The reality India confronts is of a terrorist threat that has climbed to an entirely new dimension.
Scenes of horrific violence, conducted with cruel and deliberate premeditation, elicit anger and indignation. Mumbai’s continuing (at the time of writing on 28 November) ordeal of terror, covered in real time by the country’s numerous news channels, unleashed spasms of rage across the country. The fury is only likely to intensify when security operations are concluded and a true measure obtained of the horror that was let loose on Mumbai that fateful night of 26 November.
More than all the serial bombings that India has seen, the siege of Mumbai poses, in terms of its continuing ramifications, a clear danger to every value on which the country rests: openness, diversity and tolerance. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his first address to the nation after the crisis began, seemingly sounded the retreat from his party’s long-standing insistence that it would not countenance any fresh abridgement of civil rights to combat terrorism. Several media commentators have joined in with calls for extraordinary legislative measures and the empowerment of the security agencies.
An alternative mode of seeing is illustrated in the life and death of Hemant Karkare. The chief of the Anti-Terrorism Squad in the Maharashtra Police, the highest ranking Indian official to fall to terrorism in many years, was among the first to engage the armed desperadoes as they began to cut a swathe of destruction through Mumbai. He was cut down, along with trusted colleagues, by the lethal firepower that the terror-ring managed to smuggle onto Indian shores. He leaves as an abiding legacy the sterling sense of duty he displayed in his final hours.
The last month of his life, Karkare was engaged in the high profile investigation of a network involving a supposed sadhvi, the self-proclaimed head of a religious foundation, a serving army officer and sundry others, which had allegedly carried out a string of bomb attacks in various parts of the country. He had earned the bitter ire of the principal national opposition party and its allies, which accused him of leading a politically motivated investigation and inflicting thoroughly unconscionable indignities on persons of the true faith.
There was grim irony then, in seeing the same political dignitaries jostling to offer tribute to the fallen officer, in a cynical effort to leverage his death for maximum advantage. Narendra Modi, the champion of Hindutva, was not one to let pass the opportunity to bask in the public limelight, turning up at one of the scenes of a gunbattle on November 28, to criticise Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s response and announce a cash award for the families of police officers killed in Mumbai. He had, in the preceding days, heaped vituperation on the same policemen while on the election campaign trail in Madhya Pradesh and Delhi. Such brazen political cynicism is clearly something the country can do without in these trying times.
Once the shock and horror subside, the reality the nation confronts is of a terrorist threat that has climbed to an entirely new dimension: from stealth attacks carried out by faceless protagonists, to frontal operations carried out by individuals who do not hesitate to show themselves in full public view. Reflexively, the security and intelligence community in India has held out the dire warning to Pakistan, that it would be expected in the days ahead, to prove its innocence, or risk a painful retribution. This threatens the faltering and tenuous Pakistani state which is evidently losing control of the many fanatical groupings that have flourished on its territory under a variety of patrons, including the superpower that is today sworn to their destruction. To challenge the Pakistani state to mortal combat would risk destroying the last potential buffer that stands between the entire South Asian region and a descent into anarchy.
At the same time, there is much that India needs to address in the fundamentals of its approach to terrorism. Late October, the Hyderabad police released four Muslim youth who had been held in custody, tortured and humiliated, for suspected complicity in the bombing of the Mecca masjid in the city in May 2007. They had been arrested, it turned out, merely on a whim.
Around the same time, an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation established that officers of the Special Cell in the Delhi Police had conspired with the Intelligence Bureau, to implicate two Kashmiri youths in a terrorism plot. The two had, in fact, been police informers who had fallen out of favour after an internal power struggle in the police force. Again, the two were held in custody for a needlessly long period of time and tortured, after incriminating evidence was planted on them.
The bare fact is that since terrorism became a consuming concern all over the world, India has consistently failed the test of evolving an approach that is even remotely likely to command the allegiance of the larger public. Where a broad public consensus is a vital component of a successful engagement, India’s approach has stigmatised one community, undermined social solidarity and created new wellsprings of resentment from which terrorism gains nourishment.
