13/7–A Perspective

A few thoughts, following yet another terrorist attack on the city of Bombay.

1) An Indian reaction is overdue. It doesn’t matter if it has been 30 months or 10 years since we were struck by terror strikes. But it is high time India’s leaders understand that the buck really stops here. Two decades of suffering and loss of innocent lives cannot be put away under the carpet without a reaction that raises our dispirited levels, which are currently at an all-time low. The cycle of terror is currently unstoppable and we are all sitting ducks, waiting for that bomb to go off.

2) Yes, there has been improvement in India’s immediate reaction to attacks. The Home Minister was wise enough to not speculate which terrorist group was behind the blasts that killed 17 and injured over a hundred others. This helps avoid alerting the actual group that may be responsible for these vicious attacks. As of now, no group seems to have claimed responsibility and this blogger will also refrain from speculating who might be responsible.

3) News channels and newspapers have disappointed in their scramble for rating points, with gory images doing the rounds in both of these mediums. With the odd exception, most media sources crossed lines and it is unlikely they will ever learn when to respect the dead. Especially, given the way in which these lives have been lost.

4) While we await an official Indian reaction, it is distressing to note that the government admitted to having absolutely no intelligence prior to these attacks. One would expect that given the scale of the attacks in Mumbai less than three years back, India’s intelligence services would have learnt the lessons of failure and improved drastically. Instead, we were treated to question-mark faces. And these are the faces that are supposed to answer our questions in the first place.

5) Twitter, significantly more than Facebook or any other  form of social media, played a heart-warming role in circulating information, aiding the search for missing people and in general, spreading awareness. The idea of creating a spreadsheet listing down all the people capable of delivering help of several kinds stood out. Obviously, Twitter is incapable of helping actual on-ground operations, but it’s importance cannot be understated given how spreading information during a crisis is absolutely desirable. The occasional misleading/erroneous information aside, most of it is generally intended to be useful. I am not sure or qualified to comment if it helped emergency response systems on the ground, if there were any at all.

6) At this point, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and BJP leader Narendra Modi have stressed the importance of unity. In my opinion, this misleads us. People are not empowered to do much, apart from the usual outrage and creation/circulation of public opinion. It is the leaders at the top who are supposed to make critical decisions that is supposed to justify why they were elected to be there in the first place. A mere statement like “India will not tolerate this” never saved our souls. Meanwhile, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has proved himself to be a top-notch humbug of a leader by claiming that the UPA has thwarted 99% of terror attacks, but 1% of attacks do get through. On what mathematical basis he has managed to come to this conclusion is sense-defying, and makes you want to pull your hair out. This is all the more worrying because this man is almost certain to take up India’s top job, come 2014.

In essence, it is disappointing, depressing and bewildering that yet another terror attack has managed to shackle up the Indian mainland and caused the loss of yet more innocent lives. It was supposed to be a perfectly normal day, with people going about their usual routines.

And suddenly, there came deafening sounds and blinding lights. And some blood.


Will India ever nab Dawood Ibrahim?


Not in the near future, at least.

There are simple reasons behind this, and one does not need to dwell into deep thought to realize why India is unlikely to ever apprehend Dawood Ibrahim. Reasons like ‘Lack of political will’ and ‘We don’t have the capabilities (yeah right!)’ and others of this ilk have been repeated ad nauseum in the hyperventilating Indian media and have even been emphasized by several commentators.

To put it straight, I don’t think these reasons matter. There is a whole psychological argument that I intend to play in this post. It’s plain and simple – India gives it’s enemies too much time to scuttle away. Now a counter-argument can be made here. Some may say it is important for the credibility of Indian democracy that we deliver justice within the ambit of our ideals. Fair enough. But what about people who are our enemies, but not in any sort of direct or indirect control of the Indian state? Like Dawood Ibrahim.

