The last few days have been tough. Ever since I heard the news about the mumbai terror attacks, my mind has been disturbed as one would expect. It sort of surprised me as to how much this affected me – although I guess I am now surprised that I should be surprised. I think it hit me squarely in the face when I first saw the couple of snapshots of that one terrorist. From then on, I could not rest until the ordeal was over. I was browsing, watching TV all the same time, sort of numb to the details – only wanting to hear that they nailed the bastards. When it was over, there was a bit of relief, but it was very little since anger, disgust and helplessness remain. It still affects to me so that I am not finding solace even in music. I also did not think I could put enough coherent thoughts together to blog about this, and so I avoided blogging. But not doing it was adding to the angst. So here it goes – incoherent and fragmented.
The Indian TV news channels call it India’s 9/11 – and yes that looks cheaply sensationalistis. But to be honest, it rings true to me. Why? First, I never felt the full outrage on America’s 9/11 when it happened. This was not because I did not fully comprehend the monstrosity of the act, but our family had already had “our 9/11” just a few days leading to it. My dear nephew, 16 years young in age, battled for his life for 2 weeks following an asthma attack couple of weeks prior to 9/11. His funeral was on 9/11. As I was getting ready to go to the funeral that day, already completely drained physically and emotionally, I switched on the TV and saw the gory of 9/11 on every news channel. But it obviously did not register deep enough – it was simply more sh*t on top of a mountain of sh*t God had rained on us (yes then, I believed in a God who would prevent this from happening to families like us – how naiive). All of our beliefs, all our philosophies had already been obliterated. Thus, strangely, I mainly found 9/11 to be a endorsement of that sentiment.
I still cannot get over the fact that my nephew is gone, and time when it cannot heal, simply builds walls or protective layers around the wound. So this time, as I was watching the mumbai massacre, I felt the anger and outrage of the event itself – the anger and outrage that I should have had on 9/11. The anger and outrage so many people felt that day. The pain an entire nation and the (civilized) world felt that day. So this does feel like my 9/11.
I am now confused how this war can be won. I dont think it can be in the sense that terrorism can be rooted out fully that there wont be terror attacks that harm innocent civilians after that. There will always be some people who are disgruntled no matter what, and disgruntled minds will find some thing to latch on and build up anger which eventually vents out in acts of varying degrees of violence aimed at “everyone else”.
So given that it cannot be rooted out, the only way is to find means to temper it “as much as possible”. How Force is the more popular sentiment – but can it work? I don’t know – but it definitely would satisfy the anger and outrage we feel and so even if it doesn’t work efficiently, it feels good to crush at least part of the enemy. I think this is a big part of why it seems attractive to most folks. Now, both US and Israel have tried force – Israel for much longer than any country. I think it has not stopped the attacks in Israel, and they have to be on high alert pretty much forever or atleast till they think they have destroyed all their enemies – which IMO is not going to happen as it is like rooting out terrorism completely. US has been more effective as in no attacks on US soil after 9/11, but I wonder if the reason could be that they have provided easier US targets (as in body count) in Iraq itself. The geographical separation also helps. For countries like India, the geography is not as favorable. On top of that, many of the terrorists can also blend in easily (and also some are homegrown).
I used to think that fixing the “root cause” – however painful it is to egos of countries and peoples, can produce the biggest tempering of the terrorist problem. I used to think terrorist groups’ thrive because they can brainwash and recruit youth – and they also get sympathy and financing from supporters. While groups themselves have ideological agendas (e.g. Lashkar-e-Toiba aims to convert India to an islamic state), the sympathesizers may have smaller ones e.g. like India’s role in Kashmir. Using that smaller gripe, the brainwashing begins by pointing out how this is symptomatic of a bigger problem i.e. how Hindus, Jews and the Christians are out to screw the people of Islam etc. etc. But if the smaller gripes are removed, wouldn’t the brainwashing not be effective? Wouldn’t the terrorist groups lose support and financing? Would’nt they starve? I used to argue along these lines. I still believe in it – but somewhat half-heartedly. While it does have logic to it, I now think that this may be too simplistic. I don’t think groups need to brainwash lots of of “common folk” for their agenda – while support from common folk helps them, it may not be as mandatory as I had thought. They just need to brainwash a few thousand of the right kind of people (people with money, and youth to supply bodycount) – and this can happen even on just the ideological agenda. The ideological agenda brainwashing has the power of corrupting minds across regional boundaries. So this is sobering and thus I am dazed and confused.
