Tuesday, December 16, 2008


clipped from: www.atimes.com

US Senator John McCain has warned Pakistan that if it didn't act fast to arrest the "bad guys", he had personal information that India would launch air strikes on "terrorist camps" in Pakistan and that Washington could do nothing because Mumbai was India's 9/11.

The Mumbai attacks are only the most recent of a spate of terrorist attacks on Indian towns and cities this year. Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Guwahati, Jaipur and Malegaon have all seen serial bomb blasts

the city of Mumbai.
an icon of the easy, obscene injustice that ordinary Indians endure every day
On a day when the newspapers were full of moving obituaries
a small box on the top left-hand corner in the inner pages of a national newspaper (sponsored by a pizza company, I think) said, "Hungry, kya?" ("Hungry eh?"). It, then, with the best of intentions I'm sure, informed its readers that, on the international hunger index, India ranked below Sudan and Somalia.

But of course this isn't that war. That one's still being fought in the Dalit bastis (settlements) of our villages; on the banks of the Narmada and the Koel Karo rivers; in the rubber estate in Chengara; in the villages of Nandigram, Singur, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Lalgarh in West Bengal; and the slums and shantytowns of our gigantic cities.

That war isn't on TV. Yet.

There is a fierce, unforgiving fault line that runs through the contemporary discourse on terrorism. On one side (let's call it Side A) are those who see terrorism, especially "Islamist" terrorism, as a hateful, insane scourge that spins on its own axis, in its own orbit, and has nothing to do with the world around it, nothing to do with history, geography or economics. Therefore, Side A says, to try to place it in a political context, or even to try to understand it, amounts to justifying it and is a crime in itself.

Side B believes that, though nothing can ever excuse or justify it, terrorism exists in a particular time, place and political context, and to refuse to see that will only aggravate the problem and put more and more people in harm's way. Which is a crime in itself.

The sayings of Hafiz Saeed who founded the Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Pure) in 1990 and who belongs to the hardline Salafi tradition of Islam, certainly bolsters the case of Side A. Hafiz Saeed approves of suicide bombing, hates Jews, Shi'ites and democracy, and believes that jihad should be waged until Islam, his Islam, rules the world.
But where would Side A accommodate the sayings of Babu Bajrangi of Ahmedabad, India, who sees himself as a democrat, not a terrorist? He was one of the major lynchpins of the 2002 Gujarat genocide
And where in Side A's scheme of things would we place the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) bible, We, or, Our Nationhood Defined by M S Golwalkar, who became head of the RSS in 1944. (The RSS is the ideological heart, the holding company of the Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP, and its militias. The RSS was founded in 1925. By the 1930s, its founder, Dr K B Hedgewar, a fan of Benito Mussolini, had begun to model it overtly along the lines of Italian fascism.)
Dalits have been consistently targeted. Recently, in Kandhamal in Orissa, Christians were the target

All these years, Hafiz Saeed has lived the life of a respectable man in Lahore as the head of the Jamaatut Dawa, which many believe is a front organization for the Lashkar-e-Taiba
On December 11, the United Nations imposed sanctions on the Jamaatut Dawa. The Pakistani government succumbed to international pressure and put Hafiz Saeed under house arrest.

Babu Bajrangi, however, is out on bail and lives the life of a respectable man in Gujarat. A couple of years after the genocide, he left the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP, a militia of the RSS) to join the Shiv Sena (another rightwing nationalist party). Narendra Modi, Bajrangi's former mentor, is still the chief minister of Gujarat.

So the man who presided over the Gujarat genocide was re-elected twice, and is deeply respected by India's biggest corporate houses, Reliance and Tata.

The RSS has 45,000 branches and 7 million volunteers preaching its doctrine of hate across India. They include Narendra Modi, but also former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, current leader of the opposition L K Advani, and a host of other senior politicians, bureaucrats, police and intelligence officers.

So, on balance, if I had to choose between Side A and Side B, I'd pick Side B. We need context. Always.

On this nuclear sub-continent, that context is Partition. The Radcliffe Line, which separated India and Pakistan and tore through states, districts, villages, fields, communities, water systems, homes and families, was drawn virtually overnight. It was Britain's final, parting kick to us in 1947.

Partition triggered the massacre of more than a million people and the largest migration of a human population in contemporary history. Eight million people, Hindus fleeing the new Pakistan, Muslims fleeing the new kind of India, left their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

It has left Kashmir trapped in a nightmare from which it can't seem to emerge, a nightmare that has claimed more than 60,000 lives.

Pakistan, the Land of the Pure, became an Islamic Republic, and then very quickly a corrupt, violent military state, openly intolerant of other faiths.

