Chindu Sreedharan


Before I start off, a warning to you people.

This one is a hate-diary. On all the people and things I have started disliking passionately in the last few weeks. Your sensibilities, if you are the extra-sensitive, upright kind, are sure to be hurt deep. But if you are the sensible type, well, then, proceed by all means...

I hate Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah. With all my heart and then some. My reasons are valid, irreproachable even.

Foremost, the man is abundantly fleshed, jowls and all, and, in my opinion, such people don't make good rulers. Look at Lincoln, Nehru, Jinnah. Now contrast them with plump, round Deve Gowda and beefy, back-stabbing Nawaz Sharief.

Get my point?

Dr Abdullah, I should think, greatly deserves the none-too-original epitaph, Non-Resident CM. He never seems to around, especially when there's a crisis erupting in his state, which more or less happens every second day. If I am not mistaken, he has a daughter in London, and it is to this cooler -- and definitely healthier -- clime that he flies off at the drop of his non-existent hat.

So much so that every time militants massacre Hindus by the dozen in Kashmir, or Pakistani soldiers come holidaying in Kargil, Mukthar Ahmad, my poor colleague in Srinagar, is forced to tap out the very words that he has tapped out so many times in the recent past:

"Meanwhile, Dr Abdullah has rushed back to Srinagar from London to take stock of the situation"!!!

But it is not Mukthar's plight or Dr Abdullah's jowls that has won him the top-slot in my hate list. Nope, it is not his pompous statement the other day that he would "recommend war" to the Centre if Pakistan didn't behave either (as if Vajpayee was just waiting for the word from him!).

What makes Dr Abdullah my favourite is a little action of his in Kargil. Or, if I am to be precise, a little inaction.

Not many will remember Dr Abdullah's visit to that township a couple of years ago. Then, shelling was a new phenomenon there. The compassionate chief minister immediately announced a special scheme for building bunkers. All the civilians had to do was make the bunkers and then approach the administration for adequate compensation. Simple!

So the civilians built bunkers. Some 1500 of them. But the compensation never came. A few lucky ones, when they approached the local administration, were handed Rs 3,000 (it costs at least Rs 30,000 to build a bunker).

Two years and a war later, the rest is yet to see the promised money.

Now we come to Union Home Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani. Can't stand the fellow. I know it is disrespectful to say such things about one so old, but once in a while, if used selectively, I guess it can be pardoned.

Like many good people around, my love for the man started the day he jumped into a Toyota and rode it all over the countryside, pretending it was a rath and he was Lord Ram's Man Friday.

Anyway, that's besides the point. What should concern us here is the culmination: the venue, again, Kargil sector. Sankoo, a village 40 km away from the town.

Advani was there to 'interact' with the refugees, it was announced. He arrived, complete with his daughter and J&K Governor Garry Saxena, climbed on to the podium and plunged into his speech. Suffice it to say that his much-famed oratory failed him completely with the Balti-speaking crowd.

Worse, he ended up like Nawaz Sharief now -- with egg all over his face, the ooze dripping on to his natty blue safari suit.

"After this meeting, I shall go to Minz to meet more refugees," he announced.

A titter ran through the crowd -- the village the home minister was headed for was Mingi, not Minz as he firmly believed. Advani, however, continued undaunted, repeating his plans for 'Minz' at least four more times in the next five minutes.

"Even if he came here only for the photo op, one would wish he would get the names right," a journalist muttered to himself, "No wonder we are in such a godawful mess -- we have a home minister who doesn't even know where he is going!"

Incidentally, Advani's 'interaction' with the refugees lasted less than two minutes. He stood behind the barricades and peered at the shabby crowd, much like one does at a zoo.

And then he was gone, chopper flown, to -- well, 'Minz'.

Did I tell you that I also hate photographers/videographers?

I do, lots.

With due respect to my photographer-colleague Jewella C Miranda, I think they are the most insensitive crowd in the world. Tough competition they are to vultures, definitely worse than even us journos.

A few weeks ago, we were travelling from Srinagar to Kargil. Suddenly, I find the two cars in front, both loaded to brim with photographers and their video counterparts, screeching to a halt. The doors ram open and out rush my friends.

Huddled on the roadside was a small group of villagers. Among them a woman as old as the hills. Her village had been shelled just a little while ago and she was on her way to safer areas. Her face, wrinkled and darkened into a thousand folds, was a magnificent subject, a photographer's dream.

"Idhar dekh, arre, idhar (Look here, hey, here)," the cameramen were round her, like ants, their lenses poking right into her face, for impossible close-ups (a couple of them were clucking to attract her attention). They shoved each other, kicked, elbowed, scratched, cursed...

All the while, the poor woman cowered there, not knowing what to do.

Come to think of it, no sane flock of vultures would have dared within miles of this brood.

Chindu Sreedharan is yet to get over his Kargil hangover