The vanished fizz of the Mumbai Mayhem

It’s been a year since 10 young men without soul though, shook the financial capital of India. But has anything changed yet? Have our politicians who took moral responsibility of the attack and resigned done something concrete for beefing up the security of the nation? Chuck the selfish politicians. Have people realized their duties and taken some materialistic steps to protect the dignity of our motherland? Has the “Fizz” behavior which they showed by thronging roads of Gateway of India in lakhs on December 3, 2008 led to something substantial?

Things have definitely changed in the course of time. There were waves in the political industry after the terrorist attack. Our Home minister then Mr. Shivraj Patil now only enjoys the Rajya Sabha seat unlike before where he was privileged to be our Union home minister too. And lets not forget that he is been considered as one of the candidates for Governor of Punjab’s seat too. Seems a remarkable change, huh? The renowned Deputy Chief minister of Maharashtra then Mr. R R Patil has had a rollercoaster ride. He resigned quoting he had gone by his conscience and hence decided to step down but I wonder what moral grounds made him comment then that “small incidents like this do happen in big cities.” Post 26/11 he enjoyed the cushy party head post of Maharashtra for NCP. That’s the change, where you are debarred of one postion and you get the other. On an astonishing note he has been awarded the Home ministry again after the 2009 elections of Maharashtra. A notable change that he has gone through personally is that his conscience, on grounds of which he resigned, is dead as he has accepted the Home ministry again. The Chief Minister then, Vilasrao Deshmukh, who took famous Bollywood director Ram Gopal Verma along with him to the terrorized location The Trident, so possibly that he could make a movie or probably a mockery out of the shattered lives of many, comfortably holds Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises enjoying a Cabinet Minister status. Is this the real change we are looking for? 200% the answer is NO.

We as citizens of the country expect more safety. We want modernized safety institutions which can protect our country effectively. We want more transparent system where the government is answerable to the public of its every act which probably would enhance accountability of government towards public. We demand more respect for people guarding us i.e the Army at the borders, the Police Force, the NSG, the CRPF, the SRPF, the RPF, the Navy, the Air force. Governments please wake up and provide them with modern equipments to fight terror. Please do not treat our security forces as garbage. Assign them proper accommodation unlike the SRPF jawans who are posted at the Taj and Trident since two months but have only their van where they eat, sleep, change. Will even a single elite minister survive in a van, forget around 20-30 surviving in one like them? Those people consider it their duty to guard and hence are keeping all atrocities faced by them aside. Ministers, please learn a lesson from this that duty comes first and then the self interest. Although the NSG has already landed in the island city but they are facing “N” number of hurdles to set themselves up. Can’t the process be smoothly carried out for the force protecting us risking themselves. Government it’s time you realize “All said Nothing Done” will not work. It’s high time you stop pampering Ajmal Kasab. Nail down the culprits of the nation. Rise to your responsibility.

Although I feel it’s not only government but every individual’s duty too. Rise to the call of your nation. Convert the “Fizz” behavior depicted in the road show of strength to concrete actions. Question the government for injustice then only would the government be compelled to answer. Ensure that you vote to bring the right person to power. Let’s not forget Maj. Unnikrishnan, Gajendra Singh, Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte, Vijay Salaskar, Tukaram Omble and 10 other policemen who sacrificed their lives in line of duty. Let’s not forget every soldier of nation who has till date always kept their personal lives on back burners against their work. Let’s rise and be one of them. If that’s not possible at least we can make sure they get due respect and recognition for their work. Every individual has the potential to make a difference however small it may be. Let’s collectively make the difference a huge one. Let’s get out of our habit of deafening ourselves at the call of a poor citizen. Let the call of justice be same for the rich and poor.

So folks at the tragic anniversary of Mumbai carnage where around 183 people died and 500 plus injured, let’s take an oath to change the face of nation. Let’s unite and pledge that the shape of our nation will be different at the carnage’s second anniversary. Let’s swear that we will together work to take our very own India to new heights every year, every day and infact every moment.

Muslims in India after the 26/11 attacks

Muslims across the country are a worried lot post 26/11. Whenever there has been a terror strike in the country, Muslims are subject to suspicion and discrimination from the other communities and investigating agencies. Their loyalty to India is doubted. Unfortunately, some elements from both the communities (Hindus and Muslims), along with the dubious political class always ensures that there is continuous rift between the two communities so that may take advantage of it.

The common man is full of anger post-Mumbai attacks and Muslims too are not leaving any stone unturned to condemn the terror attacks. Even the celebration of E’id was scaled down. They want to present their viewpoint that terrorists are enemies not only of humanity, but also of the country, Indian Muslims and Islam. The clerics of the community have also refused to allow the burial of terrorists in any of their graveyard. “The bodies of these inhuman plotters against our motherland must not be buried anywhere on the Indian soil,” they said.

Terrorism in India has affected the Muslims of this country badly. It has provided a more conducive atmosphere for the political parties who survive on divisive ideology and destructive politics. There was a story in ‘Hindustan Times’ where the teacher who was upset with a Muslim girl in a Delhi convent school, called her ‘Pakistani’ in front of the entire class. There was an incident in Jet Airways flight where a passenger heckled a Muslim flight attendant citing her religion. There are various other instances as well. What is coming out of this is that across urban India there is anger and open prejudice against the Muslims.

I have no doubt that majority of Muslims in the country believe in the concept of one nation and are as patriotic as you and I are. I would like to question all those hypocrites who would look upon Muslims with an eye of suspicion but will watch SRK’s latest film or will cheer when Zaheer topples the batting order of opposing teams or will admire APJ Abdul Kalam as an icon or recite the poetry of Javed Akhtar. But this same group will not think twice before raising doubts over fellow countrymen.

