Archive for December, 2008


December 21, 2008


Sunday, December 21, 2008

M. J. Akbar errs when he denigrates and demonizes Urdu press for voicing and articulating Urdu readership. After all they too are the citizens of this nation, they too have the right to freedom of thought and expression and they too have the right to vote. How do they become inferior to the elite that are ruling in their name? Urdu press has a glorious history of robust participation in freedom struggle. It is a pity that a journalist of such repute, should find it convenient to put down genuine voices of one section of our people, that is already marginalized. Now even their voices are being throttled.

It is time, Urdu press and Urdu readership should be made part of main street India as well as mainstream media. The Idea of India can never be complete without their full participation in mainstream life of nation. M. J. Akbar should better take note of his bias against people’s grass root sentiments that is more readily and extensively covered by the Urdu press than the glossy corporate English media ever can or will.

If Antulay is the Simi Garewal of Indian politics, it would appear appropriate, if M. J. Akbar should claim to be the Simi Garewal of Indian journalism.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai


MJ Akbar

Antulay is the Simi Garewal of Indian politics

21 Dec 2008, 0005 hrs IST, M J Akbar

There is, or should be, a well-defined line in media between the liberty of impression and the freedom of expression. Both are privileges of
democracy. Liberty of impression is the exhilarating-frightening roller coaster on which public discourse rides. Freedom of expression is cooled by the sprinkle of judgment, a mind that sieves speculation, allegation and accusation from the end-product that appears in print or on air.

There is outrage against the television coverage of Mumbai terrorism because television celebrities surrendered their judgment before the rising demand for hysteria. There is no supply without demand. The very audiences that sucked out hysteria from cable are now howling against its perpetrators. It is a human instinct to develop instant amnesia about one’s mistakes and sharpen knives with the vigour of humbugs the moment a scapegoat has been identified. The viewer is now seeking absolution through anger.

But the information market has been flooded with toxic weed. Hysteria is not the exclusive preserve of audio-visual junketeers. From the moment the terrorist violence hit Mumbai, much before the course of events evolved into a pattern, some sections of the Urdu press began pumping up circulation figures with fantasy fodder, in the shape of conspiracy theories, to a readership in search of denial. The conspiracy-in-chief was that this mayhem was nothing more than a plot to sabotage the investigation that ATS chief Karkare was conducting into the Malegaon blasts. The death of the police officer was declared instant martyrdom.

News media operates within a triangle of customer, producer and politician. A clever politician is a master chef in cooking up a broth of impression and expression. Since the customer is also a voter, the politician panders to street opinion by lifting it into the loftier realm of Parliament or television studio. The very act of transference gives implicit legitimacy to fantasy fodder.

Abdur Rahman Antulay is not in search of truth. He is in search of votes. He has become the Simi Garewal of Indian politics. Garewal saw a Pakistani flag fluttering on every Muslim housetop in Mumbai. Antulay sees a vote beyond every Muslim doorstep. Garewal was blinded by a low IQ. Antulay has turned myopic because one eye is stupid and the other cynical. But that is his secondary medical problem. His primary disease is cancer of the vote-bank.

If you want to understand Antulay’s and, by extension, the Congress’ compulsions, then take a look at an SMS I received on December 1: “Congress has been wiped out in Dhule corporation election. It could get only 3 seats out of 67.” Dhule is barely fifty kilometres from Malegaon. More than 30% of its electorate is Muslim.

As the minorities minister with the unique distinction of having done absolutely nothing for minorities, Antulay and his party face a meltdown in Maharashtra. If they cannot get even Muslim votes, they can forget about power and pelf in Delhi. He has therefore chosen to feed the Muslim with the comfort food of conspiracy theories, in the hope that this will drug him to the point where he loses his bearings until the April-May elections.

Will this succeed? Perhaps. It has succeeded before. But take a look at another SMS I received, announcing a meeting of the Maharashtra United Democratic Convention at Birla Matushri on December 17. An experiment for the consolidation of the Muslim vote was begun in Assam under a similar banner and did well in the last assembly elections. It has 11 MLAs and came second in some two dozen constituencies. Maulana Badruddin Ajmal Qasmi promised at the Mumbai convention that an MUDF would set up candidates in every constituency in the next assembly elections. Its aim would be to defeat both the Congress and the BJP. He warned the Congress, which had got the Muslim vote in the state for six decades, that the days of bondage were over, and the Muslim vote had grown up: it was not going to be satisfied with toffee anymore.

It is a long journey from desire to destination. There will be pressure and deviation; some attempts to purchase some leaders will possibly succeed. But such language has never been heard from a Muslim platform in Maharashtra.

Simi Garewal sees a Pakistan where there isn’t one. Antulay will not see a Pakistan where there is one. But Simi is a fringe factor; Antulay sits on centrestage. Antulay is a Cabinet minister, who has provided sustenance to those Pakistanis who are trying to fool us into believing that the terrorism in Mumbai was an instance of Indian security failure rather than an invasion sponsored by Pakistani elements.

I am amazed at the sheer gall of both the spinners in Pakistan and the Antulays in India. They seem to forget that there is a Pakistani canary sitting in an Indian jail, singing out the plans, preparations and objectives. Nine dead men and their masters are being exposed by the tenth man, the man who did not die.

If this is the state of deception and self-deception when one terrorist has been caught, what would have been the level of denial if all ten had died?

Cynicism is a staple of vote-driven politics. We all know that. I was naïve to believe that our nation’s security would remain outside the reach of cynicism.

Click here to comment on this story.

Nellie: India’s forgotten massacre – By Harsh Mander – The Hindu, Chennai

December 20, 2008

Nellie: India’s forgotten massacre

The lives lost in Mumbai’s Taj Hotel are precious. But the lives extinguished in distant hamlets of Nellie ― and indeed the streets of Delhi, Bhagalpur, Gujarat and Malegoan ― are no less valuable. A day must come when our rage and our compassion responds equally to each of these tragedies. We can be safe only by standing ― and caring ― together.

By Harsh Mander

Published in The Hindu on Dec. 14, 2008

A lifetime is much too short to forget.

It was November 26, 2008, the day that was to become etched in India’s history for the audacious and traumatic terrorist commando attack on the country’s commercial capital Mumbai. I happened to be on that day at a location as distant as possible from Mumbai ― psychologically, politically and socially ― at Nellie in Assam, the site of one of free India’s most brutal forgotten massacres in 1983. I had been invited by the survivors to sit with them as they recalled and commemorated the events that had unfolded in this distant impoverished corner of the country 25 years earlier.

We gathered in the soft sunshine of early winter in an open courtyard. A crowd quickly gathered: the older men with checked lungis and beards could easily be distinguished as people of East Bengali Muslim origin. The women and younger men dressed like anyone from an Assamese village. There were the initial courtesies of traditional welcome, as they offered us customary white Assamese scarves with exquisite red embroidery.

Senior officials of the State government who accompanied me had gently dissuaded me from the visit, questioning the wisdom of re-opening wounds of painful events of such a distant past. People have moved on long ago, they assured me. What purpose then would our visit serve? It would only revive memories that have long been buried. The same advice came from many non-official friends who worked in development organisations in the State. They added that the visit would stir issues that were too bitterly contested in the region. But the survivors persisted in their resolve that they wanted to be heard. It was impossible for me to refuse them.

On February 18, 1983, in the genocidal massacre organised in Nellie, just 40 km from Guwahati , 2,191 Muslim settlers originally from Bangladesh were slaughtered, leaving 370 children orphaned and their homes in 16 villages destroyed. As the survivors spoke one by one before our gathering a quarter century later, all of us who heard them ― including officials, academics, social workers ― were completely stunned, and shamed, by the enormity and immediacy of their suffering today, which retained an urgency as though they had only very recently suffered the unspeakable cruelties that they gave words to, not 25 years earlier. The bodies of many were twisted and deformed by inadequately treated injuries from the assaults by machetes and daggers; others pulled back their clothes to expose frightening scars of the attacks of a generation earlier.

Hazara Khatun, with scars of a dagger attack on her face that she survived in 1983, sat on the ground before us and pointed to her empty lap. “I was cradling my child here”, she said in a low voice. “They chopped him into two, down the middle”. Another widow Alekjaan Biwi, was far less calm. Her body was twisted, and we could all see that she had lost her psychological equilibrium. Eleven members of her family were slaughtered in the massacre, and she acted out for us how the mob had attacked them, how she had cowered and hidden herself, how she was discovered and wounded, and how she survived even though scarred and deformed for life. “I have no one in the world,” she concluded quietly.

In his early thirties, Mohammed Monoruddin began to cry inconsolably as soon as he sat before us. “My brothers, sisters were all killed, hacked into pieces,” he recalled. “I was seven years old then. I saw my parents slaughtered in front of me. I saw another woman being killed and her child snatched from her hands and thrown in fire. I wept in terror all day. The CRPF came in the evening and rescued me. Later we came to know that our house was torched. Nothing was left. All our belongings and stores of rice were gone in the fire. My elder brother, who was in Nagaon, brought me up. But I feel so lonely.”

Many others spoke of their loneliness. Noon Nahar Begum was 10 years old, and when the killings started, she tried to run away but was attacked and badly wounded. She was hospitalised for two months, and her mother and four siblings were murdered. “They were butchered here in the place where we are standing today,” she said, adding: “I have found no peace of mind for the last 25 years. I need justice for my peace. Justice is important because it was such a terrible crime. I feel lonely and miss my family…” Babool Ahmad, a tailor, was two years old when he lost his parents. He was brought up by his grandparents, whereas his sisters were raised in an SOS village.

And so the stories flowed, like a deluge of muddied waters of grief ― long unaddressed and denied ― gushing from a breached dam. The forgotten massacre in Nellie in 1983 established a bloody trail of open State complicity in repeated traumatic bouts of ethnic cleansing and massacres both in Assam and in India. It was followed by similar State-enabled carnages, in Delhi in 1984, Bhagalpur in 1989, Mumbai in 1993 and climaxed in Gujarat in 2002.

