About-the world this week, 23 April to 29 April 2023: gunfires and standing your ground; news broadcasters crossing a line; flight out of a fighting Sudan; India’s Naxalites blast again; and snakes in Indian politics.
In America the gunfire refuses to subside. Early this week nine people were injured after gunfire erupted at a teenagers’ party in Jasper County, Texas. The shooting took place at a private residence where some 250 Jasper High School students had gathered after their annual prom dance.
The reason known at this point of time is that some kids ganged up after prom to have a night they could remember the rest of their lives, and somehow it got twisted, a bunch of children got shot. The victims ranged in age between 15 and 19. A motive for the shooting had not yet been identified.
Just last weekend, four people were killed and 28 others were injured in a shooting at a ‘Sweet 16’ birthday party in Alabama.
Firearm incidents are now the leading cause of death for American children and teenagers, according to the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meanwhile, there is a burst of another kind of fire: shootings sparked by everyday mistakes.
There was this teenage boy in Missouri who rang the wrong doorbell. He had gone to pick up his two younger brother from a friend’s house. However, he went to the wrong home. An eighty years old homeowner answered the door and promptly shot the teen in the head and arm. The boy who was hospitalised in critical condition, is now recovering at home.
Then this 20 years old woman in rural upstate New York whose boyfriend accidentally turned into the wrong driveway -while looking for a friend’s house- resulting in her being shot and killed by a man shooting from his front porch in a Wild West mode.
Firing on, about two cheerleaders in Texas whose group approached the wrong car to find a man sitting in the back seat. The girls backtracked and went back to their car, but the man in the wrong car approached them and when they rolled down the windows to maybe apologise, he shot them.
And the family in North Carolina, who were shot at after a basketball rolled into the suspect’s yard. And after children jumped-in and went to retrieve the ball.
Though believed to be the ‘rarest of the rare, wrong place, wrong time’ shootings seem more common than ever before. The trend may be due to a number of factors, such as increased distrust or a sometimes-racist fear of crime, marketing by the gun lobby, and self-defense laws in states that protect shooters. Those laws generally fall into two categories, though the way they’re used state-to-state is different. One is the ‘Castle Doctrine’ which says while someone is on their property, they can use deadly force in defense without retreating. The other includes ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws, which extend that to public places, or anywhere someone with a gun has the legal right to be.
In other America news, two of the biggest names in broadcast news were showed the door by their respective Bosses.
In February, Don Lemon of ‘CNN This Morning’ came under fire after he said former UN ambassador Nikki Haley “isn’t in her prime” to run for president. He later apologised for his misogynistic on-air remarks, but the damage had been done.
Close behind was Fox News, which announced that its prime-time host is leaving the network after 14 years. ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ was one of the most successful shows on the network, with an average nightly audience of 3.2 million viewers. Over the years, the show increasingly became a platform for former President Trump and conservative commentators. Carlson has come under fire for pushing theories that the 2020 election was stolen and for misleading viewers about the 6th January Capitol Riots.
Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon are both out of the roles they’ve held for years. The shifts in the industry — from firings to layoffs — show that media outlets appear to be facing a reckoning.
Fierce fighting continues in Sudan and countries are busy evacuating their people from the crazy war-zone.
American forces evacuated US embassy personnel from the country’s capital. India worked round the clock to herd their flock together in ‘Operation Kaveri’. And India has become something of an ‘evacuation expert’- what with many Countries approaching India for help. Say Sri Lanka.
The Naxalite issue is a stranglehold that refuses to leave India in peace. This week at least 10 personnel of the District Reserve Guards and their civilian driver were killed when Maoists detonated a powerful (Improvised Explosive Device) IED on a un-metalled road and fired on the wounded jawans near Aranpur, Dantewada District, Bastar, about 400 kilometres south of Raipur, on Wednesday.
Around 200 jawans were returning in a convoy when the blast was triggered. Police believe about 50 kilograms of explosives were used.
The IED was so powerful that it blasted a crater 12 feet deep and around 25 feet across, spanning the entire width of the village road. The vehicle was blown to smithereens and some of the rifles were bent out of shape by the shockwaves.
India’s Railway infrastructure is on an awesome track roll, the Prime Minster (PM) of India is busy snaking around the country to inaugurate the New Vande Bharat Trains. These ‘non-poisonous’ Made In India trains feature a GPS-based passenger information system, bio-vacuum toilets, and rotational seats that can be aligned in the direction of travel in the executive class, and employs a regenerative braking system. The Vande Bharat can reach a maximum speed of 180 km.
During an Election campaign in the State of Karnataka the Congress President called the PM a poisonous snake, and you could die by licking it. A longtime ago, another Congress President called the PM ‘The Merchant of Death’ during another Election campaign – the results were there for all to see. Lots of poison being thrown around this week.