Simi Grewal does not know the difference between the Islamic and Pakistani flag and makes absurd comments only to apologise later. But dear Simi, you have already done enough damage. The same is true for the majority population, which is proud of India’s secular fabric but will not think twice before raising suspicion about Muslims.

The problem within our country is that we have never developed a thinking of our own and have always played into the hands of selfish, power-hungry politicians. They have ensured that there is always an atmosphere of animosity between the two communities. BJP and Shiv Sena protest over the use of the word ‘Hindu Terrorism’ but have no qualms in accusing Muslims after every terror activity. Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav project themselves as messiahs of Muslims and will see every action in the interest of national unity as a bid to suppress the minority community.

Let’s face the real scenario. We as a citizen of this country are slowly and slowly shedding the concept of national integration. Muslims are made to believe by their top religious and political “messiahs” that they are being targeted in this country while Hindus leaders will attribute each and every problem related to internal security in the country to the Muslims. As a citizen, I want that there should be trust among all communities and we should be internally strong. The investigating agencies should carry the probe without any bias and influence from political authorities. If there is an anti-social element in any community we need to ensure that he is dealt with seriousness and is punished for his crime.

Greater political will is required to strengthen internal security. The issue of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants must be dealt with seriously. There should be no blame game in an hour of crisis until concrete evidence is available. Muslim clerics should also take the responsibility to protect their community members from any prejudice. Instead of issuing stupid ‘fatwa’ against Sania Mirza or Imrana, they should push for greater reforms within their community. They have the power to convince millions and they should use their reach for the betterment of the community.

On other hand, we should take a lesson from Pakistan that a nation formed on the basis of religion would end as a failed state and even an “international migraine”. The concept of India is based on its diversity and this makes our country special. We must not lose the beauty of our nation to such prejudice and bias. We need to work collectively to make our nation even stronger and that will be the fitting reply to all the anti-India forces.

We have forgotten them and we will forget them again

India has been shaken by the recent terror strike in Mumbai. There are lot of demonstrations and processions going on across the city of Mumbai against the ineptitude of our political leaders. The government of India is also trying its best to dilute the anger of citizens by taking some actions. The citizens of this nation are showering praises on the martyrs. This is not a new thing considering that Indian people have always showed unity in times of crisis, though they have very short memories and forget the sacrifices soon.

The 13th of December was the anniversary of the Parliament attack. How many of us remembered those brave soldiers who ensured that terrorists are stopped at the gate itself and laid down their lives in the process? To show their respect “our responsible MPs” turned to pay tributes and recalled the supreme sacrifice by the security personnel in foiling the attempt of the terrorists. The very next day, there were reports that the family of the martyrs are still struggling to get what was promised to them by our government. The kin of the victims accused the government of not fulfilling the promise of giving them compensation.

Vimla Devi, wife of ASI Nanak Chand, who was killed in the 2001 terrorist attack has said, “We don’t want all these tributes to be paid. I don’t have anything. Nobody listens to us.”

Sardar Singh (62), whose son Om Prakash, a Head Constable died in the attack, said, “We have been pleading with the government officials for so many years. At functions the ministers make tall promises but they forget after that.”

Jaiwati Singh, who lost her husband, Constable Vijendra Singh, is still fighting for her rights. “These days my sister is running from pillar to post to get the promised petrol pump but the officials say they have always had martyrs in the country and they can’t go about giving each one a petrol pump,” her brother Bhram Prakash said. (These are excerpts from a leading daily)

On December 16, we will celebrate Victory Day to commemorate the victory of the 1971 war. But did you know that there are still 54 Indian soldiers incarcerated in Pakistani prisons post the Indo-Pak war of 1971? It is an irony that even after the comprehensive victory, India could not negotiate freedom for her soldiers who were trapped by the enemy in the heat of war. Till this day there families are fighting against all odds but all their requests and pleas have fallen on dear ears. They are even more helpless considering this is an external matter. Today they remain forgotten, mere names in the files lost in the labyrinth of the South Block. It is a collective failure of the entire nation. Forget these incidents, a few days there was a television news where it was shown how one of the parents of the Akshardham temple attack martyrs from the NSG were denied the promise of a petrol pump allocation.

There is no denying the fact that martyrs of wars and those who sacrificed their lives in proxy wars are not being given their due respect. The government over the years has just paid tributes and then isolated the kin of martyrs. As a citizen, we bid goodbye to martyrs saying that we will always remember them but within six weeks everything is forgotten. Families of those brave souls feel alienated after some time. Is this the way our society functions?

The story will be repeated even after this terror strike. Our history is testimony of this. The valour of our martyrs soak in the wetness of our euphoric patriotism and dies soon as everything turns normal.

I bet that hardly anyone of us will remember Hemant Karkare, Vijay Salaskar, Ashok Kamte, Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, Havildar Gajendra Singh and dozen of other martyrs “who failed to hit the headlines” for some unknown reasons. These names will also be lost in the pages of history.

As a nation, we have always displayed only callous indifference towards these soldiers who have fought to preserve the country’s freedom and integrity. Remember, History shows that only those nations survive who honour their soldiers. And this honour should be part of the mind set. If we forget our soldiers in times of peace then it is a betrayal. There are lurking dangers but we sleep peacefully, because we know that the brave soldier is awake. Do we really understand the value of our independence or are we taking it for granted? Are we as a society doing anything to give back something to the families of those brave soldiers who have died for our future apart from raising a memorial and showing anger towards the politicians?