At the same time, a discourse that is patently antithetical to democratic policy dialogue has been promoted on the ground that combating terrorism trumps all other concerns. Whatever may be the culpability of agencies and non-state actors based in Pakistan, India needs to ensure that domestic concord holds. That cannot be achieved by shutting off all critical voices in civil society and insulating the security and intelligence agencies from scrutiny. To suppress the democratic debate at home is to hand victory by default to alien forces of terrorism.
Analyses of the ghastly attacks
- Terror: The Aftermath (Anand Patwardhan)
- In Outcry Over Siege, Two Indias Emerge (Emily Wax)
- The Mumbai tragedy and the English language news media (Mukul Kesavan)
- When ‘nationalism’ trumps responsible reporting (Beena Sarwar)
- In the aftermath of Mumbai (People’s Democracy)
- Seven Questions (Neelabh Mishra)
- Mumbai’s Horror (EPW Editorial)
- After the Attack on Mumbai (Bernard D’Mello)
- Mr. Friedman’s Demagoguery (Saadia Toor and Balmurli Natrajan)
- The Triumph of Terror: What is the rationale of Mumbai terrorist attack? (Patrick Buchanan)
- Lies Of The Lashkar (Yoginder Sikand)
- India’s 9/11? Not Exactly (Amitav Ghosh)
- The Meaning of Mumbai (Justin Raimondo)
- Mumbai massacre: War threats will only fuel terror (Anindya Bhattacharyya)
- Asian Human Rights Commission on the Mumbai attacks
- India Doesn’t Need New Antiterror Laws (Salil Tripathi)
- Democracy Now! roundtable discussion featuring Vijay Prashad, Biju Mathew, Tariq Ali and Teesta Setalvad.
- As the Fires Die: The Terror of the Aftermath (Biju Mathew)
- The fires in South Asia (Vijay Prashad)
- The assault on Mumbai (Tariq Ali)
- On the nature of the attacks (Joaquin Bustelo)
- Blood in Mumbai (Dileep Padgaonkar)
- Hotel Taj : icon of whose India? (Gnani Sankaran)
- The Mumbai Attacks (Justin Podur)
Calls to Action
- In Support of Peace, Harmony, Justice, and Prosperity (San Francisco)
- Peace and Unity Vigil Marking the Mumbai Attacks (South Asia Solidarity Initiative, New York City)
- Say No to Terror and War! Say No to Violence! (Mumbai for Peace)
- Indo-Pak condemnation of Mumbai bloodbath
- We will not be divided (Avaaz.org)
A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
INDIA: ‘Super cop’ is no solution to terrorist threat
The Mumbai terrorist attack was one more occasion for the Indian politicians to call for calm, peace and national unity. Political parties like the Communist Party of India (Marxist) convened a special Politburo session and repeated the rhetoric, in addition to demanding that the Government of India approach the UN Security Council. The Hindu fundamentalists like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made use of the incident to stir up further anti-Pakistan, essentially anti-Muslim, sentiments.
The Union Home Minister Mr. Shivraj V Patil resigned. The Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh convened urgent meetings with high-ranking officers, ministers and defence chiefs. The meeting decided to speed-up the formation of a Federal Investigation Agency and to set up four new centres of the National Security Guards (NSG) in the country.
The final word was that of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Indian National Congress. Mrs. Gandhi gave the ultimatum that her party will tolerate no more terrorism and called upon the Indians to eradicate it from the country. The question is whether the Government of India has any responsibility to prevent such incidents, or whether the people has to embark upon justice delivery themselves?
Among many other things, the Mumbai terrorist attack serves as the latest reminder of the condition of the law and order apparatus in the country, and of the police in particular. As stated after many other former incidents of similar nature, India’s foreign intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), claimed that it had passed over information to the Maharashtra State Police well in advance that a terrorist attack on the city was very likely. The RAW further put the blame upon the local police for its lack of preparedness.
The fact remains that the Maharashtra State Police, like any other state police force in the country, can hardly do anything to avert these incidents. The state of policing in the country is in such demise that it has completely severed its contact with the people. Most police officers contact the members of the public only to demand bribes. Corruption in the police service is at such levels that even in order to lodge a complaint the complainant has to pay a bribe.