More stories snaking-up in the weeks ahead. Stay away from poison stay with World Inthavaaram.
About: The story of the world this week, new forces in the making, and old ones becoming more forceful and bullying too.
Move on: A new Force of Nature is here
Scientists say that all of the forces of nature we experience every day can be simply skinned-down to four categories of fundamental forces: Gravity, Electromagnetism, the Strong Nuclear Force, and the Weak Nuclear Force. The last two dominate only at the level of the sub-atomic particle and are effective over close ranges.
Now, Physicists say they have found possible signs of a fifth fundamental force.
While the four ‘grand old forces’ govern how all the objects and particles in the Universe interact with each other, this new fifth, is trying to squeeze-in, and force its (rightful?) place in the scheme of things in the Universe.
The findings come from research carried out at a laboratory near Chicago, United States (US), which is the latest in a string of promising results from particle physics experiments in the US, Japan, and most recently from the Large Hadron-Collider on the Swiss-French border.
Results provide strong evidence for the existence of an undiscovered sub-atomic particle or new force while studying particles, which are the building blocks of our world. Some of these smaller-than-the-atom-particles are made up of even smaller constituents, while others cannot be broken down into anything else, called fundamental particles. The muon is one of these fundamental particles. It is similar to the electron, but more than 200 times heavier. Some call it a ‘fat electron’.
The current experiment involved sending the particles around a 14 metre ring and then applying a magnetic field. Under the current laws of physics, of the Standard Model, this should make the muons wobble at a certain rate. Instead, the scientists found that muons wobbled at a faster rate than expected. This might be caused by a force of nature that is completely new to science.
One of the Scientists commented on the finding, ‘It is quite mind-boggling. It has the potential to turn physics on its head. We have a number of mysteries that remain unsolved. And this could give us the key answers to solve these mysteries’
The Universe is indeed a force to reckon with…and we humans are unravelling one mystery after another, for sure.
Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom (UK), is burning with violence-rioting-in areas of Derry, Belfast, and other towns in County Antrim over six successive nights-a level of unrest not seen in years.
The reason for the unrest seems to be the exploding anger over the UK’s post-Brexit trading Agreements with the European Union (EU)-known as the Northern Ireland Protocol-which loyalists believe has created barriers between the region and the rest of Britain. Under this protocol a de-facto border was created in the Irish Sea with goods entering Northern Ireland from mainland Britain subject to EU checks, which angered the Loyalists. I smell a rotten fish here-movement between parts of a United Kingdom subject to external checks by an outsider?
Loyalists, or Unionists as they are called, are part of a political movement that wishes to keep Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom and attached to the British monarchy.
Unrest first broke out over anger on the decision by the Northern Ireland Police not to prosecute leaders of the Irish Nationalist Party, Sinn Fein, for breaking coronavirus restrictions, during the funeral of a former Irish Republican Army (IRA) figure.
Looks like people are forever looking for a reason to get violent and release pent-up feelings. Easy to get angry on one’s nose?
To me, Belfast, the Capital of Northern Ireland brings back memories of the Titanic, which considered to be an unsinkable ship, famously stuck an iceberg and sank on its maiden journey, in 1912. The Titanic was constructed in Belfast, which they say, is perfectly situated for ship building.
Belfast also brings to the air, yesteryear Music Group, Boney M’s, hit song ‘Belfast, Belfast’, which was inspired by previous violent incidents in Northern Ireland. It is a significant reminder that when people utterly fail to live in peace together, such conflicts reverberate far and wide.
A Pillar Falls
Prince Philip, aged 99, The Duke of Edinburg, and the husband for 73 years, of Britain’s reigning Queen Elizabeth-II, passed away peacefully on Friday morning at Windsor Castle. He was the longest serving consort in British History.
When the Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, married her third cousin, the Duke of Edinburgh in November 1947, Winston Churchill said it was like a ‘flash of colour’ in the grey post-war Britain.
Prince Philip remained a die-hard supporter of his wife, the Queen, throughout their long life together, which saw many turbulent events in the shifting sands of time, causing the Queen to remark, ‘he was my strength & stay’.
Prince Philip had to grudgingly give up many things, including his Mountbatten name to fit into the harness of Royal Life. And to stay and be a pillar of strength to the Queen.
The BBC said of him, ‘He outlived nearly everyone who knew him and might explain him. This is why Prince Philip lived an extraordinary life’
Beauty and the Beast
If the beast was the marauding Myanmar Junta, the beauty was, Han Lay, Miss Grand Myanmar, who spoke out last week against atrocities committed by her country’s military beast. Her speech turned heads.
