Friday, November 28, 2008

India caught with its pants down - It's a systemic failure

In India our tendency has been to make some post event superficial changes, pious declarations of intent and condemnations of the act accompanied by horrendous photographs of the event with knee jerk expert comments from media rookies. That is until the next attack takes place. We do not even have adequate laws to deal with the threat like the British and the Americans do, and for a country that has had to face terrorism for most of its independent existence, we do not even have national identity cards because it is politically inexpedient. Our border controls remain inadequate.
Post event the investigating agencies should be allowed to operate in areas and societies from where the attack is suspected to have occurred or planned. There can be little success if exclusions are made on grounds of religion or region.
Public indifference to terrorist incidents may indicate that the people may have overcome fear which is a positive development but if it is because of indifference to suffering based on the hope that 'I' shall not be the target because tragedies are only meant for 'the other', then we have a problem.
There is inadequate public response because it is generally assumed that prevention of terrorism is exclusively the task of the State. This attitude has to change and only the State can help this change. The average citizen must be encouraged and educated to help the State by providing clues, warnings and assistance in investigations.
It has to be acknowledged that the police force is inadequately prepared to deal with the menace and it is not their fault that this is so. The governments of the day are responsible for this state of affairs. Ill equipped, ill trained, undermanned station houses they live in appalling conditions sometimes at the mercy of the very don against whom they are supposed to protect the society. Successive governments have taken away the authority and the dignity of the profession.
The public has little confidence in the force and the force is unsympathetic to the public. The witness protection schemes are badly flawed and justice is indefinitely delayed. There is little incentive for the public to come forward with evidence and little incentive for the force to prosecute. Invariably, always each terrorist incident evokes criticism about intelligence failure.
In India, there is a general lack of appreciation (one suspects at the highest level as well) that intelligence agencies are the sword arms of the nation (not the government) in the furtherance of its foreign security interests and the protection of the country.
In normal times, when it is the best time for the agencies to be allowed to hone their skills, develop their sources and prepare for the future, they suffer from benign neglect. Posts remain unsanctioned, purchase of new equipment is postponed and upgrading is frowned upon, all because the powers-that-be assess that the threat has passed.
Yet, when an incident takes place, intelligence agencies become the useful whipping boys with politicians and others ready to shift blame as they assess their political fortunes.
The best and perhaps the only way to fight terrorism is to develop and sustain an effective intelligence system, not only at the Centre but at every level down to the constable. Unless we have this we will continue to get surprised.
What we have today is systemic failure. All systems have malfunctioned.
A terrorist event makes a good story or 'breaking news', but the media too needs some rules of conduct. It is important to report the truth but it is also sometimes important when we are fighting a war to sometimes not report or to modify the report without modifying the truth. Repeated telecast of pictures of frightened families, terrified children or mangled bodies is a victory for the terrorist. He has succeeded in frightening the people. And photographs of a prospective witness circulated widely would only help the terrorist. Often we glorify a terrorist when we refer to him as a fidayeen.
All this has to change too if we want to win the war on terrorism. India must get ready to detect, deter and destroy this menace before it destroys us.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

India - United yet Divided...

The secular and liberal character of the nation is under threat from illiberal forces. Fundamentalisms of all hues - religious, caste, ideological - are on the rise and agencies that ought to check these seem to be failing.

Recent violence against Christians in Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Bangalore, by Hindu extremist groups and the boycott threat issued against the Godrej family earlier this year by some Muslim organisations for hosting Salman Rushdie in Mumbai are examples of rising intolerance. Even Sania Mirza had earlier confessed that she contemplated retirement thanks to pressure from extremist groups. M F Husain and Taslima Nasreen were under attack for being outspoken in their creative works. Not to mention the grevious situation in the financial capital of the country: "Mumbai", where Mr. Raj Thackeray and his followers have made every possible effort to make their "Northie" cousins' life difficult in a city which was known as a place where dreams come true; a city which not only gave indians the reasons to dream, but it also gave them ample opportunities to live those dreams.

