It’s an eerie coincidence, two Malaysian Airlines flights going down within a span of five months. MH370, the plane that vanished without a trace, may never be found, while investigations into last week’s shooting down of the second one, MH17, are still on. Incredibly, a book, Flight MH370: The Mystery, is out already about the March incident. Nabanita Sircar spoke to its author, Nigel Cawthorne, at the British Library in London. Excerpts:
How did you write the book so soon after the incident?
From the day it disappeared, it seemed to me that it was going to be an intriguing story and it certainly is, as they haven’t found it. It took me three weeks to persuade the publishers to do it and then I did it in just over two weeks.
Did you allow yourself enough time to research for something that is this serious?
Well, no other theories have developed since then. My job was to debunk theories rather than come up with any explanation. It was something that touched the whole world. I have been doing interviews in how many countries I don’t remember.
What did you base your theories on the flight’s disappearance?
I have no theory at all. Remarkably, though a number of theories have been put forward, none fits all the facts. What I have essentially done is gone through the theories and compared those and what we know, the little we know about what happened, and examined previous cases of planes that have been shot down or crashed or somehow disappeared.
“We’ll probably know the truth about MH17, but then does one know the truth about Lockerbie yet?” In your book, you talk about the possibility of a US-Thai training drill gone horribly wrong?
I was looking through all the news reports and this came out quite early on. It was the last theory in the book, which was picked by The Sydney Morning Herald and it immediately said that I had said it was shot down by the Americans. Whereas, the book says that I do not believe in the story reported. Anyway, after that it was said around the world that I had reported but no one actually looked at the book or bothered to call me and ask.
What are the other theories that you touch on in your book?
The other theories covered include hijacking, terrorism, bombing, mechanical or structural failure, decompression, a fire in the cargo hold, pilot suicide, kidnapping, and detention in Diego Garcia.
What about some reports about Islamic extremism behind the disappearance?
There were theories but there was nobody on board that seemed to fit any terrorist profile. There were theories that there was something in the cargo that caught fire, but then why didn’t they have the time to make a mayday call, why were there strange manoeuvres going on? People also thought it was alien abduction, but I think that’s very unlikely!
What do you feel could be the most plausible, probable cause?
As I say, none of the theories fit all the facts. This is the real puzzle here. If I knew, I would phone the Malaysian government and tell them.
What do think about the tragedy of MH17?
Well again, it seems clearly plain that it was shot down but we won’t know that for some time, until proper investigation is made. The Russians are insinuating that it was shot down by the Ukranian air force, but one doesn’t know. We will probably know the truth about the crash, but then does one know the truth about Lockerbie yet?
In the case of MH17, there was the issue of the black-box and the rebels wanting to give it to Russia. Do you think it has been tampered with?
As far as I know, it is very difficult to tamper with them, and you wouldn’t have time to put a new scenario into it. You could destroy some of the evidence that was in there but you couldn’t make it say something it didn’t say already.
How do you think these two tragedies will impact air travel?
Certainly with MH370, they are changing procedures, black-boxes so that batteries last longer. If the passengers had paid an extra $10 they would have known exactly where the plane was. So all those systems are being upgraded on all airlines, so that it won’t happen again. And after MH17, I think the routings of the planes are changing so that they won’t be flying over war zones.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Most likely, MH 370 struck the ocean at a shallow angle of descent and slid, intact, to the bottom, entombing both its occupants and its secrets.
the only plausible explanation is a perfect suicide by the pilot. the fact that the plane has not been found means it was intended/programmed to end up in a remote part of the ocean, which was discovered through six months of research. the simulator in the pilots home was to develop a flight path to that remote part. the gains were insurance to the kids who he loved and no disgrace for mass murder. all he had to do was lure the co pilot out of the cockpit, lock the cockpit door. feed in the new flight path take the plane to 45000 ft killing all including self.the only clue was saluting the gorkha guard for the first and last time to convey that he was on a military mission of hara-kiri.causes huge mental problems and a turbulent home life with wife and mistress. amen
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