Archive for October 28th, 2008

Rejoinder to Yogendra Yadav’s TOI article: “Injustice can produce a Gandhi, a Mandela or a terrorist” (Tuesday, October 28, 2008).

October 28, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008



Rejoinder to Yogendra Yadav’s TOI article: “Injustice can produce a Gandhi, a Mandela or a terrorist” (Tuesday, October 28, 2008).




If Yogendra Yadav is referring to the currently popular definition of the word ‘terrorist’, he is wasting his time on matters that are only part of the bigger whole. He must first clearly visualize what he would like to treat as terrorism and what he will not accept as terrorism. Peace cannot be achieved by one-sided colored view of the total picture. An analyst should be prepared to view both sides of the coin.


The timing of his article in TIMES OF INDIA, today, on Oct 28, 2008, a few days after ATS has made some arrests of Hindu Radicals from Sangh Parivar, is very significant as much as, before the public exposure of the involvement of Sangh Parivar’s minions in bombings and communal rioting, the whole blame of such ‘terrorism’ was squarely placed on a convenient agencies created invention called SIMI.


Even now in his present article, he seems to have written an apologia for the Hindu involvement in terror attacks, when he has finally brought up the subject of what triggers ‘terrorism’. I have not come across any of his writing earlier than this, trying to figure out what motivated SIMI to commit bombings, if at all it is involved and if they were subjected to some injustice.


If his main objective is to project how ‘injustice’ impacts the victims, he has not bothered to even hint what injustices had been inflicted on SIMI or Bajrangis and by whom.


If it is the state that is guilty of injustice, then why is Yadav so hesitant, circumspect and scared to take on the state as the real culprit who organises such orgy of violence for its own political exigencies?


Yadav wants to invite the victims to choose, either to become a Gandhi, a Mandela or a terrorist.


However, it is not so easy to make a choice.


Even Gandhi and Mandela did not become ‘heroes’, without British co-opting them into carrying on their own political agenda. British were mortally afraid of another ‘mutiny’ in India. They transported Gandhi, a genuine pacifist — back to India to pacify Indian people —- just as they used to transport indentured labour to distant lands. It is the British that got Jinnah to organise a big welcome in Bombay for Gandhi, to project Gandhi as a big national leader. At every step of the way, Gandhi was courted at the highest level, to help British colonialists to maintain peace in the land. It is the British that left India for their own violation or compulsions, and not necessarily on Gandhi’s peace efforts.


British got Mandela out of prison after 27 years, when it became impossible to continue apartheid due to pressure from US Human Right groups, who wanted all US investments to pull out of South Africa as per US law requirements.


Terrorism in India has wider nuances than what Mr. Yadav has tried to present by way of enticing people to junk ‘terrorism’. His is a very noble exercise. 

However, if he really wants to contribute to clear up terrorism, he should do a deeper study of who is the mastermind behind the curtain manipulating of the pawns on the chessboard.


Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai


TIMES OF INDIA – October 28, 2008


Injustice can produce a Gandhi, a Mandela or a terrorist

By Yogendra Yadav, 

Co-director of Lokniti and senior fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, reminds us that a terrorist is someone who at one point believed in the system

Terrorism is politics by other means. More often that not, a terrorist is a failed or disappointed reformist, someone who at one point believed in the system. Almost every act of mad terrorist violence is shaped by deep passion, not very different from the emotion that shapes any form of creativity. The wounds that a terrorist inflicts on scores of innocent victims are rationalized in the name of justice.

There are no doubt many a mercenaries among the ranks of terrorists, but those who we call terrorists often see themselves as nothing less than heroes, as persons who refuse to take it lying down or follow the conventional and ineffective ways of responding to a perceived injustice. Theirs is often the determination that produces a Gandhi, the quest for justice that creates a Mandela. When this kind of a person takes to terrorism, we lose a vital energy that could have shaped the idea of India.

If we agree that terror is failed politics, then the solution lies in firmly closing the back door of politics of terror and making sure that the front door of democratic negotiation, protest and contestation is kept open.


We have to think, in other words, about what the terrorists wish to say, about how they could have said it without taking this route. The trouble with so much talk about terrorism and ways of eliminating it is that it discusses only one half of the solution. Security experts talk only about how to close the back door of terror. But you cannot close all the doors for someone. You have to think equally hard about how to keep the front door of democratic politics firmly open for those who see no hope in the system.

This is not as simple as it looks. Following this simple formula requires complex negotiation with the orthodoxies that we have surrounded ourselves with. It requires not just confronting the bundle of lies perpetrated by communal politics, we also need to face some of the orthodoxies, silences and half-truths of the secular discourse.

