Thursday, April 3, 2014

Israel Bashing - A Favourite Marxist Hobby

A principal South Indian daily The Hindu published an Opinion on 3rd April 2014 titled “The endless calamity in West Asia” by one Vijay Prashad. (http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/the-endless-calamity-in-west-asia/article5863814.ece)

While the author Mr. Prashad, who a self-described Marxist and anti-Zionist, is entitled to his opinion, as a professor, one would have expected him to have had a certain balance in his approach to a very sensitive issue. His vitriolic attack on Israel goes to the extent of stating: If not for the blind support by the United States, Israel would be considered one of the planet’s most undesirable states.  The only inference that can be drawn from this statement is that this so-called opinion is more about Israel-bashing and less about suggesting an amicable and workable solution to the Palestinian question. The author needs to be made aware that Israel maintains diplomatic relations with about 160 countries on this planet, and surely a bulk of these countries do not find Israel to be undesirable. Israel also has relations with Arab/Islamic countries like Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and Mauritania. Iran and its proxy, the Hezbollah and Hamas are the only state and non-state actors who desire the destruction of Israel. There are quite a few ‘undesirable states’ not only in the Indian sub-continent but in the Middle East as well; but Israel is certainly not one of them.

Mr. Prashad also seems to have conveniently forgotten that one of the first states to recognize Israel was the erstwhile Soviet Union, a country which was also India’s closest friend and a major arms supplier.

Israel has a history of providing emergency aid and humanitarian response teams to disasters across the world. For the past 26 years, Israel has sent out 15 aid missions to countries struck by natural disasters. In Haiti, immediately following the devastating 2010 earthquake, Israel was the first country to set up a field hospital. Israel sent over 200 medical doctors and personnel to start treating injured Haitians at the scene. Despite radiation concerns, Israel was one of the first countries to send a medical delegation to Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami disaster. How many of the undesirable states of the Middle East acted in providing emergency aid and humanitarian response teams to areas affected by natural calamities? 

The author places strong emphasis on the criticism expressed by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) on the use of the term “Jewish State”. He writes that in its new report, “Arab Integration: A 21st Century Development Imperative (2014),” the Commission notes, “Israel insists on being recognized by the world and the Arabs as an exclusively Jewish State. It imposes this recognition as a condition for reaching a settlement with the Palestinians. This policy is based on the concept of the religious or ethnic purity of States, which brought to humanity the worst crimes and atrocities of the twentieth century.” What is so abhorrent if Israel insists on being recognized as an exclusively Jewish State? Does the international community have any objection when most of the Muslim states refer to themselves as “Islamic” or “Arab” states? The world does not have a problem with “Organisation of Islamic Countries” or the Arab League where the connotation is either ethnicity or religious. In the circumstances, the people who suffered the most in the last century have a right to insist upon being referred to as Jewish State. 

Furthermore, the Jewishness of Israel does not prevent it from being a vibrant democracy with a parliamentary system and an unwritten constitution. And unlike the radical Islamic states of the Middle East and North Africa, the minorities in the state of Israel have a right to practice their religion. Muslims constitute about 16% of Israel's population.

Issues relating to Palestine and Israel need to be put in proper perspective:

Firstly, the creation of Israel is a fait accompli. Israel cannot be undone or de-recognised as a state under international law (for it possesses all the attributes of statehood).

Secondly, so long as radical Palestinian terror groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad seek the destruction of Israel, there can be no peace and a Palestinian state can never become a reality.

Thirdly, Israel will not allow creation of an independent Palestine unless and until the international community guarantees the security of Israel and its people.

Israel faces existential threat from Iran and Syria and ongoing threat of terrorism from Iran’s proxy the Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas from Gaza. These issues and the Palestine question are interlinked to the larger question of peace in the Middle East. For Palestine to be a reality, Israel’s right to exist needs to be guaranteed.

Mr. Prashad feels further aggrieved by Indo-Israel friendship and the fact that Israel has become India’s largest arms supplier after Russia. Whether Mr. Prashad likes it or not, Indo-Israel relations existed much prior to the establishment of diplomatic relation between the two countries. Israel-India ties are centred on not just weaponry, but extend to science and technology, space, culture and tourism. Mr. Prashad also points out that there are a number of corruption cases in both Israeli and Indian courts relating to defence deals. It needs to be mentioned that corruption in defence deals is not confined only to arms imports from Israel, but also from other countries. Bofors may be buried but is not forgotten as yet.

