Lamenting the current situation at JNU and the ongoing discourse on freedom, Malayalam film star Mohanlal has written a blog titled ‘What’s the point of us living when India is dying’.
The actor began his blog by saying that a few days ago, he saw the picture of Lance Naik Sudheesh’s four-month-old daughter being shown her father’s dead body, a daughter who the soldier had never seen.
In the same newspaper I read about the fight in our universities on what love for the nation is. Fights in assemblies, bar scam and other news stories too were there. I felt sorrow and shame at the same time.
Mohanlal said that as soldiers die for the nation, there can be nothing more shameful than citizens discussing what freedom and patriotism is.
The actor, who has received the honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Territorial Army of India, also questioned the ‘hypocrisy’ of an average citizen who sits within the comforts of his or her house and criticises armed forces.
We cover ourselves in thick blankets at the first sign of chill in the weather. We have hot water to brush our teeth and take a bath. It is after utilising these comforts that we go to universities and offices and discuss about our soldiers, abuse them and question them.
He then said that while the common citizen enjoys these comforts, the soldiers spend their time mostly in solitude thinking about the families they left behind, the children they didn’t see even once.
I read that even Pakistan was ready to help us retrieve bodies of soldiers in Siachen. Did we show even that much respect to them?
He said that like a son or daughter cannot abandon their aged parent, we cannot distance ourselves from the nation.
Our country is the soil we stand on, the sky above our heads, the air we breathe, the water we drink and finally the piece of land that we will become one with as we die.
Stating that while he was not interested in the current discussion, the attitude of some left him disturbed, so he urged parents to speak to their children about what the nation means.
He concluded by saying that debates and discussions are essential to a democracy, but only if they will strengthen the democracy.
Any discussion that does not help us strengthen the freedom we have attained is meaningless and is an insult to the nation.
Intolerance in India is not the preserve of political parties as is constantly being made out to be. My experience, detailed below, reveals that intolerance and blocking the expression of alternate views is a national malaise, in which a large mass of people of all hue and color and possible Congress loyalties are also major offenders.
I was invited to speak at a panel discussion ‘Mass Communication or Mass Manipulation?’ which was held at the Delhi College of Arts and Commerce on Monday, February 15, 2016, but rudely interrupted and shut down within minutes of my speech, the full text of which is pasted below. Please decide for yourself if the contents are objectionable enough to invite such behavior.
My speech on ‘Mass Communication or Mass Manipulation?’
As an individual for whom journalism has been more of a passion than a profession, it is somewhat disturbing to be speaking on a topic like this, which states an endemic problem rather than poses a question.
While its fair to say that both communication and manipulation coexist in the media, the taint of manipulation has been growing stronger and for obvious reasons. The main ones include: the corporatisation of media, with ownership of media being increasingly concentrated in the hands of big business and politicians along with the commoditization of news – with TRPs/circulation/advertising revenue/profits and political and market influence becoming central to all news gathering efforts rather than the activity of journalism itself.
Though journalists attribute credit for this distressing model to one large media house, it has been shamelessly embraced by all media firms. It has become omnipresent and omnipotent. It is an absolute. There is no getting away from it.
But that is existence. The essence is centered in journalism’s real objective, which is to function as the soul of a nation – as a conscience keeper, while the role of any journalist should be to relentlessly work for meaningful change, eventually leading to the upliftment of humanity. A journalist’s only obligation is to the truth. Truth that can be verified in public interest. And journalism is only reliable when it is delivered by a journalist who is independent in mind and spirit.
Some of you might argue that this sort of idealism is impractical and only palatable in theory. But if you do indeed believe that, then why even have this debate? Why indulge anger over alleged mass manipulation by the media? People make their choices – to be either the best or the worst of themselves and their choices are not our concern. But if we are upset about anything in our world, if we find it hard to accept the status quo, then we must focus on our own choices and subsequently, the actions and reactions, the rewards and punishments that lead forth from those choices.
Let me quickly take you through my own journey as an investigative journalist to illustrate the significance of individual choice.
When I became a journalist in 1995, the first briefing given to me by a senior colleague was that salaries would always be depressing, and it was impossible to progress without a Godfather – more so for a woman. That most journalists who were successful, were corporate agents, that there was no question of attempting to write anything about a growing club of powerful corporates who were additionally private treaty partners with media houses, or even in challenging the ruling political establishment, since they would hit back with legal notices, and finally, that I would become a victim of crippling boredom and cynicism within a maximum of 10 years just the same as everyone else.
At the time this was shattering, because I believed journalism was a calling and one that resonated with the highest ideals. In retrospect, I am deeply grateful to this senior colleague for re-setting my expectations to zero on my very first day in the job. I was now free to concentrate on my work, knowing full well that I could not expect any professional gain, since I neither had any powerful connections nor the mindset or the aptitude to cultivate them.
Interestingly, it is in this very backdrop of cynicism, vested interests and gender discrimination that I later went on to deliver, in a span of just 7 years, a deeply incriminating body of investigative work exposing what is now popularly known as the Rs 1.76 lakh crore, 2G telecom scam: the award of 2G telecom licenses to builders rather than telecom players on January 10, 2008 at historic 2001 prices based on an illegal first-come, first-served allocation policy.
