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Political Context of Mumbai Bomb Blasts

The government's reaction to the Mumbai bomb blasts of July 11 seems like a ploy to conceal one's motives by appearing merely as the victim and to falsify the issues involved. There is a need to situate the problem of terrorism in the international and national political context of which it is a part and understand the frustration, hopelessness and intense sense of humiliation that breed people who vow to sacrifice their lives and avenge what they perceive as injustice. Force cannot remedy such a situation.

Commentary

Political Context of Mumbai Bomb Blasts

The government’s reaction to the Mumbai bomb blasts of July 11 seems like a ploy to conceal one’s motives by appearing merely as the victim and to falsify the issues involved. There is a need to situate the problem of terrorism in the international and national political context of which it is a part and understand the frustration, hopelessness and intense sense of humiliation that breed people who vow to sacrifice their lives and avenge what they perceive as injustice. Force cannot remedy

such a situation.

P A SEBASTIAN

R
eferring to the Mumbai bomb blasts of July 11, prime minister Manmohan Singh said on July 14: “They clearly want to destroy our growing economic strength, destroy our unity and provoke communal incidents”. “Terrorists are spreading their tentacles across the country”, he added, and emphasised that “these terror modules are instigated, inspired and supported by elements across the border”. Is this an honest and genuine analysis of what happened on that day in Mumbai or a ploy to conceal one’s motives by appearing merely as the victim and to falsify the issues involved?

Terrorist activities are a global phenomenon today and India is no exception. The reasons are both national and international. It is necessary to go back a little in history to understand the phenomenon called terrorism.

The International Context

In the wake of second world war two blocks emerged – American and Soviet. There was intense competition between the two. The Soviet system ostensibly guaranteed work and shelter to every individual. The US block subscribed to capitalist ideology and claimed that the market was the best mechanism to distribute resources. However, this system actually had to be supplemented by large-scale social welfare measures if it were to retain its legitimacy.

In the course of the cold war the Soviet Union degenerated from within and collapsed. This collapse emboldened the capitalist system led by the US to come out in its true colours. A campaign was launched against social welfare measures with the intention of discrediting them, and they were dismantled one by one in quick succession and a new model called neoliberalism was evolved and installed. This model is being enforced all over the world through international institutions like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation. Such a development required the formulation of a different ideology to legitimise the changed policies and to distract the attention of the deprived from the stark realities of life and to rally them against a newly contrived enemy. This newly articulated ideology is called the “clash of civilisations”, and it predicts an Armageddon between the Christian “civilisation” and Islamic “civilisation”. And in this final and decisive conflict the Hindu “civilisation” will join forces with Christian “civilisation”. Both the Muslim fundamentalists and the Hindutva forces subscribe to this ideology – a pernicious ideology upheld and promoted by fundamentalists of all religious hues.

The theatre of action where this ideology has been put into operation is west Asia and other places where Muslims preponderate. In west Asia Israel spearheads this policy under the benign eyes of the US and the European Union – Israel described graphically by Lohia as a dagger driven into the heart of independent west Asia by imperialist powers. The Zionists occupied Palestine and drove out the Palestinians, rendering them refugees. The Zionists could do this only because the US and her allies unreservedly supported them. Israel has been waging a war on the Palestinians for the last 60 years or so, first to defeat communism and now to defeat Islamic fundamentalists. The latest was the bombing of Gaza, which soon extended to a fierce onslaught on Lebanon. The attack has destroyed the infrastructure of Lebanon on a massive scale and killed more than a thousand civilians and rendered about a million people homeless.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the US invaded and conquered Afghanistan. The next target was Iraq. An overwhelming military force was used against Iraq and it was reduced to a state of prehistoric existence under the pretext of totally false allegations. At present Iran is under imminent threat of attack. The whole world has been intimidated and blackmailed into passive acceptance of American aggression and occupation of certain strategically chosen places. The world media toes the line laid down by the US because in the words of Ted Turner, 90 per cent of what we read, what we hear and what we see is controlled by five corporations, which are all pro-American. The brunt of this American aggression and hostile propaganda is borne by the Muslim world. They are not capable of militarily fighting the US and defending themselves.

It is pertinent to note that at the time of the cold war the US promoted, financed and armed religious and fundamentalist organisations in west Asia and other Muslim countries to fight secular and left-oriented nationalist forces that sided with the Soviet Union on several vital issues. The US used religious fanatical forces to organise military coups against progressive regimes in Muslim countries and instigated them to make attempts on the lives of leaders like president Nasser. Once the cold war was over these forces were of no use to America. On the contrary, they became a menace

Economic and Political Weekly September 2, 2006

in the light of the new strategy and its imperatives. Now an open war has been launched against them and “the clash of civilisations” has been set in motion as new strategy for the unchallenged domination of the world.

