The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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- It is the age of discrimination in the name of security

If there were no water, but only rock. If there were no civilization, but only security...

We have, seemingly, already arrived at that situation. The Western world, led by the United States of America, has chosen. It has decided to have complete command over the globally available supply of oil and, to ensure that, to grab as many territories in the different continents as it can. If hectoring would not do the trick, deployment of overwhelming armed might would. But the display of aggrandizement cannot be exactly costless; a price has to be paid for Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon. This price is basically globalization of what the US administration loves to describe as terror. If all other elements in life are globalized, there is no reason why terrorism should not be. The society lady peeved beyond measure because airlines keep cancelling her flights and thereby set at disarray her crammed week’s schedule has her own definition of suffering. Despite learned economists, there is such a thing as a global welfare function: the lady’s inconvenience and that caused to others similarly placed is nothing compared to the agony of the common people in countries devastated by American might.

Silent disapproval by Western liberals is not enough. Till as long as ordinary men and women in countries in the Occident do not actively mobilize themselves against the maraudings organized by their governments, matters will stand where they are. Householders in Western countries will have to make little adjustments in their style of living even as their governments try to inculcate in them a sense of fear of awesome ‘terrorist’ attacks. Such acts of terror, the appreciation has to sink in, are really the manifestation of counter-terror: Western civilization has written its own destiny by not rising in massive protest against the goings-on in west Asia.

What about us at the other end of the spectrum' What about our own government' We are law-abiding people and have innate faith in those who, by rule of law, administer the country on our behalf. Have these rulers already made up their mind to declare al Qaida to be our sworn enemy too' Events over the past few weeks have indeed been bizarre. The US embassy in New Delhi informs our officials that, come Independence Day, al Qaida would launch a series of dastardly acts of terror all over the entire country, particularly in New Delhi and Mumbai. The American embassy is apparently considered omniscient and its words are treated by the authorities in New Delhi as a direct communication from god almighty. What followed was a magnificent exercise in controlling the stream of mass-consciousness. A gorgeous outburst of holy panic was accompanied by a frenzy of so-called security measures. Instructions were sent down to the state governments as well; frantic activities in the name of security multiplied, causing indescribable inconvenience to ordinary men and women. Within a couple of days, the gentlemen in the American embassy, conceivably with a twinkle in their eye, let our government know that the warning was of a “hypothetical” nature; they only wanted to test the state of alertness of the Indian authorities in the event of a strike by al Qaida. The embassy was obviously eager to make sure that Indians showed the same quality of vigilance as was demonstrated by the British people in the wake of the allegedly al Qaida plot at Heathrow airport.

Is it irrational to feel uneasy over these developments' Have we already become a client country of the great United States of America' Have we agreed that the entity considered as the principal enemy of the US is also our principal enemy' Are we further agreed that whenever and whatever surveillance the Americans order against a hypothetical enemy, we are going to follow their instructions to the hilt' The prime minister’s statement in parliament on emerging Indo-US relations was at a lofty level of abstraction; the cringing conformism displayed by the Indian administration is however something altogether different. The media, including the electronic media, too, have gone on a binge, writing, broadcasting and telecasting all kinds of imaginary and speculative stories of how terrorists are infiltrating the country from north, south, east, west, and how various Lashkar groups, operating mainly in Kashmir and suspected to be responsible for the Mumbai explosions, have federated with al Qaida. Simultaneously, the police and security personnel are being admonished to be more alert than ever before, even as the public at large is actually getting exasperated by the rigours already enforced.

The prime minister’s parliamentary passion, there is therefore reason to speculate, was a premeditated attempt to quieten the conscience of the patriotic lobby. Questions, nonetheless, will not cease to be voiced. Has al Qaida provided any evidence of its desire to pick on either the government or the people of India' There was the stray case of the attack on the American Information Resource Center in Calcutta. Even if it is assumed to have been organized by acolytes of al Qaida, it was targeted at US citizens; the Indian casualties that took place were in the nature of what, in American terminology is ‘collateral damage’. The numerous terrorist groups active in Kashmir, and in the other parts of the country, operate — the sporadic nature of their activities suggest — mostly on their own. Those who prefer to work on neat diagrams might wish these groups to be part of the global al Qaida network; any evidence supportive of this claim is yet to be forthcoming though. In any event, till as long as major Indian political parties fail to gather the courage to tell their electorate that we are holding on to Kashmir essentially through the force of arms, outfits such as the Jaish-e-Mohammed will continue to function, al Qaida connection or no al Qaida connection.

We are, however, fast entering a situation where logic is in short supply and sensationalism commands centrestage. The sequence of coming events can therefore be anticipated. There will be further increase in the Union government’s budgetary outlay on defence and so-called internal security. The state governments, already comprehensively pauperized, will be under further pressure to cut down on whatever flimsy funds they were spending on development and divert the bulk of them towards projects which supposedly contribute to strengthen security arrangements. The media will join the game, and add to the patriotic clamour to ‘prioritize’ security over all other considerations.

There is of course a graver, wider aspect to all that is happening. By openly aligning with the US administration in its holy crusade against terrorism, we are in effect endorsing its undeclared, yet explicit, war on Islam. Those who are secret lovers of Huntington in the corridors of power in New Delhi may thereby feel like Robert Browning in April time. But what about our parliament and what about the left' Are they totally unconcerned about the likely consequences — national and international — of looking for the heathen of a terrorist under every bed'

And, in today’s confused world, strange kinds of development tend to get mixed up. The harassment of citizens of just any country holding a Muslim or Muslim-sounding name is already leading to strong reactions everywhere. Who knows, despite cricket being an essentially British Commonwealth pastime now turned into global business, the idiosyncrasies of a Darrell Hair could yet set on fire many turbulent seas, as can the display of more naked racialism at Amsterdam’s Schipol airport. In awkward times, it is difficult to distinguish a commotion from an uprising, and a rebellion from a revolution.

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