This was followed by an expose of the Rs 1.86 lakh crore coal scam, popularly known as Coalgate. Vadragate, the shady land deals of Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law, Haryana chief minister B.S. Hooda’s largesse in licensing 22 thousand acres of land to first-time builders at the cost of poor farmers; Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh’s corruption scandal, NABARD’s largesse towards rich corporates at the cost of the rural poor; the 4 billion dollar Sahara Ponzi scandal; the potential abuse of power in the award of new banking licenses and Chhattisgarh ex-chief minister’s son Amit Jogi’s election scandal, followed in quick succession.
The 2G expose, undisputedly the biggest and most rigorously documented financial scam in independent India, culminated in a Cabinet minister A Raja, his telecom secretary, along with several officials of privately held firm Swan Telecom being jailed for 18 months or more. Similarly, the Supreme Court cancelled 214 of 218 coals mine permits in its order of September 24, 2014. A Public Interest Litigation against the Himachal Chief Minister is being heard in court, while legal action is being prepared against the former Haryana chief minister, B. S. Hooda. Sahara chief, Subroto Roy once an untouchable has also been a resident of Tihar jail since February 2014 while the Robert Vadra scandal became a major cause for the Congress Party’s debacle in the recent elections. NABARD has withdrawn its controversial scheme favoring corporates at the cost of the rural poor.
However, establishing the direct involvement of the then finance minister, Mr. P Chidambaram, the prime minister’s office and even former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself in the 2G and Coalgate scandals invited severe hardships. These included personal and professional attacks, surveillance, threats and censorship. It was around October 2008, after many months of reporting on the basis of access to secret documents that the then prime minister, finance minister and telecom minister Mr. A Raja met and decided to have a press conference to clarify that all these stories that I had done were wrong. I was threatened by Raja’s personal secretary and the tightening pressure by the government and big telecom players involved in this scam was used to first censor and eventually block all my stories. This is despite Raja going to jail, the Controller and Auditor General of India, or the CAG independently verifying my exposes, a government committee endorsing the stories and even a landmark Supreme Court verdict in February, 2012 upholding the allegation of illegality that I had made way back in 2007 by cancelling all the 122-telecom licenses.
Through all of this, the worst attack came from within, colleagues and senior editors, the gatekeepers of newsrooms would sit around me discussing with earshot how the 2G corruption didn’t qualify as a story. Since every minister was corrupt, how was the singling out of the telecom minister any great achievement? They doubted my sources, dismissed the verification of facts as opinion, even going so far as to say I didn’t know how to write. This was despite my then tenure of 16 years and the fact that my stories were always printed without any editing and completely overlooking the fact that I was absolutely a zero maintenance resource, with no legal notice to my name till date, despite challenging the richest and most powerful people in the country.
It is in this backdrop of hostility and complete scorn for the truth that I still continued to deliver stories. I was told that newspapers didn’t support campaign journalism or activism so basically I learned that it’s not okay to be identified as an activist journalist in India. Such a label is a matter for ridicule and not honor. Once you are given such a tag, your colleagues will persistently suspect your motives, ignore your research and dismiss you for being emotional, and all of this is aimed at destroying the journalist professionally.
Despite this hostile environment, the 2G scam was rigorously documented in over 50 or 60 stories, becoming the symbol of big and embedded corruption, exposing the nexus between journalists, PR firms, bureaucrats, big business and politicians. Its unexpected upside was that it unleashed unprecedented social and political transformation as the outcome of public anger against corruption.
The 2014 general election in India was fought on 3 primary issues: corruption, governance and governments’ political accountability – a first in India’s 67 years of Independence. Through these years, I continued to counter the anger of colleagues, since investigative journalism also hits at the interests of beat reporters who survive by protecting their sources and keeping them happy. And the only way to do that is by not telling the real story and preventing others from doing so as well.
Another smart way of killing investigative work is to deny news space, since the devil lies in the detail, especially in the unveiling and unraveling of complex financial scams. So when an editor says that he will only publish your story if it can be condensed to 450 words or less, it is obvious his intention is to block the investigation.
This journey, painful as it has been, has only confirmed for me my core belief: that the only reward for any work, particularly journalistic work, is the work itself. The effect of undertaking such work is that such journalists are pushed to the fringes by their own community. The punishment is that they never become editors, ensuring that they are never given the authority to set the agenda.
Such punishment, such sacrifices can not be undertaken by the faint hearted. Eventually, journalism or any other profession, can only achieve its purpose of serving humanity if it attracts the best people. The best people are those who are strengthened by a deeply spiritual core. This makes the discussion of character, conduct and spirituality even more relevant in a world of ever-expanding and dissenting voices. But it is a discussion that doesn’t seem to interest too many people.
At one level, my story is everybody’s story – a complex and often competing mix of existence and essence, in which true winning emerges out of the ability to endure pain and struggle, about being able to sift the grain from the chaff, and most importantly, to be able to eventually make the right choices.
The real question to be asked in the cacophony of these times is how many people are willing to step forward to truly and joyfully choose the path of service – in this case, mass communication – rather than the path of professional advancement or the path of mass manipulation? If choosing the path of service means embracing a crown of thorns, are they still willing to take the plunge?
