India: Amidst Mumbai bloodbath lives at rail station less media-important than those at luxury Taj Print E-mail

 Who lives if India dies, and who dies if India lives? India belongs to the billion and odd people, not the billionaires and America Inc.

  Friday December 12 2008

Sovereignty and some questions

(Read also: Arundhati Roy: Mumbai was not our 9/11 and P. Sainath: To ape Bush Jnr's 9/11 response against Pakistan would knock at the doors of insanity)

By V.R. Krishna Iyer

Are these the signs of a functioning anarchy or a travesty of democracy?

IMBALANCE: Announcer Vishnu Dattaram Zende saw the attack at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Railway Station in Mumbai from his cabin. There was less vehemence in the media reaction to the CST massacre (Vivek Bendre )

‘The War on Bombay Won,’ headlined one newspaper in a front page exaggeration, forgetting its duty of sober moderation and investigative obligation. The mighty Indian Army and the puissant police battled for three days against a minuscule but aggressive pack of Pakistani barbarians savagely armed and strategically trained by Inter-Services Intelligence to scare the Indian nation into traumatic tension and bleed it. Entering Indian territory using sly tactics, they sprayed bullets on innocent people in large numbers at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Railway Station. They gained access to the finest hotel in the industrial capital of Mumbai. They held many hostages, behaved brashly with their victims and inflicted reckless casualties. All this is a matter of shame to our security forces and intelligence agencies.

India must blush at the fact that a gang of goons could freely flow into the city with advanced firearms and ammunition. This rascally group must have secured corrupt local collaboration in gaining such access and waging the gory attack. Were they aware of Indian indolence, bribery temptation and West-doped weaknesses? Is India game for terrorist treachery operated by a bunch of exotic bullies? Are our expensive defence systems so goofy and gullible that hostiles in guile, with brute objectives, can reach a busy city, march inside a seven-star hotel and indulge in diabolical destruction with vindictive terrorism? The Taj Mahal Hotel alone suffered scores of casualties.

This tragic shock has made India an international laughing stock. It has demoralised the people with respect to the lack of national security and the nation’s feeble fight-back capacity. Our safety and security have been breached. The bankruptcy of our defence action is sapping our sovereignty.

A stroke of perversity persuaded many of our media high priests to present an odious episode as a valiant victory over another country. The propagandist news organs have hidden our weaknesses and projected the military encounter at the Taj Mahal Hotel with a gang of goons as the War of Bombay Won ­ as if it was the Battle of Waterloo. Have some sections of the press no patriotic rage and sage sense of proportion?

These sections did not ask what happened to our Coast Guard, which was perhaps asleep or too weak to undertake an effective investigation? It looks as if little South Korea has more costal security arrangements than balloon-blown India, with its long but porous coastline. Our navy needs strengthening, awakening and accountability.

We have countless fishing boats in the coastal waters. But with a hostile neighbour which receives civil and military assistance from certain other powers, every Indian fisherman at sea should now become an alert patriot, not a mere catcher of fish. They have to be inspired by the national leaders who shall not be looney, lazy and U.S.-dependent. Nitwit politicking in high office is a hazard and an illusion. Our defence forces are poorly paid. But their life is our survival. They have heroic traditions and great credentials. Remember the victory in the Bangladesh war. Indira Gandhi inspired them then. And now who will do that?

Did our defence instrumentality employ surprise checks, maritime investigations, sudden raids, or any other manoeuvres of discovery in an operational manner? During the Pakistan-Bangladesh conflict, the Indian Navy was valiant, vigorous, victorious and vigilant. Even now it is not a bluff or baloney. The Navy’s shortcomings, its poverty of intelligence, its strategic non-preparedness and shortage of equipment, need to be studied. It needs to be held accountable. Also, its salary policy for those from the lowest grades to the loftiest echelons needs to be re-examined.

Do we have any democratic defence policy to make the common people, women, students and professionals ever-alert about national security? Nothing has been done to involve the masses in the processes and projects of national safety and security, to identify spies and suspects and detect secret storage of ammunition.

