The recent three-day terror attacks upon Mumbai had left behind many questions unanswered. It had also raised issues related to Security and Terrorism. Perhaps, keeping these points in view, the Institute of Objective Studies (IOS) organized in New Delhi on December 4, 2008 a discussion on “Security and Terrorism”. It was unique and most timely.
The highlight of the programme was the participation by three dozen media celebrities and a number of eminent personalities of other fields. The media celebrities included Kuldip Nayar, M J Akbar, Saeed Naqvi, John Dayal, Santosh Bharatiya, Neena Vyas, Samar Harlankar, Bhasha Singh, Ranjit Deoraj, Jawed Ansari, Aziz Burney and Ausaf Ahmad from print, and Suvojit Bagchi, Pankaj Pachauri, Deepak Chaurasia and Abu Nasar Iqbal from electronic.
The discussion was initiated and presided over by former Chief Justice of India A M Ahmadi. The programme began with recitation of a few verses from the Holy Quran by well known Islamic scholar Maulana Abdullah Tariq.
In his welcome address, Dr Mohammed Manzoor Alam, Chairman, IOS, termed the recent attacks on Mumbai as “a dark chapter of our national history”. In his view, it was a complete failure of State agencies. He raised certain pertinent questions: Where had the mighty Indian State gone? Where was the blue water Navy of which we are justifiably proud of? What were our Coast Guards, our Customs patrolling the sea doing?
According to him, understanding the underlying factors of terrorism would help in combating it.
Prof Ausaf Ahmad, Editor, Mutalleat, an Urdu quarterly, brought out by IOS, in his opening words condemned the Mumbai attacks. He emphasized on the duty of the State to protect the nation and advised State machinery “to stop playing the blame game”. According to Prof Ahmad, “definitely, the lapse of security” was immense.
In his presidential remarks, Justice A M Ahmadi, who is also Chancellor of AMU, Aligarh, felt that “we are meeting at a time when the emotions are surcharged due to events in Mumbai which are direct results of unfortunate security lapses, drawbacks etc”. The objective of the discussion was “not to do post mortem of what happened in Mumbai but to deliberate on how our country can tackle such type of issues”, explained Justice Ahmadi.
He branded the Mumbai attack as an international event because the perpetrators had been identified as the outsiders. He urged Pakistan to take tough action against the terrorists. He cautioned “if the ‘Unity and Integrity’ as enshrined in ‘Fraternity’---the fourth pillar of the Constitution---is not taken properly, the entire edifice of the Constitution would wobble”.
He said that terrorism was just a symbol of the disease. Therefore, the diagnosis of the actual disease was necessary, he added.
Kuldip Nayar, columnist, human rights activist and former Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, seemed perturbed by the fact that “we get lost in conspiracy theories”. He was dismayed that Hindus and Muslim were not listening to each other and speaking differently. On the debates in Pakistani media regarding the incidents in Mumbai, Nayar stated that Pakistani TV channels were asking as to why would Pakistan do all of this. According to him, only democracy and pluralism could resolve such issues.
The octogenarian journalist, who is also a former Rajya Sabha Member, asserted: “War with Pakistan is no option. Real democracy is tested under pressure and I do not want my country to follow America in its war against terror”. He said: “Hindu and Muslims have to unite, and India and Pakistan have to work out their differences peacefully. “An atmosphere of suspicion that is reminiscent of Partition days is building up. It must end”, he said.
Renowned journalist M J Akbar said grief and anguish were painful but they prompted unity. However, he advised the Muslim community to look within and introspect as to why some Muslim youth had taken to terrorism. He said that Muslim terrorists should be punished under severe Quranic laws that treated the murder of a single person as the murder of entire humanity. He quoted the meaning of part of a Quranic verse that says “God does not love rioting and disorder.”
According to him, the real problem of the country was politics. Raising the question as to what had gone wrong with the Indian Muslims, he pointed out that one of the problems was that Muslim elites took shelter in denial. He said: “This does not absolve us of the fact that we have the responsibility. Today, what pains me most is the maintenance of silence. All I can hear is the deafening sound of silence”.