According to Ernest Hemingway – an American novelist, short story writer and journalist – “The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, some times destroyed”.
Some disclosures which reveal why this incident was condemnable:
On Monday night, one of the panelists called to express their dismay at the condemnable conduct meted out to me, which confirmed that this public humiliation was not lost on anyone, the panelists, the students, or the DCAC faculty present there. However, nobody present made the slightest attempt to intervene or rescue the situation.
1. When I was invited, I was told that the decision to select the topic was inspired by the revelations made by me in two interviews published recently – October 9, 2015 and January 22, 2016 – on the state of the media.
2. Prior to the interview, I checked multiple times with the organizers and the moderator, urging them to indicate the structure of the discussion and the kind of issues they would like to discuss, but they chose not to revert. On Sunday evening, at around 5 pm, I enquired, via a whatsapp message to the organizer, how much time had been allotted to each speaker to speak and was informed that it was 10-12 minutes.
3. I then called the moderator to ascertain if he, too, was in agreement with the time limit.
4. I was the first speaker at the event. Barely 3 minutes into my speech, I was abruptly asked to stop and leave the podium. This was while I was pointing out that establishing the direct involvement of the then finance minister, Mr. P Chidambaram, the prime minister’s office and even former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself in the 2G and Coalgate scandals had invited severe hardships. The DCAC FACULTY which had invited me to the event, DID NOT INTERVENE. They remained silent spectators.
5. Though things became hazy after that, most panelists made it a point to disagree with me on the sliding values in the media.
One panelist scoffed at my belief that “journalism’s real objective, is to function as the soul of a nation – as a conscience keeper, while the role of any journalist should be to relentlessly work for meaningful change, eventually leading to the upliftment of humanity”. She did not specify what her own idea of journalism is.
Another panelist indulged himself with a dig – that since everyone was talking about themselves, he wouldn’t. Thanks to the clumsy moderating, none of the panelists were introduced, which is customary protocol. How can a journalist speak without some contextual reference to their work and circumstances?
The panel, in self congratulatory mode, eventually went on to cheerfully concur that the media space was fair, balanced and above board. None of the other panelists were snubbed or cut short, like I was.
6. My work and views are well known, particularly to these organizers and journalists, who had read my recent interviews. I have never sought respect or honor and thats why repeated attacks of humiliation have not crippled me so far. But I am completely certain of one thing: that it is despicable to invite someone just to humiliate them in full public view and in front of students.
7. The conduct that I witnessed, further displays the appalling standards of educational institutions as well as the incompetence and laziness of the faculty. If they don’t have the skill to coordinate a simple event of this nature, be gracious hosts, they should not attempt it. On February 16, I received a message from a DCAC faculty member admitting that the situation was “unfortunate”. Well, who was responsible? How would you have described it if you had been up there on stage instead of me?
8. Character is established by conduct, not false talk and fancy writing. It is horrifying to see well-educated people, people of privilege and influence, passively witness events – without the slightest urge to intervene and correct them.
It seriously doesn’t matter to me what’s your self-image: Nationalist or anti-nationalist. I don’t even care what people think about you. I don’t even see a reason why an honest journalist needs to advocate his ideologies in a national newspaper’s op-ed page. I don’t even know how many honest journalists can get this opportunity of ‘self-promotion’ as most of them are vernacular, non-lutyens journalists, struggling to find news in scorching heat of India that exists outside of Delhi.
Since your article is based on an absolutely wrong premise, besides self-pity, I think, as a true nationalist, its my duty to correct it and put it in right perspective before your lie becomes the mainstream narrative.
“In the 1990s, the country’s polity was divided by secular versus pseudo secular faultlines; now, another divide, and frankly far more insidious, is sought to be created between ‘national’ and ‘anti-national’ forces.”
In the 1990s, the country was divided between haves and have-nots. That’s why the main theme was ‘Garibi Hatao’. As it still does. Then liberalization happened. With liberalization, India got divided on a new fault line. Ones who wanted to make a better livelihood by working hard and those who wanted to milk liberalization with corruption. Corruption requires middlemen, brokers, pimps and sycophants. Thus a group mushroomed, disguised in the garb of secularism and unfortunately you chose to become their voice. Indians have been secular for thousands of years. I hope you know, words like ‘religion’ and ‘secular did not even exist until the advent of Christianity. I am sure your grandfather must have told you that Hindu civilization existed even thousands of years before Jesus Christ.
‘Secularism’ was a tool that corrupt Congress and the beneficiaries of its corruption used to protect ‘the ecosystem’ from millions of hungry, unemployed, exploited, oppressed but honest, hard-working common citizens. Secularism was invented to consolidate minority votes without isolating Hindus and without appearing to be a minority appeaser. With liberalization, came new multi-national businesses who wanted to overcome red-tapism and needed licenses whereas the ruling parties needed funds. Coincidentally, at the same time English news channels were also in red so they also needed funds. So news channels with power to make or break images needed money and corrupt Congress with money needed image. Thus emerged a new group – The Secular group.
