Knee Jerk Blasphemy

It has been almost two weeks since the terrorist attack in Mumbai; on India. This attack has shaken the masses like never before. Everyone has been jolted into “action”. There has been an overnight explosion in the number and magnitude of knee-jerk reactions. Except that these reactions refuse to die down even after the “knee-jerk” period has elapsed.

In this post, I offer my two cents on the various opinions and solutions doing the rounds and attempt to reach a middle ground rooted in realism rather than one spewing out from emotion.

Reaction 1: Declare war on Pakistan.


I just can’t gauge the reasoning behind this opinion. I believe that Pakistan is suffering from more or less the same problems as India: a toothless political class; shameless, over-zealous media; and rampant internal terrorism.

Agreed that there’s evidence that links the Mumbai attacks to Pakistan. Agreed that India has evidence of terrorist training camps in Pakistan. But, are we saying that we should attack a whole country, with a population of 17 crores, for this reason?

By the same logic,

  • Jihadi training camps have been found in Karnataka. So, should we bomb Karnataka?
  • It’s a shame that India has been the world-leader as far as dowry-deaths, Sati, female infanticide/foeticide are concerned .. and this has been happening for decades (if not centuries). These shameful practices kill far more innocent people than terrorism. So, how about nuking India?
  • Road accidents in India probably kill more innocents every week than terrorists do in a year. So how do we deal with a Government which is unable to control these drivers (analogous to terrorists in the current scenario) from wreaking havoc? Declare war on 1 billion Indians?

How many of those 170 million Pakistanis really support terrorism? A few thousand? A few lakh? And have we even thought about those countless innocent Pakistanis who, just like countless innocent Indians, only want peace and harmony between the two countries? Just think about our heroes and icons from Pakistan - like Ustaad Ghulam Ali, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Ateef Aslam. Just think about the outstandingly talented contestants from across the border in reality shows (Amanat Ali, Akbar Ali, Sara to name a few). Are they not just like any of us?

Besides, this kind of hatred will only spell doom for the future generations. It will only result in more terrorist groups springing up everywhere; and more bloodshed.

Yes, war it is. However, the Indians and Pakistanis (as in the general public in the two countries) are on the same side in this war. They are all waging a war against terrorism; against their respective impotent Governments; against the elements whose only aim is to destabilize the entire region.

Reaction 2: Shoot all the politicians.

Well, this is what came to my mind too when I saw the ridiculous manner in which the whole issue was handled by Indian “leaders” (Government and opposition alike). However, lets take a moment to think – can we really do without them? A 100 crore people need leaders. A country needs politicians to run it, especially when it is the largest democracy in the world. Our hatred for them notwithstanding, we need these leaders. Full Stop.

The alternatives are not very tempting either. President’s Rule, Military Rule, Dictatorship – these are all good only if the leader is good. But, will the “right” person ever get to be at the helm? Will Abdul Kalam ever be given full powers? I doubt that. Its more likely that without democracy, India would be divided into two dozen Myanmars!

IMO, the better option is to choose the right leaders. Go out and vote. I admit that at the moment, we do not have any good party to vote for .. they are all as bad as any other. But, lets hope things change for the better. Lets rest our hopes on the young blood in politics. Lets also resolve to enter politics ourselves if we don’t see any worth in the current swarm of leaders.

I know all that’s easier said than done, but I believe that change and reform are more effective if carried out at the grass-roots level (which means it will be slow) rather than aiming for overnight overhaul of the system.

Reaction 3: Negative Profiling of Muslims

I again find this highly puzzling. I strongly believe that Muslims are as patriotic as any of us. They are also as much victims of terrorism as the rest of us. Why single them out for negative profiling?

Before harboring unwarranted feeling towards an entire community, should we not stop and think for a moment about the Muslims we know? Who are close to us? Who are our role models? What image do you get in your mind when you think of Amir Khan? Do you feel anything other than respect when you think of Abdul Kalam or Naseeruddin Shah? What image does the thought of Ustad Zakhir Hussain conjure up in your mind?

The Muslim community has been blamed for not speaking out against these acts of terror as strongly as they should. That might have been true in the past. No anymore. Imams all around the country are voicing their opinions against terror; and denouncing this form of Jihad. Blogosphere is full of Muslim bloggers who have been crying hoarse against anything which disrupts the peace of the country (like this absolutely must-read post: Dear Mr. Terrorist ).

I strongly feel this is the time to unite as a country against terror; rather than play petty divisive politics amongst ourselves. Demographic classification be damned.

Reaction 4: Permanently silence the media

To say that I was upset with the insensitive manner in which the media handled the entire episode would be a gross understatement. Blog posts like Shoddy Journalism shed more light on how low the media really stooped during those 3 days.

However, is silencing the media really an option? I think not. The vibrant Indian media is crucial to the functioning of a democracy. The problem is that compared to the print media, the electronic media is just an infant; and infants get excited easily don’t they?

