Bhavika says

Main Hoon Zero! February 11, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bhavika @ 3:30 pm

I thought we were over our size zero fixation after Kareena Kapoor went from being not-a-size-zero (She’s big boned and hence can never be) to being further-away-from-being-size-zero. Evidently we’re not. What with books that have women claiming they can’t die for size zero and Katrina Kaif losing the weight she never had in the first place drilling the big ‘0’ deeper into our brains. Well, since everyone has jumped onto the size zero bandwagon I decided I should too. Before I do, a  quick note to fellow size zero bandwagoners – Apologies for riding on your high but don’t worry I AM a size zero (unlike most of you) so I won’t take up much space on this bandwagon of yours and chances are you probably won’t even notice me!

Yes, I am a size zero… so while the rest of the world stridently cries out about how hard it is to get there and how unhealthy, desirable/undesirable it is, here I am living the size everyone loves to hate. According to wikipedia, (I am one of those who turns to wikipedia for all of life’s answers- so I’m gonna take what they state as the truth) size zero measurements are in the range of 30-22-32 inches (76-56-81 cm) to 33-25-35 inches (84-64-89 cm). By that measure, I fall somewhere between the range. But thankfully I don’t look sick/skeletal/emaciated/anorexic because I come in just under 5 feet. So not only am I horizontally challenged, I am also vertically challenged. I am someone you would best describe as petite. Let me clarify that I am not so ‘small’ out of choice but rather because of the lack of it. I do not diet or exercise. I eat whatever I please, whenever I please so I would attribute my diminutive proportions to genetics, a high metabolism etc. Now before any of you sigh and say something to the effect of, “Oh you lucky girl!” let me tell you being my size is not all that it’s made out to be. For one, I am always the butt of jokes- some which are funny and some which make me want to cringe only because of the number of times they have been repeated. They range from, “Where do you get clothes your size from- the kids’ section?” to “Size 0 translated in Hindi: Na bum na seena, phir bhi haseena!” For the most part I am sporting enough and laugh along and sometimes even join in the fun but sometimes I feel like punching the other person’s face in simply because some of these people can hardly afford to make jokes at my expense. Why? Well because they’re either ugly or fat or … let’s just say you would not use the words generally associated with pretty or pleasant to describe these individuals!

Not only have I been a source of amusement for people, I have also, on occasion, incurred the wrath of women who are on the heavier side. Let me elaborate. I recently met this woman (who, to me, resembled a blowfish) at a dinner party hosted by a friend. Needless to say, all of us ate till we couldn’t move and the general ensuing discussion had everyone, including the blowfish, complaining about how they had overeaten and how at this rate everyone will be obese very soon. At times like these, I tend to keep my mouth tightly shut because people tend to jump at me if I even mention the word fat in any sentence, in any context. So, while I kept my mouth shut and smiled serenely, the discussion veered towards thin v/s fat and sometime during this, our friend the blowfish turns to me and says, “I hate thin people, I wish they would all just die.” Now I understand my apparent thinness is a cause of envy for her but is it really necessary to wish death upon me just because I’m not large?! I say; if you have such a huge problem with your weight, do something about it! Stop sitting around on your enormous ass, cursing us genetically gifted individuals!

Now while I can take the jibes and nastiness in my stride and while I love being tiny most of the time, there is one thing that I just cannot get over- the fact that I can never find jeans my size. Of course, when I say never it is a bit of an exaggeration, nevertheless it is VERY difficult to find a pair that fits just right. Either the waist is too big or the hips are all wrong and always always the length is a couple meters off. I have been to every store in Bombay looking for something that I will not need to get altered and have come back empty handed and angry every time, save for the ones I found at Benetton once and at French Connection recently. A lot of people tell me I should go to the stores in Bandra that stock jeans sourced from Bangkok but I am not one who likes tacky embellishments on my jeans, thank you very much. So you can understand that when I saw the campaign for the new Levis’ Curve ID range of jeans, I was suitably excited. Finally, I thought, my jean woes are over. I imagined myself running on a beach wearing my perfectly fitted new jeans with the wind in my hair and the music in my ear, a la the girls in the advert… With this vision firmly stamped in my brain, I happily skipped over to the nearest Levis’ store and eagerly asked for a size 24/25 pair. “Sorry ma’am we do not have jeans in that size” comes the reply. With my heart sinking, I desperately ask for a size 26, I’m willing to make a compromise if it means I’ll get a decent pair and there’s always the option of alteration… “The smallest size we have is a size 27 Ma’am” says the sales clerk. I mask my disappointment and walk away, head hanging low, chiding myself for believing in the sham that is advertising. After I recovered from my initial dejection, I got to thinking why everyone wants to be a size they don’t even make clothes for? Do these women aspiring to be size zero really want to waste a substantial amount of time for the rest of their lives over something as trivial as jeans?! I hope not. Really, I’d say there are bigger things to worry about.