Assam in turn has seen a series of violent ethnic clashes between various oppressed communities, each bitterly and ferociously ranged against other ethnic groups which may be as dispossessed, if not more so. The accord brokered by government with militant Bodos in 1993 assured them autonomous control over regions where their population was in a majority. The government therefore itself laid the foundations for ethnic cleansing. Bengali Muslims were driven out of their settlements by murderous attacks and the torching of their homes in 1993, and this scenario was repeated for Santhal and Munda tribals (called Adivasis) ― many of whom are descendants of tea garden labour imported by the British two centuries ago ― in 1996. Thousands of them continue to languish today in camps, some for 15 years, as they are still terrified to return home. Assam remains a tinder box of ethnic hatred, with recent attacks on Bihari migrant labour, Jharkhand agitators in Guwahati, bomb explosions and recent clashes between Bodos and Bengali Muslims this year, which left many dead and thousands in camps seething with hate.

The government gave the survivors of Nellie compensation for each death of as little as 5,000 rupees, contrasted for instance with Rs. 7 lakhs that have been paid to survivors of the Sikh carnage of a year later in 1984. Six hundred and eighty eight criminal cases were filed in connection with Nellie organised massacre and of these 310 cases were charge-sheeted. The remaining 378 cases were closed due to the police claim of “lack of evidence”. But all the 310 charge-sheeted cases were dropped by the AGP government as a part of Assam Accord; therefore not a single person has even had to face trial for the gruesome massacre. Some lives are clearly deemed by the State of being of little worth compared to others.

The Mumbai terrorist attack of 2008 has witnessed an upsurge of understandable public anger, because a partisan and weak State leaves each of us unsafe. But States have long failed abjectly and shamefully to protect ordinary citizens and uphold justice. The lives lost in Mumbai’s Taj Hotel are precious. But the lives extinguished in distant hamlets of Nellie ― and indeed the streets of Delhi, Bhagalpur, Gujarat and Malegoan ― are no less valuable. A day must come when our rage and our compassion responds equally to each of these tragedies. We can be safe only by standing ― and caring ― together.

Comments By Ghulam Muhammed posted on LIVEMINT website, over Ramachandra Guha’s article: India’s Dangerous Divide

December 20, 2008

Comments By Ghulam Muhammed posted on LIVEMINT website, over Ramachandra Guha’s article: India’s Dangerous Divide, published in Wall Street Journal supplement of MINT, Mumbai:

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I am surprised at Ramachandra Guha, a supposedly renowned historian, for his economizing with the full facts of partition history in his current article. He has completely left out the role of the British and the US, in picking up and imposing the option of dividing the country, not mainly for reasons of Muslim demands, but for their own compulsions imposed by participation in the great game against the rising Soviet power in Russia and to protect the Persian Gulf oil wells, that were to fuel Europe’s post 2nd World War reconstruction. It is a big lie, that Pakistan was created for Muslims. It was created as a military outpost for the retreating British colonialists to protect their own geopolitical assets in this part of the world. Why should US have built up Pak army if Pakistan was only to ‘placate Muslim sentiments’? Why Pakistan’s participation in CENTO and SEATO? Why till today Pak Army remains the most favoured, most pampered, most lavishly funded institution of Pakistan?

Indian writer, Narendra Singh Sarila’s book – The Untold Story of Partition — is the most damning proof of the British and US treachery that has divided the subcontinent for last 60 years.

Guha as a historian should have taken note of this humongous cover-up and given lie to the false premises that India has been divided on the sole onus of Muslim demands.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai


Posted: Sat, Dec 20 2008. 12:14 AM IST

India’s dangerous divide

History and political opportunism have left most Indian Muslims poor and a few angry. In the wake of the Mumbai attacks, tensions have mounted and loyalties are being tested. So, what is the path forward for India and its Muslim minority?

Ramachandra Guha

In October 1947, a bare six weeks after India and Pakistan achieved their independence from British rule, the Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, wrote a remarkable letter to the chief ministers of the different provinces. Here Nehru pointed out that despite the creation of Pakistan as a Muslim homeland, there remained, within India, “a Muslim minority who are so large in numbers that they cannot, even if they want, go anywhere else. That is a basic fact about which there can be no argument. Whatever the provocation from Pakistan and whatever the indignities and horrors inflicted on non-Muslims there, we have got to deal with this minority in a civilized manner. We must give them security and the rights of citizens in a democratic State.”

In the wake of the recent incidents in Mumbai, these words make for salutary reading. It seems quite certain that the terrorists who attacked the financial capital were trained in Pakistan. The outrages have sparked a wave of indignation among the middle class. Demonstrations have been held in the major cities, calling for revenge, in particular for strikes against training camps in Pakistan. The models held up here are Israel and the US; if they can “take out” individual terrorists and invade whole countries, ask some Indians, why can’t we?

Other commentators have called for a more measured response. They note that the civilian government in Islamabad is not in control of the army, the army is not in control of the notorious Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, the ISI is not in control of the extremists it has funded. They point out that Pakistan has itself been a victim of massive terror attacks. India, they say, should make its disapproval manifest in other ways, such as cancelling sporting tours and recalling diplomats. At the same time, the US should be asked to demand of Pakistan, its erratically reliable ally, that it act more decisively against the terrorists who operate from its soil.

[Together in mourning: An Indian Muslim woman at a candlelight vigil in memory of the victims of the Mumbai attacks. Anindito Mukherjee/EPA/WSJ]

One short-term consequence of the terror in Mumbai is a sharpening of hostility between India and Pakistan. And, as is always the case when relations between these two countries deteriorate, right-wing Hindus have begun to scapegoat those Muslims who live in India. They have begun to speculate as to whether the attackers were aided by their Indian co-religionists, and to demand oaths of loyalty from Muslim clerics and political leaders.

Partition and Congress patronage between them dealt a body blow to Muslim liberalism. The first deprived the community of a professional vanguard; the second consolidated the claims to leadership of priests and theologians. In an essay published in the late 1960s, the Marathi writer Hamid Dalwai (a resident of Mumbai) wrote of his community that “the Muslims today are culturally backward”. To be brought “on a level with the Hindus”, argued Dalwai, the Muslims needed an “avant garde liberal elite to lead them”. Otherwise, the consequences were dire for both communities. For “unless a Muslim liberal intellectual class emerges, Indian Muslims will continue to cling to obscurantist medievalism, communalism, and will eventually perish both socially and culturally. A worse possibility is that of Hindu revivalism destroying even Hindu liberalism, for the latter can succeed only with the support of Muslim liberals who would modernize Muslims and try to impress upon these secular democratic ideals”.

The possibility that Dalwai feared has come to pass. From the 1980s, the dominance of the Congress party has been challenged by the Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP seeks to make India a “Hindu” nation by basing the nation’s political culture on the religious traditions (and prejudices) of the dominant community. Charging the Congress with “minority appeasement”, with corruption and with dynastic rule, the BJP came to power in many states, and eventually in New Delhi. However, its commitment to the secular ideals of the Constitution is somewhat uncertain. For the party’s members and fellow travellers, only Indians of the Hindu faith are to be considered full or first-class citizens. Of the others, the Parsis are to be tolerated, the Christians distrusted, and the Muslims detested. One form this detestation takes is verbal―the circulation of innuendoes based on lies and half-truths (as in the claim that Muslims outbreed Hindus and will soon outnumber them). Another form is physical―thus, the hand of the BJP lies behind some of the worst communal riots in independent India―for example, Bhagalpur in 1989, Mumbai in 1992, and Gujarat in 2002; in all cases, an overwhelming majority of the victims were Muslims.

The rise of the BJP owes something to the failures of the Congress, and something also to the example of Pakistan. As that society has come increasingly under the influence of Islamic fundamentalists, there is a more ready audience, within India, for the rants and raves of Hindu extremists. Likewise, the expulsion, by jihadis trained in Pakistan, of some 200,000 Hindus from the valley of Kashmir in a single year―1989-1990―has been used to justify attacks on Muslims in other parts of India. But to explain is not to excuse―for the BJP has stoked feelings and passions that should have no place in a civilized society.

In its activities, the BJP is helped by a series of allied groups. Known also by their abbreviations―RSS, VHP, etc.― these were at the forefront of the religious violence of the 1980s and beyond. Roaming the streets of small- (and big-) town India, they addressed their Muslim prey with the slogan “Pakistan or Kabristan!” (Flee to Pakistan, or we will send you straight to your graves). Meanwhile, their ideologues in the press―some with degrees from the best British universities―make the argument that Muslims are inherently violent, or unpatriotic, or both.

In fact, the ordinary Muslim is much like any other ordinary Indian―honest, hard-working and just about scraping a living. A day after I heard a BJP leader denounce the Congress for making the Muslims into a “pampered and privileged minority”, I found myself making a turn into the busiest road in my home town, Bangalore. Just ahead of me was a Muslim gentleman who was attempting to do likewise. Except that he was making the turn not behind the wheel of a powerful Korean-made car but with a hand-cart on which were piled some bananas.

That the fruit seller was Muslim was made clear by his headgear, a white cap with perforations. He was an elderly man, about 60, short and slightly built. The turn was made hard by his age and infirmity, and harder by the fact that the road sloped steeply downward, and by the further fact that making the turn with him were very many motor vehicles. Had he gone too slow, he would have been bunched in against the cars; had he gone too fast, he might have lost control altogether. Placed right behind the fruit seller, I saw him visibly relax his shoulders as the turn was successfully made, with cart and bananas both intact.

One should not read too much into a single image, but it does seem to be that that perilous turn was symptomatic of an entire life―a life lived at the edge of subsistence, a life taken one day at a time and from one turn to the next. In this respect, the fruit seller was quite representative of Indian Muslims in general. Far from being pampered or privileged, most Muslims are poor farmers, labourers, artisans and traders.

