Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Right's blind love for America

It does not pay to trust America
The Roman Catholic mission school I attended in Jamshedpur was run by American priests of the Society of Jesus. They were a nice lot and would leave the boys alone so long as there was no major infringement of school discipline (the rules included a non-negotiable ban on bell-bottoms, stretchlon and long hair) and homework was submitted on time. The priests lived in one wing of the school that was out-of-bounds for students, except on weekends when you could visit them in their rooms after seeking prior appointment. I recall the rooms being sparsely furnished. The corridor would reek of disinfectant — it was swept and swabbed every few hours by a retinue of cleaners, a sore point with us because we had to clean our classrooms and polish the brass handles on the doors and French windows before leaving for home — but the musty rooms smelled of starched cassocks, racks of books and stacks of comics.
They were generous with sharing the books — Ayn Rand’s novels for senior school boys and Louis L’Amour’s Wild West adventure stories for the rest — and comics which were invariably about American GIs giving it to the German ‘Krauts’ (in the tattered copies with crumbling pages) and US Marines blasting the daylights out of the Vietcong in the paddyfields of Vietnam (spanking new, all-colour copies with glossy covers). This was before 1975 and Jamshedpur was a small town with few distractions and even fewer sources of information. If you were not in school, you were at home doing sums and writing essays on weekdays. Every Saturday we would turn up at school for the weekly movie, invariably a Western or a Biblical film: Ben-Hur was an all-season favourite. The monotony was broken by the occasional screening of blockbusters. There was pin-drop silence in the auditorium when Where Eagles Dare was screened.
In retrospect, perhaps all this was not so innocent. There was a subtle attempt to promote the American worldview and to inculcate a sense of patriotism fashioned after Christian America’s loyalty to the Stars and Stripes. Impressionable minds are easier to deal with than cynical adults. So, we learned to extol the virtues of bullet-biting Americans fighting a ‘just war’ in the jungles of Indochina and snigger at the Vietcong who were ‘sly’ and ‘sneaky’. It was a worldview dominated by images of brave Americans trying to tame the rest of the world after taming the unruly and treacherous ‘Indians’ at home. Although it was never mentioned at assembly, in clasrooms or on the handball court — priests were not supposed to talk about politics and this was before Liberation Theology became popular and the American padres made way for radical desi priests in khakis and bush-shirts — but we came to believe that capitalism was better than socialism, and Communism was to be shunned at all costs. The fall of Saigon must have come as a rude shock to Fr Robert and the others, but they never showed their disappointment.
College in Kolkata opened up an entirely new world and the certitudes of school life were turned upside down. Ho Chi Minh and General Giap sprang to life; after hearing passionate discourses on Dien Bien Phu and the Tet Offensive in the college canteen, I felt silly for having believed comic book tales of the Vietnam war. Of course, I could never bring myself to admitting having read Ayn Rand and stayed up nights reading books which my college friends seemed to have read during their high school years.
And so was I introduced to Leftist writers and their ideology. And so did I realise that much as the Americans may claim it to be, the world is not entirely black and white, it is not about ‘us’ and ‘them’, and that it is not a terribly good idea to let the Americans decide for you what is in your ‘best interest’. Twenty-five years later, I have little time and lesser enthusiasm for the Left and its ideology. I find ‘liberals’ to be poseurs who really don’t have the courage to believe in anything or commit themselves to a cause. The Right makes sense since conservatives take a long-term view of issues that tend to be seen as inconsequential and therefore are treated cursorily by the Left, and are not tied to immutable ideology. In any event, even if I were reluctant — which I am not — to be known as a ‘Right-winger’, the label has been firmly pasted on me.
Yet, there is one issue on which I cannot bring myself to agree with others on the Right. And this is their implicit, almost naïve, trust in America and the eagerness with which they look up to the US for succour and sustenance. Which is not to suggest that I endorse the anti-Americanism or anti-imperialist rhetoric of the Left; just as the rest of the world can’t be all bad, everything about the US can’t be all bad either.
Indeed, there is much about the US that is admirable and worth emulating: If our Government had been half as transparent, our system half as efficient and our leaders half as committed as in the world’s oldest democracy, the world’s largest democracy would have been giving China a run for its money today. But just as not everything about the US is bad, we cannot be blind to the fact that there is a lot about America which is rotten. This is best exemplified by America’s foreign policy and its overwhelming desire to rule the world as the sole superpower. Add to this the amorality that pervades the American worldview, in which nothing matters other than what America believes to be in its interest, and you would get a sense of why many of us are uneasy about reposing faith in the US.
Yet, most of us who stand right of the centre are puzzled as to why someone among them would doubt American intentions. This point is made when some of us refuse to accept that the nuclear deal with the US, in its present form, is in India’s interest. All arguments, all reasons fail to convince them that being on the Right does not mean blindly supporting the nuclear deal simply because the Americans have offered to under-write it. In fact, it should be opposed because the Americans are pushing it with so much enthusiasm: They wouldn’t have done so had the nuclear deal been in India’s interest.
Others who trusted the US have come to grief. The mess in our neighbourhood bears testimony to this fact. Inexorably, we are moving in that direction. Tragically, the Right is as guilty as Mr Manmohan Singh for letting down India to please America.