Now coming to the final and the most important point of my rant – Men DO NOT find skinny women attractive, they’d much rather you have some curves on you. Every time I’ve put on a few kilos, I have noticed that men immediately start complimenting me. A lot of male friends even went to the extent of saying that now that I’ve put on weight; they think I’m more appealing! When I’m at my usual 40 kilos all I get to hear is- “You do know that men don’t like this, right?” – While eyeing me up and down. But, the minute the weighing scale tips up a few notches, “You’re looking so good! You should put on some more weight!” I think and only this should be the final driving point for everyone aspiring that coveted waif-like figure. If the men don’t like it, who are you doing this for? Isn’t the whole point of our outwardly appearance directed towards the male of the species? Or am I misguided here and it’s just us women competing with ourselves and the impossibly high standards and expectations we have from ourselves? If that be the case, it’s a but pathetic isn’t it? Thoughts anyone?

 

 

Vibrant Gujarat? – Jerry Pinto January 17, 2009

Filed under: politics — Bhavika @ 4:30 pm
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It is January 14th 2009…..Makarsakra nti, the only feast of the Indian calendar which is not observed on a particular day of the Lunar month. It is generally believed that on this day, the sun enters the constellation of Makar (crocodile) and begins to move towards the north. In Gujarat, it is known as Uttarayan, the day on which thousands of kites dot the skies in order to propitiate the Sun-God. The newspapers today (as those of yesterday) are filled with stories of ‘Vibrant Gujarat’… of how the biggest industrialists of the country have “promised” to invest thousands of crores (millions of dollars !) in Gujarat. Overnight, the problems of the State seem to have been solved !! Some have decided that Gujarat can now take on China and a couple of industrialists have even anointed the CM of the State as the next Prime Minister of India !!!

Visitors and dignitaries who came to Ahmedabad were welcomed by posters and banners, by floodlights and illuminations, with newly paved roads and a city which was cosmetically spruced up for the “mother of all events” to flaunt what is termed in Government propaganda, as “Vibrant Gujarat”.

The local (and some national) media went “gaga”…..showcasing how Gujarat is more than India, how the “whole world” had come to invest in this one State during the two-day affair know as ‘Vibrant Gujarat Investors’ Summit’. The Government and their cronies flag-waved all over…..it’ s the Number One State in the Country ! The hype put forward by the well oiled propaganda machinery was so compelling that even the most diehard critics of Gujarat fell into the trap, and joined the chorus that “all is well”.

Very few dare ask uncomfortable questions. Everybody knows the truth about who is doing the “flag-waving !”. There are voices who say that ‘ the “emperor” has no clothes on ! ‘, but at this moment, there are not too many listening. The plain truth is that the cosmetic has stifled the reality. If one scratches the surface a little, the bubble of euphoria will surely burst. Let’s look into how “Vibrant”, is Gujarat.

Violent : For a State that should have had ‘Ahimsa’ as its cornerstone, violence has in fact become institutionalized. The State presided over the killing of hundreds of Muslims during the Carnage of 2002. Trigger-happy policemen have eliminated several Muslim youth in ‘encounters’ . (One high-ranking police officer is now in jail for such an ‘encounter’. ) Innocent boys are killed in an ashram of a well known Guru, and, no one can do anything about it ! Young girls studying to be teachers are raped in Government Hostels by their teachers for the sake of better grades. Female foeticide is rampant. One only has to skim through the daily newspapers to realize how violence has become a perfected art in the State.