The failure to punish the perpetrators of successive pogroms has thrown some young men into the arms of fundamentalist groups. But the number is not, as yet, very large. And it is counterbalanced by other trends, for instance, the growing hunger for modern education among the youth. The desire to learn English is ubiquitous, as is the fascination for computers. Even in the disgruntled valley of Kashmir, a press survey found that the iconic founder of India’s most respected software company, Infosys Technologies, a Hindu named N.R. Narayana Murthy, was a greater hero among Muslim students than the founder of Al Qaeda.

Since the reasons for the poverty (and the anger) are so complex, a successful compact between Indian Muslims and modernity will require patient and many-sided work. It would help if the Pakistan centre was to reassert itself against the extremism it has itself, in past times, encouraged. It would help some more, if, pace Hamid Dalwai, there was a more forthright assertion of Muslim liberalism within India. But perhaps the greatest burden falls on India’s major political parties. The Congress must actively promote the modernization of Muslim society. And the BJP must recognize, in word and in deed, that the 150 million Muslims in India have to be dealt with in a civilized manner, and given the security and the rights due, them as equal citizens in a democratic and non-denominational state.

Writing in 1957, the historian Wilfred Cantwell Smith pointed out that Indian Muslims were unique in that they shared their citizenship “with an immense number of people. They constitute the only sizable body of Muslims in the world of which this is, or ever has been true.” True no longer, for in many countries of western Europe and even in the US, the Muslims are now a sizeable but not dominant component of the national population. This makes this particular case even more special.

For if, notwithstanding the poisonous residues of history and the competitive chauvinism of politicians, Indians of different faiths were to live in peace, dignity and (even a moderate) prosperity, they might set an example for the world.

Ramachandra Guha is the author of India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy. He lives in Bangalore.

Editotial in The Front Page – By Editor – Seema Mustafa

December 19, 2008

Editor: Seema Mustafa
Friday, December 19, 2008
Consulting Editors :John Dayal & Rahul Bedi


The focus has not moved away from the media, that is being ripped apart at most public meetings on the Mumbai terror attacks. In fact, even those who used this media during the Kargil conflict and subsequently are now standing up at conferences to hit out against the television channels who have violated every possible code of ethics. It was thus not very surprising when even the former National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra spoke of a media being guided entirely by TRP ratings and not national interests. And he recounted the story of how a Mi5 agent had left behind a highly confidential file at a tube station, and this got to a couple of newspapers who refused to print it. What would have happened if our media had got hold of this file? he asked an audience of retired diplomats, academics and others.

But Mishra and others should know that this is the same monster they fed so religiously when they were in power. The sensationalism during the Kargil conflict that was turned into a victorious event with the help of the same media, was not just encouraged but also rewarded with awards and endorsements. So now this monster has turned. And finally the establishment seems to have recognized the dangers of this sensationalism, scant respect for the facts, complete ignorance and incompetence in conflict reporting. This is the price we have to pay for a media where businessmen and women have become editors, and professionalism has been completely sacrificed.

Senior and serious journalists have been pointing towards this problem for years now, but were eclipsed by the glamour of ‘breaking news’ in the sexy television channels. There is a need for a code of ethics, there is need for training workshops that are made mandatory for all those calling themselves journalists these days, and above all there is need for some kind of a regulatory body of eminent persons completely outside government controls, to regulate the newspapers and television channels. The media has to be taken back to its initial role, of a watchdog, of a check on governments, and away from its relatively new avatar of an establishment and corporate stooge.



Who Killed Karkare? Why is Antulay Being Pilloried? – Press Statement by Syed Shahabuddin

December 19, 2008

from syed shahabuddin

date Fri, Dec 19, 2008 at 5:33 PM
subject Press Statement by Syed Shahabuddin


Who Killed Karkare?

Why is Antulay Being Pilloried?

New Delhi, 19 December, 2008: Mr. Syed Shahabuddin, ex.MP has issued the following statement.

What Shri A. R. Antulay said is being deliberately misinterpreted. He is being pilloried and pressured to resign. He did not absolve Pakistan nor deny that the terrorists were of Pakistani origin and that the attack was organized in and launched from Pakistan. What Shri Antulay said does not in any way diminish our case on Pakistani responsibility for the terrorist attack.

No doubt he has brought out the doubts in the public mind about the circumstances of the killing of Hemant Karkare and his colleagues, which have arisen because of inconsistencies in the official and media reports.

Ever since Karkare had successfully unveiled the face of Hindutva Terrorism he was a target of abuse and vilification. Senior political leaders like Advani and Thakre had even called him a traitor. Obviously the Hindutva groups were rattled by the exposure. He was an obvious candidate for elimination.

What Shri Antulay has hinted at, and which I endorse, is that there might have been a parallel conspiracy to silence Karkare and an elimination squad may have been following him. When they got an opportunity in the noise and dust generated by the terrorist attack, they killed him.

In any case the suspicious circumstances must be looked into by high level inquiry and they should not be simply swept under the carpet.

As Indians we owe this to Karkare.

(Syed Shahabuddin)

New Delhi


Who Killed Hemant Karkare? By SAMAR , Commentary, R.H., Posted: Dec 15, 2008 –

December 19, 2008

Who Killed Hemant Karkare?

SAMAR , Commentary, R.H., Posted: Dec 15, 2008

Editor’s Note: For the first time, the Indian state was conducting a thorough professional probe into a terror network involving Hindu extremist organisations. The implications of this investigation bring to question the death of the lead investigator of the Anti-Terrorism Squad, Chief Hemant Karkare, on the day of the Mumbai attacks.

In all the confusion and horror generated by the Bombay attacks, the circumstances surrounding the death of Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) chief Hemant Karkare and two of his colleagues, encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar and Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte deserve greater attention. The operations involved well-organised attacks on high-profile sites in Colaba – the Taj, Oberoi and Trident Hotels and Nariman House – and a parallel set of operations targeting Victoria Terminus station, Cama Hospital and the Metro cinema, near the police headquarters where Karkare worked. The latter is an area where foreigners are much less likely to be found.

Why is a Proper Investigation Crucial?

Prior to his death, Hemant Karkare was unearthing a terror network unlike any that has been seen thus far. The investigation started by tracing the motorcycle used to plant bombs in Malegaon in September 2008 to a Hindu Sadhvi, Pragyasingh Thakur. In a cellphone conversation between Thakur and Ramji, the man who planted the bombs, she asked why more people had not been killed. For the first time, the Indian state was conducting a thorough professional probe into a terror network involving Hindu extremist organisations, this one with huge ramifications, some leading into military and bomb-making training camps and politicised elements in the army, others into organisations and political leaders affiliated to the BJP. One of the most potentially explosive discoveries was that a serving army officer, Lt.Col. Srikant Purohit, had procured 60 kg of RDX from government supplies for use in the terrorist attack on the Samjhauta Express (the India-Pakistan ‘Understanding’ train) in February 2007, in which 68 people were killed, the majority of them Pakistanis. Initially, militants of Lashkar-e-Taiba and other Islamist terror groups had been accused of carrying out the attack, but no evidence against them had been found.

The investigation generated enormous hostility, with allegations (refuted by medical examinations) that the suspects had been tortured and that Karkare was being used as a political tool, and demands that the ATS team should be changed. Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, and BJP Prime Ministerial candidate, L.K.Advani accused him of being a ‘desh drohi’ or traitor, a charge that in India carries a death penalty, and the Shiv Sena offered legal aid to those accused of the terrorist attack, complaining that ‘The government does not save Hindus from terrorists, and if Hindus defend themselves, they are maligned’. In an interview shortly before he died, Karkare admitted he was hurt by the campaign against him. On November 26, just before the terrorist attack, the police in Pune received a call from an anonymous caller saying in Marathi that Karkare would be killed in a bomb blast within two or three days.

Just as attitudes to Karkare in society at large were polarised, with some admiring him as a hero – one Maulana went so far as to call him a ‘massiha (messiah) of Muslims’, an amazing tribute from a Muslim to a Hindu – while others hated him as a traitor worthy of death, attitudes within the police force too were polarised. For example, dismissed encounter specialist Sachin Vaze (who with three colleagues was charged with murder, criminal conspiracy, destruction of evidence and concealment of the dead body in the case of Khwaja Yunus shortly before the terrorist attack) was a member of the Shiv Sena who was actively engaged in the campaign against Karkare and in support of the Malegaon blast accused. Vaze and several other encounter specialists who had been dismissed for corruption, extortion and links with the underworld also had a grudge against Salaskar, whom they suspected of informing on them.

Hard Evidence or Pulp Fiction?

Given this background, and reports that are riddled with inconsistencies, it is not surprising that many residents of Bombay are asking questions about the exact circumstances of the death of Hemant Karkare and his colleagues. The earliest reports, presumably relayed from the police via the media, said that Karkare had been killed at the Taj, and Salaskar and Kamte at Metro. If this was not true, why were we told this? And why was the story later changed? Was it because it conflicted with eye-witness accounts? In the early hours of the 27th, under the heading ‘ATS Chief Hemant Karkare Killed: His Last Pics’, IBNlive showed footage first of Karkare putting on a helmet and bullet-proof vest, then cut to a shootout at Metro, where an unconscious man who looks like Karkare and wearing the same light blue shirt and dark trousers (but without any blood on his shirt or the terrible wounds we saw on his face at his funeral) is being pulled into a car by two youths in saffron shirts. The commentary says that Karkare ‘could well have fallen prey to just indiscriminate, random firing by the cops’, and also reports that there were two vehicles, a Toyota Qualis and Honda City, from which the occupants were firing indiscriminately.