India on the other hand declared herself an inclusive, secular democracy. It was a magnificent undertaking, but Babu Bajrangi's predecessors had been hard at work since the 1920s, dripping poison into India's bloodstream, undermining that idea of India even before it was born.

By 1990, they were ready to make a bid for power. In 1992 Hindu mobs exhorted by L K Advani stormed the Babri Masjid and demolished it.

By 1998, the BJP was in power at the center in Delhi. The US "war on terror" put the wind in their sails. It allowed them to do exactly as they pleased, even to commit genocide and then present their fascism as a legitimate form of chaotic democracy.

This happened at a time when India had opened its huge market to international finance and it was in the interests of international corporations and the media houses they owned to project it as a country that could do no wrong. That gave Hindu nationalists all the impetus and the impunity they needed.

It shouldn't surprise us that Hafiz Saeed of the Lashkar-e-Taiba is from Shimla (India) and L K Advani of the RSS is from Sindh (Pakistan).

In much the same way as it did after the 2001 parliament attack, the 2002 burning of the Sabarmati Express, and the 2007 bombing of the Samjhauta Express, the government of India announced that it had "incontrovertible" evidence that the Lashkar-e-Taiba, backed by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was behind the Mumbai strikes.
the Lashkar operates in India through an organization called the "Indian Mujahideen". Two Indian nationals, Sheikh Mukhtar Ahmed, a special police officer working for the Jammu and Kashmir Police, and Tausif Rehman, a resident of Kolkata in
West Bengal, have been arrested in connection with the Mumbai attacks.

So already the neat accusation against Pakistan is getting a little messy.

Almost always, when these stories unspool, they reveal a complicated global network of foot soldiers, trainers, recruiters, middlemen and undercover intelligence and counter-intelligence operatives working not just on both sides of the India-Pakistan border, but in several countries simultaneously.

very much like trying to pin down the provenance of corporate money. It's almost impossible.

air strikes
certainly will not "take out" the terrorists. And neither will war.

the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the LTTE of neighboring Sri Lanka, one of the world's most deadly terrorist groups, were trained by the Indian army.

As recruiting agents for America's jihad against the Soviet Union, it was the job of the Pakistani army and the ISI to nurture and channel funds to Islamic fundamentalist organizations. Having wired up these Frankensteins and released them into the world, the US expected it could rein them in like pet mastiffs whenever it wanted to. Certainly it did not expect them to come calling in the heart of the homeland on September 11. So once again, Afghanistan had to be violently remade.

The terrorist training camps, the fire-breathing mullahs, and the maniacs who believe that Islam will, or should, rule the world are mostly the detritus of two Afghan wars
If Pakistan collapses, we can look forward to having millions of "non-state actors"
It's hard to understand why those who steer India's ship are so keen to replicate Pakistan's mistakes and call damnation upon this country by inviting the United States to further meddle

A superpower never has allies. It only has agents.

When we say, "Nothing can justify terrorism," what most of us mean is that nothing can justify the taking of human life.

So what are we to make of those who care nothing for life, not even their own?
they've journeyed to another world where we cannot reach them.
one of the attackers, who called himself "Imran Babar"
talked about
the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, the genocidal slaughter of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, the brutal repression in Kashmir.

"We die every day," he replied in a strange, mechanical way. "It's better to live one day as a lion and then die this way."

terrorist strategy to exacerbate a bad situation in order to expose hidden fault lines. The blood of "martyrs" irrigates terrorism.
a catalyst that triggers something else, something much larger than itself, a tectonic shift, a realignment. The act itself is theater, spectacle and symbolism,

and today the stage
is Live TV

there has been very little mention of the elephants in the room: Kashmir, Gujarat and the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

Instead, we had retired diplomats and strategic experts debate the pros and cons of a war against Pakistan. We had the rich threatening not to pay their taxes unless their security was guaranteed. (Is it alright for the poor to remain unprotected?) We had people suggest that the government step down and each state in India be handed over to a separate corporation.
We had the death of former prime minister V P Singh, the hero of Dalits and lower castes, and the villain of upper caste Hindus, pass without a mention.
We had Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City and co-writer of the Bollywood film Mission Kashmir give us his version of George W Bush's famous "Why They Hate Us" speech. His analysis of why religious bigots, both Hindu and Muslim, hate Mumbai, "Perhaps because Mumbai stands for lucre, profane dreams and an indiscriminate openness."

Day after day, a powerful, vociferous section of the Indian elite, goaded by marauding TV anchors who make Fox News look almost radical and left-wing, have taken to mindlessly attacking politicians, all politicians, glorifying the police and the army, and virtually asking for a police state.

