Thursday, December 25, 2008

** Talking/Fighting Terror
Terror talk easier than fighting terror
Is Congress serious?

- Editorial

Obliquely the UPA has admitted that terror talk could be politically rewarding, especially when it is time for general elections.

Only on politically expedient terms can the UPA's latest tough talk on terror be explained. For, it was soft-pedalling for too long. Is it really sincere? It is welcome that the UPA has at last woken up to the fact that a more effective legal framework aided by a more sophisticated investigative mechanism is needed to insulate the country against the possibility of future terror attacks. Better late than never.

The Congress Party which heads the coalition has for the last four and a half years been telling the country that the existing laws are good enough to fight terror. It used to attack the main opposition which was in the forefront pleading to put in place exceptionally innovative acts on the lines of POTA and streamlining the security forces on the lines the US and UK did after 9/11 World Trade Center attack. These special laws and effective combing and intelligence apparatus proved effective in these countries.

But the UPA continued to be in denial even as the nation paid heavily and suffered irreparable losses all these years. The new law being envisaged is akin to the MCOCA of Maharashtra. It is not much different from the POTA passed by the NDA, which the UPA made a campaign issue in the 2004 Lok Sabha poll and repealed after it assumed office.

The new Bill passed in the Lok Sabha on December 17 proposed to make certain major amendments in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. They are increasing the period of detention from 90 to 180 days, denying bail to the accused without the consent of the prosecution, shifting the burden of proof of innocence on those who are charged with committing acts of terrorism and expanding the scope of what defines terrorism. These may ultimately prove to be insufficient in taming terror considering the level of transnational reach and sustenance the terrorists have come to command.

How is it different from the laws in the US and UK? In the existing laws in US and UK confessions made before the police officer are admissible in court. This was so in the POTA. This provision is not there in the new UPA amendment.

Similarly, in US maximum an accused can be detained without bail is two days for its citizens and indefinite for foreigners. In UK this is 28 days for citizens and indefinite for foreign nationals. Laws in UK and US allow phone and internet tapping to collect evidence. This is allowed only with prior permission of court in the new Bill.

The UPA has to run against time to put the new measures in place before its five-year term gets completed in the next five months. This is a task and a risk, which the UPA would soon find not worth taking, if it has already not made up its resolve to this end. The UPA terror talk sounds poll talk simply because its intentions are not above reproach.

Even as the UAPA Bill was being debated in the Lok Sabha senior Congress Minister for Minority Affairs Abdul Rahman Antulay stunned the nation with his obnoxious remarks on the Mumbai terror attack on November 26, alluding to a Malegaon blast inquiry link. He shocked the members of his own party as he went on repeating almost verbatim the stuff that appeared in the Pakistani newspapers, GEO television debates and on jehadi websites after the Mumbai carnage. He was supported also by other controversial characters in the UPA cabinet like Ramvilas Paswan.

The Minister of State for External Affairs, Muslim Leaguer E. Ahmed had earlier courted criticism for his selective omission of the attack on Jewish Outreach in Mumbai in his report to the UN Security Council. A ruling outfit that boasts of such closet jehadis in its administrative artery cannot be expected to be sincere in fighting terror to the finish.

Enacting the law is only the first step. Political will is more crucial. Can the UPA muster that will?


1) UPA's Reluctant Half-step @

2) India to fight its own battle @

3) Media coverage of Mumbai attacks

Saturday, December 20, 2008

** Letter to Arundhati

An Open Letter To Arundhati Roy

Abhinav Kumar,Dec. 19

To call the foreign funded insurgency in Kashmir and the terror attacks across the country as justified blowback for the failures of the Indian state and civil society is both false and callous. It implies a failure of the imagination and the intellect and the complete abdication of moral responsibility by you.