But still, if there is a significant % of Indian muslim populace which feels it is getting a raw deal, then their voices must be heard – by the others. India needs to do what is necessary to fix this – which could be corrective measures on the par of the muslim community as well as government (and other communities), as well as educating people out of “reverse prejudices”. One important example of a corrective measure is to demonstrate that the Indian government is serious about tackling human rights violations by Indian troops in Kashmir.
I find western coverage of India buy into this “muslims in India are most oppressed” often (along with almost always equating India to Hindu). I am not 100% sure, IMO this is misleading. There are many muslims at all levels – high-positioned politicians, celebrities in sports and movies, top professionals, as well as middle class professionals. Percentage-wise it is certainly possible this is disproportionate, and that is what may be really implied, but to phrase it such that it implies that the system is inherently skewed against them – I am not so sure. I am not saying prejudice does not exist, I am just saying that it can be overcome and there are many many examples of this in Indian society. I am not also saying because of that, whatever prejudice exists is ok – just that it may not warrant the conclusions drawn, and of course certainly never warrants taking up arms. But then I think we should listen more to the muslim community itself and work with them.
For the current problem at hand, some random beefs:
- Pakistan: I read in the news that Pak needs “proof” about L-e-T before going after them? WTF? Come again? If you think L-e-T is in your country, and you are out their saying “we are in this together”, then you should have already gone after them before this attack, or you are simply grandstanding. Who you crapping? You still like to believe L-e-T (or its offshoots) is not a terrorist outfit? And you also say you are serious about terror? You think we are idiots?
- I think if Pak can demonstrate real seriousness (beyond wordS) in permanently dismantling units there, this would be best move out of this. Now I can believe that the civilian government does not have full control over all parts of government, and also that the government does not have entire control of its territory. However, these two problems are causing huge, catastrophic effects outside Pak. This is not a Pak internal issue – it is an international issue of the gravest kind. If Pak is unwilling or unable to fix it, it can’t simply wring its hands (“these are non-state actors”). It also cannot bristle if the others who are being affected want to take care of the problem. It is best to take as much help as needed to fix this problem for itself and for others. I know this puts the government between a rock and a hard place (as any move against the fundamentalist particularly with outside help is political as well as literal suicide in Pak), but who is to blame for that? It is time for reckoning for Pak.
- Indian Politicians: In US after 9/11, all politicians, democrats and republicans stood together and put their country first. They all had one vision at the time in need. Later on of course they squabbled but at that moment they knew what was important. In India, our a**holes still don’t get it! Advani wants to campaign rather than attend an all party meeting called by his Prime Minister after a major terrorist event!! Campaign can wait for a day – you moron! And Thackeray wants to congratulate Maharashtra police? The bane of India is the lack of unity within. It screwed her during British times, and it would screw her now also if we don’t realize it.
- Internal Security in India: I also think India really needs to beef up internal security – this would be painful and expensive, but it is most certainly needed. It has to go to the same level as US, Israel etc. We can try to fix root cause etc. – but that is slow and takes a long time to gather momentum. In the meantime, we need to protect ourselves.
- Get top of the line equipment, get top of the line training (if not already been done) – from wherever it is available. Don’t let vanity (i.e. We are India, we dont need help!) compromise quality in this case.
- I cannot believe they do not have commando units in Mumbai (and all major cities). I guess that is being fixed. I think local police must also have commando units that trains with NSG etc.
- I also cannot believe they did not clear the entire neighbourhood around the Nariman House during the operation. The whole freaking thing was on world-wide television – for others to comment and critique about an extremely sensitive and dangerous national security situation? Yikes!
- In fact even at Taj, the reporters were allowed too close. I would think in US, cameras would simply not be allowed within atleast a mile in such cases – that would have been standard operating procedure
- Too many loose lips talking to media. Have one (hopefully sane 🙂 ) voice – otherwise this all affects the credibility of your government. But on the otherhand, the many lips also exposes inefficiencies as well as hanky-pankiness which is good.
- BTW, why are commandos of the most elite groups even giving interviews? Very nice to hear but also very disturbing. Shouldn’t these guys be as underground as possible?