Intolerant : There is a sophistication in the way intolerance has been mainstreamed. One can experience it in the chaotic traffic on the roads. If one is a Muslim, one is denied to right to buy a house or a shop in the up-market areas of Ahmedabad, Surat and other cities. One is forced to live on the periphery of many villages. The Freedom of Religion Law prevents any one from embracing another religion, without permission from the civil authority. Couples in love, are forcibly prevented from marrying if the partner belongs to a different religion or caste. Movies like “Parzania” and “Fanaa” are not allowed to be screened in the State – one, because it exposes the Truth, and the other, because the lead actor asks that the tribals who were dispossessed because of the Narmada Dam, to be justly rehabilitated.

Bluffing : The art of lying seems to have taken a new meaning in Gujarat. This is obvious when even a sheer Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is regarded as “Mission accomplished !”. This bluff was called, when recently, under an RTI query, the Government of Gujarat admitted that just about 25% of the MoUs of the last three years were actually in the pipeline !! The waters of the Narmada Dam is being utilized by the rich and powerful of Ahmedabad. The parched lands of North Gujarat, Saurashtra and Kutch still harbour illusions of the water reaching them !!! State Government advertisements highlight projects and programmes which are in fact undertaken and executed by the Central Government, like the expressway, the airport, the railway system and the 108 ambulance service.

Revengeful : In Gujarat today, anyone standing up for Truth and Justice is at the receiving end. The Government pulls out all stops (to stop School Grants, to impound Passports) to ensure that voices of dissent are silenced. A few months ago, when the Times of India did an expose on the Police Commissioner of Ahmedabad, sedition charges were filed against some of those who ran the newspaper. Honest and objective police officials and bureaucrats are transferred to insignificant postings; Government agencies like the Collectorate, the Police, the Charity Commissioner are used to intimidate and harass individuals and groups that work for the betterment of the poor, the vulnerable and marginalized. Prominent citizens are kept under constant surveillance and many live under the veil of fear.

Arrogant : A sense of arrogance seems to have puffed up the chests of a few who try to control the lives and destinies of others. Such arrogance was very visible in the hey day of Nazism when Hitler brutally trampled on those who were “not like him”. Key people in the State roam about with immunity and impunity and are also elected to positions of power. The underlying message that is conveyed is that “no one can touch them”. One needs to look at the judgments that are given from the Lower Courts and the High Court of Gujarat, in order to experience the subjectivity and partiality that has permeated the system.

Negligent : Large sections of society in Gujarat are totally neglected. Systematic efforts are made to snatch the forests from the hands of the adivasis. A recent study says that more than thirty-five thousand families will be displaced from the banks of the River Sabarmati because of the Sabarmati River Front Development Project. Development- induced displacement is also the lot of several poor and marginalized farmers and others. Fisher-folk along Gujarat’s vast coastline, continue to be marginalized. Dalits are at the receiving end and many of them continue to live in inhuman conditions. The status of women in Gujarat is way down in comparison to several other States of the country. Children are denied their rights: a large percentage of them constitute the labour force; the textbooks dished out by the Gujarat State Secondary School Board is a clear violation of the rights of children – full of errors, inaccuracies, myths and distortions; only about 59.6% of the rural children of Gujarat can read Std. I text as against the All-India average of 66.6%. The Indian Express of December 21st 2008, has this to say : According to International Food Policy Research Institute’s 2008 Global Hunger Index, Gujarat is ranked 69th alongwith Haiti, the nation infamous for food riots. The State is placed in the ‘alarming’ category.

Terror-filled : Gujarat State is truly terror-filled ! For almost seven years now, the principles of democracy have been thrown to the wind. Right-wing Hindu groups can put up bill boards almost anywhere proclaiming a “Hindu Rashtra”. Places of worship have sprung up on public space and they are given full protection by the law and order mechanism. The Constitutional rights and freedoms of an ordinary citizen are not safeguarded. In fact, in several cases, when a victim approaches the system for help, he / she is made the perpetrator of the crime !!! The diversity which has been characteristic of this State, has been totally decimated as communities are forced into ghettoization. There is palpable fear all over.