Police brutality is so rampant in the country that the sight of a police uniform is enough to scare an ordinary person, particularly among the poor population. Information, independent of its nature, has to be forced out of the ordinary people. Information obtained under the threat of violence is tainted and cannot be acted upon. Terrorists are different from the ordinary people in the sense that they have money, better training and equipment at their disposal to achieve their goals. They can bribe the police and are in fact doing so.
To expect an ordinary Indian to approach the local police with information is an impossibility in the country. An example is the statements made by the parents who lost their children in the infamous 2006 December Noida serial murder case. The case began after the recovery of the skeletal remains of missing children in Nithari village in the outskirts of Noida city close to New Delhi.
The investigation of the case relieved that when the parents approached the Noida police to lodge complaints about their missing children, the police refused to register their complaints. When the parents persisted, they were chased away by the police with the threat that if they returned false cases would be registered against them accusing them of selling their children. The parents went away from the police station, since they were poor and could not afford to pay bribes to the police to get their complaints registered. An administration that expects the ordinary public to freely approach the local police with information is consciously ignoring the reality.
The public mistrust in the local police is not the result of an overnight incident. It is the crystallization of years of experience. Without drastic changes in policing, this mistrust will not only continue, but will increase. Every incident of police failure brought to the people’s attention will further isolate the police from the people. A law enforcement agency which lacks the trust of the people cannot maintain law and order. An officer who serves in such a police force essentially suffers from demoralisation.
No government, state or central, that has governed the country has ever tried to address the deep-rooted problems of policing, and thereby the law and order in India. Politicians across the board use the police for their short-term political interests. The police reciprocate their affinity to the people in power by letting them to be exploited.
Today in India, the police serve the rich and the powerful. The police is a demoralised state agency that lacks the hope of improving their own condition. A police force that cannot investigate a petty crime efficiently cannot prevent terrorism, it can only promote it.
The Mumbai incident like many other former incidents will soon be forgotten. Those who will remember it are those who lost their loved ones. But unfortunately they do not have the political or financial clout to influence the policy makers in India.
The windfall of the Mumbai incident for the Government of India is evident. The Federal Investigation Agency will soon be formed. They will also assume the role of a ‘super cop’. The super cop and the Agency he represent will be an additional reason for the ordinary policeman for further demoralisation. India does not need a super cop. It rather requires a normal and people-friendly police force.
Otherwise people will increasingly start taking things in their own hands. One need not look very far to see examples of this. The day before yesterday, in Khatoli town of Muzzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh state, a person was lynched by the public for suspected theft. In 2008 there were more than a dozen cases of public lynchings reported in India. Hence, people have started taking things in their own hands long before Mrs. Sonia Gandhi’s request. There is no doubt that the Indians are united – in their distrust of the police and the politicians.
The national media and the civil society groups in the country have a greater responsibility in this juncture. If the media and the civil society groups in the country try to reflect more of the people’s voice than vested interests, there is an increased possibility for these institutions to in fact persuade policy makers and politicians to meet the people’s demand. The relatively lesser degree of impartiality and openness of the media and the civil society in India are the two serious impediments that prevent these institutions from reaching out to the people. On this front they somewhat equate themselves with the Indian police.
The Government of India is likely to initiate farcical policies on the pretext of countering terrorism in the country without addressing the deep-rooted problems in policing. The continuation of these policies also means the failure of the media and the civil society organisations in the country. It will be a n unfortunate reflection of their lack of understanding of the realities at the grass roots.
# # #
About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
Asian Human Rights Commission
19/F, Go-Up Commercial Building,
998 Canton Road, Kowloon, Hongkong S.A.R.
Tel: +(852) – 2698-6339 Fax: +(852) – 2698-6367
This Joint Statement was released to the press simultaneously in Pakistan and India on November 30 2008.
We are deeply shocked and horrified at the bloody mayhem in Mumbai, which has claimed more than a hundred and ninty lives and caused grievous injuries to several hundred people, besides sending a wave of panic and terror across South Asia and beyond. We convey our profound feelings of sorrow and sympathies to the grieving families of the unfortunate victims of this heinous crime and express our solidarity with them.