“Today in my country Myanmar, there are so many people dying,” she said at the Miss Grand International 2020 event in Thailand. “Please help Myanmar. We need your urgent international help right now.”
A little over a month ago, Han Lay, 22 years old, was on the streets of Yangon, Myanmar, protesting against the military. She is now concerned that her two-minute speech could possibly put her on the cross-hairs of the military’s many targets. She has decided to stay put in Thailand for at least the next three months. I guess that’s the most beautiful thing to do in these ugly times.
Meanwhile, model and Actor, Paing Takhon, one of Myanmar’s most popular celebrities was arrested on Thursday for being active in online and offline protests. And in the United Kingdom (UK) Myanmar’s Ambassador to the UK, was locked out the Embassy after a Military Attache ‘forcefully’ occupied his place and stole all his powers. He spent the night in his car outside the Embassy and felt bullied for being supportive of Democracy in Myanmar.
More than 500 civilians have been killed since the Military Coup of 1st February and the world cannot stand by watching.
It’s time countries ratchet-up sanctions on Myanmar’s Military to bring them to heel and restrain them from murdering their own people. They ought to be locked up inside their barracks and keys thrown into the sea?
India’s Naxalite Challenge
Former Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, once described Naxalism as India’s greatest internal security challenge. In hindsight looks like he had great foresight.
This Sunday, Naxalites killed at least 22 State Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in the Bijapur region of Chattisgarh State. This is the second highest, since 6th April 2010, when 76 security personnel were gunned down in nearby Dantewada. All this, since India first started its Naxalite counter-insurgency operations in the year 1947.
What is Naxalism, and what do they want?
The term Naxal comes from the name of the village, Naxalbari, in West Bengal, which was the epicentre of a tribal uprising against land-owning Landlords in the year 1967. Naxalites are considered far-left communists, supportive of Maoism, described as militant insurgents, and living with separatist ambitions.
The rise of Naxalism corresponded to the growth of militant communism in India, particularly the creation of the Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML) and the emergence of rebel groups such as the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) and the People’s War Group (PWG). The MCC and the PWG merged to form the CPI-M(Maoist), which is designated as a terrorist organisation and banned by the Government of India. We need to draw a boundary here: while the CPI-M(Maoist) is the banned party, the parent CPI and CPI-M(Marxist) are ‘accepted’ political parties working within the political system in India.
Naxalites claim to represent the poorest and most socially marginalised members of Indian society-the tribals and outcasts, and adopt the Maoist doctrine of sustained peasant-led revolution against the State: waging guerrilla warfare against Landlords, Businessmen, Politicians and Security Forces, who they consider a threat to their native land and livelihood. They aspire to get back land, which they think, belongs to them, as a right.
Since the beginning of the history of humankind, natives of a particular region of land have always wanted an unfettered hold on them, for the bountiful natural resources they yield-as a possessive right- and their unspoilt nature and beauty. Invaders, on the other hand, had sought to grab as much of rich and fertile land as possible and exploit the wealth of resources including beneath-the-earth minerals for commercial purposes and the progress of themselves and mankind. Over centuries, this ever-present tussle set man against man and has changed the course of history and fractured the geography of the land we live in.
In India, tribals expected the Indian Constitution to deliver to them a certain degree of autonomy in the land they have lived in from birth, and restrain ‘invading’ Landlords from grabbing huge swathes of ‘their land’. Historically, the original mission of Naxalites was to seize land from Oppressors-who had taken over their lands, during India’s Independence struggle and soon after Independence-and redistribute it among the peasants. They took it upon themselves to disrupt infrastructure, communication, and modernisation. And ensured they remain in splendid isolation, away from civilisation-staying marginalised, to exercise their kind of power in a Kingdom of their making.
When did such a movement begin in India?
In July of the year 1948, almost a year after India gained independence from the British, the first spikes of communist activity began to manifest in the State of Telengana (then part of the state of Andhra Pradesh). A major event known as the Telangana Struggle occurred in which the lower-classes and peasants of 2,500 villages of the former Hyderabad State started an armed revolt under the leadership of the Communist Party of India (formed in 1925,India), against oppressive landlordism, patronised by the autocratic rule of the Nizam of Hyderabad.
By the 1970’s Naxalism spread to almost all of India’s States except Western India. In the 1980’s when Naxalism was rearing its head in Tamil Nadu, in the region of Vellore, Tiruppathur, and Dharmapuri, it took the sagacity of the then Chief Minister M G Ramachandran (MGR) to give a free hand to then Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, Walter Devaram to deal with the growing insurgency. Devaram was an Army soldier and had cracked the Indian Police Service (IPS) exams with flying colours to slide in the role of a lifetime.
