We sit and watch
As "their" Mumbai explodes.
We sit and watch
As "our" Karachi implodes.
And we Watch!
1.12.2008 4:32 AM
I fear that, soon, neither will remain theirs or ours.
Whatever happened in Mumbai is terrible, regardless of the deep causes or the origins of the perpetrators - and a mixed bag, they were, to be sure. But what now?
Fellow Pakistanis I spoke with - and I spoke with the educated, the politically conscious, the liberal, the peace activist - followed, for the most part, a similar pattern: Horror, disgust, sympathy. But soon, to a [wo]man, their mood changed to anger at the blame being laid upon them, en masse, by the Indian media. This attitude was triggered off by a rather quick official reaction that should not be discarded as merely knee-jerk.
Why, thought many, should the Indian media say Pakistan did it? Where and how did they get the proof so early? Even if some or most of the culprits turn out to be Pakistanis, it does not mean that this country was/is involved, or that its people support this. Or even that an Army - trying to build its reputation back as a non-political entity (good luck!) - would encourage such a provocation. Or that the current government would have not prevented it if it could. Yes. If it could!
The fact is that the same people - what difference what passports they hold, for they are one nation in their own eyes - bomb and kill and maim people in Pakistan everyday. And blow up places all over the world.
So, let's be realistic.
The Indian public reaction was, totally understandably, one of absolute shock, disbelief, and fear. Anger is always a natural response. And there was a lot of it. Against a weak and failing government - and one that the BJP/RSS-infested Maharashtra would like to see the back of. Against a poor intelligence system that let so many terrorists in and recce the place and plan this dastardly act almost at leisure. Against a retaliatory force that just wasn't equipped as finely as the terrorists. Against the unfulfilled promises of security. And, yes, against Muslims and Pakistan.
A quick bit of choreography is all it takes, on either side, to turn the focus of all our hatreds to the other side of the border. It helps avoid looking internally. There is
a slight difference, though. Our
ills (including the latest Karachi riots) are
declared to be caused by 'Foreign Hands', but India comes in at 2nd place, after
the USA-Israel (aka Jews ... aka Zionists) nexus. And the local Hindu population is never 'suspect'. In India, by contrast, it's always
the local Muslim population gets to bear some of that brunt. Read the recent Tehelka stories about SIMI
that have angered many.
Even before one of the humans in these sad dramas dies, Truth is laid to rest, killed by that most potent of weapons: Rumour. Government officials, worried that their asses are on line, rush out to make several contradictory statements and a gullible, hungry-for-something public, instead of logically seeing that such mutually exclusive bits can only be lies, mixes them all up into one big conspiratorial khich∂ee and swallows it.
I recall that when a mandir was attacked by some militants in India, the terrorist gunned down was alleged to be a Pakistani because a Lahore cinema ticket was found in his shirt pocket. Why the eff do these idiots need to carry ID cards, passports, and other things has always puzzled me. But a cinema ticket? And that, too, of a movie house that closed down years ago? That's really pushing it. When I informed my Indian friends (I was in Dilli at the time) about the cinema house's non-existence, they laughed and said "yaar yeh to tüm bhi kartay ho!" ... True. But laughable? In the comfort of that merry drawing room, yes. But, do they not understand that, outside somewhere, some Indian Hindu, misled by this, is about to hit back at an innocent Muslim, whose family - in turn - will kill another innocent Hindu, soon.
While reporting/commenting on these incidents, the electronic media has another problem: It has to 'beat' its competition by reporting things before they do, accuracy be damned! And every rectoid in town wants 15 minutes of glory to be on TV, to be hailed as an analyst. This last word describes some of them better if broken into two syllables.
Flicking to an Indian TV channel, I saw a General from Kolkata ... (I assumed from the "Retd." on the ticker that he had retired, though listening to him I wondered if the abbreviation was for 'Retarded') ... holding forth, as they generally do. (Who, other than a Pakistani, can say this with authority gained from experience?) --- After having watched the repeated images of the young gunmen - one looked like just a teenager - I found it incomprehensible when this nutcase suggested that these were all Pakistani Servicemen with years of training (the ticker said "7-10 years") who were probaly sent 'on leave' by the Pak army to take part in this. Aaargh.
Minutes later, I switched to a program on Dawn TV, where a panel of distinguished Pakistani journalists (in my order of preference: Talat Husain, Naseem Zehra, Hamid Mir) had a discussion on the Indian Media's reporting of the Mumbai tragedy. Agree with them on everything, or not, the discussion was worth hearing. Talat was lucid and clear. Naseem was honest and straight-forward. However, given that I rate HM as the lowest among them, I thought he was being just plain stupid when he stated that the reason some Indian media may have jumped to the conclusion that the Deccan Mujahideen
were Pakistani was because they did not realize that Hyderabad Deccan was not the same as Hyderbad Sindh. "Aww. C'mon. Gimme a break!"
I thought. But my apologies to Hamid Sahab. What happened soon after would make me believe anything. A senior Indian Journalist from CNN IBN was asked via phonelink for his comments about this quick-to-blame game ... and he
said that numbers on the terrorists cellphones had been traced to "Jalalabad and other Pakistani cities".
Talat was quick to point out that, until 30 minutes ago, when he last looked, Jalalabad was still in Afghanistan ;-)
Fact-checking is a no-no in neo-journalism - particularly the electronic media, where the reporting needs to be instantaneous. With mushrooming channels and minimal training, in a society where it is assumed that (and I was told this, by the head of a channel, in defense of a wrongly reported item) "Loag to jaldee bhool hee jaatay haeñ - no harm done! Ha Ha!", how does one alter these things? I find no ready answers.
"Media rarely pauses to analyse itself as it hurtles from one breaking story to another", says Kalpana Sharma
, in Tehelka
, whose editor, Tarun, continues to pay a heavy price for his bravado and commitment. (He is now accused
by Hindutva assholes of being an ISI and SIMI collaborator!)
We all - on both sides - need to be clear that this is not merely a cross-border battle. It is part of a much larger game in which we are both victims. And the stakes are getting higher by the minute. As Nandita Das
wrote at the very end of her email to some of us on the morning after:
We have to save ourselves from all this and have to find a way to understand, empathise and love. All these beautiful words I know have lost their meaning and sound either clichéd or pretentious. We have to reclaim these and make them part of our life, with all our might.
I'd like to point readers of this post to three other pieces: A Stratfor analysis that Awab has quoted
in full. A post by Fawad
which includes a bit by Deepak Chopra (he's not my kinda guy, but this is
worth a listen). And this
statement of concerned citizens across borders.
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