Anyone who disagreed with their ‘Idea of (corrupt) India’ was labelled non-intellectual and thus the middle class, vernacular Indian who did not have the privilege to study in St. Xaviers, Christchurch, Doon, Scindia, Oxford or Cambridge was made to feel inferior in his own country. They were typecast as illiberal, regressive Hindus. Supporting Pakistan was seen as intellectual. Rejecting Hindu customs and traditions became an intellectual exercise. People who take pride in Hindu philosophy were systematically labelled ‘illiberal’. You were seen protecting, promoting and nurturing such voices.
Rajdeep, your grandfather must have also told you that everything that is traditional isn’t illiberal. Similarly, everything that’s rebellious in nature isn’t liberal. But Secular India had silenced the grandfathers of India. On TV channels, for sure. That’s how India was divided between organized and funded club members of a ‘Secular India’ and unorganized, simple, honest and truly secular Indians. They were denied entry into mainstream narrative of India. Nobody was talking for them. Nobody was listening to them. It was by design. You were one of the designers.
Since you love old Hindi songs you must have heard ‘Jiska koi nahin uska to khuda hai yaaron…’ and khuda listened to this hapless mass. A technological innovation came as their rescue. Social media happened. Of course, the secular brigade tried to monopolize it but the entry was open to all. It wasn’t a club. It was a platform. When so-called ‘smart trolls’ started exposing your secular club members of their lies and sinister intents, your wife tried to humiliate them and create further divide by labelling them as ‘Internet Hindoos’.
They weren’t Hindoos. They were Indians. They wanted to take pride in India. And you wanted to crush that pride. For that pride would have been counter productive to thekedars of ‘idea of India’. Two ideas, two Indias came out in open. One who loved India. And another who loved ‘idea of India. That’s how ‘nationalist’ and ‘anti-nationalist’ debate started. Nobody called you anti-national. You decided to ridicule nationalists. You started calling Modi supporters as ‘sanghis’, bhakts, and pseudo patriots, without even realizing that these people love Modi for he is a India Bhakt. They will drop Modi the day they doubt his integrity.
You misunderstood that Modi bhakts are also BJP, RSS bhakt. Your fundamentals were wrong. That’s why it took one evening of prime time for one of your ex-colleagues to demolish your game. Today you have become a victim of your own game. You have sensed that being anti-Hindu, anti-India is not paying dividends and it’s too late for you to be called nationalist. You don’t have credibility, and now it’s a matter of survival for you. If your grandfather was alive, he would have warned you that the race you, Arvind Kejriwal, Rahul Gandhi and friends are running ends only in a dark well. Where even penance doesn’t help.
Nothing can be a more resounding proof than the fact that today you have to use an op-ed page to publicly justify your ideological defeat with a vicious hashtag #IAmAntiNationalist
“Yes, I am anti-national because in a plural democracy I believe we must have a dialogue with Kashmiri separatists as we must with those in the North-East who seek autonomy. I will listen to student protestors in Srinagar or Imphal as I will to those in an FTII or a JNU.”
I would advise you have a dialogue with Arnab Goswami. With Subhash Chandra. Have a dialogue with Bhakts like me. With Internet Hindoos. Have a dialogue with the innocent Modi supporter who you had beaten up at MSG. But listening isn’t your agenda. If it were you, I would have listened to so-called trolls on twitter and understood why they are so angry with me. But you chose to whine all day about trolls and their abuse. If you can tolerate anti-India slogans I am sure you can also tolerate some abuse on your TL.
On your timeline thousands of ‘trolls’ keep screaming why you don’t show India’s growth story? Did you listen to them?
I want to have a dialogue with you. Listen to you. Understand you. But are you ready to invite me? To listen to my point of view?
Prosecute all those who break the law, incite violence, resort to terror but don’t lose the capacity to engage with those who dissent. The right to dissent is as fundamental as the right to free speech: shouting down alternative views, be they on prime time TV or on the street, is not my idea of India.
Forget Idea of India, first tell us what is India. Is Malda India? Are the states other than Delhi India? Are other CMs not Indian CMs? Is Ramchandra Guha the only Indian intellectual? Or the death of a journalist who was burnt for exposing corruption less secular than the lynching of Akhlaq? Or the turmoil, conflict, negativity, opposition, communalism, intolerance, awards wapsi… only themes of India?
If your channel is the only source of information, one would die believing India is Delhi. Modi its villain. Ramchandra Guha its Buddha. Kejriwal its Christ plus Prophet. Those 5-6 panelists as Supreme Court. Regressive Hindus are killing innocent Christians, Muslims, Dalits, writers and now poor students. Rest of the population is starving without beef. And Sonia Gandhi never existed.
My grandfather told me a journalist’s only requirement is integrity. Integrity isn’t honesty. Integrity is the ability to tell the truth even when no one is listening. When was the last time you raised real issues of India? When was the last time you made your viewers hear a common man’s concerns. Hate Modi. Hate RSS. Hate Bhakts. Hate Hindus. But why this complete blackout of ‘Rest of India’. Do you work for ‘India Today’ or ‘Delhi Today’?
Yes, I am anti-national because I don’t believe in doublespeak on issues of nationalism. If support for Afzal Guru is to be seen as ‘sedition’, then at least half the erstwhile Cabinet in Jammu and Kashmir, where the BJP is in coalition with the PDP, would be held guilty.