Unless you sacrifice, you can’t fight terror: Col. R Hariharan

via Rediff

Colonel R Hariharan is a specialist on South Asia military intelligence. He served as the head of intelligence for the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka between 1987 and 1990.

He is associated with the South Asia Analysis Group and the Chennai Centre for China Studies.

Colonel Hariharan spoke to rediff.com‘s Shobha Warrier about what needs to be done to avoid terror attacks like the one in Mumbai terror attacks.

Media reports say that the Indian intelligence agencies had prior information about the Mumbai terror attacks. After every terror attack, we hear reports that intelligence agencies had prior information about it. Where is it going wrong then? Do you call this an intelligence failure?

I have no hesitation in saying that it was intelligence failure that led to the attacks. Today’s terrorists are more tech savvy than the establishment.

Intelligence failure is not only the failure of intelligence agencies. They have to process the information and make an assessment.

There are more than 12 agencies like the Customs, the Enforcement Directorate etc which collect intelligence information, and this excludes the state police.

Firstly, the quality of intelligence collected has to be validated. No agency shares the information with everybody because they want to score brownie points.

What we need is a central control room where intelligence information is shared and immediate action is taken. We don’t have a culture of centralised control rooms. I know the Intelligence Bureau has enough intelligent officers, but they don’t process intelligence information properly because they are in a hurry to push it so that the responsibility does not fall on them.

How important is processing the information?

It is the most important part of intelligence gathering. You may say, a terror strike is coming from the coast. But from where? Which coast? From whom? When? These questions are never answered. In military intelligence, we don’t accept this kind of nonsense.

The Americans failed in processing the information before the 9/11 attacks. We told them a year earlier that Islamic militant guys are being trained in flying. We had told Australia that they are being trained in Australian flying schools. They passed it on to the Americans but nobody took action because they had too much information.

We have to have management in our information systems. Technology is rudimentary in India. We are a lazy nation as far as the governing system is concerned. So, why blame the intelligence agencies alone? You should blame the government, the various departments and ourselves.

Do you think the current attacks will ring alarm bells and something concrete will happen?

I am not an optimist. I expect some more strikes to come. Will just changing the Union home minister solve the problem?

I am not seeing any action now. There will be more strikes. Something like what is happening in Bangkok has to happen in India too. Everything has to be stopped to make the government act. People have to take to the streets. Only that works.

The ordinary people of India feel that after the 9/11 attacks, the US could stop any further attack while in India, every month, there is a terror strike…

Are we prepared to sacrifice some of our fundamental rights? That is the bottom line. The US has sacrificed part of their fundamental rights. US laws are very stringent. We didn’t want POTA which guarantees witness protection.

Where should the overhaul start?

It has to be there everywhere; from the grass-roots to the middle level to the structural level.

Three things are important. At the state level, they must read and process the information themselves. The central agencies and state agencies should share information all the time. Today, they don’t do that. The culture of sharing of information should come. In Assam, I have seen only army guys in the meetings; the state guys won’t even turn up. Some sort of commitment has to come within the states.

Two, the country must learn to sacrifice some rights to fight terror. While fighting terror, you cannot have the same freedom. Unless you sacrifice, you can’t fight terror.

Three, our laws will not hold today’s times. You catch two out of 15 terrorists, but you cannot prosecute them. Human rights fellows will make a noise; courts will give them bail even if they are murderers. That is why so many Maoists are not being prosecuted. So, you require a special law.

The coast of India is controlled by many departments, and do you feel it is high time the coast comes under one agency, say the Coast Guard?

There are 12 agencies involved in the coastal security of India. In this country, nobody will give up power. Port security is under the ministry of shipping! What does it know of security?

In the US, when a ship comes to the sea, it comes under the Coast Guard. It is responsible for the coast. Here, it is not. The land is under police, the coastal police have become a big joke. The policemen do not know how to swim. They don’t have a sea orientation. Why should you have the same policemen doing the coastal job? You require marine police who should look after coastal and port security.

The Coast Guard has got huge deficiencies like the armed forces. They must make up the deficiency right now. Marine security must come under central authority and the Coast Guard is the best arm. It comes under the navy both in the US and here.

Create internal security separately as a ministry. The time has come.

There is a kind of fear and insecurity in the mind of the people of India.

It can happen in Chennai too. Are you sure it will not happen in the other coasts? In Maharashtra, it will change now just like it changed in Gujarat. Gujarat has a dynamic chief minister and he knows his job. He wanted a law which is similar to what Mumbai is having, but he is not being allowed based on party politics. The Centre also won’t bring the law and he also won’t be allowed to have a law, and he is asked to control terrorism. What are we afraid of?

When you were gathering intelligence as a military intelligence officer, what were the difficulties you faced?

The major problem is of access to other intelligence agencies. There is no sharing of information. That is the biggest hurdle.

In Sri Lanka, that was what happened. The Research and Analysis Wing was involved in training the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) but it is so compartmentalised that when we went in, the guy from R&AW who was helping us did not have the figures because it was under some other department. So, we must take some hard decisions on sharing information.

Every month there is a terror strike. Will Indians have to learn to live with terror attacks?

Do you know such attacks are happening regularly in the north-east? This is the 8th terror attack this year. I am sure it will continue.