Note that Ajmal Kasab does not come into the equation. I pray, hope and have ample faith in the Indian judicial system that justice will be delivered in the manner it should (i.e. in constitutional accordance) and I call for no urgency or portray any misguided patriotic fervor in hurrying up with the execution of the 26/11 terrorist.

But the question is about the likes of Dawood, and so many others. Here is a man, directly responsible for the carnage of Mumbai 1993 that cost us the lives 257 Indians, who lives and roams around freely in our neighboring nation (?) with no insecurity whatsoever. He marries off his daughter in a five-star Dubai hotel, and we Indians just watch the action.

What is this, if not some sort of intelligence failure? Oh wait. It’s not even intelligence failure. It’s failure of action despite the necessary intelligence. More so, should we wait for inspiration from the Americans before we undertake any action of our own? “Oh, the Americans took down Osama Bin Laden. Time for us to ape them”?

A counter-argument here would be about the threats of retaliation we face from Pakistan, as has been made clear by the Pakistani Army and the ISI, that if we do conduct any operation (covert or not) in the country. In fact, the whole idea about India having to face consequences of any action from the Pakistanis is a despicable farce that is extremely well played by the Pakistani establishment.

The only consequence we face is the time the Pakistanis get to stock up the necessary resources. Pakistan will then go on a series of denials and eventually become stronger in several aspects – diplomatically, in military terms and many others. Yes, stronger. By the minute. By the hour.

So here is a man, wanted by the CBI and the Interpol in connection with 1993 and several other ‘Bleed India’ events, who has no worries whatsoever. A potential superpower sits and watches, weak-kneed all the time. The whole scenario begs the question – Do we eliminate any of our enemies?

No, we don’t. At least, not the ones who matter. And it is not just about the lack of political will or the lack of military logistics (both of which may be fair reasons). It’s more about a basic Indian duty, to instantly counter any attempt made to destabilize the lives of it’s people and convince them that the Indian state does have the necessary power it can portray that will put us to sleep at night with the knowledge that we are safe.

And this is the least we deserve. Just like food, water and shelter.

Of Course, They Knew!

Following the death of the world’s most wanted terrorist, I blogged a few thoughts [Read] about why the Al-Qaeda threat still looms large simply because of the time taken by the United States of America to hunt down Osama Bin Laden.

Moving the stream of thoughts towards Pakistan, one has to say that it is unimaginable that the country’s leadership was unaware of a hiding Bin Laden in Abbottabad, the home of Pakistan’s very own military academy and several retired Army officers (according to news reports). Clearly, it makes sense to believe that the Pakistani Army and the country’s intelligence bureau, ISI, were somewhat aware and indirectly aided the survival of Bin Laden. Even the Americans must have realized this – which could be the reason why they kept the Pakistanis out of the operation they undertook to kill him.

Abbottabad, as a simple query for directions on Google Maps proves, is approximately 88 miles away from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad by road. This indicates that Pakistan may be a safe abode for several other terrorists. The likes of Hafiz Saeed roam around freely in the country giving hate speeches in favour of the Kashmiri ‘freedom movement’, anyway. [See video]

The Pakistani military and the ISI are the two (single-most?) most powerful entities in the country that the whole world will now suspect to be the root of terrorism (not Afghanistan, not anymore). It is very likely that they offered covert protection to Bin Laden and waited in the hope that the Americans would take some time to locate him. And the Americans did take time. They took so much time that the death may not have much significance, except on the streets of New York and other American cities where people are rejoicing. All along, Pakistan has stocked up ‘aid’ in terms of arms, ammunition and other military hardware. For a decade, and counting.

There is so much uncertainty that one is compelled to believe that a clear double game is being played and has been played all along. Pakistan claims to be helping the Americans clean up the terror trail, while we remain unsure about how much of a bonhomie there exists between the Pakistani military/ISI and the Al-Qaeda/Taliban. It is up to the world’s foremost superpower, now that they got rid of a man they so desperately sought, to grind Pakistan regarding Bin Laden’s resort-like mansion in Abbottabad. How he survived for so long? How did he manage to live in the middle of a township, when word all along had been about caves and mountains? More importantly, how did nobody know?