Coffee Break / August 17, 2008

(c) CMYK Printech Ltd.

No more silent Hindu, timid Hindu

A Hindu teenaged boy on the frontline in Jammu
The bushfire of Hindu rage
For the past five weeks Jammu has been witnessing a veritable uprising against the pro-Muslim, anti-Hindu politics and policies of the establishment in Srinagar and the Government in New Delhi. At the heart of the dispute is the contrived controversy over the allotment of 97 acres of land to Sri Amarnath Shrine Board for creating temporary facilities for Hindu pilgrims who trek to the hill cave shrine every summer. The Muslims of Kashmir Valley — let us not be coy and refer to them as ‘Kashmiris’ so as to suppress the fact that they are Muslims — took to the streets, chanting blood-curdling slogans and waving the Pakistani flag, to scuttle the allotment of land. The National Conference of the Abdullah clan and the People’s Democratic Party of the Mufti clan joined the fanatics in insisting that Muslim Kashmir would not tolerate such Hindu intrusion.
Instead of standing up to the rank communalists who have Hindu blood on their hands, the Congress and its stooge, who now occupies the Governor’s office, meekly surrendered to them, thus delivering a crippling blow against the Indian state, though not for the first time. And how did the media react to this abject surrender? The cancellation of the allotment of land was hailed as a judicious decision, an assertion of secular values, to protect ‘Kashmiriyat’; it was praised as being mindful of ‘Kashmiri sentiments’ and ‘Kashmiri psyche’. Stripped of its sophistry, what all this means is that the Congress has done well to pander to Islamic fanaticism and mollycoddle those who heap abuse on India and curse Hindus. Such is the standard used by the media for judging secularism in this wondrous land of ours.
And how has the media responded to the snow-balling protest against Muslim appeasement, which has engulfed all of Jammu region and brought men, women and children out into the streets to brave bullets and batons? There has been universal condemnation; the agitation has been dubbed as ‘communal’, ‘distressing’, ‘disruptive’, ‘anti-Muslim’ and ‘needlessly provocative’. Kashmir’s Muslims have been described as ‘tolerant’ and Jammu’s Hindus as ‘ingrates’. For 365 days a year Kashmir’s Muslims hold the Indian state to ransom and not an eyebrow is lifted. For 35 days Jammu’s Hindus petition the Indian state to protect their rights and they are ridiculed. Much concern is expressed over the manufactured grievances and imagined victimhood of Kashmir’s Muslims by the lib-left intelligentsia that dominates media. But scorn is poured on the genuine grievances and victimisation of Jammu’s Hindus.
Ever since the first violent protest in downtown Srinagar against the allotment of land to Sri Amarnath Shrine Board, facts have been twisted and the truth has been obfuscated to portray Kashmir’s Muslim fanatics as saints who wouldn’t swat a fly and Jammu’s Hindus as a violent, unruly and communal lot which should be crushed into submission. There is nothing new about this perversity: We have seen in the past how the cleansing of Kashmir Valley of Hindus has been whitewashed; how massacre after massacre of entire Hindu families have been treated by media as ‘minor incidents’ not worthy of notice; how lakhs of Pandits thrown out of their ancestral land have been reduced to refugees in their own country; and, how bogus terms like ‘Kashmiriyat’ have been used as a convenient cover to hide the brutalities inflicted by Kashmir’s Muslims. All that and more is not ‘communal’ but in keeping with the ‘secular’ principles of the Indian state; if Hindus raise their voice in protest, it is not only ‘communal’ but an assault on the ‘secular’ Indian state!
