a) Horror in Manchester

For the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for Monday night’s suicide attack in Manchester that left at least 22 people dead and 59 injured, all those who were present at the city’s main indoor arena to attend Ariana Grande’s concert were infidels. All of them were just innocent teenagers and the blast hit them when they were leaving after the concert. It is a familiar story. Over the past three years, terrorists have repeatedly struck Western cities, massacring unarmed civilians, including children. Be it the Bataclan theatre in Paris, the Brussels airport or the Manchester Arena, terror has aimed to unleash maximum panic and thereby create divisions in societies, challenge the public’s faith in their institutions and trigger ethnic, racial or religious tensions. So when in a statement issued on the Internet the IS boasts of killing and injuring “100 crusaders” in Manchester, it is actually trying to hard sell its world view of a “holy war” between the two largest faiths. Investigators are yet to confirm the IS link. But the exact affiliation of the perpetrator may be immaterial to groups such as the IS and al-Qaeda, which have contracted out their violent, polarising ideology to extremist cells and individuals across the world. The British government has, wisely, refused to play ball so far. In a strong message delivered from Downing Street, Prime Minister Theresa May has hailed the spirit of Britain, which “through years of conflict and terrorism has never been broken and will never be broken”. The attack, the first major terror strike in 12 years in the country, raises daunting challenges for the U.K. Over the past 18 months alone, British intelligence agencies, deemed to be among the best in terms of resources and efficiency, have reportedly thwarted at least 12 terrorist plots. Still, the 22-year-old Salman Abedi, a British national of Libyan origin, slipped of their radar, entered the Arena complex and detonated an improvised bomb at its foyer. While more details about Abedi are yet to emerge, there are already questions about how he got his hands on an improvised bomb small enough to conceal in a belt or behind a vest. For Britain, this is going to be a long fight with no quick fixes on the cards. Hundreds of British nationals had travelled to Syria, a country that is being bombed by the U.K., the U.S. and several other countries, to join the IS over the past three years. Many of them came back, and with the IS under growing pressure in Syria and Iraq many more battle-hardened men could return, aggravating the situation. While Britain has raised its threat level to critical in the aftermath of the attack, a longer-term challenge for the political and community leadership is to find a way to address the challenge of radicalism.

b) The Commendation

There are two issues that are pertinent about the commendation awarded to Major Leetul Gogoi of the Army’s 53 Rashtriya Riles. The first relates to the timing — it was conferred on him by Army chief General Bipin Rawat before a Court of Inquiry has concluded its probe into his role in the use of a human shield during the Srinagar Lok Sabha election on April 9. Without casting any doubt whatsoever about Major Gogoi’s “sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations”, it is impossible but to conclude that the timing of the award sends a truly unfortunate message, one that risks a loss of public confidence in the Court of Inquiry, ordered by the Army itself. Since the Major was being probed for a possible transgression in an area plagued by insurgency, wouldn’t the commendation be regarded as a tacit approval of his action? The second issue relates to the circumstances in which Major Gogoi resorted to the use of a human shield, something that he admitted to doing a day after news of the commendation broke. Many of the specifics relating to this are irrelevant insofar as they do not constitute a justification for tying someone to the bonnet of a jeep and driving him through the street as a deterrent to stone pelting. For instance, the discussion on whether Farooq Ahmad Dar was instigating a group to throw stones (as Major Gogoi states) or whether he was merely a bystander who was out to exercise his franchise (as Mr. Dar says) cannot cloud the larger issue — the impropriety of the Indian Army using someone as a human shield. The Indian Army prides itself on a long and honour able tradition in guarding the Republic; indeed, it operates in places such as Kashmir in extremely trying circumstances that risk life and limb. But surely it must accept that the rules of conduct for men in uniform must be adhered to, despite the difficulties in doing so in the conduct of what is clearly an asymmetric engagement. If the use of human shields has been declared a war crime by the Geneva Conventions and opposed for the same reason in both “international and non-international conflicts” by organisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, it is because such acts put people at risk and constitute a gross human rights violation. It is no accident that the use of such shields has been perfected by terrorist organisations, ranging from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to the Islamic State. It could be argued that in the fog of operations, some improvisation in standard operating procedures is inevitable. But the use of a human shield, in this instance of a civilian, can hardly be justified on this ground, because it militates against the basic principles that govern the rules of conduct in war and war like situations. It would have been proper if this incident was met with stern disapproval rather than being exploited, as it has been in some hyper-nationalistic quarters, to reinforce an us-versus-them binary and pit the security forces against the Kashmiri street.