MGR named the task, ‘Operation Ajanta’, after Police Inspector Palanisamy’s six years old daughter, Ajanta. Inspector Palanisamy and two head constables of Tamil Nadu Special Police were killed in a Naxal bomb attack in August 1980, setting the stage for decisive action against Naxalism. Walter Devaram is hugely responsible for having successfully exterminated the menace and driven any remnants out of the State. Many movies have been made on his heroics… and he is Legend!
The idea of Naxalism is a lost cause, with rapid development, industrialisation, progress happening all across India, and citizens fortified with better laws. However, sensitive regions endowed with natural resources have to be tackled in a meaningful manner, with least possible disruption and dislocation of native people living in these regions. Attacking the State and the Indian Republic-its Law-keepers and makers-is unacceptable and must be dealt with an iron hand.
A Helicopter in Mars
America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had successfully landed its Perseverance Rover on Planet Mars, on 18th February, with the mini-helicopter, Ingenuity, neatly tucked underneath its belly. It has been sight-seeing in Mars all these days, and finally on 4th April, it gently dropped Ingenuity on the surface of Mars to prepare for the first ever man-made helicopter flight on Mars. Ingenuity is carrying a small piece of cloth that once covered one of the wings of the Wright Brothers’ aircraft which achieved the first powered flight on Earth at Kitty Hawk in 1903, to pay tribute to that milestone.
Like a butterfly would dry its wings, soon after emerging from the cocoon, and shake-it up to allow the blood run, before taking its first flight, Ingenuity is following in these small butterfly steps to take the giant leap of its first flight. Ingenuity’s solar panels and systems would also be cranked-up in the coming days, besides getting used to the Martian atmosphere, and NASA is planning the helicopter show before 11th April. The Wright Brothers are on standby, watching closely, somewhere nearby.
Voting in India’s State Assembly Elections
Elections in the States of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, and Kerala, to elect respective Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) saw a single phase one-day voting happen on the 6th April. Once elected, the majority MLA’s in turn elect one of their own as the Chief Minister of their State.
The door on Election campaigning was slammed at 7pm, on 4th April, and I breathed a sigh of relief over the hum-drum of 36 days of election cacophony. However, this time a lot many issues were brought-up by candidates, in thundering speeches, in their inimitable styles, in addition to the mandatory bursts of emotions with tears wetting cheeks and towels, and some even watering the ground.
I thoroughly enjoyed the voting process, in my place of work, Attur, Tamil Nadu. The Polling Station, a Government Middle-level Municipality School, spotlessly clean, was about 100 steps away from home and I walked over, proudly showing-off my new Voters Identification Card, which arrived only about a week ago – culmination of an online Change-of-Address request. A small crowd had gathered, and Party Workers stationed at a distance were furiously looking to mine mind votes, while an armed Police Guard looked-on, guarding the entrance and sending eye signals to other troops inside.
My wife and I got our fingers inked and casted our votes early at 7.45am following separate Ladies and Gentlemen queues. My queue was miniskirt short and I quickly punched the button of my choice on the Electronic Voting Machine, while my wife’s queue was longer than a sari, and she took time to find and hook that button.
The central, open-to-the-atmosphere courtyard of the school had an umbrella of flame-of-the forest trees shading us from the cruel summer, with a gentle breeze singing a lullaby. And I lingered a while longer allowing Wordsworthian beauty to sink-in. I wished I could vote more often: even become an Election Poet.
Maybe, 105 years old Marappa Gounder, a farmer from Karupparayanpalayam in Coimbatore District, Tamil Nadu, heard me-he had about the same thoughts walking through his mind. He has voted without-break in all State Assembly elections since the creation of Tamil Nadu State. On voting day he walks down to the Polling Booth, which is near his Home and casts his vote, urging people to vote for those who do good for the people. What a fine example he is setting, of exercising one’s democratic rights through the voting process!
Considering the pandemic times, voting was thrown open between 7am and 7pm.
It is a dampener that the results will be known only on 2nd May with counting to be taken up on that day. I wish they could count sooner. But with Elections being simultaneously held in many States, the thinking was that the results of one could influence the outcome of another.
COVID-19 to 22?
India is in the throes of a second wave of coronavirus infections and looking back at the same month of the year 2020 it appears worser, with over 1,40,000 cases per day and climbing steeply-almost vertical.
The rate of increase in cases is the worst India has seen and it’s not even peaked, as yet. This is concerning, as more variants could develop and further affect the trajectory of this pandemic.
Tracking the vaccination campaign across the world, more than 726 million shots have been given across 154 countries at a rate of about 17 million doses per day.
India has administered near about 94.3 million vaccine doses till date.
I had my first vaccine shot last Saturday and through Sunday I could feel my body rising-up to the challenge of a possible invader!
More of ‘less frightening’ and hopefully less forceful stories coming up in the weeks ahead.