What “Vibrant Gujarat” then, does one talk about? The truth is that Gujarat as a State is “Violent”, “Intolerant” , “Bluffing”, “Revengeful” , “Arrogant”, “Negligent” and “Terror-filled” . Let’s not live in lies, half-truths and illusions. Gujarat, wake up, before it is too late !! Satyameva Jayate !

 

Like A Fairytale Come True January 9, 2009

Filed under: Life,Wedding Daze — Bhavika @ 12:34 am
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Like every other kid in the world, I was brought up on a staple of fairytale stories where boy meets girl, they go through some trouble, finally get together, have a beautiful wedding and live happily ever after. The notion of my Prince Charming riding on a white horse to come sweep of my feet, I forgot. I also let go of the belief of “happily ever after”. But what I didn’t forget and what stays with me even today is the idea of the beautiful wedding… of the wedding replete with a flower girl, beautiful bridesmaids, a coy bride in a white wedding gown, a dashing groom, solemn vows, heatfelt toasts and more.

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Being an Indian of non-Catholic origin this kind of wedding comes but rarely. But the wedding I went for today more than made up for it!  The bride in her flowing white gown and intricately designed trail looked like she had stepped right out of one of those stories, followed by the bridesmaids from that distant land! Even the groom in his black tuxedo looked like a perfect replica of Prince Charming, except he wasn’t riding a white horse!

So anyway, this was the first Church wedding I attended and I must say I came away completely charmed… I was so amazed with the entire procession, right from the bride and groom walking down the aisle together to the exchanging of vows, from the choir (which sounded absolutely beautiful) to the Mass presided over by the priests dressed in white and gold livery. Everything there had this splendid solemn, magical air about it, it was simply beautiful..

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The wedding was followed by a lavish reception which was held in an open ground and decorated in red, gold and green and lots of fairy lights! The bride and groom walked in and everyone welcomed them by showering them with confetti. Post that they cut the beautiful white two-tiered wedding cake amidst shouts and cheers. The guests were then given a glass of port each and one by one all the family members raised a toast to the married couple. Then came the best part-the dancing! We danced (well, at least we tried) the waltz, did the birdie dance, the Macarena and even shook our leg to Desi Girl!! Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it actually did with the traditional wedding  bouquet throwing!! Unfortunately I missed it by a whisker-it landed in the outstretched arms of the girl to my left… All in all I had a blast and felt like the whole wedding was like a fairytale come true..🙂

My Friend & I at the wedding!

The Reception

 

Not such a Happy New Year! January 4, 2009

Filed under: Life,Random Thoughts — Bhavika @ 2:13 am
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Ok so the first day of the new year-of the great 2009, which has everybody’s expectations on an all time high, was not so happy for me after all considering it was my first day of unemployment after a year and a half long stint in television production. Yes I have been shown the “pink slip” because of the wretched recession that has engulfed the world and sunk its claws where one wouldn’t dream possible! I mean I was all blissfully unaware up until the time it hit me! Losing a job is bad enough but given the current economic meltdown and the lack of jobs in the market it gets worse!

Being Indian, superstitious is my second name, so this whole thing has me wondering if I’m going to be rendered unemployed, condemned to the life I’m not used to, for the entire year to follow! I hope not, but looking at the present situation I don’t see a quick escape form this predicament… Well, I’m just going to keep my fingers crossed and pray to God to ease the rigors of unemployment and consequent indigence! In the meantime if anyone has any odd jobs, you know who to call!

 

Whose media? Which people? – Nissim Mannathukkaren December 27, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bhavika @ 3:24 pm

Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic diseases of the 20th century, and more than anywhere else this disease is reflected in the press.

-Alexander Solzhenitsyn

On November 22, 1963, some 38 minutes past two p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Walter Cronkite of the CBS takes off his glasses while announcing the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He puts them back on slowly, and takes about seven seconds to read the next sentence in a voice struggling to regain its composure. Those few seconds of time, which are an eternity for live television, surely would rank among the most poignant moments of television journalism. Reams of pages could not have evoked the same pathos as those moments of silence. Contrast these with the plasticity and obscenity that characterised the 60 hours of visual media coverage of the terror in Mumbai, especially in English. As Jean Baudrillard puts it, the obscenity of media events “is no longer the traditional obscenity of what is hidden, repressed, forbidden or obscure; on the contrary, it is the obscenity of the visible, of the all-too-visible, of the more-visible-than-visible”. What the terror exposed was not just the underbelly of the Indian State but also the innards of the institution of media in India.