How, for instance, do you firmly close the door of terror? This is not just a question for security agencies and terror experts, but also a question for human rights activists and secular politics. Left to themselves, the security experts will come up with solutions that are worse than the problem itself. Laws like POTA or AFSPA may occasionally succeed in nabbing a terrorist who escapes the net of ordinary laws, but the real-life implementation of such laws is bound to create many more terrorists than it nabs. Encounters like Jamia Nagar strike at the public trust in the police force. Reports like the Nanawati Report on Gujarat strike at the public confidence in judges as custodians of truth. The recent violence in Orissa strikes at the idea of rule of law. But those of us who rightly oppose these have a positive duty too. We must come up with an alternative, democratic way of dealing with the terrorists – Jehadis, Bajrang Dalis or whatever variety – that is at once effective and can respect the rights of every citizen.

The more important question in the long run is how do you keep open the doors for democratic negotiations? This brings us face to face with the delicate question of the involvement of some Indian Muslims in the recent acts of terror. Unfortunately one section of opinion in our country does not wish to acknowledge this fact while the other section does not want to look at the reasons why they may have taken to terror. It is only when we acknowledge that a tiny section of the Indian Muslim youth may be involved in it that we can begin to address some of the underlying reasons.

The way to keep doors for democratic politics open for this section of the Muslim youth is to create a space for open discussion about the condition of the Indian Muslims. The Sachar Committee report has done a great service to the country by making it possible to talk about some of these questions. Now we need to take the next step by debating the ways of addressing the disadvantage and discrimination that the Muslims face in every walk of life. We need to discuss modalities of affirmative action for the Muslims. We need to find ways of improving the political representation of the Muslims. Above all, the public arena needs to open itself to hear the voice of the Indian Muslims, their aspiration for dignity, identity and justice.

Secular politics has to evolve a language to speak about these issues to the public at large. In order to do so, it has to begin to address some difficult questions: How do we address some of the legitimate fears of the Hindus about large-scale institutionalized conversions? What are the rights of the Hindu minorities in J&K or in the North East? How do we react to the patently anti-democratic edicts of the Sikh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee? Politics of secularism must not be seen to be weak on minority communalism.

If terror is politics in a distorted mirror, it follows that peace has to be politically crafted. This requires nothing short of renewing the idea of India for a new generation. This requires steadfast commitment to truth and the courage to question our own orthodoxies. We could do worse on a day to remember the maryadapurushottam.



Butcher and Bolt: Two Hundred Years of Foreign Engagement in Afghanistan

October 28, 2008

The killing fields

John Sweeney

Published 23 October 2008


What are we doing in Afghanistan? A superb new history shows how successive invaders have tried, and failed, to bring order to the country through force

An Afghan man rides his donkey beside the Band-e-Amir lake.


Butcher and Bolt: Two Hundred Years of Foreign Engagement in Afghanistan


David Loyn


Hutchinson, 351pp, £18.99



The Duke of Wellington was a cantankerous reactionary but he knew a thing or two about Afghanistan: “a small army would be annihilated and a large one starved”. On 13 January 1842, a sharp-eyed sentry in Jalalabad saw the more-dead-than-alive figure of the British army surgeon Dr William Brydon crossing the plain, struggling to stay on his pony. He had a bad head wound and was bleeding from the hand. When eventually the pony was taken into a stable, it lay down and died.

Roughly 16,000 British troops and camp followers hadn’t made it from Kabul – one of the most terrible defeats of British military might in the 19th century, commemorated in Lady Elizabeth Butler’s painting Remnants of an Army. Brydon was the sole survivor. The massacre of Lord Elphinstone’s army prompted a series of revenge attacks by the British, which developed into wars. In 1849, 1850 and 1851, huge numbers of British troops swarmed into Afghanistan, butchered and then bolted. And still the Afghans fought back.

In 1860 the British took Peking but a few years later they were back in Afghanistan’s borderlands with 12,500 troops – more than the army needed in order to subdue the Chinese capital – and still the Afghans fought back.

In 1878 came the Battle of Sangin. The British had immense advantages in material – better guns, better communications, better everything – but still the Afghans fought back.

On 17 January 1880 a small and extremely emaciated Talib, or religious student, approached a group of British Royal Engineers in Kandahar and tried to stab Sergeant Miller to death. This incident was the first recorded suicide attack in Kandahar. The Afghans were fighting back, asymmetrically.