It isn't surprising that those who have grown plump on the pickings of democracy (such as it is) should now be calling for a police state. The era of "pickings" is long gone. We're now in the era of grabbing by force, and democracy has a terrible habit of getting in the way.

Tragically this regression into intellectual infancy comes at a time when people in India were beginning to see that, in the business of terrorism, victims and perpetrators sometimes exchange roles.

It was after the 2001 parliament attack
innocent people had been framed by the police and the press
Eventually, the courts acquitted two out of the four accused
The Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of another of the accused, Mohammad Afzal. In its judgment the court acknowledged that there was no proof that Mohammed Afzal belonged to any terrorist group

on September 19th of this year, we had the controversial "encounter" at Batla House in Jamia Nagar, Delhi, where the Special Cell of the Delhi police gunned down two Muslim students
claiming that they were responsible for serial bombings in Delhi, Jaipur, and Ahmedabad in 2008
An assistant commissioner of police, Mohan Chand Sharma, who played a key role in the parliament attack investigation, lost his life as well. He was one of India's many "encounter specialists", known and rewarded for having summarily executed several "terrorists".

the BJP and L K Advani lauded Mohan Chand Sharma as a "Braveheart" and launched a concerted campaign in which they targeted those who had dared to question the integrity of the police

This pattern changed in October 2008 when Maharashtra's Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), which was investigating the September 2008 Malegaon blasts, arrested Hindu preacher Sadhvi Pragya, a self-styled God man, Swami Dayanand Pande and Lieutenant Colonel Purohit, a serving officer of the Indian army. All the arrested belong to Hindu nationalist organizations, including a Hindu supremacist group called Abhinav Bharat.

The Shiv Sena, the BJP, and the RSS condemned the Maharashtra ATS and vilified its chief, Hemant Karkare, claiming he was part of a political conspiracy and declaring that "Hindus could not be terrorists." L K Advani changed his mind about his policy on the police and made rabble rousing speeches to huge gatherings in which he denounced the ATS for daring to cast aspersions on holy men and women.

the ATS was investigating the high profile VHP chief Pravin Togadia's possible role in the blasts in Malegaon (a predominantly Muslim town). The next day, in an extraordinary twist of fate, Hemant Karkare was killed in the Mumbai attacks

While the Sangh Parivar does not seem to have come to a final decision over whether or not it is anti-national and suicidal to question the police, Arnab Goswami, anchorperson of Times Now television, has stepped up to the plate. He has taken to naming, demonizing and openly heckling people who have dared to question the integrity of the police and armed forces.

Arnab Goswami turned to the camera: "Arundhati Roy and Prashant Bhushan," he said. "I hope you are watching this. We think you are disgusting."

So, according to a man aspiring to be the next prime minister of India, and another who is the public face of a mainstream TV channel, citizens have no right to raise questions about the police.

This in a country with a shadowy history of suspicious terror attacks, murky investigations, and fake "encounters". This in a country that boasts of the highest number of custodial deaths in the world yet refuses to ratify the international covenant on torture. A country where the ones who make it to torture chambers are the lucky ones because at least they've escaped being "encountered" by our Encounter Specialists. A country where the line between the underworld and the Encounter Specialists virtually does not exist.

some would say that what America is suffering from now is far worse.

the idea behind the 9/11 terror attacks was to goad America into showing its true colors
The US military is bogged down in two unwinnable wars, which have made the United States the most hated country in the world. Those wars have contributed greatly to the unraveling of the American economy and who knows, perhaps eventually the American empire.

Hundreds of thousands of people, including thousands of American soldiers, have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. The frequency of terrorist strikes on US allies/agents (including India) and US interests in the rest of the world has increased dramatically since 9/11.

George W Bush, the man who led the US response to 9/11, is a despised figure not just internationally, but also by many of his own people.

Who can possibly claim that the United States is winning the "war on terror?"

Homeland security has cost the US government billions of dollars. Few countries, certainly not India, can afford that sort of price tag

We have a hostile nuclear-weapons state that is slowly spinning out of control as a neighbor; we have a military occupation in Kashmir and a shamefully persecuted, impoverished minority of more than 150 million Muslims who are being targeted as a community and pushed to the wall, whose young see no justice on the horizon, and who, were they to totally lose hope and radicalize, will end up as a threat not just to India, but to the whole world.

If 10 men can hold off commandos and the police for three days, and if it takes half a million soldiers to hold down the Kashmir Valley, do the math. What kind of homeland security can secure India?

Anti-terrorism laws are not meant for terrorists; they're for people that governments don't like. That's why they have a conviction rate of less than 2%. They're just a means of putting inconvenient people away without bail for a long time and eventually letting them go.

We're standing at a fork in the road. One sign says "Justice,” the other "Civil War". There's no third sign and there's no going back. Choose.

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