Wednesday, December 10, 2008



[prohindu] Tough nation impotent in the face of terrorism

Mohan Gupta Tue, Dec 9, 2008 at 9:02 PM

Tough nation impotent in the face of terrorism
Complex Mumbai attack must have taken months to organize but security services detected nothing

M.J. Akbar

MUMBAI–In most cities of South Asia, hidden beneath the grime and neglect of extreme poverty, there exists a little Somalia waiting to burst out and infect the body politic.

This netherworld, patrolled and nourished by criminals who operate a vast black-market economy, has bred in Mumbai a community that has utter contempt for the state, because it knows that its survival depends on corrupting the police. Like underground magma, that underworld has now burst into the streets of Mumbai.

Because the denizens of this netherworld know neither patriotism nor morality, they are easily lured into partnership with terrorists, particularly when they have reason to feel aggrieved. In Mumbai, a large proportion of them are Muslims who were denied space in the formal economy and have developed strong vested interests over the past 50 years.

Details about the Mumbai outrage, where terrorists killed more than 100 people, are still unfolding. But we do know that at least 30 men armed with AK-47 rifles and grenades held India's business and financial centre hostage, targeting both Indians and foreigners, particularly Americans and Britons.

It is likely that this operation was propelled from Pakistan through the Lashkar e Tauba, a terrorist organization sustained by hatred of secular India and backed by shadowy Pakistani agencies and street support.

In the blood and drama of the events, however, we might miss a significant element of the story. The attacks were an operation that must have required months of planning: serious weapons were deployed, a small army was mobilized, targets were studied, transport was organized, and weak points identified.

A plan of attack that involved hundreds of people was put in motion, and yet the massive infrastructure of India's government discovered nothing.

The chief of India's Anti-Terrorist Squad, Hemant Karkare (who lost his life in the battles that raged through the night) received a death threat from the nearby city of Pune, but his own unit did not bother to investigate it, since it was busy playing games on behalf of its political masters. Complacency and politics gave the terrorists more protection than silence or camouflage ever could.

Indeed, the attacks represent more than a failure of police work. They represent a collapse of governance; these are the wages of the sins of administrative incompetence and political malfeasance.

India is a tough nation. No one should have illusions about that. It has fought off Muslim terrorists in Kashmir, Sikh terrorists in Punjab, Christian terrorists in Nagaland, and Hindu terrorists in Assam and across the country. It understands that you cannot blame the whole community for the sins of a few.

But under ineffectual governance, particularly during the last three years, India is in danger of degenerating into a soft state. Instead of being an international leader in the worldwide war against terrorism, it is sinking into the despair of a perpetual victim. Indeed, India stands behind only Iraq in the number of people killed each year in terrorist attacks.

Three years ago, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rather smugly told U.S. President George W. Bush in Delhi that Indian Muslims were not involved in any act of terrorism. The implication was that the integration of Muslims in Indian society constituted a success story.

Muslims, Singh implied, also benefit from the virtues of democracy, a conclusion that Bush happily repeated. But Singh certainly did not fool any of the terrorists, some of whom may have read his self-congratulation as a challenge for them to act.

I am an Indian and a Muslim and proud to be both. Like any Indian, today I am angry, frustrated and depressed. I am angry at the manic dogs of war who have invaded Mumbai.

I am frustrated by the impotence of my government in Mumbai and Delhi, tone-deaf to the anguish of my fellow citizens. And I am depressed at the damage being done to the idea of India.

Terrorists by boats, politicos by votes
Great, Akbar. Let the nation resolve to throw the terrorist traitors out in the next elections.
Wasn't Sharad Pawar also named by Telgi in his narcotic test revelation?
I think ATS or Mumbai Crime branch investigating Mumbai 26/11 should talk to Narayan Rane and get the details of the most serious allegations made, so far, -- of treason. Why isn't the media publicising this crucial portion of Rane's interview?]
Terrorists by boats, politicos by votes
Government can survive criticism, but not ridicule
MJ Akbar Sunday, December 7, 2008 (Pioneer)

We have enough evidence: There is a cabal of cyber terrorists employed by mobile phone companies to destabilise the honourable Government of Mr Manmohan Singh with evil jokes. Who else could be manufacturing those SMSes that begin to circulate whenever opportunity arises? This is a professional hit job. This is not the work of amateurs. If stand-up comedians like Jay Leno can hire professional gag-writers, so can mobile phone companies, since each SMS-joke that is circulated means revenue for hungry coffers. The Government seems to be as impotent against gagsters within the country as it is against gangsters from across the border.

