Friday, November 28, 2008

India under Siege

It is not just another terrorist attack. It's an attack on the sovereignty of India. It's a breach of India's territorial integrity. It's literally a war against the Indian state. A handful of intruders (I prefer to call them 'marauders') enter Mumbai through the Gateway of India, breaching the maritime boundaries, unnoticed by our coastal guard, escape the vigilant eyes of our security forces and storm inside Taj, Oberoi, Trident, Nariman House and CST, killing hundreds of unsuspecting, innocent individuals, Indians and foreigners included.
And what do we do? We sit in front of our television screens, watching the sordid drama of mounting tension and death-toll figures, listening to the sound bites of the hostages who manage to escape or flee, waiting for the siege to end, waiting for the nail-biting finish. Hasn't our life become more theatrical than theatre itself? Mumbai is not under a siege, India is.
Our Prime Minister goes on the air and in his characteristic monotone, spews forth a few predictable phrases, a few shibboleths he himself doesn't believe in (but certainly expects the people to believe in them). The news-hounds are chasing people, in search of the elusive sound-bites, competing with the rival channels to get on air just one exclusive story, just one rare sound-bite that would put them ahead of others.
Paratroopers are air-dropped on the Nariman House, NSG personnel take their positions in and around all the main buildings the 'terrorists' have laid siege to. And the bleeding, traumatized 'rescued hostages' are bundled into already choked ambulances, rushing off to the city hospitals.
Amidst all this, something lies completely torn and tattered, even irretrievably shattered...and that is the concept of India as a Nation, as a State. Somewhere, I think, we deserve all this. In a country, where the politicians are more interested in labelling 'terrorism' and less interested in dealing with it, we deserve no better. (Have you forgotten how Amar Singh and Mulayam S. Yadav pitched in for the 'Muslim terrorists' and L. K. Advani and Rajnath Singh plumped for the 'Hindu terrorists'? Who will ever tell them that the terrorists have no religion and that the only religion they practice is the religion of violence, gore and blood-letting? And who will ever explain to them the urgent need to exercise restraint in face of such crises of national importance and character?)
My suspicion is that one day, we shall wake up to this (c) rude and sordid reality that 'Muslim terror' and 'Hindu terror' are simply two sides of the same coin. One day, we shall realize that beneath the surface appearances, Muslims and Hindus are driven by a common lust for money and life that ultimately drives people into becoming 'hapless' or 'willing' accomplices in the terrorist crimes.
In a country, where people are up for sale and every human being, regardless of his status, position or power, has a price-tag around his neck, anything and everything is possible. In a country where money can buy and sell people almost as easily as some others can trade in the stock-market, terrorism is bound to prosper and flourish. It's 'crisis of credibility of the system' and the 'crisis of character of the individuals' that often combine to give birth to other more serious crises within the family, the institutions, the state and the nation.
And this is where every citizen of India has to do some soul-searching and ask himself this vital question: where have I gone wrong? In what way am I contributing either to the cause of the national security or to that of national threat. If I'm accepting bribe in my own 'small' way, am I not becoming anti-national in some unknown 'big' way? Watching the sordid drama of terrorist attack on the television is certainly not the only way of demonstrating our national concern. This would neither help us exorcise our collective demons nor establish our credentials as good citizens. This would only make die-hard voyeurs out of us or just plain and simple, charlatans,
Somewhere we need to ask ourselves: Haven't we failed miserably to perceive 'terrorism' as a national problem? Have we been able to rise above the narrow, sectarian and partisan party-lines to develop a national perspective on an issue that demands 'national consensus'? How long will we keep serving our narrow party interests and how long shall we continue to sacrifice the innocent human beings at the altar of sectarianism, communalism and terrorism. How long shall we continue to taint our souls with the blood of innocents?
Though Mumbai might ultimately find its liberation (as more than forty hours have gone by, not many are willing to lay a wager on 'when' it shall finally become a reality), you take it from me that India shall continue to remain under siege (M. J. Akbar, a seasoned journalist, had predicted that in his book titled: India Under Siege, several years ago) so long as we don't develop this national perspective.
Will we ever rise above voyeurism? Will the better sense ever prevail among our politicians and citizens, alike? Will we ever rise above narrow, sectarian interests and start thinking in terms of a 'National Government'? I bet, if we do not start thinking about it now in what may only be described 'as one of the darkest moments in the recent Indian history,' then we may soon become 'history' for the rest of the world.

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