Mr. Prashad further states that only the Communist Party of India (Marxist) CPI (M), whose 2014 election manifesto seeks to “extend full support to the cause of a Palestinian state; sever military and security ties with Israel.” This, with respect may be the stand of a marginalized party and can never be the stand of the country as a whole.


Lastly, Israel will not be a mute spectator to the creation of Palestine, devoid of security guarantees, as India was in 1947, when Pakistan was created only to reap overt and covert conflicts for generations to come.

The endless calamity in West Asia is not one of Israel's making, but is the result of the acts of commission and omission by the British and the Arab states post World War II.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Crimean Standoff



Brief History

Crimea is not new to conflicts. Crimea, a peninsula separating the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, has been at the centre of military and commercial competition throughout history. The Romans set up naval bases there as early as the first century AD, ancient peoples from the Scythians to Byzantine Greeks used it as a base for farming and maritime commerce, and empires clashed over it as a prime Black Sea possession for centuries. Russia took possession in 1783.

In the mid-1800s, Britain and France, backing the feeble Ottoman sultan, fought the Russian empire over Crimea – and more importantly, its importance for control of the passage from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. Then, as now, Sevastopol was home to the Russian Black Sea fleet, and the European powers fought furiously to seize it. Although the Crimean War ended in an effective stalemate, its fierce and epic battles left a lasting mark on European memory, including the Battle of Balaklava that inspired Alfred Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade and, years later, Rudyard Kipling’s The Last of the Light Brigade.
In 1954, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave the peninsula as a gift to Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine. At the time, neither he nor anyone else foresaw the Soviet Union’s collapse. But collapse it did, and Crimea stayed within newly independent Ukraine in 1992 as an autonomous region. The Russian fleet, though, settled in the only deep-water port providing access to Western markets, has been an irritant between Moscow and Kiev ever since.

Civil Strife and Intervention

The ongoing crisis in Crimea began with Euromaidan (literally meaning Eurosquare) a wave of ongoing demonstrations, civil unrest and revolution in Ukraine, which began on the night of 21 November 2013 in the Ukrainian capital Kiev with public protests demanding closer European integration. The scope of the protests expanded, with many calls for the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych and his government. The events led to the downfall of the government of Yanukovych. The Russian military intervention in Ukraine began in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution, when, on 1 March 2014, Russian troops (with no insignia on their uniforms) seized control of most of the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, including civil buildings, airports, and military bases. The same day, the Russian legislature approved the use of the Russian military in Ukraine, and Russian officials stated that their military forces in Crimea were not a breach of existing agreements between Russia and Ukraine. The Ukrainian response has so far been muted, with no military action on the part of Ukraine's government, which was formed in Kiev a few days before the intervention. The Russian military intervention has been compared to what Adolf Hitler had done in Sudetenland in the 1930s when he moved his troops into a region of what was Czechoslovakia at that time, with a regional ethnic German majority. The Russian move is also being compared to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Russian Interests and Strategy
 
Russia’s role in this unfolding crisis flows uniquely from its geography and its history. As Ukraine’s eastern neighbour, Russia shares a strategic border as well as a tortured history together as part of the former Soviet Union. What happens in Ukraine matters mightily to Moscow. Ever since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moscow has been extremely wary of the expanding the North Atlantic Alliance. Since its collapse, former satellite states of the Soviet Union, namely, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria have joined the NATO. So also, some of the former republics of the erstwhile Soviet Union, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania also joined the Western Alliance. 

Putin’s been cautioning the U.S. and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization states for at least six years not to impede Russian interests in Ukraine, particularly in Crimea, where the Black Sea Fleet has been based since its founding by Catherine the Great in 1783 after the Ottoman Empire ceded the peninsula.

Putin told a closed NATO summit in Romania in 2008 that the military alliance was threatening Ukraine’s very existence by courting it as a member, according to a secret cable published by Wikileaks. Putin said Ukraine’s borders were “sewn together” after World War II and its claims to Crimea, which belonged to Russia until Nikita Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine in 1954, are legally dubious, Kurt Volker, the U.S. ambassador to NATO at the time, said in the cable. Russia also strongly opposed US plans for a missile shield in Europe.

