Border lights illuminate a Moroccan mockery

Here's a sample of rewritten geography that would have flummoxed even Ibn Battuta - the 14th century Moroccan traveller whose extensive voyages also covered India.

By Imran Ahmed Siddiqui
  • Published 15.06.17
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The picture of the Morocco-Spain border in the home ministry report on the Pakistan border, with the caption: “Floodlighting along the Border.”

New Delhi, June 14: Here's a sample of rewritten geography that would have flummoxed even Ibn Battuta - the 14th century Moroccan traveller whose extensive voyages also covered India.

The Narendra Modi government has used a picture of a brilliantly illuminated Morocco-Spain border while claiming credit for its "achievement" of floodlighting the India-Pakistan border.

The picture shows the border lights snaking their way through mountains and along a sliver of sea. The irony in the name of the chapter in the Union home ministry-produced annual report (2016-17) where the picture finds pride of place was not lost on many. The picture, captioned "Floodlighting along the Border", appears in a chapter titled "Border Management".

Senior home ministry officials termed it a "major goof-up". Some sources in the ministry, however, smelt a deliberate attempt to "keep political bosses in good humour" by resorting to "gimmicks".

After the incongruity went viral following a report carried by the web portal Alt News, top government officials went into a huddle to find a way to dilute the embarrassment.

"It's a major goof-up. It could also be a deliberate act - using a picture of the illuminated Morocco-Spain border to showcase floodlights installed along the India-Pakistan border," a home ministry official said.

Sources said Union home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi today ordered a probe into the "blunder" to identify the officials involved in the preparation of the report.

"If there is a mistake, we will apologise," Mehrishi later told reporters.

Another home ministry official said an inquiry had been ordered to ascertain who provided the photo. "Some officials of the border management division have been showcaused to find out from where the image was sourced," the official said.

"Border Management", the third chapter of the home ministry report, tomtoms the steps taken to bolster security along the India-Pakistan border.

"In order to curb the attempt of infiltration and cross border crimes along Indo-Pakistan border, the government has sanctioned 2043.76km of floodlights along the International Border in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat," the report says, along with a picture of the Morocco-Spain border.

"As per the status of progress of floodlighting on this border (as on December 31, 2016), 1943.76km has been completed out of the sanctioned 2043.76km. Besides, work of restoration in 75.6km damaged floodlight is going on," the report adds.

A senior home ministry official who did not want to be named said: "Apparently, some officials are trying to keep their political bosses in good humour by resorting to such gimmicks... by distorting facts."

He recounted another "picture-perfect" moment that later unravelled - the Press Information Bureau's alleged digital altering of a picture of Prime Minister Modi surveying the flood-ravaged Tamil Nadu from a plane in December 2015.

The purported embellishment was noticed by social media users who found a discrepancy between a picture posted on one of the verified Twitter accounts of the Prime Minister and that uploaded by the information wing of the government. The @narendramodi photograph offered a blurred image of the flooded ground below while the PIB photograph showed buildings in sharp relief. The PIB later removed the photo, which drew mockery on social media.

Another official recalled how a black-and-white photo of a "young Modi" holding a broom that was widely circulated by BJP supporters in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was "not Mr Narendra Modi", according to the Centre's response to an RTI query.

The Border Security Force guards the 3,323km India-Pakistan border.

The Morocco-Spain barbed-wire border is located along the Alboran Island in the north coast of the African nation.

The two countries also share a maritime border in the Canary Islands and along the Strait of Gibraltar and the Alboran Sea.

African migrants often cross the Mediterranean Sea to enter Europe, sparking clashes with Spanish and Moroccan border police.