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Thursday, December 11, 2008

The extremes

That there are sane voices within India has never been a matter of doubt for me. There used to be many here, too, once. But ours have been stilled over the years.

Events like the recent Mumbai massacre have left many of us in shock for not just the specific tragedy but where this could lead. The insane elements, on both sides - more vocal in India in this particular case, but that's understandable in view of the nature of the event - are crying for blood and more, all the way to Simi Garewal suggesting the carpet-bombing of Pakistan. An analyst here says we should go to war because of India's accusations ... we are sure to win, he is sure, "because Hindus are cowards".

And then we have the illustrious R. Vaidyanathan, a Professor at Indian Institute of Management [IIM], Bangalore, who, in his RSS-linked views offers- among a lot of other shit - this logic: "I am amazed that a country of a billion is required even to furnish proof. If one-sixth of humanity says that the terrorist state of Pakistan is the root cause of global terrorism -- it is factual."

I have often pointed my readers to my dear friend Tarun's writings and to his brainchild, Tehelka. Today I want to feature a piece by another friend, whom I admire immensely and feel very privileged to know. I am sure that many of you are familiar with the brilliant and daringly honest work of Anand Patwardhan, who tells us, "The Times of India rejected this and the Hindustan Times sat on it for 10 days but, yesterday, carried a badly truncated version."

So here is what only a few of us got to read. Please give it wider reading.

Terror: The Aftermath

The attack on Mumbai is over. Nearly 200 dead. And now, after heart-rending stories of bereavement, come the repercussions, the blame game and the “solutions”. Loud voices, amplified by saturation TV demanding: Why don’t we amend our Constitution and create new anti-terror laws? Why don’t we arm our police with AK 47s? Why don’t we do what Israel did after Munich or the USA did after 9/11 and hit terror camps across the border? Solutions that can only lead us further into the abyss. For terror is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It thrives on reaction, polarization and militarization. The only thing that can undermine it is that which least occurs to those thirsting for revenge. The External Terror
Those who invoke America need only to analyse whether their actions after 9/11 increased or decreased global terror. The neo-cons invaded oil-rich Iraq knowing fully well that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. The war on Iraq killed over 200,000 Iraqis and several thousand Americans and allowed a cornered Bin Laden to escape. It also recruited global support for Islamic militancy, which began to be seen as a just resistance against American mass murder. Which begs the question of who created Bin Laden in the first place, armed the madarsas of Pakistan and rejuvenated the concept of Islamic jehad? Remember that at the height of the Cold War it was Communism that was the enemy and Islamic jehad, the friend. Israel’s historic role in stoking the fires of jehad is equally great. The very creation of Israel in 1948 robbed Palestinians of their land, an act that Mahatma Gandhi to his credit deplored at the time as an unjust way to redress the wrongs done to Jews during the Holocaust. What followed has been a slow and continuing genocide of the Palestinian nation. At first Palestinian resistance was led by secular forces represented by Yasser Arafat but as Israel/America successfully undermined Arafat and secular Palestinians, Islamic forces took over the mantle. When the first largely non-violent Intifada was crushed, a second more violent one replaced it and when all else failed, human bombs appeared. 

Thirty years ago when I first went abroad there were two countries my passport forbade me to visit. One was racist South Africa. The other was Israel. We were a non-aligned nation that stood for disarmament and world peace. Today Israel and America are our biggest allies and military partners. Is it surprising that we are on the jehadi hit list? Israel, America and other prosperous countries can to an extent protect themselves against the determined jehadi, but can India put an impenetrable shield over itself? Remember that when attackers are on a suicide mission, the strongest shields have crumbled. New York was laid low not with nuclear weapons but with a pair of box cutters. Yet those who perhaps first infected the world with the virus are also ready with the anti-virus. So Mossad, the FBI and Scotland Yard have arrived in Mumbai to investigate terror and suggest the remedy. 

The Terror Within
India is for many reasons a quintessentially soft target. Our huge population and vast landmass and coastline are impossible to protect. The rich may build new barricades. The Taj and the Oberoi can be made safer. So can our airports and planes. Can our railway stations and trains, bus stops, busses, markets and lanes do the same? 

The threat of terror in India does not come exclusively from the outside, no matter how quickly the finger is pointed outwards. For apart from being enormously populated by the poor, India is also a country divided, not just between rich and poor, but by religion, caste and language. This internal divide is as potent a breeding ground for terror as jehadi camps abroad. 