He said Muslims should reach out to Hindus everywhere in the country right up to small towns and villages on which “a pall of fear has fallen”. He wanted Muslims to “begin the process of healing”. He warned of “grave consequences” if Muslims “do not look into the problems”. He lamented the fact that Muslim leadership had become victim of comfort of recourse of denial.
“The reason why people take law in their own hands is perhaps that they have lost faith in the State,” remarked the founder-Editor of Telegraph and Asian Age.
Senior journalist Saeed Naqvi said that the Mumbai attacks should be seen in the background of international power politics. However, he added that “good days are around the corner.”
He termed last four years i.e. Bush Presidency as the most suffocating and horrifying moment of his life. In Mumbai attacks, Naqvi saw a reminder to Obama that “this is the theme and agenda you must not forget, keep this in mind”.
He recollected a chronology of world events to prove his point: “I see all of this in the backdrop of the transition of President of the USA. These attacks took place at the time of crucial elections when enquiry into the ‘Hindutva terror’ was going on and the investigators of ‘Hindutva terror’ were killed. How can a huge amount of ammunitions enter into the Taj Hotel?” He also raised doubts about the security arrangements at the Taj Hotel.
Samar Harlankar, Managing Editor, Hindustan Times, said people looking at the Mumbai attack in a Hindu/ Muslim format should keep it in mind that one-fourth of those killed were Muslims. It was an attack on India rather than on Hindus or Muslims. Even in the earlier train blast in Mumbai a lot of Muslims were killed. “There is a lot of anger in middle class India over the developments. We must channelise this anger into creative channels”, he added.
He said that CNN-IBN’s ‘Citizen against Terror’ had received a huge response. In his opinion, a common man couldn’t but escape the State. Therefore, he seemed concerned over the exclusion of common man from discussions. “A common man is ignored in all such process of discussions”, said Harlankar.
Neena Vyas, Special Correspondent of The Hindu lambasted the Indian middle class for its alleged double standards. “Gujarat riots continued for a month, Meerut riots for 40 days. From Hashimpura Muslim youth were lifted by PAC, massacred and thrown into the Gang Canal. Nobody was outraged,” she said. The same denial of justice was evident in Babri Masjid case even after 16 years and the massacre of Christians in Orissa went unpunished. “Such behaviour of the State breed terror”, she argued.
Vyas said that the criminal justice system had failed the weak. Corruption had undermined security. “By giving a couple of thousand rupees to the people guarding the coasts of India criminals can smuggle in narcotics and weapons”, she added.
Bhasha Singh, Roving Editor, Hindi daily Nai Dunya wondered as to why every time a terrorist attack occurs, Muslims are expected to apologize. “Did anybody ask the Hindus to apologize after attack on a mosque?” She warned that India was getting sucked into American-British-Israeli security plans. She said it was not in India’s interest to act as the surrogate of these powers.
She was worried over the role of American and Israeli investigating agencies post Mumbai attacks. “Terrorists knew if they target Israelis, Mossad will come into play”, she said. She saw in Condoleezza Rice’s ‘dictation’ “a challenge to Indian sovereignty”. She also smacked of national as well as international conspiracy in the Mumbai attacks.
She claimed that 60 years after Gandhiji’s assassination, the dimensions of ‘Hindutva terrorism’ were being exposed. She bemoaned: “We ignored the CST because common man was a victim while our whole focus was on Taj and Oberoi because high profile people were involved therein.”
John Dayal, former Editor of Delhi Midday appreciated Barkha Dutt’s reporting and considered it as “inevitable”. He divulged that all of this was happening in India because similar to America, in India also we had a “thriving war industry”. “If the State fails to protect my life, I see my taxes go wasted,” said Dayal who is also a Christian leader.
He asserted that Karnataka did not have any memory of Partition, but today it stood thoroughly communalized. “Sixty days of one-sided attacks on Christians in Orissa did not move the government to act”. He said Partition memories were not always relevant as Kuldip Nayar had said.
Aziz Burney, Group Editor of Urdu Rashtriya Sahara, termed the attacks in Mumbai as “a well planned drama to cover up the communal forces”. “We have to identify the white collar terrorists,” he declared. He also said that much of the terror we saw today was part of a larger sequence of events related to “RSS terror”.
