Betrayed & savaged
Indian citizens are condemned to be the permanent victims of jihad and a political class which has no sense of the nation
Forget that platitudinous naiveté: terrorism has no religion. And remember that simple truth: when you are within the firing range of the killer, religion offers little protection. Of the 59 dead in Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji station, 19 were Muslims. In death at least, there was no communal divide.
The killers were firing straight into the already scarred soul of India. They—10 jihadis from across the border and armed with AK-56s, bombs, RDX and 2,000 rounds of ammunition— came crossing the sea with one deadly agenda: a spectacular, prolonged assault on India, a rising power but known for its weakened resistance to forces that challenge its very existence. Mumbai, the emblematic city of India’s soaring ambition, was an obvious target. When the nation, scalded and poorer, regained consciousness after 60 hours of unsolicited hell, we expected a morethan-obvious rejoinder from those who are in charge of our national security. We were hit by a barrage of bunkum.
A nation abandoned by its ruling political class has become the most favoured target for the enemies of civilisationThis one from P. Chidambaram, the newly anointed home minister and the Government’s hit man for all seasons: “This is a threat to the very idea of India, the very soul of India, we know, that we love—secular, plural, tolerant and open society. I have no doubt that ultimately the idea of India will triumph.” How perceptive. The minister has at last acknowledged that “there is a threat”. Thank you, but mouthing those seminarfriendly Indian qualities once more are of little use because blatant political expediency at the cost of national interest has already made those lofty sentiments empty banalities.
Is being tolerant, secular, plural and democratic an excuse for being a passive power where lives are cheaper? India is fast emerging as the safest country for the warriors of radical Islam, and it’s no longer an exaggeration when Mumbai or any other Indian city is considered safer than Kabul—or maybe as safe as Baghdad. Chidambaram has only tired rhetoric to offer. No answers.
Our politicians never get the message. The fury of a nation betrayed by its political class knows no bounds. Our discredited politicians are protected with the most sophisticated arms when the ordinary cops have only antiquated guns to save the citizens. Soon, the netas may have to be protected against their own people. When India erupted in rage, predictably, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, instead of facing the people as a war-time ruler, took refuge in tokenism.
The exit of Shivraj Patil, whose entire term as Union home minister was a prolonged dress rehearsal, could have only satisfied the most gullible, for he, no matter how effete, was the softest target. Really, how could you reduce the enormity of the Mumbai tragedy to the size of a Shivraj Patil? And his sacking was followed by the resignation of a political lightweight, Maharashtra deputy chief minister R.R. Patil, and then, after much dithering, chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.
There should have been more. Why were the powerful National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and his intelligence cabal consisting of the IB chief, the R&AW boss and the home secretary spared? Maybe their duties were more ‘political’ than ‘national’. Why were the top navy brass and the state’s senior bureaucrats and police officers let go unpunished? Because this Government is only interested in finding dispensable scapegoats.
This nauseating display of hogwash doesn’t mean that the predecessor was any better. Following the attack on Parliament, the NDA government made a lot of noise about teaching Pakistan a lesson but Washington’s word of caution prevailed. India asked for the repatriation of 20 dreaded criminals including Dawood Ibrahim but it did not even get one.
Seven years on, we haven’t come a long way. The moment the badly mauled UPA Government hinted at the possibility of an attack on terrorist camps in Pakistan, President George Bush, who is more concerned about America’s war on terror in which Islamabad is still an ally, sent his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the flashpoint on a peace mission.
Lesson: we are alone in our existential war; there won’t be an international coalition and Pakistan is not going to be India’s Afghanistan. That too despite the fact that Mumbai is not just another city; it’s one of the throbbing nerve points of the so-called flat world. The “twin towers” of the Taj and the Oberoi were—and will continue to be—global landmarks. Among the victims included 14 nationalities. The world was called Mumbai during those darkest hours. For Mumbai, though, there won’t be a global war on terror.
We are not politically prepared to wage our own war—and to defend the nation, which, in certain quarters, continues to be a bad word. And that is why Mumbai will not be India’s 9/11. On that September morning seven years ago, there was no red America and there was no blue America but there was only a nation united by grief, rage and patriotism. In the India after Mumbai, there is a frightening gap between national sentiment and political attitude.
A politically divided India cannot redeem the nation—or defend its people. We are condemned to be the permanent victims of jihad as well as a political class which has no sense of the nation. The popular consensus on asserting the national will is not matched by any political urgency in defeating the enemy. A nation abandoned by its ruling political class has become the most favoured target for the enemies of civilisation.