Monday, February 4, 2013
By Amulya Ganguli, IANS
If intemperate politicians are having a free run in intimidating contrary views, it is because governments have tended to yield to extremistsBoth Hindu and Muslim fanatics are up in arms against artistic and literary freedom in India. One of their targets is the old “sinner” Salman Rushdie. But there are two others. One of them is social scientist Ashis Nandy, who stirred a hornet’s nest by saying at the Jaipur Literature Festival that most of the corrupt people in the country happened to be from the lower castes (he said this in a certain context that was ignored). It is a slur which champions of these communities can hardly ignore — if only because their entire political career is based on promoting caste-consciousness that fuels antipathy towards the upper castes. Foremost among them is the Dalit (lower cast) czarina Mayawati, whose slogan at one time was: “Tilak, tarazu aur talwar, inko maro jootey char.” It meant: Beat with shoes the Brahmins (who wear tilak or a mark on their foreheads), Banias (who weigh the goods in their shops with tarazu or a pair of scales) and Kshatriyas (the warrior class who sport talwar or sword and hold second place after Brahmins in the caste hierarchy).Mayawati’s demand was that Nandy be arrested forthwith under an act which seeks to protect Dalits and adivasis (tribals) from atrocities. What she did not care to consider was whether the law, meant to safeguard these communities from a continuation of the centuries-old social denigration, could be applied to a scholarly thesis. It has to be noted that the person mentioned by Nandy in this context was former Jharkhand chief minister, Madhu Koda, a tribal, who is now in jail on charges of corruption. The point, however, is not about who is right and who is wrong. It is about whether a renowned sociologist has the right to express an opinion based on his study of the social and political scene — or whether he should be put in jail for saying what he believes to be correct. Nandy is not the first academic, of course, who has to confront the bigots. Not long ago, the Oriental Research Institute in Pune was vandalised because historian James W. Laine had worked there while preparing a biography of Shivaji, which was not liked by the present-day admirers of the Maharashtrian warrior hero. Arguably, if vandals and intemperate politicians are having a free run in the matter of intimidating those holding contrary views in their opinion, the reason is that the governments at both the centre and in the states have tended to yield ground to extremists. One notable instance of such a retreat was the banning of Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses by the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1988 under pressure from Muslim hardliners. The fact that the kowtowing did not satisfy them is, however, evident from Rushdie’s decision to stay away from the Jaipur Literature Festival last year because of the government’s reluctance to guarantee him protection. And this year too, he had to call off a visit to Kolkata for the same reason, along with filmmaker Deepa Mehta, in connection with the release of Midnight’s Children, a film based on his Booker prize-winning book of the same name. The government did not even allow the film to be shot in India for fear of offending fundamentalists. As a result, Mehta had to shoot the film in Sri Lanka. Another film, which is having to run the gauntlet of the Muslim militants is Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam, even though it shows an Indian Muslim intelligence officer battling Islamic fanatics in Afghanistan and should be a matter of pride therefore for “patriotic” Muslims, as Haasan said. The standard explanation given by the Muslim radicals for lambasting Rushdie or Haasan is that they have hurt the community’s religious sentiments. It is the same argument which compelled Galileo to deny in the 17th century that the earth moved round the sun since his claim was found hurtful to the beliefs by Christians at the time. It took the Catholic church three centuries to offer a formal apology for its denunciation of the astronomer. Yet, this argument is offered time and again in 21st century India to satisfy the prejudices of the diehards. In view of the difficulties which his film faces, Haasan has even said that he may have to seek refuge in a secular country, just as painter M.F. Hussain had to flee from India and die in exile because of the threat posed by Hindu storm-troopers. Regrettably, it is no secret that the silent majority of Hindus and Muslims do not subscribe to the irrationalism of the fanatics. Yet, the government is reluctant to act against the trouble-makers in case it is seen to be directed against the community as a whole. Interestingly, the Marxists are no better despite their claim to be progressive, for it was when they were in power in West Bengal that the controversial Bangladeshi author, Taslima Nasreen, had to leave Kolkata because of the disturbances caused by a minor Muslim outfit. There is little doubt that the decline of the Congress and the growth of backward-looking parties based on specific castes and communities are responsible for the prevailing cultural terrorism.