  • Unless we must have a transparent policy that will guide the structural framework.
  • Unless the media acts conscientiously. You give more prominence to Arundhati Roy for defending a guy who attacked our Parliament.
  • Unless the structural mechanism involves states and becomes federal in character.
  • Unless decision making is done by experts and not politicians.
  • Unless you make up the deficiencies of all the counter-terror mechanisms with modern technology.
  • Unless policy making, intelligence and execution work in tandem.

There are politicians in the US and the UK too, but they could manage to stop terror attacks.

Because they are Americans, and we are Indians, I am sorry to say. We have no commitment. Did people react the same way when the Mumbai local trains were attacked? They did not because the rich and VIPs were not involved. Because five star hotels were not involved. Only poor guys, who travelled by train suffered. Did you see the same candles then?

A political awakening

We ask for a tough state, when we ourselves are a soft people. Most of us are selfish, inward-looking cowards.
(originally published in livemint & via @pjain)

For years, India’s upper classes have been waltzing through life making minimal contact with the government. We have been going above the government, below the government or around the government, but we never really engaged with the government. Possibly because we didn’t ever need the government. A telling sign of upward mobility in India is a reducing dependence on the state—the sump/overhead tank to smooth out the erratic water supply; the UPS system to protect against power cuts; the chauffeur-driven car to offset the inconvenience of an indifferent public transport service; the security guard at the gate to make up for the ragged police system.

Last week in Mumbai, all that changed for India’s aspirational class.

We’ve come up against the one issue where we can’t dodge the dependence on the state: terrorism. Suddenly, we are waking up to discover that the same state that we have ignored for the past 60 years is necessary for us to make sense of our lives (a visceral glimpse into the life of the poor). And with it comes a whole new definition of the citizen-state relationship. This is existential exfoliation.

Talk of unintended consequences. The war on Mumbai was meant to undermine the country, but could become a dramatic inflection point in India’s political trajectory where a weak democracy suddenly finds its elixir vitae—the coming of age of a new Indian voter, one whose livelihood is not dependent on the state, but quality of life is. The political system has never felt the heat of an irate middle-class such as it has in the Mumbai aftermath. Already, the term “political leader” is getting replaced by “public servant” with greater frequency. If sustained and channelized correctly—a big if—this anger has the potential to fundamentally change the behaviour of the political class. Because, unlike the poor, who can often only act once in five years by booting the incumbents out of office, this breed of voters can make life hell on a daily basis—demanding more accountability, transparency and responsiveness from their political and administrative representatives.

Our past attitude of benign disregard is being replaced with ferocious annoyance. Witness the public declamation of R.R. Patil, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Narendra Modi, V.S. Achuthanandan—the barrage of criticism has been swift, handed out to all parties and has had serious political consequences (salaam to the media). These developments are good for the country, irrespective of whether one is poor or rich (this isn’t the time to sermonize to the upper classes about where they were when the state was failing the poor; ultimately, political engagement will open the third eye to the larger reality of India). Political awakening is a good thing.

But there is another dimension, a troubling one, to the fallout from the Mumbai attack. Our agitation in demanding more from our politicians is going so far overboard that we are overlooking our own flaws. After all, we are the ones who provide the breeding ground for the disease of identity politics—of caste and communalism. We don’t evaluate our candidates for their development vision or administrative competence, only whether they fit into some quota of some subcaste that has little consequence in our lives. And then, we are shocked when these same representatives prove to be utterly incompetent in discharging the complex responsibilities of running a modern state.

We ask for a tough state, when we ourselves are a soft people. I mean it in the harshest sense: Most of us are selfish, inward-looking cowards who quaver at the slightest hint of risk to ourselves or our family. Witness what happened in Kandahar—most of those who had family members as hostages were pleading with the Indian government to release the terrorists. We salute those who defend us, or light candles, but don’t do much more.

Another example: Mandatory military service of all 17-year high school graduates, an idea that is being floated now in India. Singapore has a law that demands this of its citizens. Thousands of Indians have lived in Singapore for years, if not decades. But most retain their Indian passports—or at least those of their children—not so much out of a sense of patriotism, but so that they can avoid this year of service. The new home minister should include this as part of his solutions, and then see the public palpitations.

The truth is that we haven’t fully accepted our own obligations as citizens. But crises such as these are also crucibles to reinvent ourselves, to think beyond the boundaries of our own limiting lives.
The Mumbai attack could be a significant moment in our country’s history in an unexpectedly affirmative way. As we demand more of our politicians—and we must—it’s time to also demand more of ourselves. Maybe the latter needs to come first.

Was this what the Government was waiting for?

The worst terror strike has hit Mumbai where official figures say that the casualty is up to 200 while actual figures could be much higher. On Sunday, I went to Nariman Point where a candle light vigil was being organized to offer condolences to the dead and show an obvious anger against the government. As the procession started, the people that had gathered there said that they will be moving to Taj. I was surprised when I came to know that they didn’t have any plans to go to CST. Then I realized that it was because the firing at CST left over 50 “common people” dead. (Official figures)

There was difference in the treatment meted to the people rescued from Trident and other places. While people rescued from Trident were taken to Breach Candy Hospital, common people were taken to Government Hospitals. I don’t have any problem with that because had the elite been shifted to government hospitals, that would have created more pressure on the doctors. But the contrast in “services” to the relatives of deceased was something very sad. A friend of mine who was at a hospital where a post mortem was being conducted said that,

“Humko pata hai saab humne achche kapde nahi pehne hain, angrezi nahi bol rahe hain isiliye hamare ko body nahi de rahe hain.”