Nor is jehad the copyright of one religion alone. It can be argued that international causes apart, India has jehadis that are fully home grown. Perhaps the earliest famous one was Nathuram Godse who acting at the behest of his mentor Vinayak Savarkar (still considered to be “Veer” or “brave” although he refused to own up to his role in the conspiracy) murdered Mahatma Gandhi for having championed the cause of Muslims. Let us jump to 6 December, 1992, the day Hindu fanatics demolished the Babri Mosque setting into motion a chain of events that still wreaks havoc. From the Bombay riots of 1992 to the bomb blasts of 1993, the Gujarat pogroms of 2002 to the present massacre in Mumbai, not to mention hundreds of smaller but nevertheless deadly events in between, the last 16 years have been the bloodiest since Partition. Action has been followed by reaction in an endless cycle of escalating retribution. At the core on the Hindu side of terror are organizations like the RSS and the Shiv Sena, both open admirers of Adolph Hitler, nursing the hate of historic wrongs inflicted by Muslims of the medeival past. A small irony here is that these votaries of Hitler are friends and admirers of Israel.

On the Muslim side of terror are scores of disaffected youth, many of whom have seen their families tortured and killed in more recent pogroms. Christians too have fallen victim to recent Hindu terror but as yet have not formed the mechanisms for revenge. Dalits too have not yet retaliated in violence despite centuries of caste oppression, although a small fraction may be drawn into the armed struggle waged by Naxalites. It is clear that no amount of spending on defense, no amount of patrolling the high seas, no amount of increasing the military and police and equipping them with the latest weaponry will end the cycle of violence or place India under a bubble of safety. Just as nuclear India did not lead to more safety, but only to Pakistan becoming nuclear and both countries becoming that much poorer, no amount of homeland security can save us. And inviting Israel and America to the security table will only make us more of a target for the next determined terrorist attack.

Policing, Justice and the Media
As for draconian anti-terror laws, they too can only breed more terror as for the most part they are implemented by a State machinery that has imbibed the assumption that Muslims are the prime source of all terror. So in Narendra Modi’s Gujarat after the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in 2002, despite scores of confessions about rape and murder being captured on hidden camera, virtually no Hindu militants were punished by the State while thousands of Muslims rotted in jail under draconian laws. The same happened in Bombay despite the Shiv Sena being found guilty by the Justice Shrikrishna Commission. Under pressure a few such cases were finally brought to trial but everyone escaped with the lightest of knuckle raps. In stark contrast many Muslims accused in the 1993 bomb blasts were given death sentences.
The bulk of our media, policing and judicial systems swallows the canard that Muslims are by nature more prone to violence. Removing democratic safeguards guaranteed by the Constitution can only make this worse. Every act of wrongful imprisonment and torture that follows is likely then to turn innocents into material for future terrorists to draw upon. Already the double standards are visible for all to see. The Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) was banned on grounds that could not stand up to legal scrutiny. With far more evidence against them, predominantly Hindu outfits like the RSS, the VHP, the Bajrang Dal, the Shiv Sena and the MNS remain legal entities. The leader of the latter, Raj Thackeray openly spread such hatred that many north Indians were recently killed by lynch mobs. Amongst these were the Dubey brothers, doctors from Kalyan who treated the poor for a grand fee of Rs.10 per patient. Raj Thackeray like his uncle Bal before him, remains free after issuing public threats that Bombay would burn if anyone had the guts to arrest him. Narendra Modi remains free despite the pogroms of Gujarat. Congress party murderers of Sikhs in 1984 remain free. Justice in India is clearly not there for all. Increasing the powers of the police cannot solve this problem. Only the honest and unbiased implementation of laws that exist, can. It is a tragedy of the highest proportions that one such honest policeman, ATS chief Hemant Karkare, who had begun to unravel the thread of Hindutva terror was himself gunned down, perhaps by Muslim terror. I say perhaps because I cannot automatically believe every story that emerges from the police or from the media, however convincing it may first sound. All I will say at the moment is that the evidence on record points to another historic irony. The people who had the most to gain from Hemant Karkare’s death were the Hindutva bomb makers, sponsors and planters, from Col. Purohit to Sadhvi Pragya. It is reported that these elements now in judicial custody actually celebrated the news of Karkare’s death. Until Karkare took charge, the Malegaon bomb blasts in which Muslims were killed and the Samjhauta Express blasts in which Pakistanis were killed were being blamed on Muslim terror. Karkare exposed a hitherto unknown Hindu outfit as masterminding a series of killer blasts across the country. For his pains Karkare came under attack not just from militant Hindus but from the mainstream BJP. Such was the viciousness of the attack that Karkare was under pressure to prove his patriotism. Was it this that led this senior officer to don helmet and ill-fitting bullet proof vest and rush into battle with a pistol? Or was it just his natural instinct, the same courage that had led him to expose Hindutva terror when popular sentiment was stacked against him? Whatever it was, if indeed he was killed by Muslim terrorists, it only underlines the fact that jehadis of all kinds are actually allies of each other. So Bin Laden served George Bush and his neo-cons and vice-versa. So Islamic and Hindutva jehadis have served each other for years. Do they care who dies? Of the 200 people killed in the last few days by Islamic jehadis, a high number, specially at Shivaji Terminus, were Muslims. Many were waiting to board trains to celebrate Eid in their hometowns in UP and Bihar, when co-religionists gunned them down. Shockingly the media has not commented on this, nor for that matter has it focused at all on the tragedy at the railway station, choosing to concentrate almost entirely on tragedies that befell the more well-to-do. And shockingly it is the media that is leading the charge to turn us into a police state where we may lead lives with an illusion of safety, but with the certainty of joylessness. I am not arguing that we do not need basic security at public places and at vulnerable sites. But real security will only come when it is accompanied by real justice, when the principles of democracy are extended to every part of the country, when the legitimate grievances of people are not crushed with an iron heel, when the arms race is replaced by a race for decency and humanity, when our children grow up in an atmosphere where religious faith is put to the test of reason. Until such time we will remain at the mercy of “patriots” and zealots.