For the benefit of those who have come of age in the last two decades, among them many of the 24x7 news channel anchors who talk utter gibberish while donning an air of supreme confidence to camouflage their limitless ignorance, let me recount the events of January 1990, which mark the beginning of the latest crusade against the Hindus of Jammu & Kashmir. Since ‘secularists’ are allergic to events of the distant past, we need not go into the details of how Hindus were decapitated by the Sword of Islam wielded by the original Islamists. The present will suffice to highlight the duplicity of those whose hearts beat for the hate-India hordes in Kashmir.
Srinagar, January 4, 1990. Aftab, a local Urdu newspaper, publishes a Press release issued by Hizb-ul Mujahideen, set up by the Jamaat-e-Islami in 1989 to wage jihad for Jammu & Kashmir’s secession from India and accession to Pakistan, asking all Hindus to pack up and leave. Another local paper, Al Safa, repeats this expulsion order. In the following days, there is near chaos in the Kashmir Valley with then Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah and his National Conference Government abdicating all responsibilities. Masked men run amok, waving Kalashnikovs, shooting to kill and shouting anti-India slogans. Reports of killing of Hindus, invariably Kashmiri Pandits, begin to trickle in; there are explosions; inflammatory speeches are made from the pulpits of mosques, using public address systems meant for calling the faithful to prayers. A terrifying fear psychosis begins to take grip of Kashmiri Pandits.
Srinagar, January 19, 1990. Mr Jagmohan arrives to take charge as Governor. Mr Farooq Abdullah, whose pathetic, whimpering, snivelling Government has all but ceased to exist, resigns and goes into a sulk. Curfew is imposed as a first measure to restore some semblance of law and order. But it fails to have a deterrent effect. Throughout the day, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and Hizb-ul Mujahideen terrorists use public address systems at mosques to exhort people to defy curfew and take to the streets. Masked men, firing from their Kalashnikovs, march up and down, terrorising Pandits. As evening falls, the exhortations become louder and shriller. Three taped slogans are repeatedly played the whole night from mosques: “Kashmir mei agar rehna hai, Allah-hu-Akbar kehna hai” (If you want to stay in Kashmir, you have to say Allah-hu-Akbar); “Yahan kya chalega, Nizam-e-Mustafa” (What do we want here? Rule of shari’ah); “Asi gachchi Pakistan, batao roas te batanev san” (We want Pakistan along with Hindu women but without their men). As the night of January 19, 1990, wears itself out, despondency gives way to desperation. And tens of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits across the Valley take a painful decision: To flee their homeland to save their lives. Thus takes place a 20th century Exodus.
Their wounds, as also the wounds of Hindu India, have been festering for 18 years. The simmering anger of Hindus has now burst into a raging bush fire that threatens to burn to ashes media’s perverse notions of ‘secularism’ and destroy the politics of Muslim appeasement. Consternation and panic in Delhi and Srinagar are understandable.

Coffee Break / Sunday Pioneer / August 10, 2008

(c) CMYK Printech Ltd.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Jammu Erupts in Rage

