Monday, February 25, 2013

Will Hyderabad Terror Victims Get Justice?

Or are they cannon-fodder for Congress’ cynical electoral games?

The deadly terrorist strike in Dilsukhnagar, Hyderabad on February 21, left sixteen people dead and 117 injured, of whom 10 are said to be still in a critical condition four days later. Thank God, this time there was no praise for the resilience of the Hyderabadis as it used to be in the case of Mumbaikars.

In his press briefing, the Hon’ble Home Minister declared that states were cautioned about an intelligence input that predicted possible terrorist strikes. Asked whether there was any input specific to AP and whether such a warning was passed on to the AP government, he said ‘he was not certain and would have to check’! This was a full two and a half hours after two of the bombs went off (a third mercifully did not explode)! This was the same Home Minister who emphatically declared only a month ago that the principal opposition party, the BJP and his party’s bête noire, the RSS were running camps for training “Hindu” terrorists.

Where does the “Hindu” terror angle come from? There lies a tale of intrigue, some political chicanery and perhaps an IQ of 180! The Hindu terror angle was first broached by P. Chidambaram sometime in 2009, after the formation of the National Investigation Agency (NIA). It was after this that the Prince Regent, Rahul Gandhi reportedly whispered in the ear of the American ambassador that ‘Hindu terror was far more dangerous than Maoist or Jehadi terrorism’! It has also been since then that lesser mortals like Digvijay Singh picked up the theme and began speaking about “Hindu” terror.

The Malegaon blast of September 8, 2006 was first investigated by the Maharastra anti-terrorism squad (ATS), then by the CBI and was finally handed over to the NIA after its formation in 2009. The Maharastra ATS first suspected that it was a retaliatory strike for the July 11, 2006 Mumbai train blasts in which 209 people were killed and more than 700 injured. Therefore it first detained some Bajrang Dal cadres but as it could not find any evidence against them it switched its probe to investigate the involvement of Laskha-e-Toiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohamed (JeM).

Home Minister Shivraj Patil had to go following the deadly terror strike on Mumbai on November 26 2008 (in which 182 people were killed), making way for Chidambaram. It was Chidambaram who established the NIA to counter terrorism, and primarily to bring the culprits of 26/11 to book. The NIA however, does not seem to be aware of this. It has also not bothered to investigate the July 2006 Mumbai train blasts, probably because of the resilience of the Mumbaikars.

However other terror cases like Malegaon (2006), Samjhauta Express and Mecca Masjid (2007), were handed over to the NIA. Despite the zeal with which the NIA has been probing and, occasionally leaking snippets to a pliant media, the death toll in all these incidents put together is about half of either the Mumbai (2006) or the Mumbai (2008) terror strikes!

Several columnists including S. Gurumurthy (Samjhauta Blast Case: Counter Investigation To NIA Investiagation) have demolished the NIA’s “Hindu” terror thesis. Vivek Gumaste asks in his piece, is it possible that definite evidence is not forthcoming because none exists? (Is Hindu terror is as big as it's made out to be?)

But the most damning indictment of Shinde’s “Hindu” terror theory came from B. Raman, an expert on internal security matters and, no friend of either the BJP or the Sangh Parivar. (Shinde: Prejudiced & Partisan Stewardship of MHA): 
“[…] One has a strong suspicion that the NIA is sought to be used not for the investigation and prosecution, but for politically needling the BJP and the RSS by periodically leveling allegations against them. […] Shinde’s statement carefully avoids any condemnation of the on-going activities and conspiracies of the Indian Mujahideen and its links with the LeT. […] His deeply prejudiced and communal stewardship of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs needs to be condemned by all right-thinking persons.
On June 2009, the UN Security Council Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee added three names to its ‘Consolidated List of individuals and entities subject to the assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo’. (UN Security Council SC9695) According to the UNSC press release, one of them, an Arif Qasmani had close links with Dawood Ibrahim and was the mastermind behind both the July 2006 Mumbai train bombings and the February 2007 Samjhauta Express blast. See box.