The one thing that this terror strike has done is that it has shaken the elite class of the city and country to believe that even they are not safe anymore. Elite India has for the first time been shaken out of its slumber as terror has attacked what were so far its impenetrable citadels. For the first time, the talk of terror has come out of the dinner tables for the elite. A man who was in Oberoi that fateful night was in middle of a conversation with his colleague when all of sudden sound of bullets were heard. His colleague said that it might be a terrorist strike but that man could not believe and said “These things do not happen here”; unfortunately, that night it did happened. And all of sudden, they are feeling vulnerable. So no wonder the elite are enraged.

Shobha De in a TV show screamed on top of her voice that enough is enough. But I feel enough was long before this attack in Mumbai. The enough was when series of bombs exploded in Ahmedabad, enough was when busy markets in Delhi were blown a day before Diwali, enough was when Jaipur was attacked, enough was when series of blasts left hundreds dead in local trains in 2006. Did any one remember that a series of explosions rocked Assam barely a couple of months back. The news of those blasts found little mention in our newspapers. The “enough” my dear friends, was already “much more than enough” long long back.

So what is the difference this time?

The difference this time is the target. The target has moved from the rickshaw pullers, the daily wage earners, the commuter on a local train; even the middle class executives to the elitest in the city. Those deaths didn’t matter to most of the politicians, didn’t force the Home Minister to resign or the need to step up the security, reforms in police, special forces, etc, never grabbed so much attention. Not even ONE of the rigorous actions or similar ones that have now been taken now were taken post any of these past attacks. The voices of the common man were repeatedly ignored and even the people discussing the terror matter on the dinner table and then leaving for dance party didn’t support those voices whole heartedly. But now they are direct targets and this has forced the government to prove at least, that it is acting this time around.

But you still observe the difference, we are having candle light processions at Taj and Trident but no one has bothered to go to CST and pay homage to the victims of the same terror attack that has changed the face of Mumbai. It is a bit ironic but I feel much safe now because I am virtually irrelevant in this war. The blood and death of the common man is just a “common phenomenon” which takes place every other day in some part of the country. The new targets are the hypocrites who have felt the pain of the common man for the first time and that has made them throw their toys out of the cot because now their own cot is rattling.

Whatever be the case, the good news is that for the first time we have felt that we need to do something to ensure safety and protect the “common citizen”. Probably, we were waiting for something like this to happen before we could show a will to combat the bloody terrorism. I don’t have any problem even if the government is acting under the pressure of the elite, because for me, my country comes first. Nation is above everything and I am there to support everyone who wants to fight this terror menace but yes my heart does weep for all the victims, be it at CST and Wadi Bunder or at Taj and Trident.

In all of this, let’s not forget our security forces and those brave unsung heroes who risked their lives to save others.

Pakistan will have to pay a heavy price: MJ Akbar

M J Akbar is one of India’s best-known journalists and commentators, someone with a deep insight into the Indian people and their mindset. In this first-person, as-told-to piece, Akbar discusses the Mumbai attacks and their relevance for India.

Many people forget that India is a tough nation. Toothless leaders have turned India into a soft nation. People forget that India has fought back Muslim terrorism in Kashmir; Sikh terrorism in Punjab, Christian terrorism in Nagaland and Hindu terrorism in Assam, and amongst the Naxalites [Images].

We have had everything thrown at the Indian nation State. Still, we have stood up. The people of India have shown the courage and ability to believe in their nation and to fight back. But the completely impotent leadership of five years have turned a tough country into a soft State.

I am very sad. I keep feeling that if they protect India as they protect their leaders — whether it is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] or Congress President Sonia Gandhi [Images] — I think I would be safe. Today, India’s leaders are safe and India is in panic.

On what India’s response should be:

India’s proper reaction would be possible if we understand the extent of the disease.

If the disease is cancer, you can’t apply band aid. After making a complete mess of security issues for five years by asking Shivraj Patil [Images] to go finally we may have a home minister who doesn’t comb his hair and change his clothes. But we want something more than that. If it is cancer, we need chemotherapy, a much more serious exercise. It needs a legislative and executive framework. It needs political mobilisation. People are numbed.

The Indian people have no leadership. You have a prime minister. Did you see him when he addressed the nation? Nobody knew if he was addressing the nation or having a cup of tea?

He looked serious, but he didn’t talk to us about our anger and about our anguish. I think this administration is tone deaf to the anguish of the people. They just cannot understand what the people are going through. They just don’t understand our pain or our anger. The most important thing is that, perhaps, we have politicised not only the instruments of the State like the police but we have also politicised the understanding of the nature of the problem.

I think the very first thing to do is to ensure security so that it prevents the next attack. If any attack takes place under someones job should go. Don’t come to me with alibis.

On the terrorists getting local support:

I am an Indian Muslim and I am very proud of both, being an Indian and a Muslim. I do not see any contradictions. This is my land and I have nowhere else to go.

But can I say because I am an Indian Muslim that no Indian Muslim is involved? Can you, because you are a Hindu, say that no Hindu is involved? We have to behave like Indians first. Not as a Muslim or as a Hindu first. Because we need Hindu votes and Muslim votes and because this government thinks that it needs Muslim votes so it has been in complete denial.

Do you think that these people came across from Pakistan and had no support in Mumbai?

It is not possible. It was a huge operation. Ten people hit nine places and you killed nine of them. You want to say that they went from place to place? Who knows some of them must have slipped away to create new sleeper cells to hit us six months later.

They are hiding things. I would like to believe that there was an underworld connection. Because, Karachi and Mumbai are also linked by drug smuggling. The culture of criminals is aggression. It comes naturally to them. It is not easy for you and I to become aggressive, however angry we are. It does not come naturally to us. These are people who are trained psychologically in aggression. They have no respect for the State. They have no love for the country. And they have no respect for authority.