1) Concert

Meaning: Arrange (something) by mutual agreement or coordination.

Example: They started meeting regularly to concert their parliamentary tactics.

Synonyms: Agreement, Conclude

2) Massacring

Meaning: Deliberately and brutally kill (many people).

Example: Thousands were brutally massacred by soldiers.

Synonyms: Slaughter, Butcher

Antonyms: Renaissance, Protection

3) Unleash

Meaning: Cause (a strong or violent force) to be released or become unrestrained.

Example: The failure of the talks could unleash more fighting.

Synonyms: Release, Free

Antonyms: Restrain

4) Ethnic

Meaning: The mass expulsion or killing of members of one ethnic or religious group in an area by those of another.

Example: The U.S. has a wide variety of ethnic groups made up of immigrants or their descendants.

Synonyms: Racial, Tribal

Antonyms: Non-racial

5) Boasts

Meaning: Talk with excessive pride and self-satisfaction about one’s achievements, possessions, or abilities.

Example: She boasted about her many conquests.

Synonyms: Brag, Crow,

Antonyms: Deprecate, Belittle

6) Affiliation

Meaning: The state or process of affiliating or being affiliated.

Example: The group has no affiliation to any preservation society.

Synonyms: Annexing, Attaching

7) Perpetrator

Meaning: A person who carries out a harmful, illegal, or immoral act.

Example: The perpetrators of this horrific crime must be brought to justice.

Synonyms: Accomplish, Achieve

8) Hailed

Meaning: Call out to (someone) to attract attention/ praise (someone or something) enthusiastically.

Example: I hailed her in English.

Synonyms: Greet, Salute,

9) Daunting

Meaning: Seeming difficult to deal with in prospect; intimidating.

Example: A daunting task.

Synonyms: Intimidating, Formidable,

Antonyms: Encourage, Hearten

10) Thwarted

Meaning: Oppose (a plan, attempt, or ambition) successfully.

Example: The government had been able to thwart all attempts by opposition leaders to form new parties.

Synonyms: Foil, Frustrate

Antonyms: Assist, Facilitate

11) Foyer

Meaning: An entrance hall or other open area in a building used by the public, especially a hotel or theatre.

Example: The foyer of the concert hall.

Synonyms: Entrance hall, Hall,

12) Casting

Meaning: Throw (something) forcefully in a specified direction.

Example: He cast the book down on to the chair angrily.

Synonyms: Throw, Toss

13) Transgression

Meaning: An act that goes against a law, rule, or code of conduct; an offence.

Example: I’ll be keeping an eye out for further transgressions.

Synonyms: Offence, Crime

Antonyms: Obedience

14) Plagued

Meaning: Cause continual trouble or distress to.

Example: He has been plagued by ill health.

Synonyms: Afflict, Bedevil

15) Tacit

Meaning: Understood or implied without being stated.

Example: Your silence may be taken to mean tacit agreement.

Synonyms: Implicit, Understood

Antonyms: Explicit, Stated

16) Insofar

Example: Looking back helps insofar as it helps you learn from your mistakes.

Synonyms: To that degree, To that extent

17) Bonnet

Meaning: To provide with or dress in a bonnet.

Example: He lifted the car’s bonnet to check the engine.

18) Pelting

Meaning: To throw a number of things quickly at someone or something.

Example: We saw rioters pelting police with bricks and bottles.

Synonyms: Throw, Heave

19) Stern

Meaning: Severe, or showing disapproval.

Example: Journalists received a stern warning not to go anywhere near the battleship.

Synonyms: Harsh, Heavy

20) Pit

Meaning: Set someone or something in conflict or competition with.

Example: You’ll get the chance to pit your wits against the world champions.

Synonyms: Set against, match against