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DailyOh! The riot that made Morarji Desai resign to why IAF chose Balakot for air strike

It all started in Godhra for India’s first non-Congress Prime Minister.

VARIETY  |   11-minute read  |   26-02-2020

Hey hi,

How are you holding up? We ask you this question because you know the situation in the country is tense. India is not witnessing riots for the first time, but when a country’s national capital witnesses uncontrolled violence, it is rather sad. We can’t say it enough that every life, and when lost to violence, each one is a grave tragedy. But isn’t the capital city supposed to be the safest? Aren’t the police policing the national capital of a country supposed to be the best?

In Delhi, this isn’t the case. The Supreme Court of the country today rapped the police department saying they failed to do enough to control violence. We do know that a police official also died in the violence. We know that many policemen have been injured, some even critically, but the SC said that all of this wouldn’t have happened if the police hadn’t allowed the instigators to get away.

The Supreme Court said the violence in the national capital could have been controlled had the police acted in time. (Source: India Today/Sandeep Tiwari)

Shortly after the SC made the observation, Congress’s interim president Sonia Gandhi held a press conference accusing the Centre of failing in its duty to maintain peace. She demanded that Home Minister Amit Shah resign from his position taking moral responsibility for failing to control the violence. You know, so far, over 20 people have died and over 200 have been injured. Officially. We do feel someone must answer as to how the administration failed to control violence even 72 hours after it started.

It isn’t just Sonia Gandhi who demanded Amit Shah’s resignation, many others too have said the home minister must go. Shah would probably not oblige. But somehow this demand for resignation reminded us of India’s first non-Congress Prime Minister, Morarji Desai.

Desai resigned as the deputy collector of Godhra in May 1930 because he was accused of being biased towards Hindus in the Hindu-Muslim riots of 1927-28. Remember accused, not proven guilty. Desai wrote about it in his autobiography The Story of My Life. While no inquiry was initiated against him, Desai was downgraded four ranks in the list of seniority.

Morarji Desai resigned as the deputy collector of Godhra after being accused of being biased towards Hindus. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The riots were held in Godhra — the same place where 58 karsevaks were killed in 2002 after a bogey of the train in which they were travelling was set afire. It was after this that the Gujarat riots started, in which over 2,000 people died.

So what happened after Desai resigned? He joined the freedom struggle under Mahatma Gandhi. He emerged as a tall leader in the Congress party. When provincial elections were held in 1934 and 1937, Desai was elected and served as the revenue minister and home minister of the Bombay Presidency. He quit the Congress after developing differences with Indira Gandhi in 1969. In 1977, when the Janata Party came into existence, Desai was elected as its parliamentary leader and he thus became the country’s Prime Minister. It all started with Godhra for Desai and stepping down helped him rise to the position of India’s fourth Prime Minister.

We got talking about Desai because we were talking about demand for Amit Shah’s resignation. But Shah’s resignation isn’t the only demand being made by opposition parties and many people who do not belong to any political party. They are raising their demand on social media — Twitter and Facebook-type of platforms. Of course, there are many who are supporting him both within and outside his party.

One of the demands being made is the deployment of Army in riot-affected areas. Delhi Chief Minister is among those demanding Army deployment in Delhi.

I have been in touch wid large no of people whole nite. Situation alarming. Police, despite all its efforts, unable to control situation and instil confidenceArmy shud be called in and curfew imposed in rest of affected areas immediatelyAm writing to Hon’ble HM to this effect

— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) February 26, 2020

We sure depend on the Army for lot more than just defending our borders. In all big cases of internal conflicts, the Army is asked to step in. But before you call in the Army, comes the paramilitary. In Delhi, it’s the police that is acting as the first (and last) line of defence. The thing about deploying Army and paramilitary is that they are largely bipartisan, which means since they do not take orders directly from governments, they are expected to not favour any party in the conflict.

You must have noticed demands for Army to be called in are usually made as soon as violence breaks out, almost always by the party out of power. Calling in the Army is also seen as a sign of the failure of the local administration to control the situation. Now, you may say no government should worry about these ‘signs’ when lives are at stake. We say that too. But governments don’t.

Often when the Army is called in, the allegation is that the deployment was late. A similar allegation was made in 2002, where it was said that the deployment of the Army was delayed. Do you know what the delay was about? Well, you will find it hard to believe that it happened because there were no vehicles to transport the Army personnel from the Ahmedabad airfield to the areas hit by violence. As many as 3,000 Army men landed at the Ahmedabad airfield at 7 am on March 1. Remember, the riots started on February 28, a day after the Godhra train carnage.

The personnel waited at the airfield all through March 1. Transport and other logistical support that the men needed finally arrived on March 2. The revelations were made by Lt. Gen Zameer Uddin Shah in his book The Sarkari Mussalman. Wondering how Zameer Shah knew about it? Well, he was the man who met Narendra Modi, then Gujarat chief minister, at 2 am on March 1, with the list of requirements for the Army to take charge of the law and order (actually lawless and orderless) situation of Gujarat.

Eventually, Army fanned out and gradually the situation came under control. In Delhi, we do not know how long it’ll take for the situation to normalise.

But since we are talking about the Army and paramilitary here, let us also tell you that today marks a year of the Balakot air strike. The air strike in Pakistan's Balakot, conducted by the Indian Air Force, were in retaliation to the horrific attack by the Jaish-e-Mohammed on a convoy of CRPF jawans in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir. The Pulwama explosion killed 40 jawans. It was February 14, 2019.