Why? Because the only face of authority is the corrupt policeman. The criminal gives money in the morning and money in the evening. Why should he have respect for somebody he gives bribes to? For the guy from the underworld his understanding of the Indian State and authority is corruption. He has no patriotism to stop him. Why would he not join hands with the terrorists? In any case, he belongs to another world. We have not even begun to address and discuss this.

On the Pakistan factor

I am tired of giving Pakistan a long rope on some excuse or the other. Everybody is saying this will happen if we do this, that will happen if we do this. Our relations with Pakistan will go, then, let them go. What has our relations with Pakistan brought us except violence and terror? Why should we be in charge of saving Pakistan? For what? Every time they turn around and they say they want evidence. Now, finally we have evidence.

I have been an editor for 35 years from the age of 23. From that time on, since the days of General Zia-ul Haq, I have been hearing ‘Pakistan is asking for evidence’. We asked for withdrawal of their support to the movement for Khalistan, they said, ‘Oh, we don’t know anything about it.’ On Kashmir, they kept repeating where is the evidence. Benazir Bhutto [Images] came, she asked for evidence. Nawaz Sharif came, he asked for evidence. I think Pervez Musharraf [Images] asked for less evidence. Now again, they are asking for evidence.

There is a terrorist in Mumbai, captured and arrested. How much more evidence do you want? If what he is saying is not evidence, then how can you get more evidence?

This government is in its 11th hour. Now they will bluff the people to protect their votes. There is no time left for them. The agony of departure will be hard from this government.

On the reaction in the West

The US and Britain have a vested interest in telling India to look within. Why? When Americans die then they can send their air force 7,000 miles and bomb every country to smithereens. But when Indians die, they tell us no, no, you must be patient. You must act like a swami and a yogi. Why? Is an American life more precious than an Indian life? Why should we keep listening to them? But we have a government that keeps listening to them all the time. We don’t get tough.

The last time we got tough was after the attack on Parliament. We took some tough actions under Operation Parakram and then there was a certain lull. Three years ago, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was able to tell President George W Bush [Images] that there are no terrorists amongst Indian Muslims. That means that lull continued.

Pakistan must be made to realise that it will have to pay a heavy price. Not necessarily through war, but a heavy price will have to be paid in loss in trade, in cancellation of orders and other engagements. They should pay a heavy price in terms of people to people relations. I am not saying you can freeze a relationship to death, but the message must go out that if there is a crime there will be a penalty. You just can’t get away with it.

Let the Pakistan government cooperate with us. But look at how the Pakistan government has buckled down and we are sitting here whimpering.

They want to send some lowly officers to India. For what? Even Pakistan is treating the Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi government with total contempt. They know how weak it is.

Delink Hindu-Muslim relations and Pakistan

Look, you must not confuse the Pakistan issue with the Indian Muslims issue. Their so-called alienation or their economic deprivation is not linked to the issue of Pakistan.

Indian Muslims have nothing to do with Pakistan. They have absolutely no sympathy for Pakistan. They know that Pakistan was the biggest mistake committed in the history of Indian Muslims. They know it. You can ask anyone in Baroda, Bihar or Mumbai. They know how they are suffering the backlash of all the consequences of cross-border terrorism.

Today, they fear retribution from the government, they fear retribution from popular disenchantment and anger. They feel helpless. They feel afraid.

We must understand finally that it is not so much the ‘local people’, it is the local underworld that is involved in anti-India activities. In 1993, who were involved in terrorism? The underworld. Why have you not done anything about it? The State turns a blind eye to the police and corruption. I don’t know how many readers smoke hashish and other stuff, but I am accusing them of cross-border terrorism. Drugs come to India from Afghanistan via Karachi.

What we can do as individuals

If whoever is responsible for protecting the nation fails, then he or she should not be allowed to continue in power. That is the toughest and sharpest message we can give. You can tell that you may be a soft State, but we are a hard people and we are hard voters.

We are not going to forgive you for your lies and deception and for your waffling. How many blasts do we need to understand that? When Jaipur [Images], Ahmedabad [Images], Mumbai and Delhi [Images] happened no one who was genuinely guilty was caught.

We have to understand now that corruption has eaten away vitals of this nation. It is the biggest danger to the security of India. It is not just the case of some spectrum being sold to someone by some minister in. Everyone who is corrupt get out!

It Is a failure all around. We have to be extremely practical and pragmatic. There is great deal to be depressed about as an Indian. Frankly speaking, I feel very angry and upset. I am never upset by the behaviour of our enemies. I am only upset by the betrayal of those I trust.

(via Rediff)

Prasoon Joshi: Is Baar Nahi

This is a poem sent by Prasoon Joshi to Rediff in wake of the Mumbai Terror Attacks

Is baar nahin
Is baar jab woh choti si bachchi mere paas apni kharonch le kar aayegi
Main usey phoo phoo kar nahin behlaoonga
Panapney doonga uski tees ko
Is baar nahin

(This time when that little girl comes to me with her bruises, I will not blow gently at her wound, nor distract her, I will let her pain grow.
Not this time.)

Is baar jab main chehron par dard likha dekhoonga
Nahin gaoonga geet peeda bhula dene wale
Dard ko risney doonga,utarney doonga andar gehrey
Is baar nahin

(This time when I see pain on faces
I will not sing the song that eases pain
I will let the pain seep in, deep�.
Not this time.)