A report in today’s newspapers indicates that the state police and the NIA have been vying with each other for investigating the latest Hyderabad blasts. In the past, the state police have been blamed for arresting ‘innocent persons’ in the Mecca Masjid case and keeping them in prison for over a year. The secular media had a field day and has been parading some of the accused in its programmes. In order to prove its secular credentials, the state government paid huge compensations to the accused after the courts acquitted them, a privilege no other accused (under-trials in police lingo) have ever enjoyed. If charged with the investigation how will the state police deal with the case. Will it try to prove its secular credentials?

How will the NIA fare if charged with the investigation? Will it try to score a hit, which so far eluded it? Or will it stick to prove its loyalty to its secular masters?

In either case it is a dicey situation for the victims of the terror attack? Will they get justice or will they become cannon-fodder for Congress’ cynical electoral war games?

Thursday, February 07, 2013


Book Review
Deva, Mukul, 2012. RIP. Westland. Chennai. Pages 286. Price: Rs 200/-

RIP is the story of the India of our times. It is the story of corruption of our politicians and civil servants. It holds a mirror to their vulgar greed that makes them stop at nothing including eliminating whistle-blowers, and even partners-in-crime if they were thought to be a 'security risk’. In spite of jumbling locations and people, the scams and the dramatis personae the novel depicts are too recent to be missed. The names were thinly disguised. Then there is the dowager, ruling party president who inherited the mantle from her dead husband, a former prime minister.

From Bofors to Adarsh Society, (through fodder, 2G, CWG et al.) the book weaves every scam and political persona involved in them into its intricate, riveting plot. It includes Anna Hazare’s ‘Indians Against Corruption (IAC)’ movement too. The only surprise perhaps is the title. It does not mean, as one would have thought ‘Rest in Peace’, but ‘Resurgent Indian Patriots’. ‘RIP’ itself may be a take-off from Anna Hazare’s IAC. But unlike Hazare’s docile, middle-class followers who abhor violence and are not given to direct action, Deva’s ‘Resurgent Indian Patriots’ do not baulk at taking direct action and meting out exemplary punishment to the guilty.   

The theme is not entirely new. Venality and corruption, or rather meting out vigilante justice to the venal and corrupt in public life has been the subject of several movies. The Hindi movie, Aan, Men in Action portrayed the politician-civil servant-underworld nexus and to some extent the issue of corruption. Movies like Bharatiyudu (Tamil, Telugu and Hindi), Aparichitudu (Tamil and Telugu) and Tagore (Telugu) dealt with the subject of corruption and vigilantism. It was in Aparichitudu, Bharatiyudu and Tagore that retributive justice in a violent form was mooted as an antidote to corruption. If Bharatiyudu and Aparichitudu had one-man vigilante armies, Tagore mooted the idea of an anti-corruption army named ‘Anti Corruption Force (ACF)’, similar to the ‘RIP’ in the novel. The success of these movies reflects the public mood. If the viewing public cheered and approved a violent form of vigilantism it was because they were vexed and saddened by their impotence to rid the society of the scourge of corruption.

In RIP, a team of former army commandos sets out to purge corruption. The corrupt politicians hit back by setting the official law enforcement agencies (isn’t the CBI to do their bidding?) and another set of former army commandos to chase them. Therefore the first set of (vigilante) commandos have the second set of (mercenary) commandos and the official CBI on their back, as they pick and choose targets to strike. Then there is the beautiful woman who links the two commanding officers as they vie for her charms. From the caveman to the modern man, men have been vying for beautiful women and a story which has this element never failed to charm readers. The female protagonist in RIP is a beautiful television anchor, fighting for her divorce, and by chance caught between her former husband and new beau.

The book is peppered with a large number of idioms – disproportionately large number – and appears to be a laboured attempt to write idiomatic English. It is however not devoid of jumbled expressions (calling it a night) and borrowed jargon from SAS, the elite British army commando unit (break a leg).

Mukul Deva strikes a chord with the clichéd common man when he says that his book was […] born out of an extreme sense of anger and shame. Anger at the appalling, naked greed so shamelessly displayed by the Indian political class. And shame that they happen to be fellow Indians. He certainly resonates with a majority of our countrymen (and women) when he says he would certainly not condemn anyone who rid our country of such leaders.The book is definitely worth a read and not priced very high either.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews programme at Indian Bloggers