Jammu's Hindus are up in arms!
Hindu intifada
Images can have a profound impact and make a lasting impression even on the most cynical among us. They can also act as a force multiplier in a conflict zone. Recall the photographs and television footage of teenaged Palestinian boys in Gaza and the West Bank confronting Israeli tanks armed with no more than shepherd’s slings; of young men, their faces half-covered with handkerchiefs and kafiyeh, racing through billowing clouds of tear gas to hurl stones at soldiers armed with assault rifles; of middle-aged and old women violating police pickets and defying curfew. That was the first time we heard of a little-used Arabic word, intifada, which literally means to shake off but in recent times has come to mean a rebellion premised on the Biblical tale of David vanquishing Goliath, a relentless mass protest born of festering anger, deep-seated grievance and overwhelming, uncontrollable rage.
We are witnessing a similar intifada in Jammu province where young and old, men and women, are locked in an unequal battle with the police — and, since Friday, the Army — demanding the immediate revocation of the Government order cancelling the transfer of 800 kanals of land to the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board. The land was meant for creating temporary facilities for pilgrims who trek to the Amarnath shrine every year, braving inclement weather and jihadi attacks. This time, it’s a Hindu intifada, an outpouring of pent-up anger which has brought life in Jammu and other towns and villages in the province to a standstill.
It’s been more than a month that the Hindus of Jammu have taken to the streets, burning tyres, taunting policemen, braving tear gas and real bullets, violating curfew and blockading the highway to Srinagar. The images emanating from Jammu are eerily similar to those that emanated from Gaza and the West Bank during the Palestinian intifada. More tellingly, the tactics that have been adopted by the protesters are those that have often brought Kashmir Valley to a standstill. If you look at the photographs of the Hindu intifada, you will get a sense of how Jammu has decided to give Kashmir a taste of its own medicine — in this case it is Dum Dum dawai.
The details of the land transfer fiasco are well-known. The Congress-PDP Government headed by Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad had instructed the Forest Department to transfer the land to the SASB. Within days Muslims in the Kashmir Valley, led and instigated by pro-Pakistani separatists, took to the streets, insisting no land should be provided for pilgrim facilities. The All-Party Hurriyat Conference spread three canards: First, the transfer amounted to alienation of ‘Kashmiri land’; second, it would lead to intrusion of ‘Hindu culture’ in Muslim Kashmir; and, third, it would cause ecological damage.
The PDP, sensing an opportunity to revive its pro-separatist — if not brazenly anti-India/ anti-Hindu — image in the run-up to the Assembly election in Jammu & Kashmir, joined the protest and subsequently withdrew from the Government. To his credit, Mr Azad stood firm and refused to budge from his Government’s decision, till Mr NN Vohra took over as Governor, replacing Gen SK Sinha. Mr Vohra, in his capacity as ex-officio chairman of the SASB, wrote a letter to Mr Azad, returning the land and also offering to relinquish the board’s task of organising the annual yatra, thus making the pilgrimage to the Amarnath shrine subordinate to the Valley’s Muslims über alle politics and Delhi’s equally odious politics of Muslim appeasement.
Mr Vohra reportedly sent his letter to Mr Azad at 8.30 pm on June 28. “The news of that abject surrender provoked an explosion of outrage across Jammu,” says a senior member of the Amarnath Yatra Sangharsh Samiti, a broad-based organisation without any political affiliation which is at the forefront of the protest. “The Governor has violated the SASB Act. He cannot act unilaterally. Any decision of the board has to be endorsed by at least five members,” says Prof Hari Om, academic and activist. “He is also in contempt of the High Court which had passed an interim order approving the transfer of 800 kanals of land to the board in Baltal,” he adds.
For all his efforts to appease the Muslim protesters in Kashmir Valley by ‘returning’ the land that had been allotted for Hindu pilgrims, Mr Vohra was unable to save the Congress-PDP Government. The PDP pulled out from the ruling alliance on June 28; on July 1, Mr Azad, obviously under mounting pressure from his party bosses in Delhi, reversed the earlier decision.
Meanwhile, in Jammu there was a spontaneous shutdown on June 30. “I don’t recall such a massive bandh in recent years,” says a lawyer who has been involved with the protest; he does not wish to be named, fearing harassment by authorities. Neither do the protesters wish to be identified because they fear they will be picked up from their homes by the police who take their instructions from Srinagar.
So, every morning, afternoon, evening and night, students, workers, professionals, senior citizens and housewives take to the streets, engaging the police in dogfights, hurling tear gas shells back at their tormentors, chasing cops when they are outnumbered, retreating into narrow alleys when the men in uniform regather, and then surging out all over again. Their faces masked with handkerchiefs, they hurl stones; their eyes reflecting their rage. Scores have been shot and wounded; three of them have died; a young man was chased across rooftops by the police — he jumped to his death.