Is baar main na marham lagaoonga
Na hi uthaoonga rui ke phahey
Aur na hi kahoonga ki tum aankein band karlo,gardan udhar kar lo main dawa lagata hoon
Dekhney doonga sabko hum sabko khuley nangey ghaav
Is baar nahin

(This time I won’t apply any balm
Nor will I ask you to shut your eyes
and turn your head
While I gingerly apply medicine
I will let everyone see the open, naked wounds�
Not this time.)

Is baar jab uljhaney dekhoonga,chatpatahat dekhoonga
Nahin daudoonga uljhee door lapetney
Uljhaney doonga jab tak ulajh sake
Is baar nahin

(This time when I see difficulty, uneasiness
I will not run to solve the problems
I will let them become complicated�
Not this time.)

Is baar karm ka hawala de kar nahin uthaoonga auzaar
Nahin karoonga phir se ek nayee shuruaat
Nahin banoonga misaal ek karmyogi ki
Nahin aaney doonga zindagi ko aasani se patri par
Utarney doonga usey keechad main,tedhey medhey raston pe
Nahin sookhney doonga deewaron par laga khoon
Halka nahin padney doonga uska rang
Is baar nahin banney doonga usey itna laachaar
Ki paan ki peek aur khoon ka fark hi khatm ho jaye
Is baar nahin

(This time I won’t pick up my tools as a matter of duty
I will not make a new beginning
Nor will I stand as an example of one dedicated to my job
I will not let life easily return to normalcy
I will let it descend into muck, on the twisting paths
I will not let the blood on the walls dry out
Nor will I let its colour fade away
This time I won’t let it become so helpless
That you can’t tell blood from paan-spit
Not this time.)

Is baar ghawon ko dekhna hai
Gaur se
Thoda  lambe  wakt  tak
Kuch  faisley
Aur uskey baad hausley
Kahin toh shuruat karni hi hogi
Is baar yahi tay kiya hai

(This time the wounds need to be watched
Carefully
For a long time
Some decisions are needed
And then some brave moves to be made
We have to begin somewhere�
This time this is what I have resolved)

… Prasoon Joshi

(via Rediff)

Terrorism and our Politicians

It has been over 54 hours since the terror struck Mumbai and the operations are still going on at Taj Hotel. Well, I just have no words to speak about my state of mind– Shocked, Angry, resentment, Helpless!

I have really started to think so weirdly that I can do anything at this moment. At this juncture of my mind, I have ample of reasons to believe that the main perpetrators of this dastard act of terror is our very own POLITICIANS.

The state of Politics is such, that I will be shocked to see if our politicians do not make an issue out of this attack in the upcoming polls. This attack on Mumbai is very different from the other attacks that have hit the country in last 6 months. This attack was aimed at damaging the Indian relations with US, UK, Israel and other Western European countries. This terror also marked a new benchmark with the type of planning and execution was put in. It has also demonstrated how vulnerable the state of India is to terrorism.

The politicians of this nation could not demonstrate unity at this hour of crisis. The PM and leader of opposition came to the city and left after just “condemning” the attacks. “Thanks” to LK Advani for pointing out that this doesn’t really look like the right time to play politics. I guess, otherwise he would have used the word Islam so many times and would have portrayed himself as the true saviour of the nation. Our PM did address the nation after “18 hours” of the attack and said that his government will fight the terror at all cost. But his speech was so uninspiring that it failed to inspire people who were shocked and shaken. It looked like a recorded clip that he has been playing after each and every attack from Ahmedabad to Guwahati and Kashmir to Bangalore. Its a pity that the PM and opposition leader couldn’t make it to Mumbai on a single plane. These are times when every gesture speaks out much more than it means! The editorial in the mouthpiece of Shiv Sena’s Saamna used the words Hindu and Muslim to mention terror. When will our politicians understand that terrorists have no religion whether they are Muslims, Hindu or Christian. They are the people who have sick thoughts in their mind and must be dealt with the same laws and should not be looked upon based on their religion. But, unfortunately that has not been the case. India is perhaps the only country in which a terrorist is not viewed as a terrorist but seen through a communal prism.

K Subrahmanyam mentions in his article

“In the US, when the 9/11 attack took place, the leaders of the Democratic Party immediately rallied behind the Republican Administration and pledged their full support. The Patriot Act, with stringent anti-terrorist measures, passed with bipartisan support. The 9/11 attack was investigated by a bipartisan commission and the recommendations of the commission were implemented. While there may be criticisms in the US about the severity of the Patriot Act and follow-up actions of the Bush administration including the rendition procedures and torture allegations and Guantanamo Bay detention camps, the bipartisan cooperation on anti-terrorist operations have proved so effective that US has not suffered a second attack after 9/11.”

I don’t have any count of terror strikes that has taken place in India since then.

Every attack on the integrity and pride of nation is seen as a plank to garner more votes by our politicians. The Maharashtra ATS chief lost his life in the gun battle who carried the responsibility without any biasing.  The BJP and it’s allies who had stated that Mr. Karkare was anti-national for his revelations on the Malegaon blasts, were now of the opinion that he paid the ultimate price trying to save people like you and me.

Time has come to depoliticise our response to terror. If tragedies of this scale cannot motivate us, then I doubt calling my nation as a great nation, civilization or democracy. It is high time that our politicians realize that a true leader does not require power or position and most importantly a true leader never gives excuses for failures. The government will give excuses and blame it on the security agencies. Congress is so worried about the votes that they won’t act even if some one comes and hits the very root of our identity. What are your plans Mr. Singh? What do you think dear PM? Will you provide legal assistance to the terrorists arrested? Are you planning to place a commission to investigate if Mr. Karkare was killed by ATS itself and terrorists were innocent? Shame on my country’s leaders. I am so furious with our bloody politicians!! I just cannot be resilient and tolerant anymore. We desperately need young, dynamic, intelligent, honest and upright leaders, who actually care for the country.