Later we were given two accounts of the killings where the venue is shifted to a deserted lane without cameras or eye-witnesses. The first account is by the lone terrorist captured alive, claiming to be A.A.Kasab from Faridkot in Pakistan and a member of the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba. According to him, just two gunmen, he and Ismail (also from Pakistan), first attacked VT station, where they sprayed bullets indiscriminately. (Around 58 people were killed there, over one-third of them Muslims, and many more might have been killed if the announcer, Mr Zende, had not risked his life to direct passengers to safety.) They then went to Cama, a government hospital for women and children used mainly by the poor. Initially, according to the police, Kasab claimed he and Ismail had killed Karkare, Salaskar and Kamte. Later, in his confession, he claimed that while coming out of the hospital, he and Ismail saw a police vehicle passing and hid behind a bush; then another vehicle passed them and stopped some distance away. A police officer got out and started firing at them, hitting Kasab on the hand so that he dropped his AK47, but Ismail opened fire on the officers in the car until they stopped firing. There were three bodies in the vehicle, which Ismail removed, and then drove off in it with Kasab.

The other account is by police constable Arun Jadhav. According to him, Karkare, Salaskar, Kamte, a driver and four police constables including himself were driving down the alley from VT to the back entrance of Cama (barely a ten-minute drive) in their Toyota Qualis to check on injured police officer Sadanand Date when two gunmen emerged from behind trees by the left side of the road and sprayed the vehicle with bullets, killing all its passengers except Jadhav. They then dragged out the three officers, hijacked the vehicle, drove to Metro junction and then Mantralaya in South Bombay, abandoned it when a tyre burst, and grabbed another car. According to police accounts, they then drove to Girgaum, where Kasab was injured and arrested and his companion killed.

These accounts raise more questions than they answer. Kasab claimed that a band of ten terrorists landed and split up into twos, going to various destinations, he and his companion going to VT. He said they wanted to blow up the Taj, as in the attack on the Marriott in Islamabad; yet we are told that only 8kg of RDX were found at the Taj, and even that was not used; contrast this with 600kg of RDX and TNT used to blow up the Marriott: could they really have expected to blow up the Taj? How did the invaders from the sea get one bomb to go off in Dockyard Road and another in Vile Parle, 25 kilometres away? He said that the terrorists planned to use their hostages as a means of escape, yet there was no attempt at any such negotiations; at other times, he also said they had been instructed to fight to the death. He says he is a labourer from Faridkot near Multan and only studied up to Class IV, but it is reported that he speaks fluent English. Several people have pointed out that the pictures of him in VT show him wearing a saffron wrist-band, a Hindu custom, and police later revealed that he could not recite a single verse from the Koran, which any child growing up in a Muslim family would have been able to do. Indeed, a thoughtful article on the soc.culture.jewish group argued that none of the terrorists were Muslims, given their appearance and behaviour (especially their reported consumption of alcohol and drugs), pointing out that they did not need to disguise themselves, since Muslims who look like Muslims are plentiful in Bombay, and would not attract undue attention.

During his interrogation, Kasab said that he and eight of the operatives had done a reconnaissance trip to Bombay a few months back, pretending to be students and renting a room at Colaba market, which is close to Nariman House. It is extremely hard for Pakistani nationals to get Indian visas, and they are kept under close surveillance by the police; it is also most unlikely that the Indian immigration authorities would be fooled by forged passports of another country. In that case, the Indian immigration authorities would have visa applications of nine of the terrorists including Kasab, and could match the photographs in them to those of the terrorists: has this been done? Later, Kasab changed his mind and said that the team who carried out reconnaisance was different from the team who had carried out the attacks.

The events in VT and Cama and the back lane also put a question mark over his story. According to witnesses, two gunmen started firing at the mainline terminus in VT at 21:55 on Wednesday night, but at precisely the same time, according to CCTV footage, two gunmen began an assault on the suburban terminus. If the first account is true, there were four gunmen at the station: where did the other two come from, and where did they go? We are shown video footage, claiming to be CCTV but without the timeline of normal CCTV footage, of Kasab and Ismail wandering around the parking lot near the mainline terminus. This surely cannot be before the shootout, since the station is completely deserted; and after the shootout, Kasab and Ismail are supposed to have escaped via the footbridge from Platform 1 of the suburban station on the other side of VT: this, again, suggests there were four gunmen. Even if Kasab and Ismail had been shown photographs of Karkare, Salaskar and Kamte before they embarked on their trip, how could they possibly have identified the police officers in a dark alley in the dead of night according to Kasab’s first story? According to later his confession, a police officer got out of the vehicle and started firing first, injuring him; how, then, did Ismail manage to kill the rest by himself?

Witnesses in Cama hospital say the terrorists spoke fluent Marathi, and this report has been confirmed. The gunmen killed two guards in uniform, spared a third, who was in civilian dress and begged for his life saying he was the husband of a patient, demanded water from an employee in the staff quarters and then killed him. They then appear to have made a beeline for the 6th floor (which was empty) and the terrace, taking with them the liftman, Tikhe. 15-30 minutes later, six to eight policemen arrived, and another employee took them up to the 6th floor. The policemen threw a piece of steel up to the terrace, whereupon Tikhe came running down and told them there were two terrorists on the terrace. A fierce gun-battle ensued for 30 to 45 minutes, in which ACP Sadanand Date was injured. Panic-stricken patients and staff in the maternity ward on the 5th floor barricaded the door; nurses instructed the women to breast-feed their babies to keep them quiet, and one woman, who was in the middle of labour, was told to hold back the birth; but they were not invaded. Eventually the gunmen appear to have escaped, it is not clear how. If they were Kasab and Ismail, then these two must have been fluent Marathi speakers. And why would they have taken up positions on the terrace? Was it because they would have a direct view of the lane in which Karkare, Salaskar and Kamte were later supposedly killed?

The other account is equally dubious. In his first account, Jadhav said Karkare was in the second row of the Qualis, while in the second he was supposed to be in the front row with Kamte. In the second account, Salaskar was initially sitting behind the driver, but then asked the driver to slow down and got behind the wheel himself: is it plausible that an experienced encounter specialist would deliberately make himself into a sitting duck like this when they were in hot pursuit of terrorists? In the first account they were supposed to be going to check up on their injured colleague Sadanand Date, but in the second were supposed to be looking for a red car in which they had been told the gunmen were traveling. If the report about the red car was a decoy to lure them into an ambush, it is important to know who told them that the terrorists were in a red car. If the gunmen were firing from the left side, as Jadhav claimed, how was Karkare hit three times in the chest while Jadhav himself got two bullets in his right arm? In fact, the only vegetation in that part of the lane is on the right side and has wire netting around it; it would be necessary to climb over the netting to hide behind it, and climb over again to come out: impossible under the circumstances. Witnesses say only two bodies were found at the spot next morning: what happened to the third officer? Who were the three constables killed?

How did two terrorists manage to kill six police personnel, including Karkare and Kamte who he said were armed with AK47s and Salaskar, an encounter specialist, when one terrorist was later captured and the other killed by policemen armed only with two rifles and lathis? Assistant Police Inspector Ombale was killed in that encounter, but his colleagues survived.

There was also an intriguing report in DNA on 28 November saying that Anand Raorane, a resident of a building opposite Nariman House, heard sounds of celebration from the terrorists there when the news of Karkare getting killed was flashed on TV: isn’t that strange? The same report quoted a resident of Nariman House and a local shopkeeper who said that the terrorists had purchased large quantities of food and liquor before the attack, suggesting that more than two of them were planning to occupy the place for a long time. Another DNA report, on 2 December, said that sub-inspector Durgude, who had been posted in front of St Xavier’s College, between Cama Hospital and the exit point of the back lane onto Mahapalika Road, saw two young men whom he took to be students and called out to warn them that there was firing at Cama. When they ignored him, he approached them, upon which one of them turned an AK47 on him and killed him. If Kasab and Ismail were there, who was firing inside Cama? Eye-witnesses in St Xavier’s saw a man shot and lying on the pavement in front of the college around 12.30 a.m., while about three gunmen stood over him: who was that? Various reports said that two to eight terrorists were captured alive. Now there is only one in police custody: what happened to the other(s)?

A careful scrutiny of all the reports available so far suggests, to this writer anyway, that the killing of Karkare and his colleagues was a premeditated act, executed by a group that had stationed gunmen at various points along the general route between VT and the Metro cinema with a view to maximising their chances of a successful murderous assault.

The Objective: Shutting Down Terrorist Networks

These are just a few of the numerous questions being asked by vigilant Bombayites who find themselves thoroughly dissatisfied with the information that has been doled out. These are citizens who understand the importance of identifying terrorist networks and shutting them down, but doubt that this will be done by the authorities. Why are they so cynical about the possibility of a genuine professional investigation? The answer is that we have too much bitter experience of investigations in which innocent people (usually Muslim youth) are rounded up, tortured and even killed, while the real culprits are allowed to go free. Karkare broke with this dismal record, but now he is dead. When a person who has been vilified, slandered and threatened with death is killed in suspicious circumstances, it is imperative that a proper investigation should be carried out soon, before too much evidence can be manufactured and/or destroyed. If Kasab aka Iman disappears or is assassinated like Lee Harvey Oswald, or is executed, that would be further evidence of a conspiracy.

The government and people of Pakistan have as much interest as the government and people of India in eliminating the terror networks that have killed President Asif Ali Zardari’s wife Benazir Bhutto and thousands of others in both Pakistan and India. The terrorists, on the other hand, be they Islamist or Hindutva, have a common interest in destroying secularism, democracy and peace within and between the two countries. That is their precise agenda. Pakistani politicians have offered a joint investigation into the terrorist attacks, a far more sensible suggestion than the belligerent statements by some Indians accusing Pakistan of harbouring terrorists who are killing Indians. It should be obvious that a military conflict between India and Pakistan would be disastrous for both countries economically, while a nuclear war, which might ensue if extremist forces captured power in both countries, would have unthinkable consequences. If the Indo-Pakistan peace process is halted, as L.K.Advani advocates, the terrorists would have won.