Role of commercial media

But the few critical responses to the terror coverage do not go beyond the superficial and technical aspects of this phenomenon to understand the deeper question, which is the role of a commercial media in a democratic society. The real issue, therefore, is the systematic erosion of the concept of the press as the fourth estate: the belief exemplified by people like the 19th-century historian Thomas Carlyle that “invent Writing” and “Democracy is inevitable”; the belief that the press is the guardian of democracy and the protector of the public interest. And this erosion is the inevitable culmination of the long process of the appropriation of the concept of public press for the private interests of a few, in short, the turning of the press into a business enterprise. The news here becomes like any other commodity in the market. Of course, the media in India has hardly assumed the scale and the depth of corporatisation in countries like the United States. But the signs are ominous and these are hardly encouraging for the miniscule number of media outlets that seek to be a real “public press”.

The most problematic aspect of the recent coverage is the media’s posturing as an “objective” and “neutral” entity — above all kinds of power interests — which merely seeks to bring the “truth” to the public. This posturing is seen in the shrill rhetoric of the blaming of the State and the political class for the tragedy. In this simplistic formulation of the “good” press versus the “evil” politicians, the media panders to something called the “public opinion” instead of acting as a critical catalyst of the latter. Public opinion must be the most abused term in a democracy. But what we forget in the aura of Obama is that it is public opinion that sanctioned the U.S. war in Iraq and it is public opinion that elected George Bush back to power. So a public opinion uncoupled from higher universal principles of justice and ethics is merely a mob stoning an alleged adulteress to death. Walter Cronkite went on to become the “most trusted man in America” for often going against the public opinion, even from within the confines of a commercial media. When he, against the logic of television ratings, delivered the verdict against the American war in Vietnam, President Lyndon B. Johnson famously remarked: “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost America.” With hundreds of debates on television in the last few days, it was reprehensible that not even one proposed a political solution, rather than a technical or military solution, to the problem of terrorism.

A modern myth

The moral superiority of the media in relation to the political class and the State is the biggest myth in any capitalist democracy. The recent politician-bashing undertaken by the media hides the deep need of both for one another. Such a synergy could not be better illustrated than by the media celebrity status attained by politicians like the late Pramod Mahajan. The same goes for the media’s harmonious and mutually beneficial relationship with capitalist interests which include the entertainment industry. It is almost laughable that the media, after 60 hours of shameless voyeurism, chose to call Ramgopal Varma’s visit to the Taj as “disaster tourism”. The media’s defence that the lack of coverage of the victims at the CST railway station as compared to those at the five-star hotels was not “because of some deliberate socio-economic prejudice” but an aberration and imbalance that crept into the chaos of covering live tragedy ignores the deeper systemic problems hinted above. Even after the tragedy was over, the sanity of the studios could still not restore the imbalance. For instance, NDTV’s “We the People”, telecast on November 30, had among its expert panellists, Simi Grewal, Kunal Kohli, Ratna Pathak, Ness Wadia and Luke Kenny! These people are supposed to represent us, citizens, against the inept and carnivorous State. Through the magic wand of the media, the rich and the famous transmogrify into “we the people”. The philosopher Slavoj Zizek had noted that the “close door” button in the elevator is actually inoperable: it does nothing to hasten the closing of the door, but gives the impression that it does. The presumed power of the media as the representative of the people is something similar: it merely gives the illusion that we are all participating in it. And it has always been this way. That is why the suffering and tragedies of the few elites who lost their lives in the terror attack become more important than that of the other victims. That is why the media spectacle of terror has the habit of ignoring the systematic horrors and tragedies undergone by millions of Indians on a day-to-day basis. And that is why the Taj and the Oberoi will enter our wounded collective consciousness, unlike Kambalapalli and Khairlanji.

