Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Pakistan and terror

Reading a respected Pakistani daily for a couple of weeks, starting with the Mumbai bomb blast, has giving me a much wider perspective about the nation and its citizens. Pakistanis are much more disadvantaged than us Indians. They do not have a functional democracy, their society is still constrained by feudal setup, politicians are even more shameless than ours and are even more corrupt. Inflation is raging high, economy in shambles and people are worried. This Bakri-id was not a good one for many of them, in fact lot many people toned down their celebrations because they could not afford to buy the animal for sacrifice. (I wonder if this is the festival for which Camels are brought down to South India from the northern parts of India and there will be routine articles in the paper about cruelty on animals and stuff..)
More from the captured terrorist, Like most of them he has very little education, hails from a very poor family and the easiest option for him to earn respect in society is to join these killer-organisations and pretend to be saving a religion, kill some people and gain entry into ‘paradise’. No wonder Pakistan is a hotbed of terror. One thing it has managed to export despite the global slowdown is –terrorists! The problem of the nation is so much akin to the underdeveloped tribal regions in our own backyard that is a Naxalite hotbed. So much for Jinna’s dream and so much for Iqbal’s “Sare Jahan Se Accha”; every thing ultimately remained on papers.
What ever the historical reasons are, for me, the whole problem of terror is due to underdevelopment, more economic than it appears. If people had opportunities to lead a decent live, ensure that their children went to school and were promised better things in life, why would they want to die a violent death? If things are just depressing, if meeting ends is tough and there are no other option but to become a foot soldier of terror earning so much more than ever possible on the right path to livelihood, why not? If only Pakistani rulers has a little more sense than their India-phobia, nipped the Frankenstein’s monster of terror in the bud, and spent the money they eventually did on public expenditure, they would have been a lot better. They have the geographical advantage. They were in the land of five rivers, the breadbasket of the sub continent. They were a smaller nation so should have been far easier to manage. They did not have as much diversity as we have. But where did they end up? And where are we today? We are in a position to inject a stimulus package and they are going around beseeching for aid. I should say it is just the misfortune of the Pakistani people.
I was reading Pervez Musharraf’s autobiography. One thing, like all dictators, he is an egomaniac. The book was full of I, me, me and more me. A good autobiography should never been an overdoes of Is and me’s.. All that came out of the book was the dubious glorification of Pakistani armed forces, a claim of the force being far more superior to Indian forces and of course the assertion that Mujahiddin were behind the Kargil war, even after India proved that the Mujahiddin were none other than Pakistani army regulars, with identity cards and badges. The army was indeed so great that they had to thing twice to accept the remains of their fallen soldiers. So how great can be an army that does not honour the remains of its fallen soldiers? The book was evidently an eye wash intended to keep the Pakistani people in a state of ‘imposed’ suspension of disbelief, just a continuation of school text book that speaks of Indian atrocity but does not mention the number of Prisoners of War released unconditionally by India in the aftermath of second Indo-Pak war. This is where the problem begins and may be ends- the power of Pakistani army and its generals have over Pakistani people and society. It appears Pakistani army can go a better job at governance than securing its citizens, after all they are used to it. Even if these dubious claims are discounted, why is that Pakistani army occupying such a big space in the policy-public-media domain? Army should do what it should, protect the citizens from external aggression and secure its borders. This army is more interested in creating disturbance in neighbouring countries, is unable to secure its western borders and has willingly supported extremist factions and pulls the strings ultimately. So it is like the Army deciding what to do the money with the exchequer? Buy food for the poor, build schools or buy arm and ammunitions? What could be the tendency of an institution like army? Naturally buy arms and ammunitions. Where will that lead to? Into the quagmire of underdevelopment and associated frustration, the frustration can be expressed in many ways, farmer suicides (as in the case of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh), the Naxalite movement (as in Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand) and religious extremism and related violence. Where will it lead to but here, a bloody, society marred by violence?
At this juncture, the role of CIA and USA is conspicuous. Back during the Zia-ul-haq days the Americans had the ability of persuade Pakistani rulers, they could have used their power to act more responsibly. All they managed to do was create another fear psychosis that Russians wanted Pakistani warm waters and that India being Russian ally wanted the same. They funded these Jehadis to fight against the Northern Alliance, but could not for see what the monster – a Bhasmasura they create would do after they had attained their goal of winning the cold war? They woke up only after their ego was hurt right in their own back yard. Suddenly all their friends became their enemies. What Pakistan has started in Punjab and Kashmir never assumed importance till 9/11. So what is the price we pay for the selfish American game of promoting Jehadis and strengthening Pakistani ISI and Army? Die like flies when a young man just out of his teens sprays bullets in a crowded railway station.
If only people both in India and Pakistan were at the centre stage, allocating national budget to high priority issues like education and health care rather than on embarking on an arm’s race. If only we common people had our ways, and we could see things more clearly that things would have been better for both countries and for the larger world. For, common people on both sides of the Radcliff line life is but a struggle, (of different proportion though), in all its sense- economy, national security and social.Till that happen, peace and stability is just a pipe dream.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Mumbai Terror 2

