Tragedy and trauma magnify a nation�s awareness or lack
thereof. The events surrounding the Mumbai carnage have revealed certain
aspects of India�s collective psyche that provide food for thought and perhaps
a lesson to learn.
The country had already suffered a wave of mindless bombings
and targeted attacks on Muslim and Christian minorities recently. That the
killings in Mumbai by Muslim gunmen, whose victims included dozens of fellow
Muslims, did not lead to further retribution was an achievement. So weary was
the country of the possibility of another disastrous turn of events.
On Indian television channels, though, there was plenty of
heat and theater in debates. Voices of reason appeared to drown in high-pitched
rhetoric from a handful of guests -- socialites and self-styled commentators.
They were in competition for space with politicians, academics and journalists
of the more established ranks. Ex-model, now socialite and author, Shobha De,
described as India�s answer to Jackie Collins, known for her erotic novels,
lambasted politicians for �failures� that led to the bloodbath. �Enough is
enough,� she screamed. India�s leading English news channel, NDTV, responded by
naming an entire episode �Enough is Enough.� Participants had a field day
attacking the government and politicians in general. Those who begged that the
fiery rhetoric be toned down had little chance of succeeding until the heat was
There were loud calls to teach Pakistan a lesson. The Mumbai
attack was described as �India�s 9/11.� Participants demanded that India launch
military raids inside Pakistan to destroy militant bases -- rather like America
using pilotless aircraft that regularly kill many more innocent civilians than
militants. Simi Garewal, a movie actress in the 1960s and 1970s, later to host
her own talk show, was not going to be left behind. Look at how America
retaliated after September 11, 2001, she argued, and no one has dared to harm
it since. Even more grotesque was praise for Israel�s behavior from a guest.
A recent discussion program on �Hindu terror� turned to the
possibility of Hindu fundamentalism affecting some in the Indian armed forces.
The issue was how the military can remain unaffected by a phenomenon that
exists in the wider society. When a US-educated academic of Indian descent
tried to speak, he was abruptly told by a participant that there would not be a
word said against the army.
As I have said before, these comments came from a small
group of India�s neoliberal elite -- smart, well-spoken and aggressive. These
neoliberals undoubtedly love their country. But their worldview is as
misinformed as their remedies are perilous. They boast of India�s military
might, but fail to understand that Pakistan, like India, also has nuclear
weapons. Before both countries became nuclear powers, India�s bigger armed
forces meant the balance of power was in its favor. However, with nuclear
deterrence, Pakistan is now equal to India. A basic knowledge of the doctrine
of �Mutually Assured Destruction� would be enough to counter the foolish
proposition of war on Pakistan.
Equally careless and dangerous were claims about the
American retaliation against Afghanistan and the illegal invasion of Iraq,
which, it was said, had prevented further attacks on the United States. Such
claims are little more than regurgitated rhetoric of George W Bush to begin
with. The facts tell a very different story. Terrorist attacks on US mainland
are neither frequent, nor have they always originated from outside. Before
September 11, 2001, the previous attack by external forces on American mainland
was the car bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. Two years later, a
homegrown American bomber, Timothy McVeigh, devastated a large government
building in Oklahoma City, killing about 170 people and wounding more than 850
The 9/11 attacks came six years after the Oklahoma City
bombing by McVeigh and one hopes nothing like it happens again. Meanwhile, 5,000
American soldiers have died and tens of thousands have been injured and traumatized
in Afghanistan and Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans and Iraqis have
perished. Millions have been made homeless and displaced. Many have been
abducted, tortured and thrown into notorious prisons like Guantanamo. The
hatred for the Bush administration is widespread. From the Palestinian
Territories through Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan to Pakistan, India and
elsewhere -- the overall balance sheet of George W Bush is deeply in the red,
even without considering the world economic slump.
Heaping praise on Israel�s conduct from the television
studios of Bombay and Delhi has no relation with realities in the Middle East.
Despite its huge military superiority and brutal tactics, Israel has failed to
tame the Palestinian rebellion. One-and-a-half million Palestinians in Gaza,
two-thirds of them registered with the United Nations as refugees, live in
desperate conditions, under an Israeli blockade. A growing number of Israelis
are alarmed at their government�s tactics and the deteriorating situation all
around their country.
Israel�s military superiority is maintained by more than
three billion dollars of American money every year. The nuclear weapons which
Israel first developed in the late 1960s may have deterred its Arab enemies in
the 1973 war and afterwards. Today, Israel faces a different threat. That
threat comes from alienated mass of humanity that nuclear weapons
cannot counter. A country of Israel�s size, in the midst of Arab neighbors,
cannot use weapons of mass destruction without consequences for itself.
All of which tells us that members of the relatively small
westernized, but ill-informed, neoliberal elite of India would benefit from the
reserve of morality and wisdom the country has accumulated over its long
history. The lesson to learn is that thoughtless talk, without consideration
for the consequences, is mere posturing.
former BBC journalist, is a researcher and an author. His works can be found on
deepaktripathi.wordpress.com and he can be reached at: DandATripathi@gmail.com.