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Anonymous Anika said...

it clarifies alot of misconceptions!

11 December, 2008 23:47

Blogger Maleeha said...

A voice of reason among all the insanity. An excellent article indeed. Am a long time admirer of Mr. Patwardan. As usual, what he says applies universally, at least on our little planet infected with little humans. Thanks for sharing.

11 December, 2008 23:50

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read Versey too:

12 December, 2008 08:35

Blogger Xoff said...

About the first part of your excellent article, Schiller comes to mind when he said, "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain."

12 December, 2008 11:15

Anonymous Atif said...

Thanks a lot Mr. Kidvai for introducing such daring and brilliant writers to us. It feels good to see that there are such people around who speak sanity.

12 December, 2008 11:54

Blogger sarah islam said...

Dear ZAK
Thanks for introducing me to Mr. Patwardhan through your post. Great article!

12 December, 2008 17:28

Blogger salman said...

Over 15 years ago, when I was working for you, I knew I will miss those time. After reading your blog for a while now, I am more so inclined in favor of cloning. ZAK clones should be made legal. Thanks for your blog, the wonderful time at 'Solutions' and the memories I so cherish.
Salman Khattak

12 December, 2008 21:23

Blogger Quizman said...

While I respect your sentiments expressed so eloquently, I have a few disagreements. And I do this only partly because I am an Indian. I kid, I kid. :-)

You stated:

"At first Palestinian resistance was led by secular forces represented by Yasser Arafat but as Israel/America successfully undermined Arafat and secular Palestinians"

It was a monumental strategic and moral blunder by Arafat to lead a violent struggle. The other "secular" leaders of the Palestinian movement were even more despicable (Drs George Habash and Wadi Haddad to name a few). It was only later that moderate muslim and (non-Muslim voices like Dr. Hanan Ashrawi) brought some semblance of respectability to the PLO in the Western world. [I do realize that the Mufti had no option but to align himself with the Axis powers after the Balfour declaration and its aftermath)

I will contend that if the Palestinians had adopted non-violence as a strategy, they would have won their state long ago. As leaders from many diverse countries have shown; Vaclav Havel, Nelson Mandela (later years), Lech Walesa, Dr. King and so on ad infinitum.

Ever wonder why the Dalai Lama is so revered in the Western World and why Arafat is so despised? Bombing discos in major cities, hijacking planes, and assassinating wontonly are not ways to lead a freedom struggle. It is immoral and counterproductive.

Arafat was a bumbling idiot (like the other nitwit Che Guevara). What was his vision for Palestine? Why didn't he ever articulate a vision the way Dr. King or Gandhi ever did? All he did was to cling to power till the very end. And his praising of suicide bombers in the Arab media was unbecoming of a leader. Contrast that to say Gandhi or King who suspended their campaigns often at the first sign of violence. Great leaders encourage their followers by giving them reasons to *live*, and not encouraging them to die.

I would strongly encourage folks to view this documentary. (or at least read the essays thereof)

Great leaders like the ones I mentioned above realize that violent acts not only damage the victims of violence but also the perpetrators of violence. Even Malcolm X abandoned violence later in his life.

12 December, 2008 22:30

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20 December, 2008 09:14


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