Continuing from the last post….

The political circus continues with more resignations even as the anger of common man boils over onto the streets of Mumbai. I wish I were there at the anger march screaming my lungs out. Yes, politicians are intelligent deaf; they cannot hear things they don’t want to. So such cases we need to scream even more loudly.

Bomb blasts and such violence has become more or less a routine in India these days, there is one every other week. It is just the casualty figures and the number of bombs that are different. So what makes the recent Mumbai episode so special that people from every walk of life just decided to take it down to the street? I am not sure. My blood always boils after such violence. But this time it was all the more frustrating because of the prolong pitched battle and hostage situation. I just feel that our country’s political system and law enforcement systems are so weak that I cannot trust them any more. Adding to my anger is the official apathy. The ‘chalta hai’ attitude. This is not the first time it has happened, this is definitely not the last time it is going to happen. So how come are our leaders so complacent? They just do not seem to be doing enough. While they have Z+ category security, we have none. When we go out of home in the morning, we never know what we are getting into. This being the case do we really need those donkeys who rule us? (The Donkey thing is copied from one of the boards held during anger march, it read “ India a nation of lions ruled by Donkeys) I wish our politicians were donkeys. At least they would just be stupid instead of being cold calculating profit seekers.

During all the violent incidents before the Mumbai episode, my anger would be straight at terrorists and their backers at Pakistan . Now it is more direct at the Indian authorities. We know there are hoards of well trained terrorist, we know they want to kill us. We know Pakistan is a failed state, it’s civilian government had very little control over its all-powerful Army and ISI. Fine those are external factors we cannot do any thing about them except be prepared for any eventuality. But what we can do is make sure our public areas are safe. Hotels, roads, hospitals, schools, collages are all safe. As it is we have enough reasons to die right from contaminated water to various diseases. We do not want a crazy maniac to add to the list. All I need is the reassurance that there is enough money, men and material being dedicated for my safety from the government coffers that I painfully pay for every March/April as a tax payer. But I am getting such a raw deal. I pay my taxes religiously, I am left to die a miserable death at the hands of a lunatic whereas our politicians, who do not work half as hard as I do, they get to use free phones, free Bunglows in Luyten’s Delhi, they get free air tickets, they get to over stay in the government Bunglows shamelessly even after the supreme court calls them shameless asking them to vacate immediately, they get Z+ security with NSG commadows following them probably even when they answer nature’s call. While I pay they enjoy. Is it so much like the feudal societies of medieval ages. Democracy here is just a farce.

I guess this is actually where my anger is bubbling from. May be this is the reason why rest of my fellow citizens are anger as well.