Columnist and former MP Santosh Bhartiya said he had recently visited the Hindi-speaking states and found a disturbing atmosphere of hate and hatred among different communities. According to him, it was necessary to deal with it otherwise the situation might lead to a dangerous point. He said that terrorism had taken form of an industry all over the world. He reposed faith in Indian Muslims that they were “strong enough to tackle their problems themselves”. He rejected the notion that Lt Col Srikant Purohit or Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur represented the Hindu community in any way.
Ranjit Deoraj, Asia-Pacific Editor of Inter Press Service (IPS) observed that as the Editor of IPS he got to handle copy written in Pakistan that showed “Pak journalists are uncomfortable with the situation obtaining there”. Within Pakistan there were some vested interests that thrived on discord. Such elements should be identified, he added.
Pankaj Pachauri, Senior Editor, NDTV said the issue of terrorism was of whole of India and was not just a Hindu-Muslim issue. “The attack in Mumbai was an hour of reckoning. This was not an attack on you and me, rather an attack on India itself,” he said.
Equating terrorism with elephant, Pachauri remarked the elephant of terrorism was roaming with full force all across India. Referring specifically to the middle class vis-à-vis the events in Mumbai, he opined middle class had totally collapsed. According to him, the attacks in Mumbai had exposed it. He said the vocal sections of India were concerned about their own class interests rather than the well-being of all Indians. None of these people was bothered when Raj Thackeray’s MNS drove 26,000 people out of Mumbai. There was no middle-class outrage over riots.
He cautioned Indians against imitating America. “We hear assertions like there was no terror attack in the United States after 9/11, but in India there is no end to attacks”. He said the Americans had paid the price of homeland security.
“We have been evading taxes while American tax payers are funding their homeland security whose annual budget is $ 69 billion, that is 70 percent of India’s total annual budget”, he said. Pachauri advised the rich classes to “pay up” if they want a security apparatus like that of the US.
However, Deepak Chaurasia, Editor (National Affairs), Star TV averred that “non-payment of taxes can’t be an excuse for our lapses in security”. He disclosed that he had still in his possession a signed letter by the fishermen containing the information about the smuggling of RDX through the sea route. He said that terrorists in Mumbai had breached four layers of security which had given common people the feeling that it was the government’s commandos and security forces that suffered defeat in confrontation with terrorists. He said the perception would change only after better handling of such situations became a reality.
Abu Nasar Iqbal of India News said newspapers and TV channels were continuously saying that there used to be cultivation of terrorism in Pakistan but nobody was pondering over the fact that “we are ourselves making available lands for such acts”. He said who could deny that the graph of terrorism had gone high after the demolition of Babri Masjid and 2002 violence in Gujarat.
Gurdeep Singh dismissed the calls for attacking Pakistan in the aftermath of Mumbai attacks while Siddhu’s standpoint was that “roots of all the problems that India is facing today lie in the pre-1947 days. There is something very deep into it”.
Supreme Court Lawyer Prashant Bhushan said that strong-arm tactics of the State did not increase security. Instead, they increased insecurity. “There is no greater security than in Israel, yet it is constantly plagued by insecurity. Security lies in addressing people’s problems, not in acquiring guns”.
Yusuf Hatim Muchhala, senior advocate, Mumbai High Court, drew attention towards the “holistic approach to the definition of terrorism”. He assumed that in tackling the problem of terrorism, causes and effects had been ignored not only by the politicians and bureaucrats but also by the mainstream media. He alleged the whole system to be hostile. He highlighted that the mob terror in the form of communal configuration couldn’t be marginalized as spontaneous reactions. He appealed to those who could mould the public opinion to forcefully raise this issue. He also suggested administrative reforms to cope with the problem.
Prominent among others present on the occasion included social scientist Imtiaz Ahmad, former minister Prof Paswan, scholar and journalist Dr Syed Abdul Bari “Shabnam Subhani”, social activist and author V B Rawat, and former Police official Mauji Khan.
---Saad Bin Zia, a columnist and research scholar in Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, can be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org>