EDITORIAL : DAILY TIMESYet another black day has marked Pakistan’s long and bloody journey in the war on terror. A militant suicide attack on a military check post in Lakki Marwat in the tribal belt on Saturday has proved to be devastating as 13 of our soldiers were killed along with 11 innocent civilians. What is particularly disturbing about this attack is that one of the suicide bombers, in a bid to escape being caught by the security forces, ran into a private residential home and detonated himself, killing everybody inside. This is probably the first time a crime of this most worrisome nature has occurred. A private residence in the irrigation colony, located close to the check post, and its occupants were all used as a human shield by the suicide attacker. One wonders if this is some kind of new, ugly pattern that is emerging for the terrorists who have proved time and again that they do not discriminate between their intended targets — the security agencies and people belonging to different sects — and innocent bystanders. On Friday, a gruesome attack in Hangu saw a Shia mosque attacked but the damage left its bloody mark on a nearby Sunni mosque as well, with many worshippers from there being killed too. Are militants belonging to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) going all out to prove that, when it comes to their war, there is no one who is safe from attack? It seems as if they are trying, in their own bloody way, to separate the general populace from their intended targets by attacking anyone unlucky enough to be even remotely associated with them — the ostracise and kill method. This kind of attack is becoming more and more prevalent in the tribal areas and one is compelled to think that it can happen again anywhere, even in someone’s own house. This strike comes at around the same time as the US Secretary of State Leon Panetta’s statement on how the US will continue its open-ended drone war inside Pakistani territory. This is based on the fact that top al Qaeda leaders have been killed in these targeted strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Due to these successes, the US will not consider halting the drone attacks. One asks here: should it? Stopping the drones seems like a very unwise move at this point in time. The militants are going from strength to strength, upping the ante on the nature of their attacks, killing men, women and children, and leaving no place safe. While the US is conducting drone strikes because it fears another attack on US soil, Pakistan ought to make use of the determination of the US while it can to rid itself of a common enemy. It has become obvious that our security forces and intelligence agencies are unable so far to take out the terror threat. It is then little wonder that our politicians, while publicly denouncing the drone strikes, due to fear of a public backlash, condone them in private. It is vital that Pakistan too up its game where our counter-terrorism strategies are concerned. We must increase our intelligence efforts and fully equip the police to deal with this militant menace. More concerted cooperation between these two wings will see terror attacks pre-empted and prevented, which is the only way to stop them from happening. A suicide mission is one that can only be averted before the bomber has been dispatched. The only way to provide some security to this country’s citizens is to bring together effective intelligence and police work to beat back the terrorists who have taken the entire country hostage.
THE FRONTIER POSTOn Friday, terrorist struck Hangu outside a Shia mosque and put to death at least 26 innocent civilians. The vile attack was obviously the handiwork of sectarian monsters. On Saturday, terrorists audaciously attacked a military camp in Serai Naurang and killed 13 soldiers and 11 civilians. The outlawed TTP claimed the responsibility. And the two thuggish assaults in two consecutive days tell chillily how fatally is the country in the throes of a vicious multifaceted terrorism. And yet the partisans out there are quarreling obsessively over the creation of new provinces. Of what avail would indeed be new provinces when the country is so visibly enmeshed in a threat from a wild monstrosity that has put its very existence in great peril? Yet none seems much pushed about it. Not even the state. It is now for more than half a decade that the nation is in the grip of this blood-thirsty terrorism. And even as the state functionaries not infrequently assert that with their counter-terrorism actions they have broken its back, it is not even a bit on the slowdown. Rather, it is in ascendancy and on the offensive, while the state appears in retreat. None seems safe from its vileness. Not even the security establishments that indeed have lately been its most favoured targets. That speaks alarmingly of the unpreparedness of the state to face up to this monstrosity mightily. The weakest link in the state's counter action appears to be the provincial administrations and their security and intelligence apparatuses. The country for the most part is in the clutches of urban terrorism. And fighting out this terrorism is primarily the job of the provincial governments, the maintenance of law and order on their domains is whose sole responsibility. Yet, they all have perceptibly taken a backseat, conveniently assuming that combating terrorism is the federal government's, especially the military's, task. This intrinsically is wrong. The military can fight the rebels on the mountains and deserts, caves and forests, but not on the city streets. There the recalcitrant have to be taken on by the provincial law-enforcement agencies and intelligence apparatuses. And yet they all are sitting pretty. Outlawed terrorist outfits are blithely plying their trade of murder and hate under their very noses with impunity. Some have assumed new names, though deceptively but not so deceptively. All know who they actually are. Some have bothered not even to do that and they go by their own old names. One such rabid sectarian outfit has indeed been claiming the responsibility of murderous attacks on the Shia community almost in every part of the country. Obviously, it has its sleeper cells, lairs and hideouts in the urban centres. And yet where are the CIDs of the provincial administrations that this outfit goes on with its bloodshed business unrelentingly without its cells and lairs being tracked down and busted and its network being dismantled in any part of the country? Indeed, this sluggishness of the provincial intelligence networks has come quite handy to the inveterate detractors of this country to vilify and demonise the Pakistani state. They assert, to a great conviction of the world community and to Pakistan's great grief, that these extremist outfits are not being touched by the state security apparatuses as they use them for their own ends inside and outside the country. Even this tirade has failed to impel the provincial administrations to pull out their intelligence and security networks from the stupor and go cracking on them to make them combat the urban terrorism manly. All feel content with their law-enforcers giving the weight of explosives used in a terrorist attack once it has happened. None seems asking them why had they not stopped that explosive from being used. No questions are apparently asked and no answers sought. No heads roll. It is always business as usual. Apparently, there is no watertight collaboration and cooperation either between the federal and the provincial intelligence networks, which is yet another weak link in the state's counter-terrorism action. They rather appear in competition, and worrisomely, in rivalry. This is very dangerous, and irresponsible too. All seem ploughing a lone furrow, whereas an effective counter-terrorism action is admittedly a joint effort and a combined action of various state arms. But, gallingly, no state strategy is even in evidence to combine up disparate security actions into a coherent, concerted and orchestrated effort to attain the national objective of defeating terrorism and throwing it out of the land. And this is very disturbing. The way it is being presently fought, we are visibly losing this war against terrorism. But we have to win it, in any event and at our cost, for our own survival and for the survival of our posterity. The state must come into action, in whole, not in parts. Let there be a national coordinated action to take on the monstrosity of terrorism, to defang it, prostrate it and behead it. This is a must.