Sunday, June 06, 2004

Historic Days ....

today marks the anniversary of several landmark events - for both india and whole world. the state of the world (and india) as we know it today would have been quite different, if those events had turned out differently, or had not happened at all. needless to say, it was a day accompanied by massive loss of life ... and let us pause for a minute to remember those who laid down their lives to protect freedom (sounds a little cliched, doesn't it - but true nevertheless).

Operation Overlord (Battle of Normandy): June 6, 1944
This was the invasion of western Europe by the Allies to liberate it from Nazi occupation. It involved an amphibious assault - to date, it is still the largest amphibious assault in history today, involving nearly three million troops. Several Academy award winning movies have superbly captured the drama and gory detail of the Normandy invasion - The Longest Day (1962) with a superstar cast that included Richard Burton, John Wayne, Sean Connery and Henry Fonda among others; and Saving Private Ryan (1998) by Steven Spielberg - starring Tom Hanks. The intense starting sequence in Saving Private Ryan was a reminder of the horror and loss of life that occured in that battle. Other dramatizations include Spielberg and Hank's miniseries Band of Brothers

However, the success of the D-Day invasion can be attributed partly to the successful deception campaign - a massive operation called Operation Fortitude - dedicated to making the Germans believe that the invasion would take place at Pas de Calais rather than Normandy. Intelligence, they say, is key to winning wars (Iraq, anyone?), and WWII was the ultimate success story for the Allies as far as the espionage war goes. The successful turning of the German intelligence operation in England was key to this - always reminds me of Alistair MacLean's Where Eagles Dare, later made into a movie starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. The success of the Allies was a tailor-made topic for countless other novels and Hollywood movies. We can only wonder (or dread) what would have come to pass if the invasion had failed.

The next major anniversary - very significant for the Indian context was Operation Bluestar: June 6, 1984
Rediff has been carrying a major special to mark the 20th anniversary of the storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar by the Indian Army to flush out hundreds of heavily armed terrorists who had taken refuge there - an event that has forever influenced the main protagonists in the situation: Major General Kuldip Singh Brar, who commanded the operation lives in ultra-high security in Mumbai - even after retirement, facing the threat of assasination; the then PM Indira Gandhi - who was assasinated on Oct 31, 1984 and the entire Sikh community who was outraged by the action, and the victim of anti-Sikh riots that ensued in Delhi following the Gandhi assasination. A lot has been said and written about the Bluestar - books, internet articles, websites, but IMO, there doesn't seem to be any doubt that action was needed - whose fault was it that the situation got to the level it did is a whole different issue, but given that it did - there seemed to be almost no choice that the terrorists needed to be disarmed. Whether Operation Bluestar was the way to go, i do not quite know, and will probably never be able to know. But again, thankfully, terrorism in Punjab is a thing of the past - and Punjab is still a part of India - the granary of India. A tribute to all the security personnel - army, cops, paramilitary who died for us to see this day - and spare a prayer for all the civilians who lost their lives in the crossfire.

On a totally different note - congratulations to Prashant and Rupali, who are probably married by now in Mumbai. Your wedding anniversary certainly has a lot of historical company ....

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