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Amidst the mayhem, a glimmer of hope
July 19, 2006
The shock of the bomb blasts in Mumbai was so overwhelming that the events in Srinagar earlier that day were completely overshadowed.
On that fateful day, there were several grenade attacks on tourists in the Kashmir valley. Par for the course in a region where terrorist strikes are almost a daily routine.
But what was new and revolutionary in its impact was the fact that in one instance, a crowd of local Kashmiris overpowered the grenade thrower and handed him over to the police.
This is possibly the first such instance of the local people cooperating against terrorists in the Kashmir valley in last 20 years.
This landmark event was quickly followed by open defiance of the terrorists by the people of Gulmarg who took to the streets on Friday, July 14, protesting against another grenade attack in that town against tourists.
The pony owners, tourist guides and hoteliers, whose livelihood depends on tourism, marched with slogans like 'Tourists hamari jaan hain, Kashmir ki shaan hain (tourists are our life and pride of Kashmir)'.
It is easy to dismiss this purely as motivated by self interest (as it indeed is). But it also clearly reflects the average Kashmiri citizen's disenchantment with the ongoing violence.
This disenchantment is not new, but the fact that the people have picked up courage to come out in the open against violence is a sure sign that we may well be seeing the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel in Kashmir.
As someone who was active in counter-terror operations in Punjab in the 1980s and as a student of this phenomenon, I can say clearly that the virulent terrorist violence in Punjab ended only when the long-suffering people of Punjab rose against it. No amount of direct Pakistani and Western (yes, Western) support could keep this alive beyond 1992-1993.
In Kashmir, the patient work by the security forces, intelligence agencies and sagacious policies adopted by successive governments seem to be finally paying dividends. If sensitively handled, it should be possible to restore peace in the Kashmir valley within the next few years. Even the infiltrated terrorists cannot survive without popular support.
The Mumbai train blasts also brought out the best of our citizens. Slum dwellers living near the rail tracks were the first to rush to help the stricken passengers. Irrespective of their religious denomination, all were one in this tragic hour.
Taxi drivers, rickshaw drivers and common people all pitched in to help the stranded commuters. Doctors, hospital staff and the overworked police worked through the day and night. Railway workers worked throughout the night and restored the rail network within a few hours. And all this by the people of a city that was adjudged the 'rudest city in the world' by a Readers Digest survey.
The pea-brained surveyors were obviously biased as they would have at least known that just a year ago, when the monsoon floods struck Mumbai, the 'rudest city in world' came out with blazing colours, throwing up many heroes.
Mumbai again showed that poverty has nothing to do with strength of character. It is worth noting that both during last year's floods and last week's bomb blasts, there were very few reports of looting or pilferage. Compare this with affluent New Orleans, which saw mass-scale looting as well as rioting during the floods in August last year. Makes one wonder sometimes as to which is the 'developed' country.
By far the greatest 'miracle' was the extraordinary tolerance and forbearance shown by the 'majority community' in not violently reacting to the outrage (it is politically incorrect to mention the dreaded word Hindu).
That this response by the common man which defeated the strategy of the terrorists who want communal strife is all the more remarkable in the light of the fact that the secular fanatics wasted no time in blaming the victims a la Godhra and raking up the Babri demolition issue.
In the numerous television debates aired over the weekend, not one participant expressed their admiration for this essential tolerance and common sense of our people.
Let us accept that the bombing was planned with meticulous care to inflict maximum casualties on the majority community. The choice of railway routes and first class bogies only gave away the game plan. There was similar planning during the 1993 bomb blasts as well.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US saw a spate of hate crimes, in which some Sikhs lost their lives due to mistaken identity. 'Tolerant' and civilised London saw a wave of racial profiling and shunning of Muslims after the London train bombing last year. But Indians and the majority Hindus showed yet again that extraordinary spirit of tolerance that is at the core of our civilisation.
The average Indian Muslim has reacted with horror to this outrage. A massive demonstration by Muslims denouncing the terror attack has been planned which might be a turning point in the history of Mumbai and India. If this sustains and fuels the anti-extremism campaign within the Muslim community, then the sacrifice of over 200 innocent people who died in Mumbai may well mark a watershed in our history.
But for this, the culprits have to be caught at the earliest with the visible cooperation of their co-religionists. Like in Kashmir, this may yet turn the tide against terrorism in India.
It would be absolutely accurate to say that the peace in Mumbai held not because of but in spite of an obscene media blitz. The electronic media went totally overboard, repeatedly airing ghastly scenes of mangled corpses, designed to shock and anger any one.
The television reporters and anchors continuously used clich�d terms like 'afra tafri ka mahol' (chaotic situation) at a time when the people were trying to get a grip on the situation. This, coupled with the secular fundamentalists' insensitivity to the victims, is creating great anger. Society and the majority community are like a pressure cooker, and a repeat of Mumbai-type attacks could well spark an explosion of blind fury.
The most worrying aspect of the Mumbai train blasts is its apparent disconnect with any contemporary event. The 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts were directly attributed to the riots that had taken place earlier that year. But there was no apparent cause for the terrorists to attack Mumbai unless the basic target was India's booming economy.
Similarly, last December, terrorists murdered a scientist, Dr M C Puri, in an attack on the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. The target: India's scientific progress.
In June, a man named Nadeem Kashmiri was arrested in Bangalore for a BPO fraud that involved his stealing data and identities and transmitting it to his accomplices in London. Was this a crime committed solely for money (he got very little out of it) or to hurt the BPO industry in India? Who were his accomplices in London?
Last month also saw the bizarre report of a young man from Kolhapur, a small town south of Pune, being killed fighting the Indian Army in Kashmir.
I have studied in Kolhapur and know the area and its people. This city has absolutely no history of communal tension and in fact has a rich legacy of great Muslim artistes. Of special note was the late Abdul Karim Khan, the guru of the late Sawai Gandharva, who in turn was the guru of the legendary Bhimsen Joshi.
That Kolhapur, with such a rich history of Hindu-Muslim amity, is now a hotbed that produces terrorists is indeed a wake up call to the country as a whole and Maharashtra in particular.
These apparently unconnected events have a pattern which points to centralised control and a master plan. Some organisation has launched a war against India. The tools in this war are brainwashed fanatics. Its objective: the economic ruin of India.
Do we as Indians realise that we are at war?
As the Prussian military philosopher Karl von Clausewitz said: 'Woe to the government that with a shackled military and unsure policy that takes on a foe, who like the forces of nature knows no other rule than its own power!'