Indeed, without a joint investigation, the terrorist networks behind this outrage can never be uncovered: how else could the names and addresses in Pakistan revealed by Kasab be followed up to the satisfaction of all parties? A team of Pakistani investigators should be invited to come to Bombay and interview Kasab. If he is indeed a Lashkar-e-Taiba militant, he will be able to provide invaluable information, and a team of investigators from India should be invited to Pakistan to pursue the investigation there. If, as some reports have indicated, he is not what he claims to be, that too would become clear. The Indian government owes it to the memory of Karkare, Salaskar and Kamte, who died fighting terrorism of all hues, to establish exactly where, when and how they were killed, identify their killers, and make sure that their work is continued. They also owe it to us, the public, who are the prime targets of all terrorist attacks, to carry out a credible investigation which identifies and puts behind bars all the mass murderers involved in this and other attacks.

The Spirit of Bombay Survives

Despite all the hype, this was not the worst terrorist attack in Bombay; that title goes to the reign of terror which started it all, the anti-Muslim pogrom following the demolition of the Babri masjid in December 1992, in which over 900 people were killed. After each attack, the residents of Bombay have worked hard to restore the inclusiveness and warmth which characterises their city, and this was no exception. On 10 December, exactly two weeks after the attack began, women’s groups perambulated the whole of VT station with a single slogan: jang nahin, aman chahiye (no to war, we want peace). A few people contradicted them, but the majority accepted or even asked for leaflets. On 12 December, over 60,000 people from all walks of life formed a human chain throughout the length and breadth of Bombay, proclaiming unity and peace in opposition to terrorism, war, communalism and violence. In a TV interview, a group of very articulate schoolgirls, carrying placards with slogans like ‘Love Conquers All,’ expressed their determination to stay united and unafraid in the face of all efforts to divide the people of India. The spirit of Bombay lives on, thanks to these people.

R.H. is a writer, researcher and social activist based in Bombay.


December 19, 2008

Indian Express > Front Page >

His words find echo in Muslim fears

Seema Chishti
Posted: Dec 19, 2008 at 0327 hrs IST

New Delhi: • Ex-IFS officer and MP Syed Shahabuddin called Minister for Minority Affairs A R Antulay this morning to congratulate him for “saying the unspeakable.”
• Do you think Antulay was right in his remarks over Karkare’s death? 90% say yes in an online poll by Siasat, the English-language website of India’s second largest Urdu newspaper.

• Mujatba Farooque, political secretary, Jamaat-e-Islami-e-Hind: “Is Karkare Osama that he cannot be praised? He was on the verge of investigating some very powerful people. He got death threats, what’s wrong if one asks for this to be probed?”

As with most other issues, Muslim opinion on Antulay’s remarks isn’t a monolith. Lyricist Javed Akhtar’s Mumbai-based Muslims for Secular Democracy, for example, has urged Antulay to resign immediately calling his remarks “reckless,” giving credence to “ridiculous nonsense.”

But clearly, Antulay’s questioning of Karkare’s death finds an echo in large sections of the Muslim community — from opinion leaders to Urdu press, including Munsif, the largest Urdu newspaper, Siasat, Inquilab and Urdu Times — all raising similar questions.

The reasons aren’t hard to find.

While few in the Muslim community dispute the fact that terrorists from Pakistan carried out the Mumbai attacks, their question mark over Karkare’s death seems to have more to do with what the former ATS chief had come to symbolise for Muslims than the events of the night of November 26.

Central Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah best explains this apparent contradiction. He says that as Karkare died in full public view, it’s wrong to think of his perpetrators being different from those who attacked Mumbai that day.

So why do Antulay’s remarks find a resonance in many Muslims?

“Generally, Muslims have very little faith in police investigations and their claims. So they feel that anybody who stands up for them is susceptible,” says Habibullah.

And then adds: “It’s not as if Karkare’s name had just come up. Even in the aftermath of the 1993 communal riots in Mumbai, his role in trying to restore communal amity was noted by people working there then. His going away appears to snuff out hope that might have been held out for those who saw his investigations into Malegaon and other such cases as fair and off the beaten track.”

This is clearly evident in Shahabuddin’s reaction. “Antulay may not have acted courageously even once in four years,” Shahabuddin told The Indian Express, “but now he has finally found his moment. What’s wrong if a Minister has said something which several people feel may be a possibility? Hemant Karkare ne police ke taur tareeqon ka naqaab ulat diya with his Maelgaon investigation. He was getting threats from the Hindutva brigade till the last day of his life. So should that not be factored into investigations? It is likely that a group of killers was chasing him, and killed him, or ensured that he got shot at the first opportunity. Or should all possibilities that don’t fit in with a predetermined answer be ruled out?”

Karkare’s investigations into Malegaon and other related cases, say Muslim opinion leaders, were seen as a “breath of fresh air” and unusual “even-handedness” by a community which sees the Indian police as still prejudiced and predictable in who it implicates. Karkare’s death, therefore, emerged as a focus to express this.

Shahabuddin, who recently quit the Congress to join the Janata Dal (U), says he is drafting a “brief” letter to the Prime Minister urging him to ensure that the cases Karkare was looking at, get the same attention now that he’s gone.

Says Mujatba Farooque, political secretary of the Jamaat-e-Islami-e-Hind: “Karkare was a great man, what Muslims feel is that if anybody dares to think out of the box and work like a professional investigator, his life is not safe, that’s the message to the police.” Farooque says BJP’s Narendra Modi jumped in with the offer of Rs 1 crore for the police officers when he died but when “Karkare was alive, they were saying all kinds of things about him.”

For Zafar-ul-Islam Khan, of the Majlis-e-Mushawarat, criticism of Antulay is misplaced. “Why does our democracy seem so fragile? If Shabana Azmi (who recently spoke about prejudice while renting homes for Muslims) or now Antulay give voice to something which sizeable sections experience in their daily lives, what’s wrong? If we are criminals and violent, punish us but why are these boundaries drawn of what is the acceptable view and what cannot be said? What’s wrong if we wonder about the circumstances around how Karkare, the man who dared touch the hot potato, suddenly loses his life?”

Mumbai Carnage: The Police Story stands shattered – By Amaresh Misra

December 18, 2008

Mumbai Carnage: The Police Story stands shattered

By Amaresh Misra

Today, 18th December 2008, is a historic day. It marks the beginning of a process wherein my `theory’ about the Mumbai attack might just turn out to be true. But there is no joy. There is just an emptiness, a sadness at Karkare’s death and the killing of hundreds of innocents by the Hindutva-Mossad-CIA combine using factions in the ISI and International/Israeli mercenaries.
The Minorities Affairs Minister AR Antulay was once a firebrand leader. But he has been quiet for long–too long; today he spoke and questioned directly Karkare’s killing in the Parliament. Antulay is a cabinet Minister; he is not known to speak out of line. Despite Abhishek Singhvi’s remark distancing the Congress from what Antulay said, the latter, it seems, definitely has the sanction of the Congress High Command at some level. Anyone supposing something else is deluding himself/herself.
Here is the text of the Times of India report:

Maintaining that “there is more than what meets the eyes”, Antulay said Karkare was investigating some cases in which “there are non-Muslims also”, an apparent reference to the Malegaon blasts case in which sadhvi Pragya Thakur and a Lt-Colonel Shrikant Prasad Purohit were among the 11 persons to be arrested.
“Unfortunately his end came. It may be a separate inquiry how his (Karkare’s) end came,” he told reporters outside Parliament.
Antulay said “Karkare found that there are non-Muslims involved in the acts of terrorism during his investigations in some cases. Any person going to the roots of terror has always been the target, he said.
“Superficially speaking they (terrorists) had no reason to kill Karkare. Whether he (Karkare) was victim of terrorism or terrorism plus something. I do not know,” he added.
When he came under attack in Lok Sabha on the issue, Antulay sought to wriggle out saying he had not talked about who killed Karkare but about “who sent him in the direction” of Cama hospital, outside which he was killed.
“Who had sent them to Cama hospital (a lane opposite which he and two other officers were killed by Pakistani terrorists on Nov 26). What were they told that made them leave for the same spot in the same vehicle.
“I repeat what I had said. I had not said who had killed them but only questioned who had sent them there (Cama Hospital) in that direction,” he said in Lok Sabha where BJP and Shiv Sena members attacked him for his remarks.
Anant Geete of Shiv Sena accused him of “misleading” the house and sought Chidambaram’s clarification.
Earlier in the day, describing Hemant Karkare as a very bold officer having great acumen and vision, Antulay asked “How come instead of going to Hotel Taj or Oberai or even the Nariman House, he went to such a place where there was nothing compared to what happened in the three places?”
“Why all the three (Hemant Karakre, Vijay Salaskar and Ashok Kamte) went together. It is beyond my comprehension,” the minister said.
The minister’s remarks came under immediate attack from BJP which asked the prime minister to clarify whether his remarks are an “individual misdemeanour or the collective wisdom of the Cabinet”.
“The remarks are obnoxious and deserves a clarification from the prime minister,” BJP spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy told reporters.
Reacting to Antulay’s remarks, Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi they should be treated his “personal views” and Congress party does not agree with them and does not support such a formulation.
To a question, he said there was no question of embarrassment to the party.
Samajwadi Party MP Amar Singh, who himself was in the centre of a controversy when he had raised doubts over the killing of a Delhi police official in an encounter recently, said a senior leader like Antulay should before issuing any statement uphold the cherished tradition of collective wisdom of the cabinet.
Not completely disapproving the remarks, Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan said Antulay must be having “more information” since he hails from Maharashtra.
The issue came up when the house was discussing two bills brought in by the government to tackle terror against the backdrop of Mumbai terror attacks.
Geete said the prime minister and several senior union ministers have gone on record to say that Karkare was killed by terrorists.
Not satisfied with Antulay’s reply, Geete charged the union minister with “misleading” the house, which he “did not “expect”.