It is shocking that a slogan like “enough is enough” is bandied about in the media now after a terror attack. The moral angst of the media could not be roused all these years even when 1.5 lakh farmers committed suicide in a period of mere eight years from 1997 to 2005. How many channels did exclusive “breaking news” stories when India, the second fastest growing economy in the world, secured the 94th position, behind even Nepal, in the Global Hunger Index Report? Where were the Shobha Des and Ness Wadias then, who are now out on the streets mouthing revolutionary slogans like “boycott taxes”? Where were the candle light vigils and demonstrations when policemen rode on a motorbike with a human being tied to it? Or when a father and a child were crushed under a bus after being thrown off it for not being able to pay two rupees for the ticket? For the 40 crore Indians who live like worms, the prospect of being shot dead by terrorists would seem like a dream come true. At least it is more glorious and patriotic than swallowing pesticide!

walter-cronkite
POIGNANT MOMENT: Walter Cronkite announcing John F. Kennedy’s Assassination. The clamour for the accountability of the State and political class that has been occasioned by the terror was long overdue. And the media has played a role in giving a stage to vent this anger. But ultimately, it hides the fact that commercial media is just another partner in the State-corporate alliance. Otherwise, how can you explain the lopsided coverage in the English media about poverty, hunger, health, nutrition and violation of human rights (which would not exceed 10 per cent of the total number of stories and reports)? While a lot of questions have been raised about democracy after the terror attack, there is none about the need for a real independent media which is free not only from the clutches of the State but also from profit and commercial considerations. Enforcing some security guidelines for the media for wartime and emergency coverage does not address the larger question of the freedom of the press and its accountability to the public which can happen only if the latter are treated as citizens and not as consumers.

Blaming the media alone for our problems or not acknowledging some of the benefits of even a commercial media is naïve and one-sided. Nevertheless, the “public debates” that were staged on television in the last few days operated on a thoroughly emasculated notion of democracy and security. What the urban middle classes and the elite want is not democracy but Adam Smith’s night watchman State which does nothing more than the strong and efficient protection of the life, limbs and property of the people (read the classes). Once that is accomplished, whether the masses sell their blood, kidneys or their bodies to make a living is none of their problem. Despite the clamour for democracy, even the media is aware that if real democracy is established, it will not be able to sell many of the things that it is selling now, including terror as a packaged product. Until then, it will continue to be the vulture in the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of photojournalist Kevin Carter: the Sudanese toddler, all skin and bones, lies slumped on the ground in her attempt to crawl to the feeding centre, while it waits in the background, for her to die. At least, Kevin Carter had the conscience to end his life.

The author is Assistant Professor with Dalhousie University, Canada.

 

What Next? December 26, 2008

Filed under: 26/11 — Bhavika @ 4:25 pm

It’s surprising how much can change in a month… I look around and I see people slowly trudging back to normalcy. The same old humdrum of the city seems to have returned, everyone seems to have settled down and 26/11 has become just another painful memory shoved to the back of our minds.  I wonder if this is what everyone was fighting for a month back, when everyone said I want my Bombay back. I wonder now what we meant by that.. Did we mean we want to go back to living in a bubble, living blissfully unaware? Did we mean we want to go back to being complacent and unattached not caring about the system and functioning of the city, the state, the country? Is this what we raised our voices for? So that we could go back to being as isolated as before? Don’t get me wrong I’m not implying that life should not return to what  it was before 26/11. I mean I’m all for moving on and going forward but I wonder shouldn’t there be something more this time? After all the candlelight vigils, the raised voices about  ending corruption and the protests  in the initial days after the attack, all the fervour and passion to bring about a change seems to have died down among the citizenry. I wonder what happened to all the people who claimed to have woken up? Have they gone back to sleep already? What will it take to stir and evoke their anger again? Another 26/11? I sure hope not!

I’m not saying we need to continue protests in large numbers but I think what we need to do now is bring about small changes within our means. Get the garbage cleared out of your locality that’s been lying unattended for a week. Lodge complaints against the pothole-ridden route you take everyday. Don’t bribe the traffic cop the next time you jump a red light. Vote responsibly. All of these are things that are easily do-able. If we begin with these small steps only then can we hope to bring about a bigger change and a lasting change that will shape the future of our country.

 

Terror: The Aftermath by Anand Patwardhan December 10, 2008

Here’s an article I came across by documentary filmmaker and social activist Anand Patwardhan on 26/11 and its aftermath. His films include Father, Son and Holy war,  In the Name of God (Ram ke Naam), War and Peace (Jung aur Aman), etc. for more information on himand his work you can log onto http://www.patwardhan.com.

