The name of Indian Army’s Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh rang a bell in my mind. He is the man who planned the successful surgical strike on the terrorist’s launchpads on Thursday along the de-facto border of Pakistan. He is the official who briefed the media and today is the face of the Indian Army. Yes, he is the same gentleman whom I had befriended in Khartoum. He was then the Chief of Operations with the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) in 2006. I had saved his professional card as you can see, he was Colonel Ranbir Singh, YSM when he was in Sudan.
I remember him as a gentleman, well read and always smiling. In fact, I had written about him in the local English daily Khartoum Monitor on Sunday, November 19, 2006. I have uploaded his picture which I had taken when he spoke on the occasion of Guru Nanak’s Birthday at the Embassy of India, Khartoum. The soil of Sudan has made me meet up with many luminaries from India. My salute to DGMO Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh. We are proud of you.
It was a privilege to listen to a talk given by Prof. A. K. Ramakrishnan from the Centre for West Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi. He was invited by his former student from Sudan Khalid Abdalla Abdelwahab. The lecture was held at the Regional Institute of Gender, Diversity, Peace and Rights within the Afhad University for women. The topic was named ‘Issues of Women’s movements in India’.
I remember some of the names he mentioned in his lecture: Akka Mahadevi, Ram Mohan Roy, Sarojini Naidu, Kamaladevi Chattopadhya, Jyotiba Phule, Dr.B.R.Ambedkar, Sharmila Rege, Medha Patkar, Vandana Shiva and Mary Roy. India has seen women in the highest of positions. A bill to reserve a third of all seats in the lower house of Parliament and in states assemblies has never been passed since it was introduced almost 20 years ago. Even as a bill to provide 33 per cent reservation for women in Lok Sabha and state assemblies continues to be stuck in Parliament, Union Minister for Rural Development and Panchayat has said that a proposed legislation is on the cards this year to reserve 50 per cent of the seats in rural and urban local bodies for women. During the promos of the new film ‘Pink’ , versatile actor Amitabh Bacchhan said that he wants to see 50% women in all walks of life. Will the Patriarchal system of our society ever make this dream come true?
Having spent my childhood in a hill station, I have always had an affinity for the mountains. The picture of the hills in the Sudanese ‘tenner’ drew me towards it this time during Eid holidays. The famous Taka Mountain is located in Kassala in eastern part of Sudan near the Eritrean border. Interestingly during World War II, Italy had briefly occupied Kassala. British Indian troops fought alongside Sudanese in Eritrea in 1941 winning the decisive battle of Keren (earning the Bengal Sappers a Victoria Cross for mine clearance in Metemma, now on the Sudan-Ethiopia border). The Sudan Block of India’s National Defence Academy was partly funded with a gift of one hundred thousand pounds from the Sudanese Government in recognition of the sacrifices of Indian troops in the liberation of Sudan in the North African Campaign during World War II. Taka comprises of cone like peaks (some refer to them as sugarloaf mountains) named Mukram, Taka, Toteil and Aweitila. On the way to Kassala the green and fertile lands of Gadarif can be seen which grows sesame, sorghum, sunflower and other agricultural products. Kassala is famous for its fruits especially the Grape fruit. Kassala is in the border of Eritrea and the seasonal rivulet Al Gash flows from Eritrea to Kassala. The people in Kassala are different from the Sudanese we see in Khartoum. They have maintained their ethnicity in terms of attire and culture. There is a small trading Indian community of around 125 people. They were busy in their shops in the Indian Souq till wee hours of day of Eid. Travelling outside Sudan to its provinces during Eid is not a good idea because the shops and services come to a standstill.