According to some experts, Russia’s willingness to intervene and escalate a conflict is a sign of panic at what it sees as a possible loss of influence in Ukraine as a result of the Maidan revolution. Russia probably did not foresee the fall of Yanukovych. Moscow seemed to have outmaneuvered the European Union (EU) by offering Yanukovych a $ 15 billion bail out package as a quid pro quo for not signing an association agreement with the EU. Had the agreement with the EU been signed, it would have meant one another former Soviet republic joining the Western fold.

Mr. Putin has fought bitterly to defend what the Kremlin calls its "sphere of privileged interests" in former Soviet republics. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has inserted itself into ethnic conflicts with neighboring states to assert its influence. In 2008 it invaded the former Soviet republic of Georgia to defend the breakaway region of South Ossetia. South Ossetia and Abkhazia were subsequently recognised by Moscow as separate states, though effectively protectorates of Russia.

Mr. Putin is taking a much bigger gamble in Ukraine because the loss of influence there could deal a blow to his presidency. Many Russians still struggle to see Ukraine as an independent country, given the bonds of history and religious ties.

Crimea is even closer, having been Russian territory until 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev transferred it to Ukraine, then a Soviet republic. When the Soviet Union collapsed Crimea remained part of newly independent Ukraine, despite its majority of ethnic Russians.



The Budapest Memorandum

Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances is an international treaty signed on 5 December 1994 in the Hungarian capital Budapest by Ukraine, the US, Russia and the United Kingdom concerning the nuclear disarmament of Ukraine and its security relationship with the signatory countries. The terms of the memorandum is seen as being violated by Russia's military intervention.

According to the memorandum, Russia, the USA, and the UK confirmed, in recognition of Ukraine becoming party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and in effect abandoning its nuclear arsenal to Russia that they would:

·         Respect Ukrainian independence and sovereignty within its existing borders.

·         Refrain from the threat or use of force against Ukraine.

·         Refrain from using economic pressure on Ukraine in order to influence its politics.

·         Seek United Nations Security Council action if nuclear weapons are used against Ukraine.

·         Refrain from the use of nuclear arms against Ukraine.

·         Consult with one another if questions arise regarding these commitments.

Russia, by its actions is seen not only to be in breach of international law and the provisions of the UN Charter in general, but also the provisions of the Budapest Memorandum.

Strategic importance of Sevastopol

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Moscow refused to recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty over the port city of Sevastopol and the surrounding Crimean oblast on the ground that the city (Sevastopol) was never integrated into Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. The issue was resolved with the signing of a treaty in 1997 wherein the Russian naval base was allowed to be located in the city on a 20-year renewable lease.
    
The Crimean port of Sevastopol, home of the Black Sea fleet, is vital to Russia’s naval power in the Mediterranean and beyond. As such the base is of critical importance as Russia seeks to regain some of the global clout that has been dwindling since the disintegration of the Soviet empire.

“In the past five to 10 years, there has been a resurgence in Russian naval operations, particularly in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean,” says Lee Willett, a naval analyst at IHS Jane’s, the security consultancy. “Sevastopol has been an important hub to project Russian naval power.”

Under agreements signed with Ukraine in 2010, the Russian military can continue to use Sevastopol until 2042, with an option of extending the lease to 2047.

The base’s significance was highlighted during the 2008 war with Georgia, when the Russian fleet staged blockades in the Black Sea and was used to launch amphibious landings. It has also proved its usefulness to Russia in the Libya crisis, anti-piracy missions in the Indian Ocean and Moscow’s role in dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons.

After Syria’s civil war forced Russia to stop using its naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus last year, Sevastopol became even more crucial.

Can the US and Europe respond effectively?

The bitter fact is that the US and the West failed to anticipate the Russian military intervention in Crimea. The ongoing crisis in Ukraine is another indicator of the failure of Obama Administration’s foreign policy. Beyond strong words and economic sanctions which may have little or no bite, there is very little that the Obama Administration can do. President Obama’s warning and telephonic discussions has had very little effect on Russia. On the contrary, Crimea seems to have been subdued without a single shot being fired.