As usual, all sorts of speculations are circulating about the identity of the perpetrators of this act of barbarism. The truth about who are directly involved in this brutal incident and who could be the culprits behind the scene is yet to come out and we do not wish to indulge in any guesswork or blame game at this point. However, one is intrigued at its timing. Can it be termed a coincidence that it has happened on the day the Home Secretaries of the two countries concluded their talks in Islamabad and announced several concrete steps to move forward in the peace process, such as the opening of several land routes for trade – Kargil, Wagah-Attari, Khokhropar etc –, relaxation in the visa regime, a soft and liberal policy on the issue of release of prisoners and joint efforts to fight terrorism? Again, is it just a coincidence that on this fateful day the Foreign Minister of Pakistan was in the Indian capital holding very useful and productive talks with his Indian counterpart? One thing looks crystal clear. The enemies of peace and friendship between the two countries, whatever be the label under which they operate, are un-nerved by these healthy developments and are hell bent on torpedoing them.
We are of the considered opinion that the continued absence of peace in South Asia – peace between and within states – particularly in relation to India and Pakistan , is one of the root causes of most of the miseries the people of the region are made to endure. It is the major reason why our abundantly resource-rich subcontinent is wallowing in poverty, unemployment, disease, and ignorance and why militarism, religious and sectarian violence and political, economic and social injustice are eating into the very vitals of our societies, even after more than six decades of independence from colonial rule.
At this moment of unmitigated tragedy, the first thing we call upon the Governments of India and Pakistan to do is to acknowledge the fact that the overwhelming majority of the people of India and Pakistan ardently desire peace and, therefore, the peace process must be pursued with redoubled speed and determination on both sides. The sooner the ruling establishments of India and Pakistan acknowledge this fact and push ahead with concrete steps towards lasting peace and harmony in the subcontinent, the better it will be not only for the people of our two countries but also for the whole of South Asia and the world. While the immediate responsibility for unmasking the culprits of Mumbai and taking them to task surely rests with the Government of India, all of us in South Asia have an obligation to join hands and go into the root causes of why and how such forces of evil are motivated and emboldened to resort to such acts of anti-people terror.
It is extremely important to remind the leaderships of Pakistan and India that issuing statements and signing agreements and declarations will have meaning only when they are translated into action and implemented honestly, in letter and spirit and without any further loss of time. It assumes added urgency in the prevailing conditions in South Asia , with the possibility that so many different forces prone to religious, sectarian and other forms of intolerance and violence may be looking for ways to arm themselves with more and more sophisticated weapons of mass murder and destruction. The bloodbath in Mumbai must open the eyes of our governments, if it has not already happened.
We urge upon the governments of India and Pakistan to immediately take the following steps:
- Cessation of all hostile propaganda against each other;
- Joint action to curb religious extremism of all shades in both countries;
- Continue and intensify normalization of relations and peaceful resolution of all conflicts between the two countries;
- Facilitation of trade and cooperation between the two countries and in all of South Asia. We welcome the fact that the Srinagar-Muzaffarab ad and Poonch-Rawlakot borders have been opened for trade and that the opening of the road between Kargil and Skardu is in the pipeline.
- Immediate abolition of the current practice of issuing city-specific and police reporting visa and issue country-valid visa without restrictions at arrival point, simultaneously initiating necessary steps to introduce as early as possible a visa-free travel regime, to encourage friendship between the peoples of both countries;
- Declaration by India and Pakistan of No First Use of atomic weapons;
- Concrete measures towards making South Asia nuclear-free;
- Radical reduction in military spending and end to militarisation.