“Each death only makes us more determined. We are not going to be bullied by the Valley any more. Jammu wants a voice of its own. Jammu’s Hindus will no longer tolerate oppression by Kashmir’s Muslims,” says a young protester, still in his teens, from his house in downtown Jammu. His voice has just begun to crack.
The day after the June 30 bandh, Jammu flared up with street marches and protest rallies. The authorities responded by clamping curfew, in an effort to force people to remain indoors, till July 7. Women came out of their homes and dared the police to shoot them. An enduring image of the Hindu intifada is that of an aged woman, a Pandit who was forced out of the Valley along with her family and three lakh other Pandits in the early days of jihadi terror, threatening a Kalashnikov-sporting policeman at a curfew picket with her tattered and torn slipper.
On July 7, the Congress-PDP Government officially exited office; the next day the Sangharsh Samiti suspended its agitation, giving the Governor a fortnight’s time to either have the land restored to the SASB or resign from office. “Mr Vohra did neither. He only added fuel to the fire by telling some people who went to plead with him, ‘Why should I bother about Jammu? Does Jammu matter? Does Jammu exist?’ He has been insensitive and his actions have only served to provoke the protesters,” says a senior official in the Jammu administration.
“Years of neglect of Jammu by Kashmir has resulted in what you are seeing today. The people are frustrated. The Pandits have at last found a platform to vent their anger. Jammu has more people than Kashmir, but the lion’s share always goes to the Valley,” says Prof Hari Om.
Jammu province has 37 Assembly seats and two Lok Sabha constituencies. Kashmir Valley has 46 Assembly seats and elects three Lok Sabha MPs. Of the 37 Assembly constituencies in Jammu province, 25 have a Hindu-majority population; the remaining 12 have a Muslim-majority profile. “Our voice naturally gets drowned,” says an advocate who is a member of the Sangharsh Samiti.
The natural beneficiary of the Hindu intifada would be the BJP. It could end up sweeping all the Hindu-majority seats in Jammu province and even emerge as the single-largest party in the next Assembly. The Muslim vote in the Valley would be divided between the National Conference and the PDP. The Congress could get wiped out — it has little to claim as support in the Valley; following the intifada in Jammu, it can’t look forward to winning 15 seats in this province as it did in 2002.
This should have set alarm bells ringing at the Congress headquarters in Delhi. Strangely, the party’s ‘high command’ doesn’t seem to care. Or so it would seem from the near non-response to the protest.
Mr Vohra and his patrons in Delhi have “clearly underestimated the determination of Jammu’s long-suffering Hindus who have had to cope with denial and deprivation for decades as the State Government focuses only on the Kashmir Valley,” the advocate-activist says.
This explains what happened on July 22. Kuldeep Raj Dogra, in his mid-30s, who was participating in a hungerstrike at Jammu’s Parade Ground, decided to do something tragically dramatic: He consumed poison, stood up to read out a passionately patriotic poem he had penned, faltered and fell dead. “It was his way of registering his protest against Mr Omar Abdullah’s speech in Parliament … he was incensed by the National Conference leader’s duplicity,” says Prof Hari Om.
The police panicked. They forcibly took away Kuldeep’s body to his hometown, Bisnah, 15 km from Jammu, and “tried to cremate it using old tyres, kerosene oil and liquor”, according to a Sangharsh Samiti leader. Kuldeep’s widow, Shilpi, tried to prevent the cremation and raised a hue and cry. The police have been accused of “insulting, abusing and assaulting” Shilpi to silence her. But a huge crowd gathered and snatched continued Kuldeep’s body from the police. It was taken to Jammu and the situation subsequently just went out of control.
Since then, the Hindu intifada has gathered both force and speed. Curfew has been clamped on all of Jammu and Samba. The Army has been called out. The Governor has been virtually forced to remain confined within the Raj Bhavan by protesters who continue to gather at the gates in large numbers with every passing hour. Mr Vohra’s ‘eight-point formula’, which included “allowing” the SASB to “maintain infrastructure during the yatra period”, to end the deadlock, has been spurned. The Sangharsh Samiti is adamant that it will settle for nothing less than restoration of the 800 kanals of land to the SASB for Hindu pilgrims.
Just how determined the protesters are can be gauged from the manner in which thousands of them laid siege to the airport
after hearing that Mr Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti were flying in. They had to be flown from the airport to the Raj Bhavan in a helicopter after the protesters refused to let them through.
Since Friday night, the intifada has escalated and spread to virtually every corner of Jammu province. Protesters, defying curfew, have been relentlessly pouring out into the streets throughout the night, daring policemen and Army personnel to shoot them. Two men were shot dead, 35 were injured when the police fired on protesters ransacking the District Magistrate’s office in Samba. By mid-afternoon on Saturday, the intifada was truly raging in Jammu and beyond.
All trucks headed for Srinagar have been stopped by protesters at Samba and on the Jammu-Pathankot national highway. No trucks are being allowed to enter Jammu from Srinagar. Kashmir’s Muslims could yet get to know what it feels like to be at the receiving end of popular fury and mass anger, as opposed to the Valley’s made-in-Pakistan rage.
Sunday Pioneer/Cover story/July 3, 2008