So anyway, this article was rejected by the Times of India and has not been published elsewhere yet. I think it’s an extremely well written article.  He talks about what the problems are with all the amendments being proposed by all and sundry to root out terror alongwith proposing a few solutions of  his own. It’s a must read. Here goes and feel free to post comments!

Terror: The Aftermath

The attack on Mumbai is over. After the numbing sorrow comes the blame game and the solutions. Loud voices amplified by saturation TV:  Why don’t we amend our Constitution to create new anti-terror laws? Why don’t we arm our police with AK 47s? Why don’t we do what Israel did after Munich or the USA did after 9/11 and hot pursue the enemy?  Solutions that will lead us further into the abyss. For terror is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It thrives on reaction, polarization, militarization and the thirst for revenge.

The External Terror

Those who invoke America need only to analyze if its actions after 9/11 increased or decreased global terror. It invaded oil-rich Iraq fully knowing that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, killing over 200,000 Iraqis citizens but allowing a cornered Bin Laden to escape from Afghanistan. It recruited global support for Islamic militancy, which began to be seen as a just resistance against American mass murder. Which begs the question of who created Bin Laden in the first place, armed the madarsas of Pakistan and rejuvenated the concept of Islamic jehad? Israel played its own role in stoking the fires of jehad. The very creation of Israel in 1948 robbed Palestinians of their land, an act that Mahatma Gandhi to his credit deplored at the time as an unjust way to redress the wrongs done to Jews during the Holocaust. What followed has been a slow and continuing attack on the Palestinian nation. At first Palestinian resistance was led by secular forces represented by Yasser Arafat but as these were successfully undermined, Islamic forces took over the mantle. The first, largely non-violent Intifada was crushed, a second more violent one replaced it and when all else failed, human bombs appeared.

Thirty years ago when I first went abroad there were two countries my Indian passport forbade me to visit. One was racist South Africa. The other was Israel. We were non-aligned and stood for disarmament and world peace. Today Israel and America are our biggest military allies. Is it surprising that we are on the jehadi hit list? Israel, America and other prosperous countries can to an extent protect themselves against the determined jehadi, but can India put an impenetrable shield over itself? Remember that when attackers are on a suicide mission, the strongest shields have crumbled. New York was laid low not with nuclear weapons but with a pair of box cutters. India is for many reasons a quintessentially soft target. Our huge population, vast landmass and coastline are impossible to protect. The rich may build new barricades. The Taj and the Oberoi can be made safer. So can our airports and planes. Can our railway stations and trains, bus stops, busses, markets and lanes do the same?

The Terror Within

The threat of terror in India does not come exclusively from the outside. Apart from being hugely populated by the poor India is also a country divided, not just between rich and poor, but by religion, caste and language. This internal divide is as potent a breeding ground for terror as jehadi camps abroad. Nor is jehad the copyright of one religion alone. It can be argued that international causes apart, India has jehadis that are fully home grown. Perhaps the earliest famous one was Nathuram Godse who acting at the behest of his mentor Vinayak Savarkar (still referred to as “Veer” or “brave” although he refused to own up to his role in the conspiracy), murdered Mahatma Gandhi for the crime of championing Muslims.

Jump forward to 6th December, 1992, the day Hindu fanatics demolished the Babri Mosque setting into motion a chain of events that still wreaks havoc today. From the Bombay riots of 1992 to the bomb blasts of 1993, the Gujarat pogroms of 2002 and hundreds of smaller deadly events, the last 16 years have been the bloodiest since Partition. Action has been followed by reaction in an endless cycle of escalating retribution. At the core on the Hindu side of terror are organizations that openly admire Adolph Hitler, nursing the hate of historic wrongs inflicted by Muslims. Ironically these votaries of Hitler remain friends and admirers of Israel.

On the Muslim side of terror are scores of disaffected youth, many of whom have seen their families tortured and killed in more recent pogroms. Christians too have fallen victim to recent Hindutva terror but as yet not formed the mechanisms for revenge. Dalits despite centuries of caste oppression, have not yet retaliated in violence although a small fraction is being drawn into an armed struggle waged by Naxalites.

