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Thursday, August 6

Indian villagers give a lesson in Do-it-Yourself civil defense

First, 'round midnight Tuesday, sharp-eyed villagers in Madhya Pradesh's Harda district noticed a strange light in the distance, went to investigate, and found people trapped in some derailed train cars that had capsized into the Machack River and were filling with the river water. About 20 youths from Neemsara and Mandla villages ran and got ropes and hauled the passengers to safety, more than 70 of them. This was in the dark and driving rain.  Government rescue teams showed up three hours later.  

Then, on Wednesday, three quick-witted villagers played the fool as an AK-47 wielding terrorist, who was clearly unfamiliar with the region, took them hostage after his partner was shot and killed by security forces and ordered the villagers to lead him to a remote area. Then, tired and hungry from going in circles, the terrorist lost his focus. Two of the hostages seized the moment and pounced, one getting him in a chokehold while the other wrested the weapon from him.

Controversies are already attached to the twin train wrecks, with an activist pointing the finger at the state government's dam-management policies (see the NDTV report above), others blaming the train operators for trying cross a flooded bridge (See Al Jazeera's report), and just about everybody blaming the decrepit condition of the nation's rail infrastructure.  

There is controversy, too, about the terrorist, who after being turned over to the police, coolly gave his name, the name of his home town in Pakistan, and name of his terrorist group (Pakistan's ISI-controlled LeT) to the Indian press -- then announced he'd "had fun" killing Hindus and would have killed more if he hadn't been captured. (See the Times of India report linked to above for details.) 

From a few published opinions I looked at, many Indians blame the Indian military/ government for not being tough enough on Pakistan and/ or not guarding the Line of Control well enough. 

Short of using something like Agent Orange, I don't think there's much more that can be done at the operational level to limit breaches of the LoC fencing. LeT waits until the grasses on both sides of the fence grow tall during monsoon season, then hidden by the grasses they cut a hole in the fence and slip through.  And the Pakistani military starts firing across the Line of Control, probably in several cases to lay down cover for the terrorists as they sneak through.  

As for India getting tougher -- the Pakistanis live for retaliation. It gives them a sense of importance. The entire Pakistani society is marked by an envy of India that is in the pathological range, and this is no exaggeration. But India just keeps rising and rising, and Pakistan keeps begging and begging from every nation it can. That's what envy does to a person, and a society; it makes them weak inside. 

But all that has nothing to do with the plucky Indian villagers who within a 24-hour period gave a splendid demonstration that the true strength of a nation is reflected in its most ordinary people. 

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