Dear Ms Roy,

For many years now you have enriched the public life of our nation. First, as a Booker winning novelist with a meteoric debut on the literary firmament, and then as an essayist, persistently pricking the conscience of a sometimes indifferent and ignorant nation, highlighting wide ranging issues of urgent concern. Over the years your provocative essays in the pages of Outlook magazine amount to a substantial intellectual achievement in their own right. One has not always agreed with you, but from big dams to the nuclear bomb, from the vagaries of capitalism to the dangers of American Imperialism, your writings on these important issues have left no one in any doubt about where you stand. Disagree with them as one might, your views occupied an intellectually coherent and morally compelling space in our public life.

Until recently, when one read your two pieces on Kashmir and Mumbai with a growing sense of shock, anger, pity and dismay.

As a literary device, self loathing has its uses; the God of Small Things was a splendid lesson in the use of this sentiment. However I am not sure that nations and civilizations can organize their policies around this self indulgent mood. Your two pieces, 'Azadi' and '9 is Not 11' see you as usual in top form as far as style and rhetoric are concerned, but as far as substance goes, I think you have fallen into the trap of being in love with the sound and significance of your own voice. It is still a powerful voice, a seductive voice too, but because it chooses to amplify only those other voices that are prepared to sing in chorus, it is a voice bereft of any sense of moral responsibility.

I am sure once again your latest writings will bring you further international recognition as a writer of conscience and conviction, striving tirelessly to expose the monstrosities of the Indian state and civilization. Dare I suggest that the Magsaysay and the Nobel Peace Prize, the Holy Grails of the seemingly rootless international intellectual might not be too far behind? But Madam, despite your great charm and greater intellect, this is a Faustian bargain. For in doing so you are doing irreparable harm to the very idea of the intellectual as a defender of virtue and morality in public life who too, like the problems you write about, much as he or she would want to, cannot be removed from the context (your favourite word) that created her, nurtured her and accorded the civic and intellectual space for her to articulate and propagate her views.

As someone who for the past 12 years has worn the Khaki uniform, as a servant of your favourite object of hate, the Indian state, I confess to a persistent sense of ambivalence and despair about the manner in which I am expected to serve. At the same time I cannot deny an equally abiding sense of pride in the importance of what we are supposed to do and of the importance of institutions in general in giving meaning and protection to what would otherwise be a society ruthless and brutal, beyond even your considerable powers of comprehension and description.

Therefore, I am offended and disgusted by your incomplete, incoherent and therefore immoral portrayal of the recent upheavals of Indian history. I used to think that you articulate the pain of the silent, marginalized, oppressed masses of our country. I had no idea that you held a brief for all those who never felt anything at all not just for India in particular, but who also actively profess violent rage at the shared values of the entire human race.

According to you, everything that the police and security forces do or say whether in Kashmir, or in the war on terror, or against Naxalism, is a falsehood, where as everything that is said by 'Kashmiri Freedom Fighters', or by the harmless theologians of the Lashkar-e-Toiba and their ideological cousins of the Al Qaeda, or by the peace loving disciples of Marx and Mao living a bucolic existence in the jungles of central India, constitutes sufficient grounds to indict the Indian state and civil society in perpetuity.

The people of India have always had a tradition to look up to men and woman of the arts and culture to serve as their moral compass. One really wonders what lines of logic and ethics shape your sense of moral direction.

You seem to passionately believe in and defend the 'right' of the Kashmiris to ethnic, cultural, religious and geographical exclusivism. If this is correct than why should we vilify Raj Thackeray or any other chauvinist who seeks to preserve the purity (however defined) of his people (however defined) from outsiders (also however defined)?

If the Kashmiris are justified in picking up the gun to safeguard their exclusive identity, then every part of India is justified in doing so. I do hope you have taken the trouble to examine the fundamental assumptions underlying all such movements based on an assertion of a cultural identity.

The creation of a hated outsider, in the case of Kashmir, the Indian; in the case of Raj Thackeray, the bhaiya of UP and Bihar; and in the case of the jihadists, anyone and everyone who does not subscribe to their virulent strain of Islam, including Muslims, is common to all these ideologies but you seem to pick and choose the bigotries you will demonize and the bigotries you will defend. Is it possible to freeze identity to a moment in time and on the basis of this demand recognition, retribution and rights for all time to come?