Or maybe, somebody did.

The Bin Laden Death

And the Americans got what they wanted. A man who was responsible for the 9/11 attacks and was omnipresent on any American ‘Most Wanted’ list has been safely buried in the sea. Hiding in a mansion in Abottabad in Pakistan, Bin Laden was hunted down by US Navy SEALs after an operation directly authorized by President Barack Obama himself. Anyway, you can read all of this in the news. [Read]

The Americans are celebrating. But the killing happened a tad too late. It would be foolish to assume that the leadership of the Al-Qaeda would not have seen this coming. For a terror organization that aims to reign down the United States someday, a reliance on Osama Bin Laden is at best symbolic and at worst, non-existent. The Al-Qaeda head has died at the age of 54.  During his time at the helm of one of the world’s most feared terror networks, he has successfully spread the wings of the organization into several pro-fundamentalist countries like Iraq and Yemen. The minimum this conveys is that the Al-Qaeda of today is a vast network, and any network of this kind will have several leaders in several disguises. Making several plans.

In fact, uncertainty regarding the Al-Qaeda leadership has always existed. The Americans and their allies have hardly been able to figure out who the commanders in control are. They’ve zeroed in on Ayman Al-Zawahiri, but remain unsure as leadership changes in Al-Qaeda have happened too often for their liking. Also Al-Qaeda, over the years, has tied up with several other organizations like the Pakistan Taliban and the anti-India organizations operating for Kashmiri ‘freedom’ and this clearly indicates that the network is too strong to be broken down by the death of a man who was most influential as long as a decade ago.

If Bin Laden would have been killed within 1-2 years of 9/11, it would have been a major statement from Washington and a cause of celebration for the Americans. As of now, the Pentagon and the CIA must prepare themselves. A warning has already been sounded by the Pakistan Taliban [Read]. It would, hence, be absurd to believe that in an era of spawned terrorist networks, the world just became a whole lot safer. Until Al-Qaeda is eliminated from it’s roots, which certainly can now be traced down to Pakistan, things remain murky.

The Americans can celebrate, the pro-Bin Laden Middle East can sulk a bit and the rest of South Asia can be cautious.

Meanwhile, life goes on.

The Indian Revolution

So, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak is out. End of tyranny. Toppled by a no-matter-what-they-say-but-this-was-genuine peoples’ movement. The Army takes over. But is the future secure?

Probably, no.

Revolutions are characteristic of radical changes. And Egypt is certainly witnessing the best of one. While a whole country celebrates a triumph of a kind, the world watches on with great interest.

And so does India.

The peoples of this republic will certainly be wondering, while glued to their TV sets or chatting away in coffee shops, what it would be like to just get together on the streets of thousands of cities and towns, waving the India flag with much joy and calling for the ouster of hundreds of those corrupt, senile office-bearers in this supposed-to-be-great institution called the Government of India.

And that is even our right. We have a right to protest, which must be used. We have a right to speak our mind against the perennially erring, which must be used. We, however, do not possess a ‘right to revolution’ simply because this is a constitutional democracy that calls for sorting out all of our problems through constitutional means. There is absolutely no need for a revolution, which may cause loss of lives, time, public money and property and even bring the nation to a halt.

So what do we do, one asks. Reforms. In a democracy, reforms is the way ahead. And while we may have a set of people (in Government or otherwise) entirely dedicated to ensure reforms don’t go through, we must persist. And there are solutions. Corruption? Cut government spending and reduce the size of the institution. Scandals? Firmer implementation of the Rule of Law (which in my opinion, must be linked directly to growth), and consequently the implementation of punishments handed out to offenders while respecting their democratic right to appeal.