1. Kuldip Nayar, journalist, former Indian High Commissioner, UK., Delhi
2. S P Shukla, retired Finance Secretary, former Member, Planning Commission, Delhi
3. PEACE MUMBAI network of 15 organisations, Mumbai
4. Seema Mustafa, Journalist, Delhi
5. Manisha Gupte, MASUM, Pune
6. Dr. Ramesh Awasthi, PUCL, Maharashtra
7. Jatin Desai, journalist, Mumbai
8. Prof. Ritu Dewan, University of Mumbai
9. Prabir Purkayashta, DSF, Delhi
10. Prof. Pushpa Bhave , Mumbai
11. Paromita Vohra, filmmaker, Mumbai
12. Achin Vanaik, CNDP, Delhi
13. Meena Menon, Focus on the Global South, Mumbai
14. Romar Correa Professor of Economics, University of Mumbai
15. Anjum Rajabally, film writer, Mumbai
16. Anand Patwardhan, filmmaker, Mumbai
17. Kamla Bhasin, SANGAT, Delhi
18. Dr. Padmini Swaminathan, MIDS, Chennai
19. Sumit Bali, CEO, Kotak Mahindra Prime Limited
20. Dr Walter Fernandes, Director, North Eastern Social Research Centre, Assam ,
21. Rabia, Lahore Chitrkar
22. Rakesh Sharma, filmmaker, Mumbai
23. Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, JNU, Delhi
24. Prof. Anuradha Chenoy, JNU, Delhi
25. P K Das, architect, Mumbai
26. Neera Adarkar, architect, Mumbai
27. Datta Iswalkar, Secretary, Textile Workers Action Committee, Mumbai
28. Madhusree Dutta, filmmaker, Majlis, Mumbai
29. Amrita Chhachhi, Founding member, PIPFPD
30. Mazher Hussain, COVA, Hyderabad
31. Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty, Delhi
32. Prof. M C Arunan, Mumbai
1. Mr. Iqbal Haider, Co-Chairman, Human Rights Commission Pakistan and former federal Minister of Pakistan
2. Dr. Tipu Sultan, President, Pakistan Doctors for Peace & Development, Karachi
3. Dr. Tariq Sohail, Dean, Jinnah Medical & Dental University , Karachi
4. Dr. A. H.. Nayyar, President, Pakistan Peace Coalition, Islamabad
5. Justice (Retd) Rasheed A. Razvi, President, Sindh High Court Bar Association
6. Mr. B.M.Kutty, Secretary General , Pakistan Peace Coalition, Karachi
7. Mr. Karamat Ali, Director, PILER, Karachi , Founding member, PIPFPD
8. Mr. Fareed Awan, General Secretary , Pakistan Workers Confederation, Sindh
9. Mr. Muhammad Ali Shah, Chairman , Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Karachi
10. Mr. Zulfiqar Halepoto, Secretary, Sindh Democratic Front, Hyderabad
11. Professor Dr. Sarfraz Khan, Area Studies Centre ( Central Asia), Peshawar University
12. Syed Khadim Ali Shah, Former Member National Assembly, Mirpur Khas
13. Mr. Muhammad Tahseen, Director, South Asia Partnership (PAK), Lahore
14. Mrs. Saleha Athar, Network for Women’s Rights, Karachi
15. Ms. Sheema Kermani, Tehreek-e-Niswan, Karachi
16. Ms. Saeeda Diep, President, Institute of Secular Studies, Lahore
17. Dr. Aly Ercelan, Pakistan Labour Trust, Karachi
18. Mr. Suleiman G. Abro, Director, Sindh Agricultural & Forestry Workers Organisation, Hyderabad
19. Mr. Sharafat Ali, PILER, Karachi
20. Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah, PILER, Karachi
21. Mr. Ayub Qureshi, Information Secretary , Pakistan Trade Union Federation
22. Ms. Sheen Farrukh, Director, Interpress Communication Pakistan , Karachi
23. Mr. Zafar Malik, PIPFPD, Lahore
24. Mr. Adam Malik, Action-Aid Pakistan , Karachi
25. Mr. Qamarul Hasan, International Union of Food Workers (IUF), Karachi
26. Prof. Muhammad Nauman, NED University , Karachi
27. Mr. Mirza Maqsood, General Secretary, Mazdoor Mahaz-e-Amal
28. Ms. Shaista Bukhari, Women Rights Association, Multan
Peace Is Doable