The basic evil/criminal intent of BJP-Shiv Sena politics along with their pathetic `soft’ and `hard’ supporters, stands exposed; the questions here are vital: a cabinet minister, not an Independent analyst, has questioned the Police theory about Karkare’s death. Note what Antulay is saying: WHO sent them there (Cama Hospital); how come they were traveling together?
This is exactly what we have been asking—Antulay’s statement means that that he is hinting at the role of some top functionary WHO SEND THEM THERE–(TO THEIR DEATHS)! Now put this in context with proceedings that have begun against AN Roy, the Mumbai DGP, Hasan Ghaffoor, the Mumbai Police Commissioner and the Maharashtra Home Secretary.
What do you get? That the entire Police story put forward by the likes of Rakesh Maria is suddenly under suspicion–so much for those savvy journalists like Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt. Rajdeep in fact quoted Maria as his source and a reliable, honest officer–if he had to sell himself I am sure he could have found a better buyer. He should have learnt from Javed and Teesta.
This means that the entire police version might be wrong! Which means that there is a question mark over Kasab and Ismail killing Karkare, Salaskar and Kaamte. Which means that Kasab and Ismail might not have killed the three; which then raises the question: who killed them? Was it the Mumbai Police top brass? Or the Gujarat ATS under Narendra Modi? Or a combination of the two–again–WHO SENT THEM THERE?
This means that there is sufficient doubt over Kasab’s version! Which means that Kasab’s entire story of how he killed the three officers, plus the entire thing that he is a Jehadi etc, is a plant, something which our Police excels in! Which means that the so-called CCTV grabs etc showing the footage of Kasab and Ismail were all fake! Aziz Burney of the Rashtriya Sahara Urdu and the Marathi Press has said this in so many words!
The Mumbai and the Indian Police has been known for keeping informers, ex-militants and Pakistani spies in illegal confinement or on their payroll. And then planting them in situations where either Police or the corporate-politician-bureaucrat nexus or foreign powers or Hindutva forces have carried out attacks and bomb blasts. This happened on numerous occasions say, in 2006 when the RSS Headquarters in Nagpur were attacked allegedly by `terrorists’, who then died in an encounter with the Nagpur Police. It later turned out, and this was proved by Jusice Kondse Patil’s report on this issue and by Suresh Khairnar, a veteran socialist and human rights activist, that these `terrorists’ were in fact people who had been killed by a non-Maharashtrian Special Crime Branch Police in a fake encounter and then brought and placed before the RSS Headquarters. The Nagpur chief of Police in fact went on record to say that his Police actually did not engage in any encounter!
Now comes a report that Kasab was actually kidnapped by RAW officials in Nepal in 2006. In fact a PIL has been filed in a Pakistani court and the Times of India carried a report on this in its 17th December Mumbai edition.
In my last piece I had mentioned the Red Fort case. Indians, including some leaders of so-called secular parties are so ill informed that they do not even remember there was a Red Fort attack! They only know of the Parliamentary attack, which was again a fake drama staged by the Delhi Police–the best part is that our wily parliamentarians know this! That is why they did not turn up to commemorate the `martyrdom’ of Police personal who died defending the Parliament!

Kasab is a fake; the real terrorists who came to Mumbai wreaked their mayhem and went back safely–some of them, as testified by eye-witness near Nariman House were definitely Israeli. The main aim of the entire operaiton was to eliminate Karkare and to create something so big that the Malegaon blast investigation pales in comparison.
But Karkare killers and Hindutva forces had the backing it seems of Manmohan Singh. Why else would Advani meet Singh before 26th November on the issue of `torture’ of Praggya Singh? Has anyone heard of a leader of the opposition meeting the Prime Minister on such an issue?
Apparently a deal was struck between them; and remember Advani could not have met Singh like this, without American mediation.
Was Sonia in the knowhow? Probably not–the Sonia angle is very important–there are reports that probably she was unaware of what happened on 26th November and that depite throwing in her lot with the Manmohan Singh lobby on other issues, she saw that their plan included upstaging her!
Karkare’s killing is the result of the larger fight between Hindutva-pro-Israeli, pro-American lobby which is now deeply entrenched in India and whatever is left of Congress’ old legacy in the establishment. Both these factions often unite, as they did against the Left on the nuclear deal issue. But the `old legacy’ faction does not realize that pro-US, pro-Israel lobby is planning to overthrow it–and maybe sink Sonia and Rahul as well!



Muslims — India’s new ‘untouchables’

December 17, 2008

Asra Nomani is a taboo name for mainstream Muslims, all around the world. However, in this reportage she has moved away from strictly religious issues to the topical subject of the socio-economic condition of Indian Muslims. Her assessment of the institutionalized discrimination of Muslims in India and their vulnerability to radicalization, is a fair early warning, that should be headed to, both by the movers and shakers in India and the international community, that is quick in demonisation of Muslims, of whatever nationality or background, without bothering to go for prevention first and rather preferring to go for surgical strikes later.

The following account published in Los Angeles Times, where the neo-con American Jewish Zionist writer William Kristol, the founder-conspirator of the infamous document – The New American Century — had started a controversy over another article empathizing with Indian Muslims— written by another American Jewish writer, Martha Nussbaum. Asra’s intervention on the subject, therefore, should be treated as a first hand account of what Indian Muslims are going through in their social, economic, political marginalization as a distinct religious group in secular democratic India..

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai,0,4752.story

Muslims — India’s new ‘untouchables’

The condition of the country’s Muslims has deteriorated, and the world has overlooked the nation’s problems.

By Asra Q. Nomani

Published in The Los Angeles Times on Dec. 1, 2008

The news of the attacks in Mumbai eerily took me back to a quiet morning two years ago when I sat in Room 721 of the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel, reading the morning newspaper, fearing just the kind of violence that has now exploded in the city of my birth. The headlines recounted how the socioeconomic condition of the people of my ancestry, Muslims in India, had fallen below that of the Hindu caste traditionally called “untouchables,” according to a government report.

“Muslims are India’s new untouchables,” I said sadly to my mother, in the room with me. “India is going to explode if it doesn’t take care of them.” Now, indeed, alas it has. And shattered in the process is the myth of India’s thriving secular democracy.

Mumbai police said over the weekend that the only gunman they’d captured during the attacks — which left nearly 200 dead and more than 300 wounded — claimed to belong to a Pakistani militant group. But even if the trouble was imported, the violence will most certainly turn a spotlight of suspicion on Muslims in India. Already, my relatives are hunkered down for a sectarian backlash they expect from anti-terrorism agencies, police and angry Hindu fundamentalists.

India, long championed as a model of pluralism, used to be an example of how Muslims can coexist and thrive even as a minority population. My extended family prospered as part of an educated, middle class. My parents, who settled in the United States in the 1960s when my father pursued a doctorate at Rutgers University, were part of India’s successful diaspora. I love India, and on that trip, I wanted to show it off to my son, Shibli, then age 4.

But on that visit, across India from Mumbai to the southern state of Tamil Nadu and north to Lucknow, the hub of Muslim culture, I was deeply saddened. Talking to vegetable vendors, artisans and businessmen, I heard about how the condition of Muslims had deteriorated. They had become largely disenfranchised, poor, jobless and uneducated. Their tales echoed those I’d heard on previous trips, when my extended family recounted their humiliating experiences with bureaucratic, housing, job and educational discrimination.

Indeed, the government report I read about in the newspapers two years ago acknowledged that Muslims in India had become “backward.” “Fearing for their security,” the report said, “Muslims are increasingly resorting to living in ghettos around the country.” Branding of Muslims as anti-national, terrorists and agents of Pakistan “has a depressing effect on their psyche,” the report said, noting Muslims live in “a sense of despair and suspicion.”

According to the report, produced by a committee led by a former Indian chief justice, Rajender Sachar, Muslims were now worse off than the Dalit caste, or those called untouchables. Some 52% of Muslim men were unemployed, compared with 47% of Dalit men. Among Muslim women, 91% were unemployed, compared with 77% of Dalit women. Almost half of Muslims over the age of 46 couldn’t read or write. While making up 11% of the population, Muslims accounted for 40% of India’s prison population. Meanwhile, they held less than 5% of government jobs.

The Sachar committee report recommended creating a commission to remedy the systemic discrimination and promote affirmative-action programs. So far, very few of the recommendations have been put in place.

Since reading the report, I have feared that Islamic militancy would be born out of such despair. Even if last week’s terrorist plot was hatched outside India, a cycle of sectarian violence could break out in the country and push some disenfranchised Muslim youth to join militant groups using hot-button issues like Israel and Kashmir as inspiration.

What has irked me these last years is how the world has glossed over India’s problems. In 2006, for instance, former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen, whose Cohen Group invests heavily in India, said the U.S. and India were “perfect partners” because of their “multiethnic and secular democracies.” When I asked to interview Cohen about the socioeconomic condition of Muslims, his public relations staffer said that conversation was too “in the weeds.” But, to me, the condition of Muslims needs frank and open discussion if there is to be any hope of stemming Islamic radicalism and realizing true secular democracy in the country.

India’s 150 million Muslims represent the second-largest Muslim population in the world, smaller only than Indonesia’s 190 million Muslims. That is just bigger than Pakistan’s 140 million Muslims or the entire population of Arab Muslims, which numbers about 140 million. U.S. intelligence reports continually warn that economic, social and political discontent are catalysts for radicalism, so we would be naive to continue to ignore this potential threat to the national security of not just India but the United States.

Throughout my 2006 journey, I found the idea of India’s potential for danger unavoidable. On one leg, my son tucked safely in bed with my mother in our Taj hotel room, I went out to watch the filming of “A Mighty Heart,” the movie about the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl by Muslim militants in Pakistan. When the location scouts needed to replicate the treacherous streets of Karachi’s militant Islamist culture, they didn’t have to go far. They found the perfect spot in a poor Muslim neighborhood of Mumbai.



A cloud over India’s Muslims

The terrorist attacks in Mumbai may be indelibly linked to the country’s Muslims, despite the likelihood of outside influence.

