November 11, 2002


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Varsha Bhosle

Apna hi sikka khota

On November 3, a five-foot long Hellfire missile shot from the CIA's remote-controlled Predator spy-plane struck a moving car in Yemen. US citizen Ahmed Hijazi, al-Qaeda jihadi Abu Ali al-Harethi, and four other "suspected al-Qaeda operatives" promptly flew Jannat-wards for a blissful romp with 72 houris. Al-Harethi, too, was merely "suspected" of masterminding the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 Americans. Actually, the deadly drones were developed precisely to "give the CIA a way to track and kill suspected terrorists without putting US pilots at risk" (Associated Press, November 7). "Suspected terrorists," please note. And never mind possible civilian casualties.

The administration, working with the authority of a presidential finding that permits covert operations against al-Qaeda, considered al-Harethi and his band of merry men a military target --- "combatants" under international law. Officials contended that the missile strike was an act of self-defence, also permitted under international laws. "Sometimes the best course is a good offense... The President has made clear that we fight the war on terrorism wherever we need. Terrorists don't recognize any borders or nations," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

Pretty hairy, in'nit? So, what was the American people's reaction to the Bush administration's sanctioning the killing of 6 people only suspected of being terrorists, without any show of proof or trial...?

Well, just days later, and much to the breast-beating by the EU (ie, European Ummah), George W's Republican Party won a landslide victory for the control of Congress. The GOP made gains in the House of Representatives (which it already controlled) and grabbed the Senate, too. Joseph Cirincione, an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said, "Any talk of restraining the President or qualifying any of his foreign policy initiatives with congressional action is now gone. And the Democrats --- forget it, man. When they get whipped like this, it takes them a year to recover. They don't have a clue what to do."

Of course, there were the usual notes of dissent from the usual suspects, who challenged the legality of the strike by calling it "assassination" in violation of a presidential executive order. However, the voices that eventually prevailed were those of people like Professor Jeffrey Addicott, who teaches national security law in San Antonio, Texas: "An enemy combatant --- whether part of an organized military or a civilian who undertakes military activities --- is a legitimate target at all times and may be lawfully killed, even if by surprise. At the same time, the law of armed conflict absolutely prohibits the killing of non-combatants, except as a matter of collateral damage where civilians may be killed ancillary to the lawful attack on a military objective."

In short, the American people not only endorsed President Bush's war on terrorism and his aggressive foreign policy, but also approved his methods of waging war. Meaning, the American *people* --- and I emphasise "people" to exclude Californians and the dense human rights-walas --- know the implication of the words "war" and "terrorism" (even though the President himself is pretty much clueless about which country has been and is the hub of Islamic terrorism).

In a country notorious for crackpot litigation, no busybody emerged to scream "Murder in Yemen", no NGO filed a complaint with any national or international human rights body against the killings, and, there was no page after page after page after page of "investigation" by the "liberal" media buffoons.

It is not politicians who make a nation strong and invincible; it is, always, the common people --- those who elect their leaders on the basis of specific policies required at a given point of time; those who simply boycott a consumer product if it doesn't meet their political or quality standards; those who immediately withdraw ads and subscriptions to offending media. Under such pressures, politicians, manufacturers and media constantly need to have their fingers on the pulse of their constituency, consumer base or readership --- and adjust their course of action accordingly. And therefore, the American people never are bombarded with a plethora of garbage on "Dr" Krishna, Kuldip Nayar, "Ansal Plaza: 7 key questions," or directions by the NHRC (which Chandan Mitra aptly calls the 'National Terrorist Rights Commission').

Such ignominies are what we Indians bring upon ourselves by not exercising our power to block and discard. This weakness is based on our very special sense of "tradition" --- the same that elevates dumb bovines to human motherhood, revels in the janoi syndrome, worships Gandhian ahimsa, or takes pride in generations supporting a single political party or subscribing to a broadsheet, no matter their degeneration. When we cannot break the mould of rotting traditions, neither do politicians, nor does the country.

The following events --- and their consequences --- exemplify the Great Indian Tradition of mercy, which is put into effect only when faced with those who have a track record of extreme violence. For all other cases, for instance, the people calculatedly kept in the shit holes of the Great Hindu Society, gau-hatya is reason enough to move legislation and justify murder. The single hallmark of a coward is that he attacks only those who are too weak to retaliate. Therefore, those who plunder, murder and rape get unique treatment from this nation of cowards:

