Thursday, July 14, 2011

Kasab, Afzal Guru and Other Symbols of How India Works

(Published in on 14 July, retrieved from

(Picture Courtesy: Unauthorised reproduction of this image is prohibited.)

It happened in 1993, it happened in 2003, it happened in 2006, 2008 and 2011.
Everyone knows the pattern now. The Home Minister appears on TV, followed by the top cops. Journalists troop to the spot, news editors launch tirades against the cowardliness of jihadis, cameramen scour hospitals for images of misery, and desk hands intersperse these with reports of heart-warming gestures.
Someone drove a bleeding someone else to hospital in his new Porsche, yet another Samaritan threw open the doors of his home to strangers.
Ram Gopal Varma and Amitabh Bachchan tweeted, and Wikipedia got confused about Kasab’s birthday. In the next few days, Mumbaikars will take out a candlelight vigil, and everyone will celebrate the spirit of Mumbai.
There is mild speculation about how this will impact India-Pakistan talks, and whether the two countries will play cricket again. But the UPA and PPP will kiss and make up, dissociate Kashmir from the 60-year-long battle for Kashmir and watch the World Cup together.
After all, terrorists are stateless actors, and home-grown terror is one of the common points we can bond over. Well, that and the fact that a bunch of our political leaders were born in each other’s countries.
In the middle of this love-hate drama, the Opposition will scream that Afzal Guru should be hanged, and the ruling coalition will patiently explain – again – that, at all costs, order must be maintained, and Afzal Guru and Ajmal Amir Kasab must feast on biryani until the time comes for them to be led to the gallows.
No one can accuse our parliamentarians of conceit. They may think they deserve hikes while Army salaries should have a ceiling, but they certainly don’t think a terrorist who tries to annihilate them is more...umm, shall we say hang-worthy than a terrorist who fires at regular citizens.
But these two men who sit in prison, quite literally eating up crores of taxpayers’ money, have become symbols of India’s ineptitude. You can bomb this country again and again. Some people will make films based on those, and other people will lose their lives and limbs, but nothing will get in the way of camaraderie and cricket.
Somewhere down the line, a retired-intelligence-officer-turned-strategy-analyst will reveal that there was prior warning of an impending attack, but that it got lost in the maze of bureaucracy. Because that’s how India works.
You can bomb this country or hold its people hostage when you want something – for example, the release of terrorists like Maulana Masood Azhar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar. In that case, you might consider hijacking an aircraft. Your buddies will be given a grand send-off, and India’s politicians may even consider saluting their battle standard or whatever else they use, and they will be free to start terror organisations and kidnap and kill American journalists.
Or, you could simply do it for fun – in which case, you might want to barge into a few hotels. Our TV crew will keep you updated on how our National Security Guards plan to get you – it’s like an in-built cheat code! Wow.
Then, you have two options – you can escape back to your own country (if you weren’t raised in India), or you can get caught by the police here.
If you decide to go back home, India won’t succeed in extraditing you. Why, if you play your cards right, we may even see you home, scratch our heads, and want you back. If you’ve escaped to the US, you can strike a deal that prevents authorities from extraditing you to India. If you’ve flown off to Denmark, the courts won’t want you to catch Delhi Belly in India, so they’ll keep you snug and safe back home.
And if you do decide to surrender, you’ll be put on narcotics for a while. People will get in touch with your childhood friends, and find out you were a peace-loving, soft-spoken child, and that evil terror camps – some started by the terrorists we released (whoa, what a coincidence!) – brainwashed you. Then, we’ll feed you better than we can feed our homeless hordes.
I mean, it’s not like we’re America. We don’t try to smoke you out of your cave, or bomb your safe house by breaching someone else’s airspace. Come on, it’s not like you don’t have democratic rights. And who says you weren’t born here, anyway? Which means you havemore democratic rights.
In time, maybe you can work out a deal for exclusive interviews and even book contracts with our media.
You don’t believe me? Look at Afzal Guru and Ajmal Amira Kasab. What, they didn’t jump ship? Fine, then look at David Coleman Headley and Kim Davy. What, they’re in a soup in other countries? All right, look at Maulana Masood Azhar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar.