In your world view, the wrongs of Indian security forces of the last twenty years, and the failures of Indian state craft before it, are sufficient justifications for Kashmiri grievances, just as the wrongs of Babri Masjid, the Mumbai riots of 1993, the Gujarat riots of 2002, will justify Islamist terror against India, and the wrongs of corrupt governance and poor administration will justify Naxalite violence, in all perpetuity. Why should only these events be accepted as justification for settling scores by shedding the blood of innocents?

By this logic, the Crucifixion of Christ amply justifies the Holocaust. We non white societies must all be allowed eternal rights to slaughter the Europeans for the sins of colonialism and slavery. Islam itself had a long history of violent conquest and forcible conversions, perhaps that should justify an eternal crusade or dharmyudhh against Islam? The Greeks and Romans have their own scores to settle with the Christian Church. The Latin Americans have their own grievances with Spain and Portugal.

Seen this way, human history is merely a parody of the eternal theme of perpetrators and victims, and all present violence, no matter how barbaric or senseless, can be justified with reference to some past grievance, and we must allow these grievances full expression no matter what. Only then would we return to a state of original purity where all historical sins of the past and present have been fully avenged and the moral ledger as you see it stands perfectly balanced. The only thing is that after this bloody book-keeping, there may not be anyone left to enjoy the fruits of such a 'just' society.

The Indian state, whose sworn servant I am, is by no means a perfect entity. It is certainly corrupt, it is sometimes brutal and it is often indifferent to the sufferings of the weak and the powerless. But it does have a vision and aim based on certain civilizational values that are uniquely Indian. Demography and history dictates that these values have a prominently Hindu flavour. It is undeniable that these values have come under attack at times from the Hindu right as well. But even the most rabid of the Hindutva forces do not see the world united under the saffron flag by force of arms, as is the Islamist project of one world under the Green Crescent, or the Naxal project of one world under the Red Star.

It would take a pretty breathless and brainless leap of logic to equate violent, local outbursts of Hindu chauvinism, abetted by the sins of commission and omission of the state apparatus, in themselves however repugnant and indefensible, with the atrocities on a global scale that were inflicted by Communism in the 20th century or the outrages that are now threatened across all parts of the world by jihadi Islam.

To call the foreign funded insurgency in Kashmir and the terror attacks across the country as justified blowback for the failures of the Indian state and civil society is both false and callous. It implies a failure of the imagination and the intellect and the complete abdication of moral responsibility by you.

One could indeed forgive you, Ma'am, if you were purely an artist. Art has at the best of times a complicated relationship with truth and life. But in your avatar as a public intellectual, you cannot abandon your commitment to the demands of truth, accuracy and the ability to discriminate between the varieties of human experience and action. The liberties you have exercised in the past and continue to do today, however gratuitously and offensively, do not exist in a vacuum. I am not sure if any of these liberties would have a place in a Naxalite Utopia or a Jihadi Caliphate or even in a self-determined Kashmiri paradise that you eloquently espoused.

As visions of human perfectability they are far more flawed than the vision of India that you love to denigrate. In any case, the liberties that you have recently taken with the sensibilities of proud Indians too exist in a cultural, political and constitutional context, a context that is ultimately safeguarded by men such as Hemant Karkare and Major Unnikrishnan with disregard for their own life.

Remember that the next time you use your poisoned pen to vent your twisted logic on a polity that deserves better from its intellectuals.

Warm regards
Abhinav Kumar
Abhinav Kumar is a serving IPS officer. Though these are his personal views, he hopes that they also reflect the anguish of an entire fraternity of proud Indians in uniform
Read also:

1) Folly of FAILURE @

2) Rushdie on Terror @

3) Islam Never this Good @

Friday, December 19, 2008

** Rushdie on Pak

Rushdie Attacks Pakistan, Lashes Out at Arundhati Roy
Outlook India Mag.