  • Jihadis Masood Azhar and Mushtaq Zargar are safely escorted to Afghanistan by Jaswant Singh on December 31, 1999. They go on to form and lead Jaish-e-Muhammad and Al-Umar, respectively, which jihad groups proceed to take hundreds of Indian lives.
  • On October 27, 2002, Sonia Gandhi and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed agree on a common minimum programme which promises to bar the implementation of POTA and to wind up the Special Operations Group. The last time that the government let down the guard --- for the "unilateral cease-fire" of November 26, 2000 --- Islamic jihadis killed 242 people in 50 days, as opposed to the 154 killed in the 78 days prior to the cease-fire.
  • JKLF commander Showkat Ahmad Bakshi, who masterminded the abduction of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's daughter Rubaiya, is set free on bail after 13 years. In December 1989, even as agencies were negotiating Rubaiya's release, the Janata Dal government unconditionally conceded the terrorists' demands. Within days, Kashmir exploded into a full-blown insurgency. The Janata Dal's response to the threat is acknowledged as *the* event that triggered jihad in J&K, which has taken over 33,000 lives in the State.
  • On November 3, Delhi police shoot dead two Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists at the Ansal Plaza mall. Within hours, a quack, Hari Krishna, tells a reporter that it was a set-up encounter. Immediately, the media goes into Inquisition mode. The Delhi police, instead of doing their job, are forced to organise press conferences and waste time investigating a publicity-hungry known offender, now crowned as Mr Truth.
  • On November 5, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed asks for a unilateral Ramzan ceasefire and "unconditional dialogue" with jihadis. On November 7, Lashkar-e-Taiba threatens to step up suicide attacks on security installations in J&K during Ramzan. On the same day, the army is ordered to relax the night curfew imposed in terrorism-prone areas of J&K. On November 10, the army is made to call off roadside frisking and checking during "the holy month" of Ramzan.
  • On November 7, JKLF commander Nazir Ahmad Sheikh alias Gul Danter, and Hizbul Mujahideen commander Mohammad Ayub are set free on bail. Both were facing terrorism charges since 12 years.
Why are terrorists held in jail when they should have been put to sleep years ago...?

Wish I could say I've no clue. But we know the role that politicians, the judiciary, and the human rights industry play in national security, don't we? (Don't forget, the NHRC is chaired by a retired judge.) If terrorists aren't instantly processed and dispatched to a suitable place, why blame the security forces for doing what the people want them to do? The Ansal Plaza jihadis were Pakistani Lashkar terrorists and without valid travel documents --- there are no two opinions on that. So why should it matter how they were killed?

What is the message that India gives to the world at large?

For starters, we gave Pakistan a chance to say about the Ansal Plaza shoot-out: "We think, as has been extensively reported in the Indian media, the so-called incident was a fake encounter. Obviously, Pakistan cannot accept the fake evidence invented by the Delhi Police. So, we reject the Indian contention that the so-called terrorists were Pakistani nationals."

Mission accomplished: That should make Kuldip Nayar and his Wagah Candelabras very happy campers, indeed!

Compare Atal Bihari Vajpayee's response to the hijacking of IC-814 with Vladimir Putin's reaction to the Chechen jihadis' hostage-taking at the Palace of Culture. Aboard the plane were 155 people; in the Moscow theatre were some 900 people. Even so, the Kremlin made only one counter-offer --- that the jihadis' lives would be spared if they freed the hostages --- and had the special forces gas them, killing 116 hostages but saving over 700. Simultaneously, Russian army units began combing the Chechen republic for jihadis. And that was that.

What is the message that Russia gave to the world at large...?

Simple: "Don't Mess With Spetsnaz" --- the special operations forces (in Russian, "spetsialnogo naznacheniia"), which ultra-elite units exist not only in the army, but in all of Russia's "force ministries" as well. They are directly subordinate to the President, and act on his orders or on the orders of officials who have been given special authority by the commander-in-chief. Oh, didn't you know, President Putin is from a Spetsnaz background (no, this information ain't on the net; it came to me from an Indian Army special ops guy). A single-minded concern for the country's security is what separates jilebiwalas from Presidents.

In October 2001, after the car bomb attack on the J&K Assembly in which 37 people were killed, Sanjeev Chibber, the spokesman for the families of the hostages aboard IC-814, admitted that he was behind the pressure on the government: For a week, the families held protest vigils outside the PM's residence, gatecrashed government briefings and demanded that the government accept the terrorists' demands. "I feel now that there should not have been any negotiation. Masood Azhar should not have been released... I didn't know who Masood Azhar was but I have read up on him and realized who he is."

Rina Dhaka recalled a Kargil martyr's widow who had said Azhar should not be released: "At that time, I thought she was crazed, insensitive. Now, I'm not so sure," she said.

Preeti Grover winced, "They should not have listened to my tears. Can you imagine we had him in our prison and then unleashed him? I was thinking of my husband but what about the families of those who have now been killed in the Valley?"

The insurgency in Kashmir began in 1989, and a decade later, these people still didn't know who Masood Azhar was and what would be the consequences of releasing him! These are the "educated" people who read newspapers, on the basis of which they elect governments and make the nation. Any reason to wonder why our successive governments acted as they did? A pathetic, uninformed people make for a feeble nation. Therefore, any reason to question why America rejected as "damaged goods" former Chechen president Maskhadov, whom it had previously viewed as a potential negotiating partner with the Russians? Any reason to speculate why America felt that Maskhadov should be excluded from any peace talks --- even as it endlessly asks India to negotiate with Musharraf...?

If you still don't get it, here's a clue to what we really are and how other nations perceive us: "Vikas Sharma, 22, is quite proud that he broke the gate of Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan as part of the demonstration [for the release of Azhar]. 'If it happens again, we would have to exchange a terrorist again,' he said." Apna hi sikka khota....

Varsha Bhosle

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