं इतराता हूँ
भारत का रहने वाला हूँ, भारत की बात सुनाता हूँ

पुष्प की अभिलाषा – माखनलाल चतुर्वेदी

I love this poem since I first read it in primary school. Simple words, powerful message!

चाह नहीं मैं सुरबाला के
गहनों में गूँथा जाऊँ,

चाह नहीं प्रेमी-माला में
बिंध प्यारी को ललचाऊँ,

चाह नहीं, सम्राटों के शव
पर, हे हरि, डाला जाऊँ

चाह नहीं, देवों के शिर पर,
चढ़ूँ भाग्य पर इठलाऊँ!

मुझे तोड़ लेना वनमाली!
उस पथ पर देना तुम फेंक,

मातृभूमि पर शीश चढ़ाने
जिस पथ जावें वीर अनेक।

Action is basic unit of life

Life as human beings live it is a field in which forms and forces interact to produce results. However, in this case the forms are not forms of material substance, they are forms of actionAs the basic building block of material forms is the atom, the basic building block of life forms is the individual act. In both instances, the real foundation for the form is energy in constant movement.

As atoms combine together to constitute larger inorganic forms ranging in size from the molecule to the planet, solar system and galaxy and more complex organic forms ranging in complexity from single cells, to organs, organisms and species; so too, individual acts combine to form larger, more complex and more enduring activities, systems, organizations, institutions, customs and cultures. Composing a letter, conceiving a child, establishing a business, and founding a country are acts. Farming, shopping, manufacturing and researching are complex recurring chains of activity. Social habits, customs, procedures, and laws are complex systems of acts. Like the atom, each of these acts and systems can be broken down into smaller constituent parts ad infinitum to discern the minutest sensations, impulses, thoughts and movements of which they are constituted. Each is itself part of a longer chain or larger system of actions.

Like the expansive movements of stars and galaxies, each act can be traced back to its origins in the distant past and to its explicit or subtle consequences in the distant future. The key to this evolution of complexity in life is tersely explained by Sri Aurobindo. “It (life) evolves through growth of consciousness even as consciousness evolves through greater organization and perfection of life[1].” A progressive emergence of a previously involved consciousness and a progressive organization of the consciousness that emerges are the twin principles of evolution in all planes of existence, material, social, psychological and even spiritual.

The forces that act in our lives include forces of material nature such as weather and gravity, but also social forces such as political power, social status and peer pressure, and psychological forces such as the power of ideas, ideals, opinions, beliefs, emotions, sensations, impulses, desires and aspirations. All these forces meet and interact in the cauldron of life to influence the course of the acts, activities, systems and organizations. When Martin Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg in 1517 to launch the Reformation; when President Roosevelt halted the US banking crisis in 1932 by appealing to the American people over the radio; when Churchill single-handedly inspired the British people to resist Nazi aggression at a time when all of Europe had capitulated; when Mahatma Gandhi stirred the Indian masses to cast off two centuries of British imperial rule: when Gorbachev unilaterally dismantled the iron structure of communist authoritarianism that ended the Cold War – their acts expressed and mobilised forces of tremendous intensity to confront opposing forces and destroy or alter entrenched forms of social organization. The fields in which they acted, variously term economic, religious, political, social, psychological, are fields for scientific inquiry – arguably far more central and important fields than any that absorbs the attention of astrophysicists or evolutionary biologists. The material, technological, organization, social and psychological forces they wielded and unleashed are also proper subject for scientific study. The forms they created, altered or destroyed, be they forms of governance, law and social organization or forms of social attitude and mental understanding, are very much objects for scientific investigation.

हिंदुस्तान में दो दो हिंदुस्तान दिखाई देते हैं — गुलज़ार

हिंदुस्तान में दो दो हिंदुस्तान दिखाई देते हैं
एक है जिसका सर नवें बादल में है
दूसरा जिसका सर अभी दलदल में है
एक है जो सतरंगी थाम के उठता है
दूसरा पैर उठाता है तो रुकता है
फिरका-परस्ती तौहम परस्ती और गरीबी रेखा
एक है दौड़ लगाने को तय्यार खडा है
‘अग्नि’ पर रख पर पांव उड़ जाने को तय्यार खडा है
हिंदुस्तान उम्मीद से है!
आधी सदी तक उठ उठ कर हमने आकाश को पोंछा है
सूरज से गिरती गर्द को छान के धूप चुनी है
साठ साल आजादी के…हिंदुस्तान अपने इतिहास के मोड़ पर है
अगला मोड़ और ‘मार्स’ पर पांव रखा होगा!!
हिन्दोस्तान उम्मीद से है..

Meaning of Gayatri Mantra

ॐ भूर्भुवः स्वः तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यम् भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि धियो यो नः प्रचोदयात् || ||

 

OM. I adore the Divine Self who illuminates the three worlds — physical, astral and causal; I offer my prayers to that God who shines like the Sun. May He enlighten our intellect. This mantra is considered to be the greatest of all Mantras. Those who repat this mantra with devotion develop a brilliant intellect. This Mantra grants health of body and mind, and also success, peace, prosperity and spiritual enlightment.