New York (PTI): Terming Pakistan as the centre of world terrorism, noted author Salman Rushdie has said the fact is that terrorist organisations are all based in that country.

Rushdie also slammed Pakistan for its "cynical denial" that the terrorists involved in Mumbai strikes were not its nationals.

"The fact is the world's terrorist organisations are all based in Pakistan. Taliban are there, al-Qaeda are there, LeT is there. They are all there with the active support of the Pakistani intelligence," he said while participating in a panel discussion at the Asia Society.

Noted authors Mira Kamdar and Suketu Mehta were other two panelists at the discussion organised jointly by the Asia Society, the South Asian Journalist Association (SAJA) and the Indo-American Arts Council. All three authors draw their links to Mumbai.

While Rushdie was born there, Mehta grew up in the city. Kamdar lost her cousin and cousin's husband in the November 26-29 terror attack in which more than 170 people were killed.

The three acclaimed authors lashed out at Pakistan and its leadership for not taking any action against terrorists and denying that those responsible for the Mumbai strike were Pakistani despite credible proof.

"British Prime Minister Gordon Brown two days ago said that British intelligence, following up leads of various terrorists' activities, informed him that 75 per cent of what they studied led back to Pakistan," Rushdie said. Islamabad "can't go on pretending that there is no evidence. That's all garbage".

He said that "when the President of Pakistan pretends that there is no evidence against somebody, he is also complicit in that. It is time to say to Pakistan this has to stop. You can't be a member of the free group of nations, if you are among the world's sponsor of terrorism, which is what now they have been".

The Mumbai strikes, he said, were marked by brutality by the attackers and incompetence of government and security agencies in responding to them.

Expressing skepticism that Islamabad would dismantle the terror groups, the panelists, during the discussion, said the world community should send a clear message to Pakistan that terrorists are becoming a liability to that country and it is in its own interest to dismantle them.

The U.S. administration too came in for strong criticism for considering former President Pervez Musharraf an "ally in fighting terrorism" and giving billions of dollars to him without any condition that the money should be used to fight terrorists.

"We have treated Pakistan with velvet gloves and what we have got in result is zero," he said.

Rushdie said that only two months ago the Zardari government authorised the purchase of an armoured vehicle for a Lashkar-e-Toiba leader. "So he is driving around Pakistan in an armoured vehicle purchased by the army of Pakistan."

The panelists recalled that Musharraf was responsible for aiding Lashkar-e-Taeba to fight in Kashmir during his years in the army and Rushdie said he put up a western face to the Westerns but was mullah to extremists.

Rushdie strongly attacked Booker Prize winner Arundhiti Roy for linking the Mumbai terrorist attacks to Kashmir, Gujarat riots and demolition of Babri Masjid.

The terrorists, the participants said, are driven by a different philosophy and ideology and want to take the world back into the medieval ages.

But they agreed that terrorists failed in their apparent bid to split Hindus and Muslims and ignite communal riots as both the communities condemned the attacks and vowed to unitedly fight terror.

Visibly agitated at Pakistan's involvement in the terrorist attack, Suketu Mehta said, "ISI should be declared a terrorist outfit. They are behind the attack on Indian Embassy in Kabul. They are behind the attacks in Bombay (as Mumbai was called ea rlier). They should be banned first and foremost for the sake of Pakistan itself."

"Pakistan needs to understand -- and I think there should be a concerted effort on the part of the world community to help Pakistan understand -- that these groups are a liability now, they are not an asset but a liability for Pakistan," Kamdar said, adding she does not even consider Pakistan a country.

** Suzanna Arundhati Roy has given anti-India comments in the past too. ***

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

** Why blame politicians?

Why blame politicians?
S. Gurumurthy

Let the incensed elite look within and find faults

A fallout of the jihadi attack on Mumbai is the huge outrage sweeping through the nation. While this anger is understandable, given the way the present ruling politicians have handled the issue of national security, what is intriguing is that the hate campaign is directed against politicians as a class. Most 24x7 news channels are ceaselessly and systematically feeding this hate. It is ‘Page Three’ personalities, particularly in Mumbai, who star in this campaign.