(c)CMYL Printech Ltd.

Cult of Muslim denial

Victims of jihadi attack on Jaipur

The truth about Islamofascism
Although the immediate context of his argument was far removed from events in India, well-known Arab journalist Abd al-Rahman al-Rashid, in an article he penned four years ago, ripped the veil off the Muslim cult of denial, which is so adroitly preached by the clergy and naïvely practised by the ghetto, that the ummah and its faith have nothing to do with terrorism; that all talk of Islamist terror or jihad is no more than fiction propagated by Zionists and their patrons in the Christian West. “It is certainly true that not all Muslims are terrorists,” he wrote, “however, the majority of terrorists in the world are Muslims.” To drive home his point, Abd al-Rahman al-Rashid gave several contemporary examples: The men who held children hostage in Beslan were Muslims; the kidnappers who killed the Nepalese chefs and labourers in Iraq were Muslims; those who perpetrate acts of rape and murder in Darfur are Muslims...”. And then, with a flourish he added, “Osama bin Laden is a Muslim and most of those who carried out suicide attacks against buses, schools, houses, buildings all over the world in the past 10 years also were Muslims. What a terrible record — doesn’t that say something to us about ourselves, our societies and our culture?”
It’s no doubt a harsh indictment, but it’s not devoid of truth. Yet, every time there’s a terrorist strike and innocent people are killed, the instinctive response we get to see and hear is one of denial. What’s the proof that Muslims planted the bombs in Jaipur? What’s the evidence to blame Muslims for the bombings in Bangalore? What’s there to suggest that Muslims planned and executed last weekend’s bloodbath in Ahmedabad and botched up the plot to blow up Surat? These and other related questions make up the ummah’s refrain even as parents wail for their dead children, widows grieve for their dead husbands, and those who have been maimed and disfigured for the rest of their lives wonder whether it is really worth staying alive. As if to clinch their argument absolving their co-religionists of any blame for the ghastly bloodletting that has become common occurrence under the UPA Government’s watch, defenders of the faith triumphantly ask: Would Muslims kill fellow Muslims?
Yes, they would. Look at the slaughter in Iraq where more Muslims have been killed by fellow Muslims than by the invading forces led by the US Army. Look at the ease with which Muslim lives are laid to waste every day in Afghanistan by the blood-thirsty Taliban. Recall how a mentally challenged teenaged Palestinian boy was strapped with explosives by Hamas terrorists and then told to walk up to an Israeli checkpost and blow himself up by pulling the cord on the belt. The boy panicked as he approached the checkpost: He couldn’t remember the instructions and began to cry pitifully; the Israeli soldiers asked him to stand still and used robots to disarm him and defuse the beltbomb he was wearing. Recall also how a Muslim woman strapped her daughter, no more than a toddler, with explosives and asked her to go take chocolate from an American soldier who, while patrolling the neighbourhood, would handout goodies to Iraqi children every day. As the child reached for a Mars bar with her grubby hands, her mother, hiding in a doorway, pushed the button on the remote control. It is, therefore, not surprising that many of the victims of last Saturday’s outrage in Ahmedabad were Muslims, among them children. For the perpetrators of the crime, they are no more than collateral damage; like Mr Donald Rumsfeld, they would shrug their shoulders and say, “Stuff happens.”
Last week, this newspaper carried an article penned by Ms Hazel Blears, Britain’s Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, eulogising multiculturalism and how it has benefited her country. While British politicians with an eye to the immigrant community vote-bank are expected to trot out frothy stuff on multiculturalism, the fact of the matter is that it hasn’t really worked to Britain’s advantage. Ms Ruth Kelly’s assessment, that it has failed miserably, or Sir Vidia’s dismissive comment — “ What do they call it? Multi-culti... It’s all absurd, you know.” — is more accurate. For evidence, look at the findings of a new YouGov poll, conducted in 12 British universities on behalf of the Centre for Social Cohesion and published as ‘Islam on Campus’.
A report based on the findings of the poll, and forwarded to me by a reader of this column, says, “If ignorance and poverty are responsible for the growth of extremist views in the Islamic world, someone needs to ask Muslim students, privileged enough and bright enough to attend some of the United Kingdom’s best universities, why one-in-three of them endorses killing in the name of Islam.” Among the poll’s findings of Muslim beliefs are some revealing facts:
40 per cent want shari’ah in Britain for Muslims;
33 per cent favour a worldwide Islamic caliphate;
24 per cent think men and women are not equal;
32 per cent believe killing in the name of religion is justified;
33 per cent don’t think Islam is compatible with democracy.