By Martha Nussbaum
November 30, 2008

If, as now seems likely, last week’s terrible events in Mumbai were the work of Islamic terrorists, that’s more bad news for India’s minority Muslim population. Never mind that the perpetrators were probably funded from outside India, in connection with the ongoing conflict over Kashmir. The attacks will feed a powerful stereotype of the violent and untrustworthy Muslim, bent on religious conquest, who can never be a good democratic citizen. Such stereotypes already shadow the lives of Indian Muslims, who make up 13.5% of the population.

But it’s important to consider Indian terrorism in a broader context.

Terrorism in India is by no means peculiar to Muslims. A string of recent incidents has been linked to Islamic groups, most of these with foreign ties and pertaining to Kashmir. However, the most bloody recent example of terrorism in India was the slaughter of as many as 2,000 Muslim civilians by Hindu right-wing mobs in the state of Gujarat over several months in 2002.

This horrendous pogrom was portrayed at the time as retaliation for an alleged Muslim torching of a train car carrying mostly Hindu passengers. Two independent inquiries have since concluded that the fire was, instead, a tragic accident caused by passengers’ kerosene stoves.

But even if that was not known at the time, most of those killed — or raped or beaten — lived long distances from the original incident and could have had no connection to it. Moreover, there was copious evidence of pre-planning: Hindu right-wing groups had kept lists of Muslim dwellings and businesses.

Evidence that Gujarat’s state government egged-on the perpetrators was also overwhelming and led to the U.S. State Department in 2005 denying a visa to Narendra Modi, Gujarat’s chief minister. Recently, the Indian investigative journal Tehelka uncovered even more proof of government complicity in the murderous, anti-Muslim attacks. A Tehelka reporter using a hidden camera interviewed participants in the Gujarat violence, who described how bombs were manufactured in factories owned by members of the Hindu right; how arms were smuggled from other states; how the police were instructed to look the other way.

One leader of the Bajrang Dal (a paramilitary Hindu right-wing group) described his own role with pride: “There was this pregnant woman, I slit her open. …They shouldn’t even be allowed to breed. I say that even today. Whoever they are, women, children, whoever, nothing to be done with them but cut them down. Thrash them, slash them, burn the bastards. … The idea is, don’t keep them alive at all; after that, everything is ours.”

The revelation that members of the Hindu right have embraced ethno-religious cleansing should amaze nobody. Since the 1930s, their movement has insisted that India is for Hindus, and that both Muslims and Christians are foreigners who should have second-class status in the nation.

This year, in the eastern state of Orissa, members of the Bajrang Dal have murdered scores of Christians who refused to reconvert to Hinduism. (Most Indian Christians are descendants of converts, often from the lowest Hindu castes.) Peaceful villages have been reduced to ashes; a church-run orphanage was torched; dozens of churches have been destroyed; missionaries and priests have been murdered in cold blood. Thousands have been forced to flee their homes, and at least 30,000 are homeless. The rallying cry: “Kill Christians and destroy their institutions.”

In August, the Catholic bishops of India closed Catholic schools across the country “as a protest against the atrocities on the Christian community and other innocent people.” Such actions, aimed at transforming India’s pluralistic democracy into an ethnocentric regime, pose a grave threat to India’s future.

All of this is terrorism, but most of it doesn’t reach the world’s front pages. When it does make it into newspapers outside India, the word “terrorism” is rarely used. The result is a perception, in India and abroad, that Muslims are the bad guys in every incident of terrorist violence.

Such stereotypes are so prevalent that many state bar associations in India refuse to defend Muslims accused of complicity in terrorism — despite the fact that India’s constitution guarantees all accused a cost-free defense.

Meanwhile, Muslim youths are often rounded up on suspicion of terrorism with little or no evidence, an analogue to the current ugly phenomenon of racial profiling in the United States.

Some Muslims are criminals. However, this does not justify demonizing Muslims, any more than the violent acts of the Hindu right justify stereotyping all Hindus as rapists and murderers. Let’s go after criminals with determination, good evidence and fair trials, and let’s stop targeting people based on their religious affiliation.

Martha Nussbaum is a professor of law and ethics at the University of Chicago. Her books include “The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India’s Future” (2007) and “Liberty of Conscience: In Defense of America’s Tradition of Religious Equality” (2008).



Jihad’s True Face

Published: December 1, 2008

Much of the reporting from Mumbai the last few days has been informative, gripping and often moving. Some of the commentary, on the other hand, has been not just uninformative but counter-informative — if that’s a term, and if it’s not, I say it should be.

Consider first an op-ed article in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times by Martha Nussbaum, a well-known professor of law and ethics at the University of Chicago. The article was headlined “Terrorism in India has many faces.” But one face that Nussbaum fails to mention specifically is that of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Islamic terror group originating in Pakistan that seems to have been centrally involved in the attack on Mumbai.

This is because Nussbaum’s main concern is not explaining or curbing Islamic terror. Rather, she writes that “if, as now seems likely, last week’s terrible events in Mumbai were the work of Islamic terrorists, that’s more bad news for India’s minority Muslim population.” She deplores past acts of Hindu terror against India’s Muslims. She worries about Muslim youths being rounded up on suspicion of terrorism with little or no evidence. And she notes that this is “an analogue to the current ugly phenomenon of racial profiling in the United States.”

So jihadists kill innocents in Mumbai — and Nussbaum ends up decrying racial profiling here. Is it just that liberal academics are required to include some alleged ugly American phenomenon in everything they write?

Jim Leach is also a professor, at Princeton, but he’s better known as a former moderate Republican congressman from Iowa who supported Barack Obama this year. His contribution over the weekend was to point out on that “the Mumbai catastrophe underscores the importance of vocabulary.” This wouldn’t have been my first thought. But Leach believes it’s very important that we consider the Mumbai attack not as an act of “war” but as an act of “barbarism.”

Why? “The former implies a cause: a national or tribal or ethnic rationale that infuses a sacrificial action with some group’s view of heroism; the latter is an assault on civilized values, everyone’s. … To the degree barbarism is a part of the human condition, Mumbai must be understood not just as an act related to a particular group but as an outbreak of pent-up irrationality that can occur anywhere, anytime. … It may be true that the perpetrators viewed themselves as somehow justified in attacking Indians and visiting foreigners, particularly perhaps Americans, British and Israeli nationals. But a response that is the least nationalistic is likely to be the most effective.”

If, as Leach says, “it may be true” the perpetrators viewed themselves as justified in their attacks, doesn’t this mean that they did in fact have a “rationale” that “infused” their action?

But Leach doesn’t want to discuss that rationale — even though it’s not hard to find. Ten minutes of Googling will bring you to a fine article, “The Ideologies of South Asian Jihadi Groups,” from the April 2005 issue of Current Trends in Islamist Ideology. It’s by the respected journalist and diplomat Husain Haqqani, who, as it happens, is now Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States.

Lashkar-e-Taiba, Haqqani explains, is a jihadi group of Wahhabi persuasion, “backed by Saudi money and protected by Pakistani intelligence services.” He notes that “Lashkar-e-Taiba has adopted a maximalist agenda for global jihad.” Indeed, the political arm of the group has conveniently published a pamphlet, “Why Are We Waging Jihad?,” that lays out all kinds of reasons why the United States, Israel and India are “existential enemies of Islam.”

So much for Leach’s notion that the Mumbai terrorists had no “cause” or “rationale.” But Leach’s refusal to see this is in the service of persuading India not to respond in a “nationalistic” way — and of persuading the United States not to see itself primarily as standing with India against our common enemies.

But if terror groups are to be defeated, it is national governments that will have to do so. In nations like India (and the United States), governments will have to call on the patriotism of citizens to fight the terrorists. In a nation like Pakistan, the government will have to be persuaded to deal with those in their midst who are complicit. This can happen if those nations’ citizens decide they don’t want their own country to be dishonored by allegiances with terror groups. Otherwise, other nations may have to act.

Patriotism is an indispensable weapon in the defense of civilization against barbarism. That was brought home over the weekend in an article in The Times of India on Sandeep Unnikrishnan, a major in India’s National Security Guards who died fighting the terrorists at the Taj hotel. The reporter spoke with the young man’s parents as they mourned their son: “His father, dignified in the face of such a personal tragedy, was stoic, saying he was proud of his son who sacrificed his life for the country: ‘He died for the nation.’ ”

Mumbai Media, the Indian Elite and the Naxalite – By A. Cruz

December 16, 2008

Mumbai Media, the Indian Elite and the Naxalite

By A Cruz

The attacks in Mumbai at the end of November have led to every kind of analysis, especially geopolitical. One must remember that the strategic alliance between India and Israel has much to do with the recent surge in Islamist movements in India. Without doubt the interests of the United States, Britain and Israel are in play, for example, in the attempt to “balkanize” the region, particularly Pakistan.

This country is the key to the region, since it has frontiers with Iran, Afghanistan, India and China as well as being located close to the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, rich in energy, especially in gas. Afghanistan, like Iraq and, despite the war and the Taliban surge, is sufficiently de-structured as to present no problem as regards energy matters. Only Iran and Pakistan remain. They are the long term targets of the imperialist-zionist axis. Of those two countries Pakistan is the weakest

However, few analyses, perhaps none, have dealt with the internal front in India. And here, too, one has to pay special attention. The Mumbai attacks have been a blow to the symbols of the Indian economic élite. For the first time this privileged sector has been put in fear directly. In a country where 80% of people live on less than US$2 a day it is not surprising that when the essence of the Indian oligarchy has been touched, all hell has broken loose.

Political violence in India

Much the contrary has happened on other occasions. In the same city of Mumbai in 1993, two massive indiscriminate attacks killed 257 people in poor districts of the city. In 2006 a series of coordinated attacks against the rail network caused 186 deaths in the same city. Neither the Press nor the political elite showed any concern at all. In the end, these deaths were of the others, the ones who always die, the poor. If they are not killed in attacks like those, they will die in the end from hunger, so it makes little difference, they thought.