It is clear that no amount of spending on defense, no amount of patrolling the high seas, no amount of increasing the military and police and equipping them with the latest weaponry can end the cycle of violence or place India under a bubble of safety. Just as nuclear India did not lead to more safety, but only to a nuclear Pakistan, no amount of homeland security can save us. And inviting Israel’s Mossad and America’s CIA/FBI to the security table is like giving the anti-virus contract to those who spread the virus in the first place. It can only make us more of a target for the next determined jehadi attack.

Policing, Justice and the Media
As for draconian anti-terror laws, they too only breed terror as for the most part they are implemented by a State machinery that has imbibed majoritarian values. So in Modi’s Gujarat after the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in 2002, despite scores of confessions to rape and murder captured on hidden camera, virtually no Hindu extremists were punished while thousands of Muslims rotted in jail under draconian laws. The same happened in Bombay despite the Shiv Sena being found guilty by the Justice Shrikrishna Commission. Under pressure a few cases were finally brought to trial but all escaped with the lightest of knuckle raps. In stark contrast many Muslims accused in the 1993 bomb blasts were given death sentences.

The bulk of our media, policing and judicial systems swallows the canard that Muslims are by nature violent. Removing democratic safeguards guaranteed by the Constitution can only make this worse. Every act of wrongful imprisonment and torture that then follows is likely to turn innocents into material for future terrorists to draw upon. Already the double standards are visible. While the Students Islamic Movement of India is banned, Hindutva outfits like the RSS, the VHP, the Bajrang Dal, and the Shiv Sena remain legal entities. The leader of the MNS, Raj Thackeray recently openly spread such hatred that several north Indians were killed by lynch mobs. Amongst these were the Dube brothers, doctors from Kalyan who treated the poor for a grand fee of Rs.10 per patient. Raj Thackeray like his uncle Bal before him, remains free after issuing public threats that Bombay would burn if anyone had the guts to arrest him. Modi remains free despite the pogroms of Gujarat. Congress party murderers of Sikhs in 1984 remain free. Justice in India is clearly not there for all. Increasing the powers of the police cannot solve this problem. Only honest and unbiased implementation of laws that exist, can.

It is a tragedy of the highest proportions that one such honest policeman, Anti-Terrorist Squad chief Hemant Karkare, who had begun to unravel the thread of Hindutva terror was himself gunned down, perhaps by Muslim terror. It is reported that Col. Purohit and fellow Hindutva conspirators now in judicial custody, celebrated the news of Karkare’s death. Until Karkare took charge, the Malegaon bomb blasts in which Muslims were killed and the Samjhauta Express blasts in which Pakistani visitors to India were killed were being blamed on Muslims. Karkare exposed a hitherto unknown Hindutva outfit as masterminding a series of killer blasts across the country. For his pains Karkare came under vicious attack not just from militant Hindutva but from the mainstream BJP. He was under tremendous pressure to prove his patriotism. Was it this that led this senior officer to don helmet and ill-fitting bullet proof vest and rush into battle with a pistol? Or was it just his natural instinct, the same courage that had led him against all odds, to expose Hindutva terror?

Whatever it was, it only underlines the fact that jehadis of all kinds are actually allies of each other. So Bin Laden served George Bush and vice-versa. So Islamic and Hindutva jehadis have served each other for years. Do they care who dies? Of the 200 people killed in the last few days by Islamic jehadis, a high number were Muslims. Many were waiting to board trains to celebrate Eid in their hometowns in UP and Bihar, when their co-religionists gunned them down. Shockingly the media has not commented on this, nor focused on the tragedy at the railway station, choosing to concentrate on tragedies that befell the well-to-do. And it is the media that is leading the charge to turn us into a war-mongering police state where we may lead lives with an illusion of safety, but with the certainty of joylessness.

I am not arguing that we do not need efficient security at public places and at vulnerable sites. But real security will only come when it is accompanied by real justice, when the principles of democracy are implemented in every part of the country, when the legitimate grievances of people are not crushed, when the arms race is replaced by a race for decency and humanity, when our children grow up in an atmosphere where religious faith is put to the test of reason. Until such time we will remain at the mercy of  “patriots” and zealots.

Anand Patwardhan
November 2008