The reason for this digression is not to provide an insight into the warped mindset of those who believe ‘Islam is the solution’ — much as Adolf Hitler thought he had found the ‘final solution’ to rid the world of Jews and Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad thinks god has willed him to complete Hitler’s unfinished task — but to highlight the danger posed by those who see nothing wrong with the fringe increasingly occupying the centre. The lib-left intelligentsia, whose criminal disregard of facts and aggressive peddling of fiction often persuades ill-informed and ill-intentioned journalists to suppress the truth, wants society to be tolerant of Islamofascism; to indulge the Muslim cult of denial; and, to gloss over incidents like serial bombings and suicide attacks. Those who refuse to do so are accused of Islamophobia.
Meanwhile, I wonder if the Prime Minister spent a sleepless night on Friday after reading about 12-year-old Rohan’s death in the morning newspapers. Rohan had suffered 70 per cent burns in last Saturday’s bombing of Ahmedabad’s Civil Hospital, in which his father and the family’s sole bread-earner, Dushyant Vyas, was killed. Rohan’s younger brother, nine-year-old Yash, has suffered 50 per cent burns and is battling for his life. Rohan’s mother, Geetaben, is inconsolable, and understandably so: Her life now lies in tatters, her dreams have been shattered. Since public memory is notoriously short, it would be in order to remind readers that the Prime Minister had spent sleepless nights worrying about a certain Mohammed Haneef, accused of terrorist links, and the ‘plight’ of his parents.

Coffee Break/Sunday Pioneer/July 3, 2008

(c) CMYK Printech Ltd.

Jihadi attack on Ahmedabad

After the blast outside Civil Hospital, Ahmedabad.