Very few voices have managed to break the class barrier set up around the Mumbai attacks. One of them, Farzana Versey, writer, artist, freelance alternative journalist, resident in Mumbai (1) puts her finger on the issue when she refuses to join her colleagues in condemning the attacks. That has cost her space in the media she writes for, who no longer publish her analysis and articles.

Farzana Versey does not highlight the luxury hotels or the chic cafés that were attacked, but the train station, or the hospital or the police confronting the attackers with what people describe as virtually stone age weapons. And that displeases the political and economic elite: they have been attacked so please show solidarity with them and only them. The other victims are unimportant. ¿Why concern oneself with people who are disposable?

Agence France Presse notes a similar feeling in one of its reports when it states, “the millions of privileged people in this country of 1.1bn people feel that those tragedies (attacks with more victims than the latest ones in Mumbai) barely concern them because they affect mainly the poorer classes”.

Before the attacks in Mumbai, other Indian cities – Varanasi, Jaipur, Bangalore, New Delhi, Surat and Ahmadabad) had suffered massive indiscriminate attacks in September without the current media lamentations. For those attacks, a brief lone mention on the inside pages and nothing on the television. Islamists were responsible for those attacks too, but the victims were not representatives of the economic elite.

Nobody is talking, or spoke then, about why the Islamists had begun, since at least 2003, a series of indiscriminate attacks throughout the country. Nobody has remembered, as Farzana Versey has made very clear, that in 1992 the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh caused a revolt costing 900 lives, that the senior police officers responsible were promoted and not a single police official was fired; nor that, in Gujarat in 2002, the massacre took place of more than 2000 Muslims.

In India there are 160 million Muslims who are the pariahs of the pariahs, in other words regarded as much lower than the Untouchables, the Dalits in the caste system. No government has done much to change things, as Kavita Srivastava, president of the Public Union for Civil Liberties has denounced. The same happens with the Christians, the adivasi (indigenous people) or the Dalits.

All because unspoken hindu fundamentalism is spreading through society, resulting lately in the detention of soldiers, one of them a lieutenant colonel, in a Hinduist cell that had carried out an attack in the city of Malegaon, one attributed to Islamists. Here we are dealing only with the religious aspects, not the routine police repression against popular movements, like the repression in May this year in Rajasthan. It caused 16 deaths, still un-investigated. That is to mention just one attack with a high number of victims. But there have been more, many more, without the Indian State, let alone the Indian oligarchy, having rent its garments in lamentation.

India’s “enviable development”

India as the biggest democracy in the world. India the country with the most enviable development on the planet. Democratic India, counterweight in this part of Asia to authoritarian China. India all aboard the train of western modernity. India and Bollywood. These are the clichés and stereotypes of the well off kids of the comfortable middle class in Delhi, Mumbai or any other of their satellite cities.

They eat their hamburgers or pizzas as they might in any Western eatery, because they refuse to eat local food or to drink the traditional tea with cream because they prefer to drink cola. They buy their clothes in Versace or Mango, their watches in Cartier. Speaking in English, flashing the latest mobiles, they drive out in luxury cars or on high powered motor bikes. Not for them the train or the impossible public mass transport. Condescendingly, they toss a coin to whoever does them a quick turn on the sidewalk, a dance or some other performance so as to be able to eat that day.

They are the privileged ones, these fewer than 250 million out of a total population of 1,097 million who, ever since 1990-1991, have made of India their personal playground. They took advantage of the fall of the Soviet Union to throw overboard the socialising, if not Socialist, country developed by Nehru so as to embrace economic liberalism with all the faith of the converted. The current Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, was Minister of Finance then.

By promoting neoliberalism the State abandoned in practice any pretence of social equality in the sense Nehru had always worked for. Their political economy, so highly praised, has dissolved the local network of interdependence, weakened family and community links and placed consumerism at life’s centre for anyone who wants social recognition. Spanish business people say as much themselves when they assert, in an extensive report praising investment opportunities in India, that “the increase in central government investment in the rural economy means that the purchasing power of this large segment of the population will increase and this is good news for mobile phone makers, local and foreign mortgage providers for house purchases and too for manufacturers of durable goods like electro-domestic appliances and other electronic goods.”

The Spanish business report also regards as “signs of progress” the elimination of “obsolete labour laws in India that in the previous decade deterred foreign investment”. They praise the 339 Special Economic Zones the central government wants to set up around the country. Right now there are 40 SEZs in operation. Thanks to exemptions, companies pay no tax, enjoy fiscal and economic advantages to increase productivity and are able to elude the country’s normal labour, trades union and environmental laws, so as to attract local and foreign investors.

So India’s “enviable development” is seated on another much less well known reality. Let us put it in the words of Arjun Sengupta, President of the National Commission for Businesses in the Non-Organized Sector: “77% of India’s population of 853 million is poor and vulnerable with a consumption capacity less than 20 rupees a day” (about US$0.52 cents). Sengupta classifies the population in six groups: the extremely poor, the poor, the marginally poor, the precarious or vulnerable, people with middle incomes and people with high incomes. He says that the percentage of the extremely poor has declined from 30.7% in 1994 to 21.8% now, but only so as to swell the ranks of the marginally poor and the precarious groups whose index of consumption sits on or around those 20 rupees a day. These are the dispensable people, the victims of the periodic mass attacks that India has suffered over the last five years or so.

The gap between the enormous number of those 853 million impoverished people and the remaining 244 million is total and absolute. They do not mix. And it is the privileged groups who control the country. They can be divided into a more or less comfortable middle class (about 200 million) and the rich (about 44 million). They control the parliament. They control the communications media.

We can put a recent example. Recently, in mid-November, before the Mumbai attacks, various states held elections. In one of them, Chhattisgarh, a bastion of the naxalite guerrillas, of the 687 official candidates, 42 were millionaires (in India a millionaire is considered to be someone worth at least 10 million rupees). Of those 42, 19 belonged to the Congress Party lists (the local state government party self-described as centrist to which Nehru belonged), 7 belonged to the Bharatiya Janata Party (the right-wing Hindu People’s Party) and 5 to the Bahujan Samaj (a middle class party). In addition there were 53 other candidates involved in corruption trials. As in other places, India’s history is a history of class.

And it is the economically most powerful class, the oligarchy and the landlords which, prior to the Mumbai attacks that affected them directly, felt most threatened by the naxalite expansion and pressed the central government for the army to join the fight against the Maoists. The Indian army has a long tradition of being a lay and apolitical force. In contrast to the police, which in inter-communal conflicts usually supports the Hindu nationalists (Hindutva, Hindu supremacy) The army has always acted as a neutral force. But for the economic elite, faced with the growth of the naxalites, that had to change. Their long term interests were at risk.

The Naxalites

The Indian Maoists fill their ranks with fighters from every ethnic, caste and religious group. For example in Orissa, the majority of the naxalites come from Christian communities, while in other states they are Dalit or even Muslim. The use of the army against the Maoists is a problem for the Indian government but not for the oligarchy.

On November 23rd, three days before the Mumbai attacks, Prime Minister Singh spoke to a select audience of high-ranking officials from the police and other security organizations in which once more he considered the naxalites as India’s main internal problem. He recognized that “despite the efforts that have been made and continue to be made, the measures adopted up until now have not given the desired results.”

He was referring to a government plan to contain the guerrillas advance, starting a development programme in the most impoverished parts of India, modernizing the police, creating road infrastructure as much for rapid transit of police forces as for the population and the creation of six war colleges to train anti-guerrilla units so as to be able to attack and destroy the naxalite camps in the forests.

At the same time he asked for more forthrightness from the communications media against the Maoists. Interior Minister Shivraj Patil, also insisted on the issue. For him, “an adequate policy from the communications media would help the police win citizens’ confidence” in the struggle against the Maoists.

Two reasons explain the failure of the central government’s measures. Firstly, the naxalite expansion looks unstoppable, acting in 14 (or 15 according to the Asian Human Rights Centre) of India’s 28 states (Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Uttaranchal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Maharashtra & Bihar).

That means that out of a total of the country’s 602 administrative districts the Maoists are in control in 182. Furthermore, the naxalites are beginning to reach into the cities, especially into the industrial working class areas of Delhi, Mumbai, Raipur, Pune and Jammu, alternating propaganda actions with military actions. Even the Indian government considered a year ago that between 30% and 35% of India’s territory is controlled by the naxalites. That percentage is greater now and which explains the frantic concern of the Prime Minister and the Indian oligarchy.

The second reason is that the Maoists have managed to create their own system of public distribution across wide rural areas in at least four of the states in which they operate, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and West Bengal. This in effect means a government of popular power. Landlords in those states are shocked at the very real possibility that rural workers and their families will seek Maoist protection in land disputes, as has already occurred in Uttar Pradesh.

And recent weeks have seen a substantial increase in Maoist attacks against police units (the latest on December 6th in Jharkhand with 5 dead) or ordering armed strike action ( as in the districts of Gajapati, Kandhamal n Rayagada, in the state of Orissa) in protest at police repression against rural workers and their families. Those strike actions have had mass support. And too, in the local elections held over the last few weeks, in areas where the naxalites operate the boycott has been huge, especially in Chhattisgarh. There, despite the usual percentage of people voting being about 53% (and here the Salwa Judum militia have played a leading role, threatening people who do not vote), in certain districts, the vote barely reached 21%, as happened in Bijapur, to mention just one case of that boycott.

The economic elite, the Indian oligarchy, is more and more worried by the naxalite surge. The Indian Maoists wage a prolonged people’s war while the Mumbai attacks happened without warning. But for the Indian economic elite and oligarchy there is a clear order of priorities, “despite the Mumbai terrorist attacks, the nation has another threat, more serious, more sinister represented by the extreme left wing naxalites…The Maoists are not an enemy to be taken lightly. Unless they are eliminated they could cause great damage.”