The British looked at the map and drew a line – a smudge, more like – along the highest ridges of the Suleiman Mountains, dooming generations of local people yet unborn to almost constant war. Right now, US drones are buzzing along that very line between Pakistan and Afghanistan and getting shot down.

In 1893 the Amir of Afghanistan, a “cunning rogue” named Abdur Rahman, talked sweetly with the British but also wrote a book in which he attacked the infidel and called for jihad, using exactly the same extracts of the Quran as Osama Bin Laden did a century later. The Afghans were fighting back, ideologically.

At the fag end of the 19th century Sir Lepel Griffin, a man of rare sceptical intelligence, wrote to the Times, thundering: “this policy consists in spending a quarter of a million annually on a post of defence and observation which defends and observes nothing, and on the maintenance of a road which leads nowhere”.

Oh dear. And after that came the Russians in 1979, and exactly the same thing happened to them. And now it’s happening to the Americans and the British. Captain Leo Docherty, an officer of the Guards, fought battles in Sangin in 2006 that were first fought in 1878. He reflected on British policy: no proper plan, but “disjointed ill-considered directives from headquarters . . . an illusion . . . the time spent there now seems to be an egotistical folly . . . a tragic replay of Soviet clumsiness”.

Oh dear me. David Loyn, a long-time BBC foreign affairs reporter, has written a brilliant history book of Afghanistan’s wars of the past two centuries, but more importantly the evidence he amasses poses a primary question about the war being fought inside Afghanistan: are we sure this is a good idea? The lesson from history suggests it might not be.

This presents a horrible quandary. Al-Qaeda committed mass murder in Manhattan on 11 September 2001 and the whole operation was cooked up in Bin Laden’s bases in Afghanistan. If the west’s forces – chiefly the United States, Britain and Canada – pull out, it is inevitable that the Taliban will return to power and that al-Qaeda won’t be far behind.

General Sir Mike Jackson, the most thoughtful British soldier for a generation, said a few months ago that the war must be fought, because otherwise we hand over Afghanistan to the Taliban and then on to al-Qaeda. Anyone who believes that the Taliban/al-Qaeda don’t pose a threat to the western world is daft. Too many people have died in Baghdad, Islamabad, Madrid, Bali and London since the 11 September 2001 attacks for anyone to hold the idea that the threat is imaginary or that the US will just turn the other cheek.

On the other hand, the Afghan narrative is almost absurdly unchanging. Any foreign military adventure in Afghanistan is doomed to fail: the land is unforgiving and the people are hostile, secure in their Islamic faith – which ratchets up to a fresh level of purist absolutism with every bomb that falls. They may lose battle after battle, but still they fight.

Loyn writes well of the Soviet invasion, of how the Soviet generals bombed, tortured and shot civilians willy-nilly, and yet still they lost and had to leave Afghanistan in defeat. He quotes the great Italian journalist Tiziano Terzani: “War is not a profession for Bin Laden and his people. It’s a mission. Its roots lie in the faith they acquired in the close-minded Quranic schools, and above all in their deep feelings of defeat and impotence, in the humiliation of a civilisation, Islam, which was once great and feared but which now finds itself increasingly marginalised and offended by the overwhelming power and arrogance of the west.”

Is there a solution? Probably not. Absolutist Islam lacks the means but not the will to defeat the west. The west has the means but not the will to defeat absolutist Islam, least of all inside Afghanistan. However, it might help if we dumped well-intentioned fantasy. Loyn makes the point, again and again, that first British, then Soviet, and now US policy on Afghanistan has been formed by tellers of fairy tales in London, Moscow and Washington and not by the complicated and difficult reality on the ground. It is clear that he admires much about Afghans. He is one of very few reporters who have spent time with the Taliban – and found the men who protected him personally honourable, respected by their communities and very much in control on the ground. He is not mindless of the dark side in Afghanistan: of how, in the chaos after the Russians left, a tank battle took place between two commanders as they both wanted sex with the same boy; how the Taliban murders schoolteachers who seek to give girls an education; how the Taliban’s logic acts like a kind of “anti-matter”, a black hole that engulfs the western mind.

Loyn is clear that much of the “mud” attached to the Taliban can more accurately be applied to the entire Afghan mindset, especially that of the Pashtun heartland: deeply conservative, contemptuous of externally imposed “democracy”, unbothered about liberal rights or the education of women. He writes that “the simple narrative of heroes and demons – ‘mujahedin good, Taliban bad’ – imposed on Afghanistan was another externally drawn picture: an Afghanistan of the western mind”.