I absolutely agree with your logic. And by that logic, and no doublespeak, you must also hold Arvind Kejriwal guilty for having partnered with Congress and Congress for partnering with Owaisi and Nitish for partnering with Lalu. Even you must be held guilty for partnering with corrupt and crony capitalist Ambani and your wife for partnering with your unethical enemy group: Times of India
What you have failed to understand is that ‘is hamam mein sab nange nahin hai, yeh nangon ka hamam hai’. You are one of them.
If the Kashmiri youth today see Afzal as someone who was framed, they should be challenged to a legal and political debate but can they be branded as ‘jihadists’ simply because their views are repugnant to the rest of the country?
You are again confusing issues. It’s not about Afzal. It’s about India. It’s about ‘India go back’. India ki barbadi’ ‘ India tere tukde honge’. It’s about that. Afzal, sedition law, FoE, Lawyers’ hooliganism etc are games journalists like you play to shift focus, confuse issues and keep the ‘ecosystem’ protected.
It’s about terrorism. It’s about alleged terror links of some students. It’s about supporting terror groups. It’s about terror funding. It’s about threat to India’s sovereignty. That’s why people are concerned. Leave sedition laws for the court. You tell us where do you stand? Without any buts. If you are seen protecting the rights of these allegedly terror-linked students, or seen spinning this news and covering them up, you won’t have to put any hashtag, because soon you will become a hashtag yourself – of all anti-nationals.
Yes, I am anti-national because while I am a proud Hindu who wakes up to the Gayatri mantra, I also like a well done beef steak, which, according to BJP minister Mukhtar Naqvi, is a treasonous act, enough to pack me off to Pakistan. I celebrate the rich diversity of my country through food: Korma on Eid, pork sorpotel with my Catholic neighbours in Goa during Christmas and shrikhand during Diwali is my preferred diet. The right to food of my choice is again a freedom which I cherish and am unwilling to cede.
Unfortunately, your understanding and definition of Hinduism is limited to Gayatri Mantra, beef steak and shrikhand. The day you will understand Hinduism you will regret that you had to waste all your productive life to learn secularism, tolerance, inclusiveness, nationalism etc. when all this wisdom was available in your grandfather’s diaries.
Post-script: Last week, at the Delhi Gymkhana litfest, I suggested that the right to free speech must include the right to offend so long as it doesn’t incite violence. A former army officer angrily got up and shouted, “You are an anti-national who should be lynched right here!” When even the genteel environs of the Gymkhana club echo to such strains, we should all be very worried.
I don’t know much about club culture but I know one thing for sure: when journalists stop travelling beyond their studios to reporting facts, fighting over TRPs instead of truth, and using media to further their agenda or to defend and justify themselves, we should all be not just very worried but take time out to introspect.
The other day I was invited to a Times Now panel for an Arnab Goswami show where he was exposing the hypocrisy of Indian seculars and liberals. My views about Indian Secular gang are well-known and I expressed them frankly. Next morning, while walking in my park without a dog, a gentleman called me ‘bhakt’. Exactly like you do. Do you know, in Hindu philosophy, Bhakti is a human quality, attained only by honest people. He accused me of being critical of award wapsi gang who hate intolerant Hindus who support Modi and that too on a Arnab Goswami show who is exposing those who hate India and Modi who loves India and who has the support of Hindus who love India which is also loved by Modi…
If supporting India means supporting Modi and vice versa then I’d rather be called a ‘bhakt’ than being seen exchanging notes with terror support groups.
Yes, #IAmABhakt, of India
Vivek Agnihotri is a filmmaker, writer and columnist. His next film ‘Buddha In A Traffic Jam’ deals with Naxalism at India’s premier institutes.
Terrorism and Drug Smuggling are Siamese twins. Although both look in different directions, they move together in one direction. They support each other, they help sustain and strengthen each other andproceed with single-minded determination to move towards their goal.
In Punjab, their target is just one: Bleed India. This truism was once again displayed beyond any doubt in the recent Fidayeen attack on the strategic air base in Pathankot. Just as the dawn was struggling to welcome the New Year in the blood-curdling cold, a sinister, well-armed, well-trained and highly motivated suicide-hugging Fidayeen gang sneaked into the Pathankot air base, which housed, besides several ‘vital assets’, 10,000 family members of air force personnel.
The ease with which the Fidayeen could move in Pathankot and commandeer the vehicle of the district superintendent of police also speaks volumes of the collusion and deep-rooted criminal nexus between drug smugglers and the Pathankot police. While this nexus is well-known and needs to be somehow broken-easier said than done-it is not confined to Pathankot only but has its tentacles all over Punjab. Drugs are doing more damage to the youth and future of Punjab (and India) than terrorist bullets.
Although ill-informed media men and so-called ‘experts’ started tearing into the Indian response to the Fidayeen strike, their self conceit blinded them to the several positives that were exhibited by the Indian air force and counter-terrorist machinery that existed on the ground at the air base. When talking about any terrorist strike and the response of the counter-terrorism machinery, the fact that the 'element of surprise' is always with the terrorists has necessarily to be kept in mind. After every terrorist strike, the post-mortem that is doe in the entire media, specially in TV debates, just does nottake into account this 'element of surprise'. Naturally, this gives rise to a lot of misinformation being disseminated.