Most Indians would not even know what ‘Page Three’ personalities means. They are the partying type, mostly found in restaurants in five-star hotels. They are so called because once upon a time pictures of them and their parties would appear on page three of tabloids. Now they are all over the media, with many newspapers sometimes celebrating them with front page coverage.

When in the past several terror attacks took place and hundreds of people died, there was public outcry against terror. But the media never ceaselessly telecast or printed their outrage as it is doing now. What is the difference this time? This time around ‘Page Three’ celebrities are the protesters. This class had never imagined that terror would ever touch them. Now that their world has been hit, the ‘Page Three’ personalities are terribly angry.

How is this class positioned in our polity? It talks about democracy but does not vote. It talks against corruption, but does not fight it. It talks of high values but follows a lifestyle that hardly support these values. Now they are the ones anchoring the national debate on the right and wrong of politicians. Examine how dangerous this is.

Politicians are the products of elections. And elections do not yield quality leadership. For example, a Ramakrishna Paramahansa could not have found a Vivekananda in a Narendra through ballots from his co-disciples. It cannot be that democracy is good but elections are bad, as there can be no democracy without elections.

Elected politicians form the backbone of democracy. If they manipulate people, it is the duty of the elite to educate the people to be vigilant.

How many ‘Page Three’ personalities have taken to educating the people to make right choices? So their anger against politicians is because their world has been disturbed. If they feel so outraged now, what where they doing when trains and markets were being targeted by terrorists, killing and maiming ordinary people?

Now come to their targets, the politicians. Politicians are the easiest target of the elite. But in this country they are the only ones who are open to scrutiny — as to what they say or do. No one can scrutinise, say, the judges. The scrutiniser will go to jail. No one in his senses can talk against the media. Only politicians are easy subjects for cartoons or hate. But this time around, the campaign that is on after the Mumbai terror strike is not just the eruption of pent up apathy towards the politicians. It is something more.

The Mumbai terror has exposed the ruling parties at the Centre and in Maharashtra like no other act of terror has done before. The reason is self-evident.

It has touched the chattering classes who form the backbone of the ‘secular’ class. The anger of this class cannot be directed against the ‘secular’ political parties that run the country today as that would shift balance of advantage to the ‘non-secular’ Opposition. So the present rulers need to be protected. Result, the anger is intentionally directed against the political class as a whole.

Thus, this campaign against the political class as a whole conceals the real intention behind it, namely to protect the ‘secular’ Governments at the Centre and in the State which had intelligence inputs about the Mumbai terror attack via sea route but did nothing to act on them, whatever the reason for their inaction.

Portraying the entire political class as hate objects protects the ruling parties against public retribution. The present rulers had repealed the anti-terror law in India when the whole democratic world was enacting such laws against terrorism. The terror attacks multiplied in numbers under the rule of the present Government. So blaming the entire political spectrum bails out the culprits ruling India today. The Page Three icons and the media seem to be on this joint enterprise to wash off the sins of the ruling party and its leadership by targeting the political class as a whole.

Take this process to its logical conclusion. The hate against the ruling parties is being universalised thus as anger against the entire political class. Compare this anger against the politicians with how the ordinary people raised patriotic slogans, “Vande Mataram” and “Bharat Mata ki jai” when the NSG and Army commandos successfully vanquished the terrorists and again when the funeral of the slain ATS, NSG and Army fighters was taking place. Admiration for the Army coupled with hate for political class is dangerous to democracy.

In a democracy, it is necessary to let the public anger correct the ruling party that is at fault. The rulers must pay for their fault. They should not be allowed to escape punishment for their mistakes by joining the crowd of hated politicians. There is a lesson for the Opposition also; that is if it comes to power, it would be treated no differently.