Guest Blog by Azhar Aslam
India today is considered by the world to be an established state. Indians think they are on the brink of acquiring super power status. LeT on the other hand is a banned organization considered to be a terrorist non-state actor. So why is it that the belligerence and jingoism Indian state and media is what would be expected of an organization like LeT. How come Indian state is behaving like a terrorist organization?
Non-state violent actors, until recently have been called mercenaries and have been used, by different powers throughout human history. British imperialism started its life in this shape and form, the most famous being the East India Company. Sir Drake , Sir Raleigh and other such “privateers,” were all non state entrepreneurs who advanced state power. Lawless violence often preceded the rule of law.
More recently after the Second World War United States has employed several non-state forces in various parts of the world to further its foreign policy agenda, often at high human and economic cost to that country and its people. Ironically Afghanistan was one such theatre. The Indian support for Baluchistan insurgency is an open secret. There is a strength of evidence for Indian and US support for ‘Jihadist’ groups operating on Pakistani territories.
After the recent Mumbai attacks it has been claimed by India ( serious evidence still pending) that a non state actor LeT has infringed its territory and perpetrated lawless violence. Indian state and its leaders are now invoking this as a reason to respond in kind. The jingoistic antipakistani stance of Indian media and politicians is being built to hysterical levels. There have been calls to respond in ‘manner of United States’.
It is most disturbing that Indian government instead of behaving in a lawful manner befitting the largest country in the region, has tried its fullest to take ”advantage” of human misery in its own country and of its own people and made this a ‘Pakistan-centric’ event. When it should have been paying attention to healing its own wounds, India has seen it as an opportunity to salt these wounds and create fresh ones. And here the state has been led by hysterical media. That tells volume about the structural stability and framework of Indian institutions claimed to represent world’s largest democracy.
Indian state wants to behave like private bullies , justifying violence , revenge and torture just like non-state terrorists. As Arjvind Rajgopal has put it ‘War has become the preferred means of practicing politics under the guise of opposing terrorism, and it is endorsed as a sacred duty’.
India seems to be following in USSR tradition and trying to create an aura of invincibility for its own ego satisfaction without considering the hundreds of millions of its citizens who are hungry, poor and destitute. Is the death of nearly 250 people, mayhem for a few days in one city, a little hurt ego more important than the teeming masses who linger in poverty. Should India not be concentrating its efforts on spending money for creating infrastructure for its own; of education, health, transport , economic opportunities. Is it worth a war?
Common sense answer is ‘No’. So Why is it that certain parts of Indian media/intellectuals/politicians triumvirate, want India to respond in an American manner? Our analysis leads us to two reasons.
First, Indian leaders and intellectuals suffer from severe inferiority complex and generational anger lingering on from British Raj days. For all the talk of rising power of India and Indians taking over the world India is desperate to declare itself as a super power one way or another. Look closely at the pattern of Indian media’s coverage. It was not designed for Indian masses. It was designed to be fed to the international audeince, in particular US and UK citizens, whose gullibility has no limits. And it is seems India has decided that its response to Mumbai attack, (which by the way was smaller in number of casualties compared to 1993 or 2006 or Gujrat, just to quote few examples) is going to declare to the world that it has turned into a regional or world super power.
India has this complex about being ‘Like America’. This is no more than a sign of serious inferiority complex and insecurity of its own identity. The most obvious sign of this inferiority complex is that the event is described as India’s 9/11, with enemy intruders committing murder and mayhem. “9/11″ has become a nationalizing mantra across the globe, an invocation to remember violence in order to garner consent for violent retaliation.
No one has even considered that what the world has turned into after the American response. It is not as if the world has become a safer or better place that this response should be imitated. The signs of being super in power are maturity and sagacity. It is to reach out and stand against terrorism of any kind and take other ( in this case smaller) countries in the region with her. It is to lead. But has India done any of it ? No sir. So forget about being super in power. India needs to set its own house in order.
This brings us to the second reason behind India’s jingoistic stance. It is related to the long standing failure of Indian state. It has failed in three important respects. First, it has failed its own secularism and failed to forge an Indian nation; second it has failed its own poor in pure economic terms; and thirdly it has failed its Indianness in its eagerness to ape the west.
Not withstanding show boys of Indian Muslims (from Abul Kalam Azaad to M J Akbar) there is the increasing discrimination in civil society and the media against Muslims. Indian state continually fails to provide justice to its minorities and masses. Then there are Dalits, Chrsitians, Bhuddists, Tamils, Naxalites. The list goes on. I quote Gopal again:’ Muslims in India have, for some time, been treated as internal enemies, through a combination of covert and overt socio-economic boycotts, state discrimination, episodes of intense political violence, and anti-terror legislation granting judicial powers to police.’
And what is Indian response to all this. For Kashmir, it blames Pakistan; for the seven sister states Bangladesh is the culprit and China takes the blame for the Naxalite insurrection. India has been in a state of perpetual war due to its ego, border disputes with all its neighbours and misplaced priorities.
Then there are pure economic issues. Here again Indian leaders ego complexes have led to failure of its own people. This failure is villainous in part and negligent to criminal extent. It is multifold and multilayered. While ‘India is shining’ for an elite minority, the masses and the land is being opened up for a new form of colonialism for Bharati and multinationals corporations, in the name of reforms and progress.