My intention is not to run down anybody or any thesis about terrorist strikes, it is my humble endeavour to give a few valuable tips to whosoever speaks, writes and discusses on TV suicide attacks. Urban terrorism is now a fact of life ans we have tio live with it. The dynamics and mechanics of terrorism are such that terrorist strikes will continue to take place, despite best precautionary measures. They just cannot be avoided as it is the job of terrorists to keep the pot boiling. The efficacy and effectiveness of our law enforcement agencies can be gauged only from the time it takes them to"neutralize" the attackers without substantial "collateral" damage. A lot of misconceptions and myths get circulated when all and sundrystart condemning the anti-terrorism machinery without taking hard realities into account.
The same was the case with the Pathankot air base attacks in which 7 innocent lives were lost. These deaths need to be condoled but what emerged crystal clear was the ‘quick response’ by the Defence Security Corps personnel.
It showed beyond any reasonabledoubt that even at that unearthly hour when the Fidayeen struck, the reflex action of DSC Jawan was A-grade. India should be proud of suchalert and brave officers and men. It showed that India has learnt itslessons in teaching Fidayeen a lesson of their lives.
Some of the myths that got circulated after the Pathankot strike were:
(MYTH 1) The casualties were very high.
FACT: (a) Only one Air Force Guard Commando was killed in direct combat with the terrorists; (b) In keeping with the highest traditions of the Indian armed forces, whose officers lead from the front, one NSG officer who died was actually accidental in nature. He died while defusing an explosive device;(c) the bulk of the casualties-five in all-occurred in the 'langar' (cook house) of the DSC Lines located near the outer perimeter wall of there air base. Though unfortunate, the five DSC Jawan died when they were not on sentry duty. They were actually off duty. Hence, the casualties can in no way be described as very high. In fact, they were minimal.
(MYTH 2) Why did it take so much time to terminate the operation?
FACT: The aim was to keep own casualties minimal. No casualty occurred, except that of the NSG officer who died accidently while defusing an explosive device, and the deaths in the 'langer' in the first fewminutes, there was no casualty after contact was established with theterrorists.
The operation was neutralize the Fidayeen was done in a very deliberate and meticulous manner to firstly avoid "collateral" damage in terms of own troops and vital assets like buildings and airplanes.
The operation was deliberately slowed down so that the type of weapons and firepower used by the Fidayeen could be calibrated andeffectively countered. Further, priority was accorded to cutting off all escape routes that the Fidayeen could take as the final aim was to catch them alive.
These orders had been given by the topmost officer supervising the operation, who was none other than the National Security Adviser tothe Prime Minister.
Mr Doval, a hard-bpoiled Intelligence officer. Critics who were raising a hue and cry over why it took so long to end the operation even when the Fidayeen were not many in number probably did not know that the air base is spread over 2,000 acres.
Naturally,the search and combing operations took a long time as they aredeliberately done very slowly and meticulously, avoiding all kinds ofbooby traps.
That the actual engagement (fire-fight) with the terrorists was actually for just 11 hours speaks volumes of the clinical manner in which this operation was carried out. In fact, it denotes a welcomestep forward in the war against terror.
Hence, by no stretch of imagination can it be said that the operation was either prolonged or took too long to terminate. The air base security staff need to becongratulated for securing all the valuable assets which were actually air borne within minutes of the sudden attack. This fact is not knownto many.
(MYTH 3): Why was it announced on the very first day that the operation was over?
FACT: The two terrorists were holed-up inside a building and they just could not move out or carry out any of their sinister designs as anair-tight cordon had been thrown around them. This encounter site was so tightly secured that the Fidayeen had no options but to either die or surrender.
They were finally neutralized on January 3. Hence, the operation, in a practical way of speaking, was actually over on the first day itself. Buty it was not called off as search and combing continued. It was the media which hyped it. Mopping up operationcontinued for a few days more.
(MYTH 4 ): Why were the Army's Special Forces not employed?
FACT: This was a blatant canard as the Special Forces were kept in readiness to move in any moment in case the need arose not just at the air base but at other military installations in entire Pathankot district.
(MYTH 5): Even when there was advance information about the Fidayeen attack, how could they enter the air base?
FACT: Security personnel were deployed to protect vital installations and assets in and around Pathankot, which has the distinction of being the largest cantonment in Asia and has several military installations.
Further, due to the tactical situation-- the exact location of the Fidayeen was not known nor was it certain whether they had already entered the air base-it was decided to first secure the vital assets and 10,000 civilians and dependents of air force personnel present at the air base. Due to this significant factor and criticality of time,it would have been counter-productive to first secure the 25-kilometrelong outer parameter. Hence, the main consideration was on securing the aircrafts, radars, anti-aircraft batteries. Ammunition/POL dumps, etc. This strategy greatly helped in countering and containing the Fidayeen.
(MYTH 6): There was no Centralised decision-making apparatus and also there was lack of synergy on the ground.