Arun Nat said...

I get the fury in the undertone;but am unable to appreciate the humour in this piece,probably because I was caught in the chaos and the deadly ensuing deadly calm. I just cant comprehend how the society can be safe against such attacks. It wont just take honest and sincere politicians and bureaucracy but a whole revamp of the setup. But yes,it'd be nice to start of with some efficient politicians.

Da Undertoad said...

Ms. K' while while i am four square and 5x5 alongside you in the horror and awfulness of terror strikes, and while i agree with you that the perpetrators need to be brought to public justice, i must disagree with you in your condemnation of dialog and interaction with the putative exporters of that terror. I am old enough to remember that the thawing of the icy Cold War(s) the US waged in the middle of last century, was brought about by the social interactions between the US and the Iron Curtain and China. And I think it speaks to India's grace that she treats her accused with the presumption that they are innocent until proven guilty albeit more or less.
just saying

Nandini Krishnan said...

Da Undertoad: I'm assuming you're not Indian, from the content of your comment. You do make a lot of sense about the Cold War and the need for talks, and I see how you might feel that way about India's 'grace'.

But honestly, you need to live here to see how inept the government is. You have a guy touted as the future Prime Minister - Rahul Gandhi - saying 99 percent of the terror strikes have been prevented, and you can't help a few intelligence failures.

His family (politics too is hereditary, big surprise) is in complete denial of Islamic terror, and shies away from confrontation with Pakistan.

'Dialogue' with Pakistan usually ends up becoming monologue, with Pakistan negotiating for certain issues to be left out of the bilateral talks, such as Kashmir - which is THE issue - and India agreeing to this.

This article may explain the reason for my stance on the issue better than I can:

And we're SO sick of having to worry about being bombed every time we hop over to the city centre to hang out with friends, or do some shopping. Worst of all, we find out India had prior intelligence most of the time, and didn't act on it.

Nandini Krishnan said...

Hi, Arun. This was not meant to be humour writing. I don't think one can possibly be flippant about terror. If any part of it seems that way, I think it's because we know this is exactly how it plays out, and the whole thing is so stupid, it's funny.

Nandini Krishnan said...

Da Undertoad: My bad. I see you do live in India now, though I'm not sure how long you've been here. :-)

Anyway, I'm saying it's time for solid steps. Don't just grope people at the mall, put a mechanism in place to prevent terror.

Stop treating terrorists like honoured guests, and stop kissing your enemy when a wing of their administration is sponsoring terror camps.

Da Undertoad said...

born here, grew up e;lsewhere, returned about ten years ago making me rss (lowers case) returned son of the soil.and basically i think that India's ineptitude in governance is due to a royalist mindset with only a thin veneer of democratic ideals. Still i have much hope, largely because your generation don't seem to be your father's Oldsmobile. Good on you.

Nandini Krishnan said...

I suppose a good start would be Rahul Gandhi staying a bachelor. Finally, an end to the Gandhi dynasty is in sight! :-)

Arun Nat said...

a Undertoad

If you can draw analogy to the cold war,maybe you can also look at Operation Entebbe(Israel's reaction to a plane hijack) or their response to Munich killings. I understand Israel and India are not quite on the same level(in various aspects) but we as a society would like to seem such strong response.Grace?Nothing about Indian Politics and policy is graceful. Most of them are absolute farce and rest border it. "innocent until proven guilty",now now you're just mouthing.(vigorously shaking my head) What incident are you talking about? Its a 10/10 chance that the incident you refer to is so not because of the legal maxim but of Red Tape and mediocrity.

Da Undertoad said...

Mr. Nat, The graceful aspect to which i was referring was the legal concept mentioned. Not a comment on the state of politics. That was covered in opinion on the politics in India.
Having a bad day, guy? I was speaking quite generally, you know, Entebbe notwithstanding.
respectfully submitted

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