In 2001, a few days after western troops marched into Kabul, some BBC colleagues and I drove up from the south through the Khyber Pass and entered Afghanistan. The people didn’t look overjoyed to see us. Near Jalalabad, going in the opposite direction to Dr Brydon on his dying pony, our driver suddenly picked up speed and began to drive murderously fast. We were being chased by the Taliban. A few hours later, four foreign journalists were murdered on the same road, almost certainly by the people who had pursued us. If this was a liberation, it wasn’t universally popular, to put it mildly.

I remember listening, once we arrived in Kabul, to people like William Reeve, the BBC reporter in Kabul before, during and after the 11 September attacks who got bombed out of his chair by the Americans, got back in it and carried on broadcasting. He said that the Taliban had stopped poppy production, had stopped corrupt roadblocks springing up everywhere, had enforced “sharia” law – and any form of justice is better than the anarchy that flows from gun law. As far as Afghans were concerned, the Taliban weren’t as black as they had been painted.

The solution for people who have spent a long time in Afghanistan was a different one: to work with the Taliban and somehow to uncouple the Afghan fighters from al-Qaeda. Seven years of killing later, it feels a bit too late to try that now. So, western policy seems glued to fighting a war that many people in the know are now saying the west is never going to win: “We’re here because we’re here because we’re here . . .”

Butcher and Bolt challenges such rigidity of thinking. Loyn rubbishes the Americans’ supernatural belief in technology above all things, and points out that the Taliban have one and a half million recruits in Pakistan’s madrasas, just over the border. It is a bleak conclusion to a book that should be a must-read for every politician who sends our squaddies into Afghanistan – but one based fairly and squarely on the weight of history.

John Sweeney is an award-winning investigative journalist

US studying features of Islamic banking – Md. Rasooldin – Arab News

October 28, 2008

The Middle East’s Leading English Language Daily   —  

Sunday 26 October 2008 (27 Shawwal 1429)

US studying features of Islamic banking

Md. Rasooldeen | Arab News

INTEREST: Robert M. Kimmitt, US deputy secretary of the Treasury, right, and US Ambassador Ford M. Fraker at the press conference held at the US Embassy in Riyadh on Saturday. (AN photo by Mohammed Rasooldeen)

RIYADH: The US government is currently studying the salient features of Islamic banking to ascertain how far it could be useful in fighting the ongoing world economic crisis, Robert M. Kimmitt, US deputy secretary of the Treasury, said at a press conference held at the US Embassy here yesterday.

Kimmitt, who is on an official visit to the Kingdom, also held discussions with Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf. Today, he is scheduled to meet Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) Gov. Hamad Al-Sayari, Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) Gov. Amr Al-Dabbagh, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, chairman of the Kingdom Holding Company, and Saudi investors and bankers. He said that the agenda for the G-20 summit to be held in Washington on Nov. 15, has to be carefully prepared since important topics are to be discussed in just one day. “I am not sure that Islamic banking will also be itemized in the agenda, but it is a subject that is often dwelt in the public and private sectors,” he noted. He said that experts in the US Treasury Department are currently learning the important features of Islamic banking.

However, he added that his country is focusing on activities of various governments and central banks in tackling the economic issues. He pointed out that the member countries in the G-20 also includes Islamic countries such as Indonesia and Turkey, besides the Kingdom which has been a member for the past 10 years. Representatives from these countries could present their experiences of Islamic banking in the light of the prevailing situation.

He hoped the G-20 summit will provide an effective platform for the member countries to exchange their views on the current economic problem and lay out a plan for the countries to draw out their respective national plans to ease the situation.

Commenting on his meeting with Al-Assaf, Kimmitt said the items that could be included in the agenda were also discussed. “The geographical representation from member countries would provide a broader view of the crisis and would also benefit the non-member countries through their experiments,” he added.

The G-20 summit, said Kimmitt, was proposed by Europeans which was readily accepted by President George W. Bush, who is seeking a common response to the global crisis.

Spelling out the purpose of his visit to Saudi Arabia, Kimmitt said that he has been associating with the Kingdom for more than two decades, but this is a significant visit since he was coming to the Kingdom at a time when there is a threat to the global financial market. “It’s an opportunity for me to present the US perspective … and hear from the Saudi leadership on the current situation in the Kingdom and in the region,” he said, adding that even at a time of crisis, US wants to stress its commitment to tell the countries in the region of the US open investment policies.

Pointing out that a good number of American investors are coming to the Kingdom, Kimmitt said the US government expects reciprocation in the same manner. The deputy secretary is slated to visit the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Iraq where he would meet the leadership and investors on similar lines.