The Pulwama explosion killed 40 jawans. (Photo: Reuters)

The next day, at 9.30 am, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the chiefs of the Indian armed forces and intelligence agencies, top ministers and the National Security Advisor at the PM's 7, Lok Kalyan Marg home in Delhi. In this CCS (Cabinet Committee on Security) meeting, PM Modi wanted an assessment: how could India respond to Pulwama. The Prime Minister asked IAF Chief Air Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa if India could retaliate by conducting airstrikes on a terror target. While the IAF Chief replied in the affirmative, he also said that his force would be ready to strike in a matter of days. The meeting is said to have lasted 40 minutes.

An account of the Balakot airstrikes in the book India's Most Fearless 2 by Shiv Aroor and Rahul Singh says that from February 16 to 20 in 2019, the IAF worked with intelligence agencies at Vayu Bhawan to identify a list of terror targets in Pakistan, where India could strike. You can read more from the book here.

The IAF zeroed in on seven target options, the list of which the NSA placed in front of the government on February 21. The JeM training compound on a hill called Jabba Top, outside the city of Balakot in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan, was the IAF's first option on that list. Why first? Balakot was 100 kilometres away from Islamabad. It was a secluded target, and came with the lowest probability of non-terrorist deaths.

Did you know what were the two other ‘viable’ target options in that list that the IAF narrowed down on? Muzaffarabad in PoK, 23 kilometres from Balakot, and Chakothi, in PoK again, 70 kilometres from Balakot. But both Muzaffarabad and Chakothi came with their own problems. The risk of collateral damage was a lot higher in both these places. Both Muzaffarabad and Chakothi also posed a higher chance of being hindered by the Pakistani air defences.

By February 22 midnight, the target was decided. That the Indian jets would strike Balakot. There was also another important reason why Balakot was chosen. Balakot would serve as a stern message to Pakistan: the city was deep inside Pakistan, and an air strike on sovereign Pakistani soil would be loud. Air strikes in PoK, which India considers its own soil, would have been different.

We all followed what happened in Balakot on this day last year, even though there's no official word from Pakistan till date on the annihilation of the JeM camp in Balakot.

Terror, violence and war. We know DailyOh has been rather heavy for today. Sorry about that. We wish we never had to bring such news to you, nor read, watch and write about it ourselves. But for today, we have some more news regarding violence. This one is about a thappad. Yes, a movie by the same name starring Taapsee Pannu is releasing on Friday. The movie has been directed by Anubhav Sinha who has directed films such as Mulk and Article 15 recently.

You must have guessed by the title of the movie that Thappad is about a slap. Those of you who have seen the trailer would also know that the story of the movie revolves around a slap that Taapsee receives from her husband. She moves court demanding divorce on the basis of this slap.

If you haven’t seen the trailer, we suggest you do.

Can a slap be sufficient ground for divorce? Yes, cruelty is a ground for divorce in India and a slap is cruelty. In 2016, the Supreme Court granted divorce to a man from his wife after she refused to stay with her in-laws. The Supreme Court has cited this as cruelty on the part of the wife. If you want to read the full details of the case, read this.

So, even though a slap can be enough reason to seek divorce, of course, one has to prove that the differences that the slap caused or the differences because of which the slap was caused, are irreconcilable. This means that the marriage has reached a point where the parties can no longer have a peaceful, happy life together.

While even a slap can get either divorce, rape cannot. Marital rape is not a criminal offence in India. When BJP leader Maneka Gandhi was Women and Child Development minister during Modi 1.0, she said, “It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors like level of education/illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament etc.”

So, rape is not rape because marriage is sacred. And while rape is the cruellest form of violence, it is not considered violence because it simply doesn’t happen. Find it hard to digest? We do too. The fights women have to fight! But there are stories of hope too. Let us tell you about the latest one we came across. And it comes from Scotland.

A woman football player, Jane O’Toole, of the Scottish team fell during a match. In the process, she dislocated her knee. What she did next left us shocked and in awe. She set back the knee, got back to playing and played the full 90 minutes.

Watch it for yourself:

Our captain Jane O'Toole, is made of tough stuff. Just look at how she dealt with dislocating her knee during our recent game at Inverness.... you can't put a good woman down - she got back up and played the full 90 minutes ⚫⚽️🔴

— St Mirren WFC (@stmirrenwfc) February 21, 2020

O’Toole isn’t just an inspiration for women but all human beings, whether they identify as men, women or any other gender.

Some of the best inspirations for human life come from the world of sports.

It is said that just before the 1998 World Cup final, Ronaldo suffered a fit. He was reportedly seen foaming at the mouth. While Brazil was looking for a player to replace Ronaldo, he jumped back on his feet, not literally, and declared he would be playing. France went on to win the match.

A lot many people blamed Ronaldo for playing in ‘his condition’. There is a theory that suggests that it was Nike that forced Ronaldo to play. We can neither confirm, nor deny the theory. But the fact is that even if pressured to play, it takes guts to play under the circumstances that Ronaldo and O’Toole played under.

Even as we talk about this and that, our thoughts keep going back to those killed and injured and those living in fear of being killed or injured in the Delhi riots. We hope that peace returns soon. Peace is our Word Of The Day, but we hope peace prevails every day.

It is important to understand today what the word means. Peace comes from the Latin word pax, which means, "tranquility, absence of war". It is also the absence of riots, we say. Actually, peace entered English in the middle of the 12th century, and originally meant 'freedom from civil disorder'.

You must have seen people releasing doves from cages as a symbolic gesture towards establishing peace. That is because the dove has been a symbol of peace in Greek mythology, it was a symbol of love and the renewal of life. In ancient Japan, a dove carrying a sword, ironically, symbolised the end of war. 

On that note, we take your leave for today with the hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

Stay safe.

Also read: DailyOh! When threats of protest made Trump cancel his UK visit, to what he ate in India today

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