Was PM asleep as terror struck?
There’s something obnoxious about the anchors of 24x7 news channels, headquartered in Delhi, that makes you feel nauseated and infuriated at once. Apart from pretending to know all and being disdainful of those with a contrarian (and substantive) point of view, they also try to impose their tuppence worth of opinion and vacuous concern on viewers. This point was reconfirmed by a 20-something anchor late Friday afternoon when I switched on the television set in my office to catch the news on the serial bombings in Bangalore. The channel had managed to get Ms Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, who heads Biocon and has played an admirable role in helping India’s biotechnology sector acquire an international profile, to comment on the bombings. Ms Mazumdar-Shaw was expressing her disquiet, and justifiably so, over the terrorist strike and how it would have an adverse effect on the residents of Bangalore who were bound to feel unnerved and insecure.
At this point the anchor barged in: “Don’t you think it will affect foreign investors? Won’t they flee Bangalore? What will happen to all the investments they have made?” That’s not the issue, Ms Mazumdar-Shaw tried to explain, but was cut short. “What about the foreign investors? What about their investments?” the anchor kept on repeating these two questions, imitating Long John Silver’s irrepressible parrot. Look, we need not worry about investors right now, said Ms Mazumdar-Shaw (did I detect just a hint of irritation in her voice?), adding, what’s more important is the security of the people; we should worry about whether people feel secure. But the security of the people of Bangalore — or, for that matter, any other part of the country — was of no interest to the anchor and possibly of even less importance to the channel. So, the anchor piped up, “Thank you for joining us. That was Ms Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw telling us how the serial blasts will affect foreign investments and investors.” Or words to that effect. I reached for the remote control.
It would, however, be unfair to blame either the anchor or the 24x7 news channels for such callous disregard for the fearsome consequences of terrorist attacks which, as Ms Mazumdar-Shaw pointed out, leave people shaken and shattered, both metaphorically and literally. If television channels are eager to shift attention from serious and real issues related to internal security to frivolous and bogus issues of ‘investor confidence’, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is desperate to ensure that ‘distractions’ such as serial bombings and loss of innocent lives do not prompt questions about the willingness of the Government he heads to combat terrorism. Just how unwilling the Government is to curb and contain terrorism can be gauged from the fact that Mr Singh is prone to losing sleep over the plight of terrorists and rewarding their families if they are killed by security forces which, he believes, violate human rights every time they despatch a jihadi to jannat where houris wait with open arms. It is, therefore, not surprising that Mr Singh should accuse BJP leader LK Advani of “sleeping” on his job as Home Minister in the NDA Government even as the barbarians ran amok, causing death and destruction.
There’s a problem, though, with Mr Singh’s assertion. A tally of human lives lost in Islamist terrorist attacks outside Jammu & Kashmir after he became Prime Minister (with Mr Shivraj Patil, who thinks Mohammed Afzal is a lad gone astray and deserves no more than a rap on his knuckles, as his Home Minister) will show that 570 people have died till now, most of them in serial bombings. Many more have been maimed and scarred for the rest of their lives. During the six years when the NDA was in power, and Mr Advani was Home Minister, the corresponding figure was 237. Even the most rudimentary knowledge of arithmetic, as compared to the awesome intellectual prowess of an economist who has served the World Bank, would suggest that terrorist slayings during the NDA years were far less than those during Mr Singh’s watch. If we were to add the number of people killed by Maoists, terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir and separatists in the North-East, the total would touch 15,000. With a strike rate of 3,750 lives lost to terrorism of various shades every year, the UPA Government’s record is nothing to sneer at.
Meanwhile, within hours of the serial bombings in Bangalore, which coincided with — as PTI and UNI, mindful of the Press Commission’s guidelines, would report in the 1980s — ‘members of a certain community coming out of their places of worship after Friday noon prayers’, the Intelligence Bureau had put out, with the help of obliging journalists, how it had warned the Government of Karnataka about an impending terrorist attack. Minister of State for Home Affairs Sriprakash Jaiswal reiterated this point when he told mediapersons, “The Intelligence Bureau had received inputs that terrorists could target the cybercities of Hyderabad and Bangalore. Both the State Governments were told to be on high alert.” Alas, nobody in Bangalore paid any attention to the IB’s ‘inputs’.
And for good reasons, too. It remains an abiding mystery as to how much of the ‘inputs’ provided by IB is actually based on actionable and credible intelligence; it is equally opaque as to how pin-pointed this information is. To alert the Government of Karnataka about a possible terrorist strike in Bangalore means nothing: Anybody with any intelligence can figure out that given the city’s high profile, terrorists would be tempted to attack it, if only for the assured media coverage beyond India’s shores. Nor does it take an exceptionally bright mind to figure out that serial bombings like those in Bangalore or in Ahmedabad late Saturday are meant to “spread terror”, as Mr Jaiswal has sought to enlighten us. Since imitation is the best form of flattery, Mr Jaiswal is no doubt keen to emulate the Prime Minister and accuse the BJP Government of ‘sleeping’ while terrorists go about committing their deed.
But should we blame State Governments for ‘failing’ to act on intelligence ‘inputs’ that are often shockingly vague and criminally inadequate? Are we to believe that the intelligence apparatus, which has been harnessed for achieving political objectives like winning confidence votes in Parliament, is collating and processing real time ‘inputs’?
If the IB had been doing its job then we would not have had to agonise over whether the next bomb will go off somewhere close to us or our children. Ah well, we can lose sleep over the creeping threat of terrorism. But I doubt if the Prime Minister is staying up nights so that he can’t be accused of sleeping on his watch, an accusation that Mr Singh has hurled so effortlessly at Mr Advani.

Coffee Break/Sunday Pioneer/July 27, 2008

(c) CMYK Printech Ltd.