It is a wake up call for all whose heart still weeps for the country and whose conscience has yet not slept to come forward, join hands and eradicate the dirty players from the game of politics. All the concerned citizens irrespective of the region or religion must blend together to at least try to restore the peace in the country.

Hail the spirit of Mumbai

As the fresh blasts rocked the financial capital of the country, the Spirit of Mumbai has once again “defeated” the motive of terrorists to create painic. Even after 41 hours of the attack, the battle is still going on at Trident Hotel and Nariman House (28th November, 15:00 hrs IST) but Mumbai woke to the morning of the 27th with the same spirit as it has always.

As I was reading the newspaper to get the latest updates, I got a call from my colleague asking whether office will remain open? I called up and was told that my office is open. Few of my friends offices declared a holiday and so they enjoyed it watching latest flicks on DVD. I reached my office and there was announcement that “Proud to be Working today”. It gave a great “solace” to my heart. There were few people chatting about the terror attacks that hit the city last night and few of them were visiting website and watched news channels to find the latest update on the encounter between security personnel’s and terrorists. As usual, media was trying to give its latest updates by telecasting the “old footages” and repeating the same stories and few lines again and again. They asked a wounded man, who was hit by bullet and running for help to show his wounds on camera and interviewed family of deceased and asked questions like: Where do they belong to? When they are planning cremation and many other irrelevant and illogical questions but then that is expected out of our media houses who are trying to get more viewership. After all, this is also a part of the spirit of Mumbai. I saw many people in the campus listening to music, discussing latest movies, having pastries and giving weird views and comments on the latest development at the battle ground in South Mumbai. A lady commented after the news of chief chef of the Taj Hotel being killed, “Are the terrorists fool, who will cook food for them?”. And entire group of hers laughed loudly on this comment. As I was returning back to my home, I observed that people have no fear and were carrying on with their usual business with great “callousness”.

This is called Spirit of Mumbai. Well I just beg to differ and I call this INSENSITIVITY and APATHY.

The phrase “Spirit of Mumbai” has just become hollow in last few years and it just “sounds nice” when we hear it these days. The same chronology was followed as in many of the terror attacks that have hit the country in last few months. PM and inept Home Minister condemned the attack. It was good to see PM addressing the nation “after 18 hours” of the attack. Now in next few days a probe will be set in, we will await the results till the next terror strikes. Meanwhile, everyone hailed the spirit of the city and its resilience.

It does take a great deal of courage and a soul of steel to go back to work the next day after an attack like this. But you were at work because you have no other option. You don’t have time to pause and think.

An email is being circulated that “Terrorists, you cannot defeat us”.

But let me tell you, my friend that if 150 people of our city have been killed because they were at the wrong place and at the wrong time– and you still get up early in the morning and behave as nothing has happened, Sorry to say that– You are already defeated!!

The enemy has broken your spirit and has won over your soul. The enemy has subdued the rage that should boil over and it has taken the tears from your eyes that should flow. The same soul will pretend as nothing has happened even when we as a nation will loose our identity, when we will be balaknized. This fatalism will ultimately lead us nowhere.

I read one interview of Sir VS Naipaul where he says that

“I feel all of this tells people that they should be defeated again, it s good for them to live with defeat, and that somehow beauty comes out of defeat. I don t think beauty comes out of defeat, I think the Indian wretchedness comes out of the Indian defeat, and this idea of experiencing is utterly wrong. I don t think the Sanskrit texts pre the Muslim conquest, dealt in this kind of negation. I think this negation has come with the years of squalor and defeat. Defeatism, denial and helplessness have become the defining Indian traits and this is the battle that needs to be fought.”

There is a dire need to send the Spirit of Mumbai on a vacation and it should not come back unless the government has taken concrete measures to protect the citizens. I, as a citizen of the country don’t feel safe in my country. It feels that anyone can come from anywhere and kill people at will. I don’t want condemnation of attack but some concrete steps. I don’t want reactions but some sort of action. Can my government guarantee that? If not, then let Defence take over the reign of this country because our politicians have become spineless eunuchs like millions of us.

Lightning candles, observing silence, changing display pictures etc is not going to help. Neither government nor future attackers are going to see it. One thing is for sure that I am not going to do this thing. I want my conscience to continuously pinch me till I do something.

As a blog post on Bharat-Rakshak by Sbajwa acidly says,

They have attacked Red Fort, wives and children of Army personnel, Parliament, Stock Exchange, Educational institutes and professors, Amarnath/Ayodhya/Sankat mochan/etc temples, mosques, bombs in buses/trains/streets. What is left?

I guess they will have to start exploding bombs atop Himalaya or Ganga to get Indians to wake up and do something.

Indeed.

Does your conscience pinch you?

If yes then let’s come together and pressurize our government to take some strong and bold steps.
This can perhaps be the first step towards the long journey that citizens of this nation need to start.I would prefer to die after killing an enemy of nation than being killed on a street as a mute victim.Remember,

Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.

I am very keen to know what the awaken readers think we can DO. Its time to do something instead of being insensitive lost souls. If you have any ideas/opinions about things WE can DO to reach out to our Government, appealing it to take steps towards a more secure and a safer country to live in, please post them here as comments.