The second development is a change in political orientation. I have always been a supporter of BJP. I have admired Sri Vajapeeji and some very efficient people in his cabinet like Col. Khanduri and Arun Shourie. This time too I would have been sympathetic to the party but then the full page bloody advertisement begging for votes even as people lay there dying, was something that spoke volumes about the current leadership. They wanted to derive maximum political millage here. That was truly grouse. Now Advani just seems to be another power hungry politician at the dusk of this career trying to be the prime minister he always dreamt of. What crap! I will not get into this thing. Never. I will never vote for either BJP not Congress. Congress I have never voted for chances are that I will never vote for them even in my entire life. For all the 1.2 billion, they just need the Gandhi’s to lead them. Even if it means someone who is a Gandhi by marriage and the other is so reluctant and uncomfortable being a politician. This is what I think I need to do, much better if we all could do.

1) Demand for better service as tax payers. Government after all is just another player here and they should realise we the tax payers are their boss, not the other way round.

2) Make sure our voice is heard. One great thing about American democracy is the voice. Voters demand that candidates debate each other and then they make up as to whom they did be voting for. Along with these debates there are civil society institutions, think tanks that analyse, debate and influence public policy and of course out comes in elections. Such think tanks are much helpful when media is bias and inefficient as it is in India right now. We seriously lack such institutions. We need to build them, since building them is rather an expensive and time consuming affair, we can take some help from the blog-o-sphere. Academicians and intelligent people can express themselves here so that each one of us has a space and our collective voice be heard in Delhi . Such a voice will definitely act as a part of the checks and balance so crucial in the functioning of any democracy.

3) Keep the pressure up. Lets not forget that this year alone the toll related terror related violence has been close 3000.Let us not forget everything as time goes by. Let us keep reminding it to ourselves, and keep asking question and make sure our so called leaders provide us with satisfactory answers.

Despite everything, I cannot but stop myself from sympathising with the Hindu right wing. After all, may be it is just the Bhajarang Dal, and people like Purohit and Sadhvi who actually care for us and wants to make a difference in our lives. They have risked their lives (if they indeed did) and they are doing something which we are not. May be supporting them is definitely not a bad idea even though I do not want them to kill anyone (except the terrorists and may be some unwanted politicians)…

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Mumbai Terror

Mumbai still continue to be on the headlines. Surprisingly, the entire thanksgiving day news cover on CNN was on Mumbai. I do not quite know what the reason behind the more than 50+ hours of coverage on a main stream American media, could be because there were American citizens involved, could be because Americans still respond very strongly to acts of terror in the post 9-11 context, or could be because they did not have any other event, covering which they could have reaped better TRP. I did not have access to BBC even if my first preference has always been BBC.
Now that the dust has settled, it is anger, frustration, the crippling feeling of helplessness and despair at the lives lost, orphaned children, wrecked families. Everybody is writing something of the other right from the mighty Mr. Bhachan to journalists of all hues.. from red to saffron. Including Arun Shanbagh, BigB There are all sorts of articles right from those informing us about the increased TRP of news channels due to terror attacks (grouse) to those debating the position of a Muslim organisation refusing to accommodate the bodies of the terrorists. So where do we go from here?

1) Resignation of the home minister: And finally Mr Shivraj Patil realised he is incompetent for the job as well as that resigning now with just 5 months left for his term to end, there were so much brownie points to be collected if he owns up moral responsibility and so much less to loose. Oh! Come on. We the electorate we are stupid enough to elect incompetent governments but not as stupid to see the ‘moral responsibility’ stuff. We have seen this far too often in the past. It is surprising to see how he managed to be around even with so many terror acts unfolding across the length and breadth of the country.

2)Pakistan :It has become a sort of ritual to blame country-region> for everything that happens here. We are tired of that as well. place st="on">Pakistan is like a monster created to keep the attention of the electorate diverted. Just like young parents do when feeding their stubborn child “oh! If you don’t finish this entire apple, I will call the monster; the monster will come and gobble you up”. So incompetent government just wants to divert our attention and we shut our mouths and refrain from asking those crucial questions. Let us not get into this whirlpool of diversion. We all know Pakistan is a problematic neighbour. They have a huge, restive indoctrinated force of unemployed youth with not much prospects in life, besides the rogue ISI flush with cash from American handouts and the Islamist hardliners with their deep oil pockets will not find it difficult to get the required man powder. Fire power, they already have plenty of it. Even if the civilian government of Pakistan has nothing to do with it, there are enough rogue elements to cause the harm. So what there are rogue elements everywhere, inside our own country, our own cities sometimes right in our back yard. So why start the blame game? Why don’t we stop the blame game and think about avoiding such situations in future. Who did it might be an obvious question but definitely not the most important question. The most important question is how to stop it? So Pakistan card is definitely not working out here.Also, I was surprised to see Pakistani media publishing some real good pieces. So balanced were the articles that I am impressed with the media.One such here in Dawn Are they not the victims of poverty, power hungry politicians, opportunistic mullas and of course beneficiaries of the regular anti-India propaganda?