FACT: Nothing could be farther from truth than alleging that there was no Centralised decision-making and no synergy on the ground. Little knowledge is always dangerous and it was this lack of knowledge that prompted some critics to make this allegation and assumption.
The sudden Fidayeen attack would have taken a different shape if time was wasted in convening meetings of the Cabinet Committee on Security and the National Crisis Management Committee of the Union Cabinet.
The criticism that there was no Centralised action or synergy on the ground is most unwarranted. An accurate reading of the situation and analysis of the intelligence inputs led to the pre-positioning of specialised forces on the ground to deal with the emerging threat andsituation.
On the ground itself, complete synergy among the forces was seen. Exemplary coordination was also on display which helped the security forces choose the firepower and type of resources to deal with theevolving tactical picture and requirements. Minute-by-minute reports were sent to the National Security Adviser, Mr. Doval, who, in turn, kept the members of the CCS duly informed.
(MYTH 7): Why was the Army not involved in the entire operation?
FACT: Nothing could be farther from the truth than this unwarranted criticism Perhaps lack of knowledge led to this allegation beingleveled. The real picture is:
NInfantry columns played a leading and vital role in the operation - maintaining a tight inner and outer cordon, providing fire support to the strike elements of the NSG, carrying out search and areasanitization operations inside the air base.
NArmy columns were mobilized on 01.01.2016 itself, well before the first contact was established with the terrorists at 03.30 hours on 02.01.2016. Since the afternoon of 01.01.2016, Army columns were assisting the local police in strengthening nakas and beefing upsecurity at the air base.
NThe first persons to be involved in formulating the strategy after news of the sudden attack reached the NSA were the Army Chief and the Air Chief who initiated the necessary actions. Both were present in the first meeting called by the NSA at 1500 hours on 01.01.2016).
N Lt. Gen. KJ Singh, GOC-in-C, Western Command was in overall commandof the operation.
N The NSG contingent present at the air base consisted of 320specially selected and trained Army soldiers from the Special Action Group (SAG) - component of the NSG and Special Forces units.
The counter terrorism and counter hijack task force of the NSG was led by Maj. Gen. Dushyant Singh, IG (Operations), NSG, himself an Infantryofficer, who only recently relinquished command of an Infantrydivision in Jammu (and hence was intricately familiar with the general modus operandi of Fidayeen terrorists).
N The Army had deployed 9 Infantry columns (70 soldiers in eachcolumn) in addition to bomb disposal squads, engineering, medical element and casspier mine / armour protection vehicles.
Since we Indians will have to live and suffer terrorist strikes by ultras of all hues, we would do well to do our homework and collectall details before jumping in front of TV cameras and air all kinds of misinformation and lies about terrorist attacks as such utterances only go to help the terrorists, who need condemnation and not theforces fighting them at great risk to their life and limb..
(Dr Rajeshwar Singh, Formerly Police Officer of Uttar Pradesh Govt, is currently Deputy Director of Directorate of Enforcement).
Theological pamphleteering, no doubt well meaning and sincere, is of no consequence to the peddlers of violence and death. The latter's taunting tone is already discernible over the babble vacuous politically correct discourse
At last week’s Counter-Terrorism Conference, organised by India Foundation and themed around the rising tide of global jihad, speaker after speaker waxed eloquent on well-known basics without addressing the core issue: The ideology of hate and how to deal with it. Theological pamphleteering, no doubt well meaning and sincere, is of no consequence to the peddlers of hate, death and destruction. I doubt if Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-appointed caliph of the Islamic State, and Abubakar Shekau, who heads Boko Haram, are remotely impressed by counter-scholarship. That would be equally true of the mullahs of Taliban and the foot soldiers of jihad.
To ignore the ideology that drives Islamism and its resultant violence would be to ignore the real reason behind the continuing surge in transnational terrorism. The barbarians may not be at our gate as yet, but the unstoppable march of zealots, whom George W Bush described as ‘Islamofascists’, as the civilised world retreats, conceding ground with each passing day, should not go unnoticed. To turn a blind eye, to be indifferent, or worse, to be politically correct and tolerate the intolerable would be to our peril. For let there be no mistake, the taunting tone of those who believe in the inevitability of a homogenous ummah replacing the diverse world we know is already discernible over the babble of ill-informed and vacuous politically correct discourse.
Soon after the ghastly London bombings when Islamists blew themselves up with deadly effect, Ed Husain’s book The Islamist was published, recording his disillusionment with radicals who use faith as a cover for their murderous deeds. A particular passage in that book remains indelibly printed on my mind: “Teacher, I want to go London next month. I want bomb, big bomb in London, again. I want make jihad!” “What?” I exclaimed. Another student raised both hands and shouted: “Me too! Me too!” Other students applauded those who had just articulated what many of them were thinking...