The National Context

In this scenario where does India stand? India has moved towards a close and cordial relationship with Israel, primarily in the military and intelligence fields and concluded agreements to buy weapons worth several billions of dollars. India has taken an open and mean stand against the sovereign right of Iran to enrich uranium. The Indian media repeatedly calls Iran a rogue state. India has a strategic alliance with the US, and outdoes the latter in its rhetoric on Islamic terrorism. India tells the US with an air of great wisdom that Pakistan is the nerve-centre of terrorism, and in fact, more dangerous to the world than Afghanistan and Iraq were, implying thereby that Pakistan be bombed and devastated as it was done in the case of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Anti-Muslim riots have become a regular feature in India. In all such riots the armed forces of the state have connived at crimes against Muslims and, in several instances, have actively participated in the crimes committed by anti-Muslim rioters. Almost invariably the perpetrators of such crimes as murder and rape have gone scot-free. In Gujarat the man who ordered and executed an anti-Muslim pogrom rules the state. Judicial commissions were appointed to inquire into some of these massacres and large-scale destruction of Muslim properties. Such commissions often made scathing remarks on the governments concerned for their collusion with criminals who committed heinous atrocities against Muslims. The commissions even identified the accused. Nevertheless, the governments took no action against them. On the contrary, the police treated the victims as the accused and charged them with various offences and gathered and produced false evidence against them. This has happened wherever there was massive violence against Muslims.

The bomb blasts in the local trains in Mumbai on July 11 is an episode in a continuum. It has a past and it has a present. But the ruling classes and the media make an all-out effort to make it appear that there is no connection between the train blasts and the national and international political context of which they are a part. When the bombs exploded in Mumbai on March 12, 1993, L K Advani instantaneously issued a statement in which he said that there was no link between the demolition of Babri masjid and the riots in its wake on the one side and the bomb blasts on the other. And he added that it was a conspiracy hatched by the Pakistan’s ISI to sabotage the unity and integrity of India. Even a child in Mumbai knew that they were interlinked. However, the Congress government in power got along well with the interpretation of Advani.

The plot to disconnect the present from the past can be discerned at a global level too. The Palestinian intifada is dissociated from its historical context, as also the resistance of the Hizballah. It is conveniently forgotten that the Hizballah was formed in 1982 to fight Israel’s occupation of south Lebanon. No mention is made that Zionists fought for the creation of a Jewish state, bombing hotels and installations and killed Palestinian civilians. The British, who then governed Palestine, called these Zionists terrorists. Many of these terrorists later became rulers of independent Israel – Moshe Dayan, Yitshak Rabin, Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon. Ironically, once they achieved power, they denounced and denigrated the Palestinian freedom fighters as terrorists. It is worth remembering that the Nazis had bitterly condemned terrorism and conducted what they called counter-terrorism against terrorist partisans. The US drew from the Nazi model and consulted Wehrmacht officers.

Lessons to Learn

Terrorism is the desperate act of desperate people – the act of those who have been left with no choice but to throw bombs at their enemies. The first condition to deal with such a situation is that the world accepts that Muslims in general feel defeated, and alienated from their own resources. Nonetheless, in the present circumstances, they cannot imagine fighting a war and winning it against the mighty forces ranged against them. This cauldron of frustration, hopelessness and an intense sense of humiliation breed people who vow to sacrifice their lives and to avenge what they perceive as injustice. Force cannot remedy such a situation. It will lead to more and more disasters and tragedies as we experience today. This calls for radical remedial measures to alter the situation drastically. However, the reaction which one sees around the world does not give much scope for optimism. George Bush declares that America is in a state of war with Islamic fascists who are seen as freedom fighters by vast sections of the Muslim population. Tony Blair lumps the insurgency in Kashmir and Chechnya as Islamic terrorism, with no regard to history and the social background. Such a response aggravates the situation. Will Muslims consider Hizballah as a gang of terrorists as projected by the world media or as freedom fighters that valiantly fight Israel that is a terrorist state par excellence in their perception? In India the ruling classes and the media have unleashed a massive campaign with no holds barred against Pakistan in the wake of train blasts of July 11. Pakistan is often used as a substitute for the Muslims in the Indian subcontinent. The facts do not substantiate the allegations against Pakistan in this respect.Lashkar-e-Taiba has been banned in Pakistan. Pakistan has caught or killed dozens of Al Qaida and Taliban members. There have been three attempts on Musharraf’s life. Those who carry out such a campaign and vilify the Indian Muslims do not realise that there are 120-150 million Muslims in India. It is in the interest of the majority community that they do not drive the Muslims to the wall where they are left with no choice but to retaliate violently. In this respect, India has a lesson to learn from Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka was once called the paradise of Asia. Then the Sinhalese majority developed a kink in their brain and declared Buddhism as the state religion and Sinhalese as the only official language that stirred up a hornet’s nest from which Sri Lanka has never recovered.

The Indian state has several lessons to learn from the recent past. Will they learn them or get drawn into the maelstrom of the vicious and communal politics? All of us Indians have a huge stake in the matter unless we think that we can all migrate to the US.

EPW

Email: cpdr@rediffmail.com

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