3)Politicising the entire terror issue: So everyone wants to make the best of the situation. Don’t they? A few politicians do not want to ban SIMI because their terror acts are not strong enough. So if they end up killing more people, that’s when they can be banned according to these people. Of course the incumbent incompetent government is slower to react. They figure out they need NSG after loosing top police officials including IPS officers. Then there are disgusting full page advertisement as to whom to vote, who will be a better option when it comes to fighting terror? All these folks are of course not bothered about their own safety because they are covered with Z+ security. That means, there are competent people around then who will sacrifice their own lives to protect these folks. So they can stop bothering about their own lives, they do not have to worry about earning a living, they usually male as much to last for at least 3-4 generations (unless the lineage turns out to be extremely stupid) and they it does not matter for then as to who die. After all in a democracy it is the percentage of votes that matters not the absolute number. Let them die.. is their point

4) Irresponsible politicians: Then there are people like R R Patil who think it is normal for such ‘small’ incidents to happen in big cities like Mumbai. I wonder what his reaction would be if he were to be holed up in one of the rooms there at Taj/ Oberoi; Better yet his son-daughter or a younger member of his family. Then there is Vilas Rao Deshmukh, who wants to help his aspiring son attain star-hood, takes his son and Ram Gopal Verma (Till now I had respected him for his directorial abilities, now I abhor him) to the blast site so that they could make a realistic movie! What apathy. Then there is Achutanandan the chief minister of Kerala who after being snubbed by the father of a slain soldier goes on to say,’ not even a dog would visit…’disgrace. I only hope not even a single person, let alone a dog would vote for these people in the next elections. Boot them out bloody, boot them out.Raj Thakhary and his wife, who feels all the dead were Marathis etc. We citizens did not know ‘Yama’ was partial and had a preference for Maharastrians. I only hope Raj Th.. learnt his lessons very well. He is yet another face of greedy, powder hungry b……. that populate our political system. Then there is Advani (A few days back I would not have mentioned his name with out the respectful ‘ji’ in tow, now he is just Advani) equally power hungry, instead of standing behind the country, all he wants to do is criticise the government and campaign for more votes. Well done. You bloody politicians think of nothing but your own skins, your own votes.

5) What next? Now it is as important to think about clues as it is to think of ways to stop such incidents from occurring again. How do we do it? No single answer. Even as I write this, there is another bomb blast in Assam. Where have we come? Is this the Kali yuga that is supposed to be horrid? I have no idea. Irresponsible government action: A) After all the blood and toil, our best men on duty get to go back in BEST buses, not even air-conditioned cars bloody, they get treated with no respect and importance. I wish politicians were made to travel by BEST buses at peak hour, may be then they will realise what it is going to be like. B) Prime Minister pointing fingers at Pakistan even before the operations were complete and enough evidence was at hand. Is it not stupid? Blaming another country with out enough proof? Could he not wait for a few more days, put forward compelling evidence and then pressurise Pakistan? C) Summoning ISI chief: What crap? Why should India seek to summon ISI chief? Is it not hubris? Is it the way diplomacy works? How would we feel if Islamabad wants our RAW chief explain a bombing in some obscure tribal area? Awkward but fails to serve the purpose. Then the demarche and the list of fugitives, why don’t the politicians stop fooling us. What did we achieve with all these. Why don’t they bloody do something that will stop these bombings for ever? Why don’t they look for solutions instead of harping and haranguing? What the hell is wrong with all of them?

What next? In my next post…