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?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Did historians blow 'Sati' & 'Jauhar' out proportion?

Secular History & Nationalism - I
If there was one thing we as a nation failed miserably, it is in forging a spirit of nationalism. The US which came into being only two hundred years ago is proud of its nationalism but we with a history of over five thousand years do not have a national ethos, national pride or national spirit. It would be nearer the truth to say that there is a concerted attempt to prevent India from forging a national spirit. A fabricated concept called ‘composite culture’ was sought to be projected by negating the nation’s achievements in the social, political, scientific and spiritual fields in the first four thousand years. Another aspect of the fabrication was to magnify and attribute all social ills to the original Hindu culture and all reformatory thought to the artificial construct called syncretic or composite culture. This series examines how some of the ills were sought to be stripped out of context and blown out of proportion.     
Eulogizing the social reforming zeal of Gurazada Appa Rao, K. Rosaiah, former A. P. Chief Minister and present Tamil Nadu Governor, made a stunning observation. He said, ‘… if we went back a little, the abominal practice of Sati comes to mind’.
Rosaiah was delivering his speech as the Chief-guest at the 150th birth anniversary of the Telugu social reformer and writer, Gurazada Appa Rao. Appa Rao became famous for his play, Kanyä Sulkam, literally, ‘bride-fee’. The play centred on the practice of buying brides prevalent among some sections of the Brahmin society. The Brahmins were reviled for a variety of ills that plague the society today and many orthodox practices, by the left-liberal intelligentsia. This was despite the fact that it was the Brahmins who not only preserved our cultural traditions through troubles and tribulations for over five thousand years but also initiated many social reform movements.
One of the social ills for which the Brahmins were - unjustly and without any basis in fact - blamed was the treatment they meted out to their women. In spite of the prevalence of such misconceptions, according to scriptures a Brahmin (even today) is ineligible to participate in religious rituals without his woman. Therefore elderly widowers had to remarry in order to be eligible to practise their profession - priesthood. Those families which had the means did not offer their daughters in marriage to elderly widowers but poor families did, sometimes in exchange for money. The money came in handy for performing another girl’s marriage or for other necessities of living. It was a practice born out economic and social necessities. It was a practice of a minuscule section of society, as Brahmins constitute not more than 2% -3% of the population. And only those Brahmins who were into their traditional role as priests had a problem with widower-hood. Nevertheless it was a bad practice which the social reformer Appa Rao sought to highlight through his play.
If one were to go by Rosaiah’s observation about Sati it was an everyday happening in Andhra Pradesh, even if it was in the past! One needn’t have bothered if some lesser mortal were to make a statement like that. People in public life have to make speeches everyday and quite a few of them are given to uttering gibberish. Either Rosaiah (or his speech writer) might have remembered a snippet from the history textbook of his school days, and used it to enliven the speech. It is in this context that one ponders over questions like ‘why is history taught in schools?’
What are the objectives of teaching history? One would expect that the prime objective of teaching history is to inculcate in the young minds a pride in their glorious past and a spirit of nationalism. At a purely academic level, W. H. Davis listed the following as the three main objectives for teaching history: ‘first, to present the past to the pupil in an intelligible fashion, capable of interpretation; second to inculcate historical-mindedness; and third to inculcate intellectual tastes.’ (‘Some Attainable Objectives in the Teaching of History.’ The High School Journal. Vol. 12. No. 4. Apr. 1929. pp. 132-134. University of North Carolina Press. Accessible from
If the objective of teaching history is to ‘present the past in an intelligible fashion, capable of interpretation’, does the history that is taught in our educational institutions factually represent the practice of Sati? Or did the British practice of concocting ‘atrocity literature’ colour our thinking?  
An Advanced History Of India’ by R. C. Majumdar, H. C. Raychaudhuri and Kalikinkar Datta (1950. Macmillan & Co. Ltd., London) has eleven references in all to ‘Sati’. A reference to the subject of Sati in the early Magadhan epoch, circa sixth century B.C.E. has this to say: Widow marriage and Levirate had not fallen into disuse even in the Ganges valley and burning of widows was not sanctioned by the orthodox lawgivers.’ (p. 75).
After Alä-ud-din Khalji’s expedition against Mewar resulted in the latter’s rout and when further resistance seemed impossible’the Rajputs of Mewar preferred death to disgrace and performed […] that horrible rite, the Jauhar […] to find security from dishounour in the devouring element.’ (Ibid. p. 302). However the practice of Jauhar consisted of the mass immolation not only of women, but also children, the elderly and the sick, at a time when their fighting men died in battle against the Muslims. It was also pointed out that the practice of Sati was prevalent only among the higher social orders.
We must admit ‘social codes of conduct and honour’ are products of the times. Several examples illustrate this point. The practice of Levirate in which a brother marries the widow of his childless brother (in order to maintain his line) was a Biblical practice and described in the Old Testament. It was common practice in ancient Greece for a king who won a war to kill his opponent and take his wife. The mythological story of Oedipus who, because of a prophesy, ‘kills his father and marries his mother’ was used as a subject by quite a few Greek dramatists like HomerAeschylus and Euripides.
At times, ‘social codes of conduct and honour’ can spread horizontally and become contagious. For instance, see this in Majumdar et al.: Some Muslims of aristocratic Hindu origin, or living in a Hindu environment, assimilated the Hindu customs of Sati and Jauhar (p. 402).
It is therefore necessary to exercise abundant caution while teaching about such ancient social practices to young minds. They were more an aberration than a norm. 

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