In a democracy, a ‘revolution’ may be slow but it mostly always is for the better. In a dictatorship, one cannot predict which way the ‘swing’ will happen. And many countries around the world offer opportune examples of failed ‘revolutions’. Structure must be maintained, and for that the idea of a revolution is redundant. And that is what makes it entirely absurd to consistently maintain a thought like ‘People must topple the Government’. What, even when the people themselves are responsible for the Government? And if there does actually exist a sincere willingness to change leaders – Vote.

The republic must be protected from a revolution by firmly implementing exactly what our cynical selves struggle to believe these days – that politicians (who are elected representatives of the very same people who complain again and again about the lack of change) can work for good and the ones who don’t must be shunned entirely when elections come calling, that the problem of corruption can be overcome by reforms implemented with speed and conviction, that the Constitution of India has all the solutions and can bring in more solutions through civilized, democratic means.

That there can, and will, be change.

Cry, My Divided

Over the last couple of years, I’ve become accustomed to tweeting over blogging. It could be general laziness to pen long write-ups (which is what I will be doing for a living, actually), or scattered thoughts unable to occupy their space in a well-constructed, thought-out piece that isn’t 140 characters long.

But, it is being on Twitter that has made me more observatory than I ever was. And I have to say, most of what I read is downright cynical with not a shred of hope in it. Hell, it’s even got into my writing. The Indian Twitteratti, as it appears, is a firmly divided lot that may unite for the barest of minimums when a Sachin Tendulkar kisses the India flag on his jersey after notching up yet another record-breaking century, but is firmly entrenched and happy in it’s divisions.

And that, sadly, is evident in thousands of tweets. There is a Right, a Left, an apathetic lot, a happy bunch and some who are just plainly sad and frustrated. The moment a slightly sensitive issue props up in the mainstream media, there will come an avalanche of tweets attempting to rip any genuineness in the issue to shreds. Maybe, this has just become a way of moving on rather easily. And continuing to believe the greatest fallacy of our times – that life is easy.

The problem with divisions is that they only ensure greater determination to the parties that hold forth their point of view, no matter how ridiculous and detrimental to other important causes. While it is absolutely vital and democratic to have a point of view, it is not necessary (keeping basic sensibilities in mind) that the said point of view means something. Even matter of fact-ly, it may mean nothing.

This is probably the most negative side of fundamentalism, which breeds such disregard for what actually may be an issue of concern to many. A firmly entrenched lot will just not believe in any seriousness in the issue, because they’ve molded themselves in that way.

Increased bigotry, increased disgust, increased apathy, increased suffering – increased hatred. This is what one ends up with, and the ones who are actually responsible merely disperse themselves among the noises of the voices. The next time they are screaming about something, you’ve already forgotten what they were culpable for.

And that, is the greatest tragedy of them all.

Verdict: Fear

With the Babri Masjid verdict all set to be announced by the Allahabad High Court on September 30th after a deferring by the Supreme Court from the original date of September 24th, India awaits the result with baited breath.

Yes? No. Not really. The issue, as has been pointed out numerous times, does not connect with a new India that is more focused on India’s economic improvements and genuine rise rather than sort out an age-old issue that, yes, did divide the country on communal lines back in the early 90s.

Now, a quiet majority of this country may be glad to put the past behind by hoping to accept any decision from the High Court. But what may have gone unnoticed is that India has already lost, as a whole. Look around you. Talk Babri and you are basically using a word that may be synonymous to ‘Fear’.

From Facebook statuses to Twitter talks, from SMSes to activists visiting houses to ask people to not venture out, it’s nothing more than game of fear. What purpose does any ‘important’ issue serve if the people primarily disconnected with the issue if you talk about India’s young, are driven back to their homes and asked to embrace fear over freedom?

There is so much fear of reactions from either sides of the Babri conflict, that the importance of the verdict seemingly pales in comparison. If sensitivity over historical issues perpetrates a mindset of continuing distress on the people of the country, then how respectable is that sensitivity? This is nothing more than ‘Feelings Terror’, one that may not necessarily be accompanied by violence but succeeds in generating enough panic in the mind and the heart.

There will only be victory if we can get over it.