“There have been strong words from the US and other counties and NATO,” said Keir Giles, a Russian military analyst at the Chatham House think tank in London. “But these are empty threats. There is really not a great deal that can be done to influence the situation.”

US officials say they are in discussions now with European officials about Obama and other leaders possibly skipping the Group of Eight economic summit scheduled for June in Sochi, the site of the just-concluded Winter Olympics. Obama’s top advisers gathered at the White House Saturday to discuss other options.

The White House appears to be giving no serious consideration to American military involvement in Ukraine. In his carefully worded statement Friday, Obama avoided saying that a destabilized Ukraine would be a national security concern for the US. Instead, he said only that it was “not in the interest of Ukraine, Russia or Europe.”

In Europe, officials expressed concern about the Russian military escalation, but offered few specific options for stopping or punishing Putin. The European Union, dealing with its own internal problems, has appeared reluctant to fully embrace troubled Ukraine or risk the economic consequences of confronting Russia, one of its largest trading partners.

The US has its own limitations which prevent it from formulating a robust response. Its efforts to punish Russia on Ukraine have been complicated by the White House’s need for Russian cooperation on stopping Syria’s civil war, negotiating a nuclear accord with Iran, and transporting American troops and equipment out of Afghanistan through Russian supply routes.

The crisis may also prove to be a game-changer for President Barack Obama's national security policy, forcing him re-think his foreign policy shift to Asia and to maintain U.S. troop levels in Europe to limit Russia's reach.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has so far dismissed the few specific threats from the United States, which include scrapping plans for Obama to attend an international summit in Russia this summer and cutting off trade talks sought by Moscow. Because Ukraine does not have full-member status in NATO, the US and Europe have no obligation to come to its defense. And broader international action through the United Nations seems all but impossible, given Russia’s veto power as a member of the Security Council. 

Last summer, Washington threatened Moscow with cancellation of a bilateral summit between Obama and Putin as it pressed Russia to return National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to the United States.

When Russia instead granted Snowden temporary asylum, Obama canceled his one-on-one meeting with Putin, but still attended an international meeting in St. Petersburg.

Another reason why economic pressures may not work is because Ukraine depends on Russia for 60 percent of its gas and is the main transit route for OAO Gazprom’s shipments to Europe, where the state-run company has a quarter of the market. Russia had halted gas flows to Ukraine in 2006 and 2009 — before Yanukovych’s presidency — amid disputes over prices and volumes, leading to shortages throughout Europe.

According to Amanda Paul, an analyst at the European Policy Center in Brussels, “President Putin doesn’t really care what the rest of the world thinks about his foreign policy,” Paul said by phone. “Ukraine is a neighbor country that Russia views as indivisible from itself. Russia is prepared to go to any length to stop Ukraine’s deeper integration with Europe.”  It remains to be seen, of course, if Russia extends its military campaign into Eastern Ukraine with the objective of partitioning the country, whether the West’s response may be different.


Sources: Financial Times, Wikipedia, BBC, The Globe and Mail, CNN



Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Operation Blue Star – And The Controversy Continues



There seems to be no end to the controversy surrounding Operation Blue Star. The British government’s twelve page report tabled in the British Parliament clarifying that its role was purely advisory and limited has unfortunately only stoked the fires in India.

The British Foreign Secretary William Hague tabled a twelve page report before the Parliament stating that the British Government’s role in the 1984 Operation Blue Star (or for an operation which was never carried out) was purely advisory and limited.

Ever since the disclosure of the two letters dated 6th February 1984 and 23rd February 1984 (see http://kumar-theloneranger.blogspot.in/2014/01/operation-blue-star-new-controversy.html) there has been considerable speculation in India about the extent of the role of the British Special Air Service (SAS) in the Golden Temple Operation. Debates featuring opposition politicians, former intelligence and army officers on Indian television news channels have gone on unabated as if the Indian government had committed a heinous crime in seeking advice from a specialized counter-terror unit of a foreign country on the feasibility of carrying out a flushing out operation. Are politicians in India so na├»ve that they consider it preposterous for the government of the day, in its wisdom, to have sought “advisory assistance” from a friendly foreign government in planning a military operation? At least, one leading opposition politician thought so.