That’s how Ed Husain records his experience in the Saudi Arabian school where he had taken up a teaching assignment after embracing radical Islam. It was the day after the 7/7 suicide bombings in London that killed 52 commuters. Ed Husain, his faith in radical Islam by then dwindling rapidly after experiencing life in Saudi Arabia, was hoping to hear his students denounce the senseless killings. Instead, he heard a ringing endorsement of jihad and senseless slaughter in the name of Islam. Ed Husain returned to London and penned his revealing account in The Islamist Why I Joined
Radical Islam in Britain, What I Saw Inside and Why I Left. Debunking the Left-liberal intelligentsia’s explanation that deprivation, frustration and alienation among immigrant Muslims in Britain are responsible for the surge in jihadi fervour, Ed Husain wrote: “Many Muslims enjoyed a better lifestyle in non-Muslim Britain than they did in Muslim Saudi Arabia... All my talk of ummah seemed so juvenile now. It was only in the comfort of Britain that Islamists could come out with such radical utopian slogans as one Government, one ever expanding country, for one Muslim nation. The racist reality of the Arab psyche would never accept black and white people as equal... I was appalled by the imposition of Wahhabism in the public realm, something I had implicitly sought as an Islamist...”
So, what does an Islamist seek? The reams of rubbish churned out by bogus activists and windbag columnists desperately seeking to rationalise crimes committed in the name of Islam, ranging from the ethnic cleansing of the Kashmir valley to the Mumbai massacre, from the attack on Parliament House in New Delhi to the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, from the horrific assault on human dignity by the Taliban in Afghanistan to the nauseating anti-Semitism of the regime in Iran, and from the unspeakable crimes of the Islamic State in the Levant to the limitless horrors of Boko Haram in Nigeria, cannot explain either the core idea of Islamism or what motivates Islamists. For that, we have to go through the teachings of Hasan al-Banna, the original Islamist and progenitor of the Muslim Brotherhood which now wields power in Egypt, the land of the birth of radical Islam.
Hasan al-Banna’s articulation of Islamism in the 1930s, distilled from complex theological interpretations of Islam, was at once simple enough for even illiterate Muslims to understand and sinister in its implications when seen in the context of what we are witnessing today: “The Quran is our Constitution. Jihad is our way. Martyrdom is our desire.” Imagined grievances and manufactured rage came decades later, as faux justification for adopting this three-sentence injunction that erases the line separating the spiritual from the temporal and giving Islam a political dimension in the modern world, thus expanding the theatre of conflict beyond the sterile sands of Arabia.
Hasan al-Banna died a nasty death when he was murdered in 1949, apparently in retaliation of the assassination of Egypt’s then Prime Minister, Mahmud Fahmi Naqrashi, but the seed he had planted in his lifetime was to grow into a giant poison tree, watered and nourished by Sayyid Qutub (whose tract, Ma’alim fi-l-Tariq, was interpreted as treasonous, fetching him the death sentence in 1966) which over the years has spread its roots and branches, first across Arabia and then to Muslim majority countries; so potent is that tree’s life force, its seeds, carried by the blistering desert wind that blows from the Mashreq, have now begun to sprout in countries as disparate as Denmark and India, Turkey and Malaysia, changing demographic profiles and unsettling societies.
The world chose to ignore subsequent events and, like those who clamour for a gentler, accommodative approach to Islamism today by pushing for compromise over conflict, ‘enlightened’ scholars and public affairs commentators rationalised Anwar Sadat’s assassination by Islamists on October 6, 1981. Even Egypt erred in setting free scores of conspirators, including a certain Ayman Al-Zawahiri.
Similarly, the ‘Islamic Revolution’ in Iran with its blood-soaked consequences was hailed as a “people’s victory” over Shah Reza Pehalvi’s dictatorial regime. For Europe, long dubbed Eurabia, it was business as usual Iran’s oil swamped out rational analyses. If any country had the foresight to sense the danger signals, it was, and ironically so, Egypt under President Hosni Mubarak who remained wary of Iran, not least because of its export of rabid Islamism. Tragically, the new rulers in Cairo are not riled by Tehran naming a street after Sadat’s assassin, Khalid Islambouli.
It was in the immediate aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that Islamism acquired a new dimension and a vicious edge when it was coupled with Wahhabism, Saudi Arabia’s severely austere version of Sunni Islam. Arab nationalism, which was unencumbered by Islamism till then, became an expression of faith in radical Islamism. In what passes for Palestinian territories, the intifada was born and reborn, and while the popularity of Yasser Arafat’s largely secular PLO began to decline, Hamas, led by its paraplegic spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, began its murderous march which has culminated with Gaza Strip being declared ‘Hamastan’. Yassin was killed by the Israelis for inspiring young Palestinians to blow themselves up in buses, restaurants and markets, but that has neither shaken Hamas nor weakened its faith in what Hasan al-Banna preached. In Lebanon, the Hezbollah is now facing competition from Fatah-al Islam in Palestinian refugee camps and Syrian dissidents who equally believe ‘Islam is the solution’. In Britain, Hizb ut-Tahrir is seducing young Muslims like Ed Husain with its acid message of intolerance and bigotry. In India, we have the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Tablighi Jamaat. The Deobandis are not to be scoffed at.
To neutralise the three-sentence injunction of Hasan al-Banna, we need more than a ‘War on Terror’. We need to launch an assault on the idea that motivates radical Islamists. There is no scope for accommodation, nor is there any reason to capitulate or strike a compromise. We still have time to mount a counter-assault. But to do that, and do so successfully, we must first acknowledge and debate the Idea of Islamism.
(The writer is a current affairs analyst based in NCR)