What Indians have failed to grasp or at least have shown no capacity to put any such understanding into context is that they are seen as no more than a big economic market opportunity for western nations and corporations, due to sheer numbers. Research from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) shows that within a generation, the country will become a nation of upwardly mobile middle-class households, consuming goods ranging from high-end cars to designer clothing. In two decades the country will surpass Germany as the world’s fifth largest consumer market. It is this which attracts West; not some attitudinal shift in Anglo-Saxon thinking. If they are under any illusion that suddenly Westerns have started seeing them as equal partners, all they have to do is to sit in few pubs across middle England. That shall be more than sufficient to clear such delusions of grandeur.
Consequently in the name of progress, poor are marginalized. Cities suffer from severe economic and social segregation. The slums for the poor are demolished and ghettos moved around. Muslim and Dalits in India are overwhelmingly concentrated in such ghettos and, in episodes of Hindu nationalist violence, have been the principal victims of assaults. It is not India shining. It is Bollywood shining and like tinsel town it is more razz matazz than substance . The Justice Sachar Committee, in 2006, reported that ‘the condition of Muslims had deteriorated to such a point that they were worse off than the untouchable caste, which has traditionally occupied the lowest rung of Indian society’. In some cases, Muslims are ostracized to the point of social death.
And for all the talk of famed reforms by the present Indian Prime Minister in early 1990s, when he was a finance minister, it was more a case of India being at the right place at the right time by sheer luck than any planned strategic goal achievement. Indian progress owes much to certain historical events converging fortuitously at the right time. The collapse of USSR forced India into balance payment crisis, forcing Rao and Singh’s hand to deliver economic reforms where by Licence Raj was ended. At about the same time seeds of globalization were being sown while West was recovering form the recessions of early 1990s. The scores of English speaking graduates of IIT were now suddenly available at cheap labour adding impetus to Indian preeminence as outsourced markets. Western corporations were looking for cutting their costs and they started outsourcing. Indian diaspora played its part. Manufacturing was outsourced to China and IT services to India. Subsequently ore reforms followed and FDI increased as western corporations themselves sought a slice of the market.
This brings us to the third Indian failure. The fact is that Indian middle class is fast losing its ‘Dhesi’ values and the South Asian culture is being undermined by the still persistent and widely prevalent ‘ Ghulam Zahniat’. For all the slogans of ‘new super power’, ‘largest democracy’, ‘big and powerful country’ etc, the Indianness is fast ebbing away.
Most middle class Indians feel more proud to speak, act and live and display the consumerist western lifestyle than any indigenous South Asian, Indian or Baharti lifestyle. Their tastes are indistinguishable from those of prosperous young Westerners – high-end luxury cars, designer clothes, maids and full-time cooks, and regular vacations, abroad.
One sign of this is the elites in Mumbai assuming that they too must respond “like America’’ and asking where their Rudy Giuliani was ? The irony is that the sign of being developed and civilized in India is no longer the welfare of its general masses in economic and social terms but ‘ State terrorism and war’.
Like Pakistan Television is being watched increasingly in India and nearly two thirds of the population has now access to television. And it is very profitable. Consequently there is intense competition in news sector and live TV. Many of 24 hour channels are owned by transnational media corporations. And Like Pakistan a disproportionate number of prime time viewers tune into news channels (perhaps due to the age old Subcontinental taste for politics). Consequently this was the first attack that was being telecast and watched live. It seems that even the planners of these attacks knew this and planned to take full advantage of the global audience on offer. The death of V P Singh and eight people in Tamil Nadu rains from 26 to 29th November went nearly unmentioned. To quote ‘They died unmourned and even unmentioned on the explosive screens that kept millions enthralled’.
As some Indian pundits have asked that while media fixated on ‘who’ and ‘how’ for these attacks, ‘why’ was completely ignored. It is the media which seems to be leading the response of Indian State rather than the other way round. In other words, the corporate agendas of the media owners has dictated the response of Indian rulers and Indian state. The proof of sympathy to the upwardly mobile middle class urbanites it seems is war with Pakistan at the cost of teeming poor and destitute billions. As Gopal points out that the ‘the media in India is only nominally public. …it is elite who own the space and dictate the terms of its discourse. In the recent attacks hardly any attention was paid to the railway station where sixty people were killed. TV crews stayed focused on the luxury hotels, where “People Like Us” were affected.’ To quote J S Raman ‘The elite of Mumbai and elsewhere, mourning the fall of the elegant Taj, have been trying to sound tougher than even the politicians of the Parivar (the Far Right “family”).’
We thus see that these three fundamental failures of Indian State that have either incapacitated the senses of Indian State and its rulers and they are being unwillingly led by the media or they have simply become complicit in the dangerous egocentric brinksmanship regardless of the cost to people of Subcontinent. That the complex to ‘be big’ and ‘super power’ is fuelling this on cannot be doubted. But the world is watching. And India must take a note. The very status it craves for more than anything else is under threat due to its childish and amateurish actions. The more it acts like ‘Non-State’ actor the more it risks its status in the comity of nations.