Questions relating to this controversy may not have convincing answers, and in any case it may be difficult to find completely satisfactory answers. Also the contemporaneous documents may not reveal the full story, for most of the personae behind Operation Blue Star are no longer alive with the exception of Lt. General K S Brar, who was the General Officer Commanding of 9 Infantry Division. The officer in question has in unequivocal terms stated that there was no foreign involvement in the planning and execution of Operation Blue Star.

The single most important question has been ‘why did the Indian Government seek assistance/advice of the British Military or its intelligence agencies?’  Two Indians who could have definitely given an appropriate and satisfactory response to this question are the late Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi and her security advisor late Rameshwar Nath Kao. Two factors that may have led the late Mrs. Gandhi to approach the British for assistance, would have been, one, that the bulk of the support for the secessionist Khalistan movement came from the Sikh community in Britain and prominent leaders espousing the cause of Khalistan were based in Britain. Intelligence sharing between foreign countries being normal, Indian and British agencies, one assumes would have kept tabs on the activities of the leaders of the Khalistan movement and two, the SAS has been one of the best counter-terror units in the world. The legendry spy master would also have considered the role played by the SAS in the 1979 operation to flush out radical Muslims who had occupied the Grand Mosque in Mecca inspired by the revolution in Iran. Comparisons have been drawn between the siege in the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the occupation of Golden Temple by militants. In the 1979 Mecca siege, personnel belonging to 22nd SAS Regiment who were working for a British Company at the relevant time in Saudi Arabia were called upon to advice in planning the operation to flush out the armed radicals. Though SAS members did not take part in the actual operation, it is believed that French commandos belonging to the Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmeie Nationale (GIGN) took part in the actual raid along with Saudi anti-terror units.

The second question for which no document may provide an easy answer is what happened to the advice given by the British official/s? According to Manoj Joshi, a leading commentator on strategic affairs, the SAS was probably involved in an operation planned much prior to Operation Blue Star which was never carried out.

This operation was planned using the commandos of the Special Frontier Force (SFF), who are army personnel, seconded to the Research & Analysis Wing. Manoj Joshi says that the stories doing the round in the late eighties was that the SFF was ordered to develop a plan for taking out Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale from the Golden Temple in late 1983. The force came up with a plan where its personnel would disguise themselves as Sikhs, penetrate Bhindranwale's durbar at the Guru Nanak Niwas in the Golden Temple complex and whisk him away. 

At the last stage, the commander of the force was summoned by Mrs. Gandhi and asked to brief her on the plan. Her main question was: What are the chances that people will be killed in the operation? The commander said that there was no guarantee that there would be no casualties and as many as a dozen or more people could be killed. At that Mrs. Gandhi balked.

However, Colonel Mahendra Pratap Choudhary, then Commanding Officer of the SFF Group which was a part of Operation Blue Star, said they had no contact with any foreign Special Forces outfit, including SAS. “The only foreign connection to our conduct were the specially designed Kevlar-plated bullet-proof helmets from Israel which were got on the eve of the Operation.”

Was Operation Blue Star based on the advice given by the SAS official/s? "The UK officer’s report back to the UK authorities stated that the main difference between the original Indian plan and his advice was that the original plan was based on obtaining a foothold within the south complex and fighting through in orthodox paramilitary style."

"With a view to reducing casualties, the UK military adviser recommended assaulting all objectives simultaneously, thereby assuring surprise and momentum. The advice given to the Indian authorities identified sufficient helicopters, and the capability to insert troops by helicopter, as critical requirements for this approach."

"The UK advice also focused on command and control arrangements, and night-time co-ordination of paramilitary with Indian Special Group forces."

"It is, of course, possible that Indian planning went through several iterations after the UK military adviser’s visit and report. A quick analysis by current UK military staff confirms that there were significant differences between the actual June operation, and the advice from the UK military officer in February. In particular, the element of surprise was not at the heart of the operation. Nor was simultaneous helicopter insertion of assault forces to dominate critical areas."

The paper on the operation made public by the Indian authorities on June 13, 1984 makes clear that it was a ground assault, preceded by a warning, without a helicopter-borne element, which became a step-by-step clearance supported by armour and light artillery.

According to the British report, “A key UK officer recalls being told in July 1984, by one of the Indian Intelligence Co-ordinator’s senior officials, that after the February visit it had emerged that the Indian Special Group and Army did not have the helicopter capabilities for a simultaneous assault.” 

