Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mumbai attacks and the 'conspicuous' Indian elite

The recent terror attacks on Mumbai are occupying a central space in the collective mindscape of India. Everyday there are human stories and revelations oozing out from the devastating wound it has created. Newer information is emerging about the callousness of the security setup, about the hidden rivalry between the security agencies. The investigative reporters are busy to unearth unknown brave hearts of those terrible days. There are also the latest exposures of cosmetic faces on TV talk shows - those who are suddenly looking awakened from their habitual socio-political aloofness. There are plentiful of peace marches, candlelight vigils, endless panel discussions and token gestures of unity. These developments are beautiful to see and sweet to hear. But day by day, this indiscreet clamor with risen fists on front of the Taj Mahal hotel and blabbermouth socialites crying hoarse in front of TV cameras – swearing to protest against hideous politicians, delivering precious advice to stop paying taxes and instigating for an American style robust response are getting harder to digest.

Suddenly the elites have become very much conscious about the importance of good politics and started spitting venom against ugly politicians. Suddenly they have metamorphosed and became socially committed. Suddenly they are presenting patriotic overtures and turned into war-mongers. A significant qualitative change indeed! Their mounting conscience is like the froth of cappuccino. After some time it will settle down.

Who are this elite citizenry declaring war against politicians today? These are the same snobs who always felt apathetic to politics and cherished to consider that politics is the refuge for the third-rate Homo sapiens - the rascals and scoundrels. These are the same lot who are always silent during any atrocious communal riot, during the butchery of Muslims in Gujarat, Christians in Orissa or Dalits in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. These are the same people who gladly contribute to fund hate. These are the same people who exhibit their deep love for America but love to hate China, Iran, Russia, North Korea, Venezuela or Cuba. These are the same people who are skeptical about Mayavati and scornful about Lalu Prasad Yadav; bitterly critical about mainstream communists but sympathetic to the brutal Maoists. These are the same people who seldom votes but wishes to maintain their larger influence over the democratic system which they are bitterly denouncing today. These are the same people who are now parroting the stupid concept: to replace the politicians by CEOs to run the country.

But is it really the rage or a raucous cry out of deep fear? It is indeed the first time Indian elites are stunned to find themselves in a situation where their lives are just as insecure as the common masses; their symbols of wealth and power look insecure. This is the first time they saw that their ‘own’ people - the creamy layer of the society can also be robotically targeted and brutally killed.

Why did the proactive reporters could not find a single brave heart among the elites trapped inside the hotels? Why are the brave hearts found only among the ordinary? What are the responses of the rescued elite hostages of Taj, Oberoi and Trident about their saviors - the ordinary hotel staff, the ordinary kitchen worker and the ordinary maintenance worker who took terrorist bullets trying to save and shield them? For a while they will emotionally talk about the sacrifice, eulogize them for their bravery and soon will stop thinking about them.

The media bosses, our conscience keepers, have devoted too much space to illustrate this rage of our phony elites. The electronic media has taken the center stage in this aspect. Serious looking anchors with theatrically modulated voice attempted to accelerate public emotion by adding ingredients of detestation against politics into their recipe. Jingoism was carefully promoted (mainly through readers response section) as the ideal balm to the wound. All politicians are brought under a homogeneous group and mercilessly bashed. Placards with thrilling slogans are shown again and again to demonstrate the public anger. Continuous narratives supported with titillating images were conveyed ceaselessly to help create mass hysteria. In the pretext of voicing on behalf of the people, the Indian media issued a clear verdict to the worried nation: in the wake of the Mumbai attack, politicians have lost whatever credibility they might have had before.

Do the Indian media want the public to believe that their activism will mould the politicians towards morality and decency? Not at all. The media only wanted to grab an opportunity to propagate their social worthiness. In situations, idiocy rules the day where anything and everything can be lambasted in the pretext of patriotism. To acquire public applause, the electronic media therefore chose the dangerous path of cheap sensationalism and in a trendy manner ran the Mumbai attacks on TV like a reality show, continuously flashing unconfirmed breaking news. All news channels were principally acting alike – only the upper polish differed from channel to channel since the targeted audience was different. The class bias of their selective reporting was also blatant in nature. By barely covering the massacre on the Chatrapathi Shivaji Terminus (CST) railway station where more than 50 people were killed or the government run GT hospital, all efforts were focused on the ‘dramatic’ events of the symbolic Taj and the Oberoi and Trident hotels.

Lot of the elites now talks about unity. Unity is a sweet word but does not necessarily suggest a solution. Who knows it better than our elites that unity is warm and endearing when it is selective?

During the eventful days, a section of the media has cleverly pressed another ploy - by labeling the Mumbai attacks as India's 9/11. The reason is simple. They were trying to subtly promote the idea of aping the American way to demonstrate military aggression against Pakistan. The Indian public was asked to restrict their vision like a blinkered horse and consider: why the United States has never suffered a major attack on its soil since 9/11. Because they were tough. Because they do not fear to call a spade a spade. The Indian Government was advised with a warning: be tough like America; learn from them how to respond. Otherwise India will continue to bleed forever. A prominent section of the elitist Indians expressed a similar view. Fools rush in where fools have been before.

America’s post 9/11 ‘tough’ and costly response (the estimated cost of the Iraq war is $ 3 trillion, about three times India's GDP) has turned into multifaceted disasters: it has ruined Afghanistan and Iraq, destabilized the north-west Frontier province of Pakistan and made that territory much more generous to terrorists, killed millions including innocent civilians. Nearly 5000 soldiers of American military are also killed and 100,000 of them has returned home wounded and injured, suffering from serious mental disorders. It has acted as a stimulus for Islamic terror groups and aggravated Islamic fundamentalism not only in the Muslim world but also in countries where the words were unfamiliar before America’s ‘tough’ response occurred. It has substantially increased insecurity and fuelled far more terrorism activities worldwide.

On July 16, 2008, the American government has issued a ‘Worldwide Caution’ that says, “Current information suggests that Al-Qaida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks against US interests in multiple regions, including Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics including suicide operations, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings and bombings.” The magnification of worldwide terror attacks is the direct result of America’s ‘War on Terror’ which has gravely angered the Arab and Muslim world. It was not difficult to make out why the terrorists had targeted American and British passport holders in Mumbai hotels and attacked Nariman House, the epicenter of the Jewish community in Mumbai. Israel is a key ally of America and is notorious for their imperious methods of tackling Islamic terrorism.

In the first reaction post after the Mumbai attacks, this blogger had spoken about the need to restrain emotional outbursts and urged to convert the gruesome incidence into a watershed – by looking within to dispose of the enduring vices of this country. There is now an emerging possibility that the incidence could be turned into a watershed of a different kind. The proactive interference of America is showing disturbing signs that the big brother might seize this opportunity and eventually coerce India into their strategic partnership in this subcontinent. They have earlier done the same with Pakistan and the consequences are out in the open. Now it could be India’s turn.

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