We had hardly blinked upon hearing that our smug Finance Minister had become even smugger after being transferred to Home Affairs when a solemn SMS landed on my machine:

"Let us pray that Chidambaram succeeds in bringing down terrorism the way he has brought down share prices."

If this is not sedition at a moment of national crisis, then please let me know the meaning of sedition. The gagster, moreover, has the temerity to be subtle. This is not one of those ha-ha husband-wife jokes. This is serious stuff.

This was followed by a committee effort, for I cannot believe that only one gagster dreamt this whole bit up:

"Chidambaram's report card after 6 months. 1: Police to people ratio increased from 14 per lakh to 14.0012 per lakh. How? One million commit suicide due to inflation. One lakh die in explosions, 25 lakhs in crime and accidents, three million migrate out of India due to fear. 2: Holding and folding dhoti time reduced by 5%. Big productivity gains. 3: Duties of all DGPs outsourced to FPOs, Home Guards, Excise Department and his ex-Harvard associates. 4: Police to be paid in oil bonds only. 5: RDX imports attract higher penalties. 6: Duties slashed for substandard bulletproof jackets. 7: Service tax to be imposed on Bangladeshi infiltrators at border crossings. 8: Visa entry tax imposed only on Nepalis. 9: 25% entry tax on all AK series rifles and all types of grenades. 10: If you still survive… then see you in 2009! But be ready for tax on your happiness and survival!"

I have been wondering about that phrase "If you still survive…" Is that a double entendre? At one level of course the gagster was referring to you and me, and the bleak possibilities of our survival against gangsters. But could he be also, obliquely, referring to bleaker possibility of Mr Chidambaram's survival as Home Minister? Note that the report card was limited to six months. Why? I sense something sinister here. Has he already drawn the conclusion that this arrangement will end before six months? What are the facts?

No matter how long Mr Manmohan Singh and Ms Sonia Gandhi drag out the life of this dying Government with virility injections that turn out to be too watery, they have to hold general elections by April. That is it. In 15 weeks at the outside, and probably within 13 weeks, the great electoral contraption will begin to whirr. This means that the Election Commission will declare the season open around mid-March, after which the Government really becomes a holding operation. Expect results in the first week of May.

Is the gagster saying that this lot in Delhi will not return to power? A fellow gagster certainly thinks so. I quote: "We have taken care of the men who came by boats… Time now to sort out the idiots who came by votes." Mumbai predictably evoked anger. This gag was not quite a gag, but rose from the heart: "Forgiving a terrorist is left to god. But fixing their appointment with god is our responsibility." Laughter may be the best medicine for anger, but there are times when you do not want the relief of such medicine.

Have some of the gagsters gone too far? The SMS about the Kerala Chief Minister cannot be printed in a family newspaper. But it did very well on SMS, for whom laws of libel have not yet been invented.

I wonder if politicians understand one law of public affairs. Everyone can survive criticism. And no one can survive ridicule. The gagster flourishes only when ridicule is the only weapon left in a democracy, until the day of voting arrives.
There is a point at which the gagster can run out of gags. After a week of dithering, when Maharashtra was effectively without a Government despite being in the throes of its most serious crisis, the Congress finally installed a new Chief Minister, Mr Ashok Chavan, and its ally, Mr Sharad Pawar, made Mr Chhagan Bhujbal the Deputy Chief Minister. The SMS that followed was not a gag:
"Chhagan Bhujbal, a man who was single-handedly responsible for the complete decay and corruption in the police force and was removed for his involvement in the Telgi scam has been rewarded to head the Home Department (sic) again by the NCP. So much for the show of force by Mumbaikars. We should not take this lying down. Forward this message to as many as possible."
Dear Mumbaikars, I am doing my bit.

-- MJ Akbar is Chairman of the fortnightly news magazine Covert
M.J. Akbar, a former member of India's parliament and adviser to the late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, was the founding editor of The Asian Age and is an Asia Society associate fellow.



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