Lastly there has been a hue and cry about the visit of either intelligence and/or military officials (who also probably did a recce of the Golden Temple Complex) and whether India’s national security was compromised. Much prior to the disclosure made by the British, the late B. Raman on page 96 of his autobiographical account “The Kaoboys of R&AW Down Memory Lane” published in 2007 states: “I was given to understand that at the request of Kao, two officers of the British Security Service (MI-5) visited the Golden Temple as tourists and gave a similar advice to Indira Gandhi – be patient and avoid action or use the police.”  Whether these officials were part of MI-5 or were in reality members of the SAS will never be known. But the fact remains that the British played an advisory role pre-Blue Star.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Death and A Stampede in Mumbai



[Note: Normally this blog covers issues relating to foreign affairs, intelligence and security. This post is an exception. This post is based on reports appearing in the electronic and print media].
 
While there are numerous occasions when the police in India are to be blamed for inaction, lapses or incompetence, the Mumbai Police cannot be held responsible for the stampede which took place in the wee hours of 18th January 2014 following the death of the spiritual leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community.

The stampede in the wee hours of Saturday, in which 18 people were killed and more than 50 injured, occurred when thousands of Dawoodi Bohras thronged Saifee Mahal, the Malabar Hill home of departed spiritual leader Dr. Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin, who died on 17th January.

The circumstances leading to the tragedy 

The community leaders are alleged to have initially sent text messages to followers to refrain from coming to the residence of the spiritual leader. However, inexplicably a second SMS sent around 2150 hrs asked the followers to pay their last respects at Saifee Mahal. The second message is alleged to have been sent without informing or consulting the local police.

The residence of the Syedna is located at the end of 20-ft wide AG Bell Road. The followers were allowed to enter the house from the rear gate which opens into the Bhausaheb Hire Road and exit through the front gate at AG Bell Road after paying their respects to the departed leader whose body was kept on the ground floor. 

As crowds swelled, it was decided to allow entry from both ends. However, a little past midnight when the gates were shut, those already in the jam-packed AG Bell Road could not even move an inch, forget turn back and walk out.

The trouble started when the community leaders shut the mansion at half-past-midnight and the frenzied crowds outside were asked to return home. This message, however, was not conveyed through SMSes and people kept pouring in, not allowing the crowd in the narrow lane outside the house to turn back.

Explaining the circumstances that led to the incident, an IPS officer said, "Bohra community leaders yesterday informed us that no crowd would be allowed to gather at Syedna's residence.

"They said community members will pay their last respects during the funeral procession today and accordingly security arrangements were made."

"However, at about 9 PM yesterday, the leaders, without consulting us, began sending text messages informing the followers that they would be allowed to have a glimpse of Syedna at his residence. After this, people from the city and outskirts started pouring in," he said.

"We were informed about this change in plan after the messages had already been sent. We were told that about 4,000-5,000 people would turn up at his residence and security measures were made accordingly. But the figure swelled to over 60,000 in no time," the officer said.

As the gates of Saifee Mahal were opened and then shut abruptly, the mourners tried to force their way into the house, causing commotion and then a massive rush, he said.

"Before police could make further arrangements to manage the unexpected crowd, the tragedy had occurred," he said.

The so-called experts have ‘subsequent’ to the incident, said that the police could have done a lot more to thwart the tragedy, it must be pointed out that the police were given assurances by the community leaders that there would not be a large gathering outside Saifee Mahal.  

Primarily two factors were largely responsible for the tragedy, both of which cannot be attributable to the local police or any officer in particular:

One, the sending of the text messages asking the late Syedna’s followers to come to Saifee Mahal to pay their last respects without informing the police; and two the decision to allow entry to the followers from both the front and the rear gates of the residence and the abrupt shutting of the gates without any prior intimation.

Also, a posse of policemen led by a senior officer (Zonal Deputy Commissioner of Police) was deployed outside the residence to manage a reasonably small crowd, on the strength of the information given by community leaders. 

The onus of both the above-mentioned acts lies on the community leaders and consequently on the tragic stampede as well and not on the police. It is easy to be wise after the incident and easier still for former police officers to indict their colleagues.

 (At the time of writing this post, a probe into the stampede is being conducted by the Crime Branch of Mumbai Police).