The most mysterious figures of recent times

He’s perhaps the most mysterious figures of recent times.No one knows if he’s alive and his supporters have used this mystery to their advantage.
As Osama bin Laden – world’s most dreaded terrorist – turns 49, he has world’s biggest investigative agency trying to trace him down.Usamah bin Muhammad bin `Awad bin Ladin was born in Riyadh to a wealthy businessman from Yemen with close ties to the Saudi Royal Family. He had an estimated 55 siblings and was his father’s 17th son.
Raised a Sunni, he studied business and project administration in Jeddah. When he was 17 he married to his first wife, who also happened to be his first cousin.
Since then he reportedly married four other women, divorcing one. He has had at least 24 children and his last public appearance was at his son’s wedding just before 9/11.His turn to extremism was sparked by the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. When the Saudi government allowed a coalition from the United States to establish a base in the country, he considered it the ultimate betrayal.
It was thought that he died in the US bombing of Afghanistan, but reports indicate that he escaped to Pakistan. Later, it was rumored that he died of kidney failure. The release of a video just before the 2004 US elections, and in January this year, prove both wrong.
Wherever he is, he is the FBI’s most wanted criminal with a bounty of at least $25 million on his head.
A Saudi Muslim scholar who spent years with Arab jihadis in Afghanistan said he knows Osama bin Laden well and that the Al-Qaeda leader will never surrender, according to a report published today.
He will never surrender because he seeks death and yearns for it,” said Musa al-Qorni in an interview with Saudi-owned pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat.
He added that he believed bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States, is at present under the sway of the “Egyptian jihad group” led by Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri and acts according to its plans.
Qorni said he and others tried to convince bin Laden when he was in Sudan in the mid-1990s to come back to Saudi Arabia and “lead a normal life”, but that the Saudi-born militant snubbed them and returned to Afghanistan.
US President George W Bush said during his first visit to Afghanistan on March 1 that he was confident bin Laden would be brought to justice.
Bin Laden, sheltered by the Taliban regime that was removed from power in a US-led invasion in late 2001, is believed to be hiding out along the remote, mountainous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
A US-led coalition force of about 20,000 based in southern and eastern Afghanistan as well as some 80,000 Pakistani troops stationed on the other side of the border are on the hunt for Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants, including bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