I am not suggesting here that we simply accept the TV news channels as-is. The last thing I want to do is idolize journalists like Barkha Dutt (who probably lets out an ecstatic moan of you-know-what, every time she sees an injured person or a dead body), or the other equally blood-thirsty hyenas who love to call themselves “reporters”. What we can do is change the channel if one news channel is so repulsive in its coverage! I have found that regional language news channels handled the coverage in a much more mature manner. Switch over to those.

Further, unlike the political class, the media is not in a position to disregard the public opinion. After all, the very reason they are breaking every rule of responsible journalism is to garner higher TRP’s; for which they need to keep the viewers happy. Right now, public opinion of media is as negative as it could possibly be. What we need to do is take this opportunity to reform the media as well! Write more blogs to make our anger known to the journalists. Contact the news channels, post comments on their blogs, write emails to them. Again, I understand that many of these efforts might prove fruitless. The Barkha Dutts of the world might simply trash our email. But, as I mentioned earlier, reform is a slow process.

Reaction 5: Raid the Terrorist Camps in Pakistan and in PoK.

This by far seems to me to be the most appropriate course of action for India. If we have irrefutable evidence that terrorists are being trained in those locations; we should demand that they be cleansed. If the Pakistan Govt is unable to carry out this operation, then India should be allowed to do so.

In conclusion

I believe now is the time for nation-building. Lets all resolve to tide over this crisis; lets all resolve to defeat the terrorists as a nation. Lets stand united against this heinous form of crime. Most importantly, lets also use this opportunity to start long-term reforms in every walk of life. JAI BHARATH.

5 comments to Knee Jerk Blasphemy

  • I liked the reactions - and the one alternative you make sense out of too - its the most sensible one. Though I think in the last few months I have taken to more extremist thinking. Pak Govt is also covering up the hideous deeds of ISI and the fact that there is illegal funding of camps like those of LeT organizations and of various persisting groups under the same like the Mujahiddeen blah blah.

    War might not the option - true - but aerial attack on militant camps definitely is - may they be in Karnataka, or in Pak ! Its been very very long since these camps have been identified but nothin has been done from the Pak Govt. Powers like the US would now shape up things if neighbours cant settle their own problems. Agree that the jihadis are mostly poor people, come from extremely downtrodden sections of the society (so is the only one caught in the 26/11 saga) - but there are operatives which lure them there - these are the people to be tracked.

    My opinion - launch a massive search and intelligence attack first - involve international intelligence agencies - track down gangsters who have been missing from ages, and destroy their links.
    Dont rest till they are found. It may take months and years - but the search operations shud be funded well - here's where ur politician point enters - and where the problem crops up - intelligence agencies and police officials MUST operate without political interference - with the absence of such demarcations in the country, India is at risk. Even today we know that Indian internal links arent strong because of simple reasons like police inspectors not being compensated properly (resulting in corruption).

    Lots to do Kiran - who does it is still a question - the 'leaders' of the nation is still a misnomer.

  • Hmmm.. i cannot agree to all the points!.. these are the stereotypical reactions for any given terrorist scenario with respect to India. The present situation demands us to take a step further, probably a thrust that would provide us an edge over the present chaos.. Otherwise there will definitely be not much progress to handle this insane carnage.

  • Nice to see your thoughts around the current mayhem of mumbai. One questions which always bothers me is - Why wasn't there an intelligence system which would have avoided this. We talk always about what we should do after something like this happens, but never talk about what we really need to do to avoid such things happening in future. We 100 crore can definitely outnumber a handful of terrorists in our smarter thinking and in our intelligence. Hope our intelligence system can be more alert now on and take precautionary actions to avoid huge damages like this.

  • Kiran, like your thoughts and agree to the most.. while reading on some of the comments about "why not an intelligent system which could detect such activity"... well.. we read many incidents where police/bsf/armed forces discovering a "stock" of explosives and arrests of two suspects etc.. during the peace time.. these news go unnoticed and probably find place on second / third page of the newspapers.. the people who catch them get some incentives and probably the case is "filed" for good.. do we ever hear of a follow-up combing operation or chain of activists arrested as a result.. very rarely..

  • @ Ashish: The developments of the past couple of weeks makes me re-think my opinion and embrace yours!(at least regarding the Govt of Pak; although not regarding the general public in Pak).

    I agree with your approach .. however it will only work if Pak co-operates. Nothing will be achieved if they just spoil for war.

    Maybe I should write a follow-up post now!

    @ @run: Yes - a step further is definitely needed .. but none of the 4 reactions which I mentioned would be the right "step further". Dont you think so?

    @ PC: I liked your statement that a 100 crore can outnumber a handful. But before we outnumber the terrorists; we have to stem the rot in politics and leadership - which brings us to your point about intelligence failure. We 100 crore should first outsmart the handful of i-am-above-my-country breed of netas and babus. Then comes the issue of tacking terrorism. As I said - reform is what is needed.

    @ Mahesh:Totally agree with you - nobody gives a damn when such incidents occur during peace time. Media rants and howls for a day or two and then forgets. So do we. Probably if these cases were followed up properly; quite a few of these attacks would have been averted.

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