Finally, we hope, the seize in Mumbai is over. 250 people, and counting, died, and more than 300 were injured, some critically. Two NSG commandos, fourteen police officers, scores of known faces among them. The entire city is recovering from shock and disbelief - the schools, colleges, offices were closed for two days, and now opening. The stock market opened yesterday, but the attendance was minimal, a rumour of firing nearby almost closed it down around mid-day. I would have said, the city is limping back to normalcy - but someone reminded me that the city will never be normal again.
Surely, questions will be asked and investigations will be launched. The government has to show that it is acting. The opposition will have to show that they know as much and are capable to govern, if power comes their way. Rhetoric will fly. Some issues will flare up; some issues will retreat from headlines. [One notable casualty of this crisis : Raj Thackaray and his MNS - we never felt more 'Indian' like now, and 'Maharastra for Maharastrians' will be out of fashion now] But, one thing is certain : India's war on terror has to start.
What is important at this stage is not to repeat the mistakes of the past. The 'Blame Pakistan' strategy is past its sale-by date. The Indian politicians feel comfortable heaping blame on Pakistan, as if that absolves them of their responsibility of guarding us. If Pakistan is such a natural, believable threat, then we should have posted NSG on the Gateway of India. We knew hotels were targets when the Marriott in Pakistan was blown up. So, there is no comfort in thinking that if Pakistan is involved, the politicians are not at fault.
Now, Pakistan. Let's accept that it is a failed state. The government there controls the government offices, and possibly the army barracks, but not much else. They have no idea what's happening in the country. We may cajole them and get the ISI chief to fly to India [though he won't come] but this is all grandstanding - nothing of substance.
What we need is substantive action. We need imagination now, not the stale drama that plays out every time these things happen. The fact is that we have to build our own security, by stamping out our mafia [who would have helped such attacks logistically], by taking serious and continuous action against corruption in our society, and by raising citizen awareness and allowing citizen watch on terrorism. Sending troops to stand on the Pakistani border with guns blazing will not solve our problem; we have been there before and it did not solve anything.
I think India's security can not be guaranteed till we continue to live in the region of failed states. We always gloss over the fact that almost all our neighbours - Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar, Afghanistan - face significant challenges to their state. India can not succeed continuously and sustainably if the people in these states do not share the prosperity and hope. India has done little in the past: in fact, it has rather done its bit in destabilizing some of these countries. Like sending troops to the border, and making Pakistani government, however crooked, spend resources on keeping its troops mobilized, and therefore, its people poor.
Let's face it. We can not wipe out Pakistan from the face of the earth, whatever we say. That thinking is dated - those things don't happen anymore. Nuclear weapons are no solution - not just that Pakistan has them too, if we nuke Islamabad, Delhi is gone; if we nuke Karachi, we may as well stop bothering about Mumbai.
So, we have to live with it. And, if we want to be able to talk to a Prime Minister in Pakistan to solve our problems, we have to let that Prime Minister govern. We won't do ourselves a favour by undermining the government in Pakistan, though that's the easiest thing to do. Making demands like ISI chief come to Pakistan helps no one; the Government in Pakistan looks weak, and that helps another ambitious Army General to mount a coup someday.
What we can not do is to repeat Bush mistakes. Terrorism today isn't any more a State affair. Even if a section of ISI supported this attack, we will not be able to stop them by bombing Pakistan. This is a new, post-Bush war on terror, which has to be fought on three fronts: Internal Security, Citizen Partnership and Shared Prosperity.
Internal Security is possibly the easiest to talk about. We have heard a lot of talk of agency coordination. That has to happen. One has to realize that the Home Ministry is not exactly a retirement home, and someone with more dynamism and imagination than Shivraj Patil has to handle that. It is time, possibly, to create a Homeland Security ministry. While that will add to bureaucratic costs, we need to give real power to them. I repeat - corruption in our society is the biggest security risk, and this needs to be tackled. The Homeland security and the NSG also needs to take on the mafia; Chota Shakil and Arun Gawli run their empires miles away from the scenes of these terror attacks, and that can not be tolerated anymore.
Citizen participation is more important than just internal security measures, but this is possibly more difficult to do in India. Citizens in India are not valued as adults; the legacy of the state capitalism days perhaps. Again, a reference to what I have seen living in London: It is the citizens' awareness and their participation in the community that keeps it clean, safe and secure. Here, citizens' opinions are valued and their rights are sacrosanct. If they feel threatened, the police and their MPs may as well stand by them. I am tired of hearing the argument that there are so many people in India that we can't do this. That is dictatorial bullshit - democracies can not function if you think you have too many voters and therefore, can not listen to each of them. Citizens' participation could be our biggest shield against the acts of terror. We should start by valuing citizens' rights - not just their rights to life, but also to a secure environment, to work, to education, to fair process. The terror attacks of this week has possibly told the elite of the society that they are not as safe as they thought they are. They now need to understand their war on terror has to start with taking the man on street on their side, and building a defence mechanism together.
Third, and this should be our Foreign and Finance ministry's job: We must lift this region of failed states and build a region of Shared Prosperity. We must help Sri Lanka stamp out its terrorists. We must help the government in Nepal to bring prosperity to that poor country. We must help Bangladesh to build a stable democracy after the elections. We must look at Myanmar critically, and beyond our immediate needs of energy, and see whether we are siding with the right guys [most probably not: we got this wrong in Nepal earlier, and that did not help]. More than most, we must work with the government of Pakistan and help them secure themselves and their country.
At times like this, it is easy to lose reason to rage, and do something silly. The worst mistake we can commit will be to start a riot, victimising those same citizens of ours who we must get on our side if we have to build a secure country. The second worst mistake will be to start a political game with Pakistan - we get nothing out of that. I hear the rumour that the peace process with Pakistan may be suspended; that would possibly the worst mistake we can commit.
Terrorists, even if they came by boat from another country, can not harm us if we are resolute, strong and united. Our war on terror, therefore, must start at home. Terror can not be stamped out by waging war; it must be stamped out by giving a strong answer internally, at the grassroots level. Let our politicians not hijack this war one more time.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
A week into lockdown and things are beginning to change. Mornings are late, afternoons are lazier and evenings never end; meditations are filling out the time for Yoga routines and Netflix profiles are strewn with half-finished movies. This state-mandated, state-funded period of idleness is being likened to being called up to serve, but is nothing like that: Such a comparison is really an affront to the idea of service. Instead, this is just one long streak of panic; of the centre not holding and life not going on as usual. With the usual patterns and rules in suspended animation and business talk - and business - being rendered meaningless, space is opening up for unusual questions: Is Capitalism about to end? Is this the death of globalisation? Does it get uglier from here? My grandfather's generation would have scoffed at us. They saw through wars and pandemics. But, in fairness, we haven't had a life-ending crisis of our own. Notwithstanding the experiences of th
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.