The infantile defensive-offensive shortcomings cry out for accountability by the Cabinet in technical and political terms. We need to overhaul our national military organisation ­ not U.S dependence syndrome. Our political leaders in power and in the opposition have no global vision or sense of history regarding international intelligence and intrigue. Illiteracy is a disqualification for a Minister. Our noisy politicians now specialise in Kilkenny cat functionalism, exaggerate little disputes and indulge in politicking over small matters on party lines, without any idea of the dubious American games in the Asian region.

Indeed, several questions arise about our naval efficiency and sufficiency, our Army’s strategies and the Air Force’s inadequacies. Indira Gandhi was made of sterner stuff. The current crop of politicians are victims of corruption, communalism, vote-bank manipulations and unprincipled opportunist alliances. The scarcity of statesmen is a sour calamity.

Even after the Mumbai catastrophe, which is described as a magical victory by the high-brow media to muffle our shame, apparently no measures have been taken save unscientific, ad hoc transfers and resignations by Ministers. Even where Ministers and bureaucrats wine and dine, nocent neglect is writ large. What have the Home Minister, the Defence Minister, the Prime Minister or the lady above all the Ministers, done to ensure constant watchfulness?

On the contrary, expertise and excellence have become a casualty, and people-level nationalism has become a lost cause.

In defence as in security, a people remaining united with a mission and passion and active participation represents true democratic patriotism. The perspective of the executive at the State and Central levels is bureaucratic and pachydermic; pomp and power of office is the focus. The Finance Ministries as well as those concerned with industry and commerce are more concerned with money deals with America, and other big business corporations attracting investments and imports, in the process displacing native production. Why? It implies huge bribery. Look at the immoral multiplicity of luxuries, the insatiable appetite for cars, foreign travel and wasteful investment. Concrete jungles are growing sky-high, ignoring the living conditions and inflated prices of commodities that leave the common people starving. The poor cannot enter a hospital, buy food, find a shelter. And they are unable to put policy pressure on the government of the country. Even after the Taj Mahal Hotel terrorism, the ruling classes are doing nothing visibly to democratise the defensive role of the humble Indian. Patriotism and nationalism are not topics of popular campaigns: what comes cheap is the rogue demagogy of illiterate parties criticising one another. The legislatures are lost in howling and walk-outs. There is hardly any discussion of national issues at a supreme level. The governmental process is paper-logged and the Ministers are more keen about “sound and fury signifying nothing.” The great issues of moment which affect the dignity and destiny of the nation go by default in our democracy. This is a travesty.

Winston Churchill, during the Second World War, addressed Britain with militant conviction, rousing the nation against a motion of ‘no- confidence’. He said: “We shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” How inspirational and powerfully patriotic it was. Our Prime Minister’s performance in his national address when the ‘three-day war’ ended does not deserve comment.

The Lok Sabha Speaker once said he was ashamed at the ugly acrobatics in the House. Did not Dr. Johnson anticipate the Indian politician of the present generation when he observed that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” and that “politics are now nothing more than a means of rising in the world.”

Our media did not seem to have reacted to the CST massacre with the same degree of vehemence as it did with respect to the hotel attacks, although there may have been justifiable practical reasons for the seeming imbalance. But this gave the impression that the lives of a large number of Indians who were at a railway station were less important than those who were at a luxury hotel. When the Taj crisis occurred, without a moment’s break the electronic media excitedly described the disaster because VIPs were involved.

To whom does India belong? Whose defence is at stake when swadeshi and swaraj are sold to foreign automobile manufacturers and investors, luxury hotels, imports at inflationary cost? The Taj Mahal Hotel terrorist tragedy is a grievous malady. But the syndrome, in its national dimension and swaraj proportion, remains to be investigated and invigilated.

Who lives if India dies, and who dies if India lives? India belongs to the billion and odd people, not the billionaires and America Inc.