From India Shining to India Snorting

On the face of it, as Atal Bihari Vajpayee said, Rahul Mahajan is just a youth who made a mistake. The night before he was to take his father’s ashes to the Brahmaputra, Rahul just got a little sad, snorted some cocaine and heroin off a 500-rupee note and passed out.
Perhaps Vajpayee is right. Perhaps the fact that Rahul Mahajan, son of an RSS pracharak, is currently India’s most famous drug abuser, is simply the error of a directionless youth.
Back in Ambejogai in Maharashtra, when the late Pramod was pulling his family up by the bootstraps and spending his mornings in the shakha, cocaine and heroin must have been the last thing on his mind.
But why did the ideals of the sangh parivar (however fiercely contested they may be) not pass from one generation to the next?
The Rahul Mahajan drug case is yet another example of the BJP’s tortured tryst with modernity.
Pramod Mahajan was an example of an important new phenomenon within the BJP. The pracharak as corporate networker.
The resourceful Hindutva soldier who strove to push his cause through big money and big contacts.
Someone as comfortable with Hindutva rhetoric and anti-modern speeches on minorities, as he was in the salons of those commanding hefty corporate and political power.
Pramod Mahajan, the talented politician, was as resourceful, as much of a deal maker, as much of an urban party animal as dear old K Sudarshan, sarsanghchalak of the RSS, could never hope to be.
Yet to be sure, the spirit of the sangh parivar ran deep in the veins of the Pramod Mahajan family.
He belonged to that community of Maharashtrian Brahmins for whom the RSS was second nature, for whom hindutva was the unquestioned way of life, for whom the RSS’s ideals of austerity, simple living, charitable works was the default mode of being.
The fact that Pramod Mahajan’s son became a drug addict shows how in many ways the BJP, the so-called `party with a difference’, the party of bharatiya sanskriti, the party rooted apparently in the realities of India, was completely swept off its feet by the new economy. The
self-appointed upholders of Old Bharat proved far too frail when buffeted by the high winds of New India.
In the NDA years, the resourcefulness of Pramod Mahajan was to the fore. He may have had to resign from ministerial berths because of allegations of his contacts with business houses, but he worked tirelessly for the growth of his party. His resourcefulness became exciting for the BJP.
The sheer novelty of what he represented_the monied smart talking problem solving fund raiser was galvansing and refreshing for a party of sleepy small-towners steeped in conservative Hinduism. So much so that Vajpayee subsequently anointed him as ‘Lakshman’ at the Mumbai silver jubilee celebrations even though the NDA had been driven out of power largely because of the perceived failure of Mahajan’s India Shining slogan.
In fact the declining moral quotient of Mahajan’s lifestyle juxtaposed with the sangh’s insistence on morality above all else, illustrated a stunning paradox.
During the NDA years, Vajpayee like the blind Dhritarashrta, refused to see how the BJP was failing, notably exemplified in the persona of Mahajan, to grow naturally into the new Indian economy. The BJP was failing to grow organically into a modern identity and Mahajan reflected more than most, an ersatz modernity.
A modernity of five star hotels and branded footwear and snappy suits without understanding that the modern mind, above all, is skeptical and blasé about money.
Indeed the NDA years marked a curious refusal by the BJP to even build on its own identity.
When the party of so-called bharatiya sanskriti ruled India, did we see a single gala festival celebrating Indian culture and tradition?
Was there for example a festival showcasing modern adaptations of the Mahabharat or Ramayana or operas based on great Hindu works?
Nope. All the NDA organized was the ICCR literary festival, ` At Home in the World’ designed to chiefly felicitate
VS Naipaul who is not known for his love for India. The other cultural festivals organized by the NDA were the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas ocasions, again designed to felicitate NRIs.
A party known for its Hindu identity took few steps to popularize Ayurveda, to standardize it, to modernize it, to bring it upto global standards. Nor was the BJP, the party of ‘Hindi’ able to innovatively take up the cause of
Hindi language and literature to really strive to create a talented pool of writers and poets in Hindi.
The BJP’s relative intellectual bankruptcy led it to get over-excited at the visit of VS Naipaul to the BJP office, almost as if he was the only intellectual to step into those portals. The BJP’s failure to develop a life of the mind, to develop a depth of vision of itself has made it uniquely vulnerable to the Five Star hotel.
Mind you, the Five Star life is good news for those who can afford it. It is certainly not a symbol of decadence as the Left and RSS hypocritically proclaim.
Lets face it, the good life is a fundamentally important part of new prosperity. Outraged laments about money are tediously dishonest because most practitioners of India’s new economy are talented energetic and enormously hard working individuals who earn their money honestly and have every right to spend it legitimately at whichever pleasure spot they choose.
Indeed, it is precisely, the moral posturing and moral policing of the sangh which is the flip side of the almost obscene decadence of Rahul Mahajan.
Because the sangh parivar has failed to understand modernity, precisely because modernity is considered the evil forbidden fruit, that morally depraved indulgence and binges coexist alongside hypocritical adherence to puritanical values.
Former spokesman of the RSS Ram Madhav is an engineer by training. When he was appointed, he was supposed to be the suave English-speaking face of the RSS, someone who signalled a new transparent chapter in the relations between the secretive RSS and the outside world.
Ram Madhav is no longer the spokesperson of the RSS and the sangh’s failure to create more individuals like Ram Madhav or foster a climate in which perhaps people like Ram Madhav are given the freedom to invent a kinder, better, more improved RSS, shows that the sangh’s identity is well past its sell by date. No wonder its difficult for a young blade like Rahul Mahajan to find solace in the writings of MS Golwalkar and Veer Savarkar.
Rahul Mahajan did not follow Pramod Mahajan into a political career, not just because he’s more inclined towards the good life or perhaps because of the father complex, but also perhaps because the ideology that his father upheld was simply not attractive enough to a young person no longer obsessed with `minorities’ and ‘Hindu rage.’
Rahul Mahajan illustrates the deep schizophrenia at the heart of the sangh parivar. A suspicious secretive organisation forged in the last century will never take the BJP into the new world. Instead a more healthy embrace of new India, of reforms, of a tough state, of an open honest espousal of the educated middle class, as opposed to the quota-conscious dynasty-obsessed UPA should be the BJP’s leitmotif.
The more the sangh retreats into a paranoid shell of misguided moral puritanism, the more it attacks Valentine’s Day and fashion shows, the more it will be let down by individuals like Rahul Mahajan.
India Shining will then be revealed as nothing but India Snorting.