India Insight

Will ban on pre-paid mobile connections further alienate Kashmiris?

Rebel violence in Indian Kashmir has fallen to its lowest level since an insurgency began nearly two decades ago.

But the central government has banned pre-paid mobile connections in the strife-torn state, leaving nearly three million subscribers disconnected over security concerns.

The ban, which comes days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered fresh talks with Kashmiris, has annoyed local residents while troops deployed in the state are also distressed over getting disconnected from their families.

The ban also put around 20,000 youths in danger of finding themselves without a job.

Is the ban justified at a time when rebel violence is at its lowest and New Delhi is trying to win the hearts and minds of Kashmiris?

Is the media going overboard in its coverage of the Ambani feud?

The war of words between the billionaire Ambani brothers took an unexpected turn when younger sibling Anil offered an olive branch to elder brother Mukesh in a bid to resolve a feud over the split of the Reliance business empire in 2005.

The widespread coverage the Indian media has given to the squabble between the brothers has led to a debate on social networking sites such as Twitter, with some accusing news organisations of playing host to a reality show or soap opera that stars the Ambani family to boost ratings.

Prominent columnist Vir Sanghvi wrote through his Twitter account virsanghvi: “Do you think some network should plan a reality show on the Ambani battle? Or are they doing it already on the news?”

The Unique Identity number — putting all eggs in one basket?

There was a television ad some time back where a village leader played by Bollywood actor Abhishek Bachchan cutely decrees that feuding villagers would be known by their mobile numbers rather than names denoting caste or community.

It’s an idea that no longer seems far-fetched.

This week, the finance minister allocated 1200 million rupees to  the Unique Identification Authority of India, headed by former Infosys chief Nandan Nilekani.

The project provides a unique identity number, something like the U.S. social security number, to India’s billion-plus citizens.

Pakistan cricket plunges into crisis

It’s just not cricket.

Ducking for cover as bullets replaced bouncers… players evacuated in a military helicopter that lands right next to a 22-yard pitch… the same strip at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium that saw Thilan Samaraweera score a double century the previous evening.

Samaraweera was hit on his leg during an audacious attack by armed militants on a convoy taking his team to the venue, an attack that left six cricketers injured and more than half-a-dozen Pakistani security personnel killed.

The world of cricket will never be the same again.

More worrying is the fate of Pakistani cricket. Tours to Pakistan were already a trickle with teams like Australia refusing to travel.

Army vs police: who should maintain law-and-order?

The peacetime activities of an armed force have a bearing on its wartime capabilities and its relations with the civil society.

Although it has been the stated government policy for at least a decade to use the defence forces as sparingly as possible the Indian army has been continually engaged in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast.

“Excessive and continuous involvement of the Army for internal security is not good, neither for the Army nor for the nation,” former army chief Ved Prakash Malik said four years ago.

The nightmare on television screens is real

Just returned from the Oberoi where hundreds are still inside – Indians, foreigners, cooks and cleaners. London in 2005, Mumbai trains 2006.

Each time I follow the same movements – learn what, locate where, retrieve family, check team, do phoners, make frantic calls with London desks.

And then reflect… strangely I was in both hotels just hours before Wednesday’s attacks.

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