These seemingly unconnected events challenge two defining features of the Indian nation: freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Ironically, the latter is used to justify assaults on the former. State agencies and political parties that should defend the secular character of the nation often become accomplices in such attacks. What should we make of a senior minister who wants Taslima to beg pardon from religious extremists who have threatened to take the law into their hands? Does he really believe in the sanctity of law and the right to free speech? Similarly, judges should ask themselves if they ought to admit motivated pleas that are meant to harass celebrities. If at all they need to act, it should be to haul up overly litigious persons for clogging the judicial system.

Political parties have to share a large part of the blame for allowing extremists a free run. Each of these is bound by the Constitution to uphold secularism and free speech. But rarely have politicians shown the spunk to confront fundamentalists, who are in a minority. Instead, politicians seem to travel with the tide for temporary gains and not resist the attacks on the secular edifice of the republic. The rise of identity politics is symptomatic of the failure of mainstream political parties to defend the inclusive provisions of the Constitution. The time has come for democratic forces to close ranks and guard the republic.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Interpretation of "A is A" from Atlas Shrugged - For all Purists

Many of my friends have found the concept of "A is A", which was presented in "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand, to be hazy, while some have thought of it as an idiom which was used throughout the book to represent, or, in a sense, to symbolize/embody John Galt (the protagonist). To those, I want to clarify that "A is A" is not an idiom. The concept of "A is A" was put forth in Aristotle’s Law of Identity, where he held that everything that exists has a specific nature and a single identity. 'A' can only be 'A'; it cannot also be 'B' at the same time just because someones "believes" it to be so. This means that things exist: they are what they are regardless of the nature of the observer. Even if a person wants 'A' to be something else or believes that it should be something else, it will still be 'A'.

According to Ayn Rand "The work of a person’s consciousness is to perceive reality in its objective sense, to identify and recognize it as what it is, not to invent an alternate reality".

Friday, November 14, 2008

Excerpts from Nehru's Independence Speech - India's Awakening

It doesn't matter for how long the room has been dark; for a day, or a week, or a year, or for ten thousand years. The moment you bring in a candle; darkness vanishes like it was never there.
Similarly, it doesn't matter for how long we are stuck in a sense of our limitations. The moment you decide to break free, nothing will stop you. Create the light of your life.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Why I Started Blogging...

I have found both freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood,
for those who understand us enslave something in us.

But let me not be too proud of my safety.

Even a Thief in a jail is safe from another thief.


I have seen a face with a thousand countenances,
and a face that was but a single countenance as if held in a mould.

I have seen a face whose sheen I could look through to the ugliness beneath,
and a face whose sheen I had to lift to see how beautiful it was.

I have seen an old face much lined with nothing,
and a smooth face in which all things were graven.

I know faces, because I look through the fabric my own eye weaves,
and behold the reality beneath.

Gift from Khalil Gibran - The Madman

Defeat, my Defeat, my solitude and my aloofness;
You are dearer to me than a thousand triumphs,
And sweeter to my heart than all world-glory.

Defeat, my Defeat, my self-knowledge and my defiance,
Through you I know that I am yet young and swift of foot
And not to be trapped by withering laurels.
And in you I have found aloneness
And the joy of being shunned and scorned.

Defeat, my Defeat, my shining sword and shield,
In your eyes I have read
That to be enthroned is to be enslaved,
and to be understood is to be leveled down,
And to be grasped is but to reach one's fullness
and like a ripe fruit to fall and be consumed.

Defeat, my Defeat, my bold companion,
You shall hear my songs and my cries an my silences,
And none but you shall speak to me of the beating of wings,
And urging of seas,
And of mountains that burn in the night,
And you alone shall climb my steep and rocky soul.

Defeat, my Defeat, my deathless courage,
You and I shall laugh together with the storm,
And together we shall dig graves for all that die in us,
And we shall stand in the sun with a will,
And we shall be dangerous.