15 August 2007

A very happy Independence Day to you all. Every year it is a time for rejoicing and taking stock of the past. This year too the media is agog with stories of the past, what unites us, how Indians are different etc. But not one word of the heroes who fight and protect our independence.

After 60 years of Independence the time has come to shout from the rooftops that as a nation we do not know or care how to honour our armed forces. This is a theme which we have touted on our website since its inception and we do it again today. And to drive home the point we give below an article by B Raman who says much the same thing, but in a different context. He laments the fact that there is no one to shed tears for the victims and their families of the Mumbai blasts.

At least when civilian deaths are involved the media takes up the issue, but there are very few who like to take up the issue so far as the Armed forces are concerned. One year we celebrate the Kargil Divas with great fanfare and then forget about it for the next few years until some politician decides to get some political mileage out of it and suddenly it is celebrated again!

We are obsessed with giving banner headlines to a film actor who is convicted and sentenced to a jail term but these headlines are not reserved for our armed and security forces who are being killed every day or who gave their all during the battles for Independence. To illustrate I give below the text of an email received recently:

"By the time u guys read this news, the body of Major Manish Pitambare, who was shot dead at Anantnag, would have been cremated with full military honors.

On Tuesday, this news swept across all the news channels 'Sanjay Dutt relieved by court'. 'Sirf Munna not a bhai', '13 saal ka vanvaas khatam', 'although found guilty for possession of armory, Sanjay can breath sigh of relief as all the TADA charges against him are withdrawn'. Then many
personalities like Salman Khan said 'He is a good person. We knew he will come out clean'. Mr Big B said "Dutt's family and our family have relations  for years he's a good kid. He is like elder brother to Abhishek". His sister Priya Dutt said "we can sleep well tonight. It's a great relief"
In other news, Parliament was mad at Indian team for performing bad; Greg Chappell said something; Shah Rukh Khan replaces Amitabh in KBC and other such stuff. But most of the emphasis was given on Sanjay Dutt's "phoenix like" comeback from the ashes of terrorist charges.

Surfing through the channels, one news on BBC startled me. It read "Hisbul Mujahidin's most  wanted terrorist 'Sohel Faisal' killed in Anantnag, India. Indian Major leading the operation lost his life in the process. Four others are injured.

 It was past midnight, I started visiting the stupid Indian channels, but Sanjay Dutt was still ruling. They were telling how Sanjay pleaded to the court saying 'I'm the sole bread earner for my family', 'I have a daughter who is studying in US' and so on. Then they showed how Sanjay was not wearing his lucky blue shirt while he was hearing the verdict and also how he went to every temple and prayed for the last few months. A suspect in Mumbai bomb blasts, convicted under armory act...was being transformed into a hero.

Sure Sanjay Dutt has a daughter; Sure he did not do any terrorist activity. Possessing an AK47 is considered too elementary in terrorist community and also one who possesses an AK47 has a right to possess a pistol so that again is not such a big crime; Sure Sanjay Dutt went to all the temples;
Sure he did a lot of Gandhigiri but then...........

Major Manish H Pitambare got the information from his sources about the terrorists' whereabouts. Wasting no time he attacked the camp, killed Hisbul Mujahidin's supremo and in the process lost his life to the bullets fired from an AK47. He is survived by a wife and daughter (just like Sanjay Dutt) who is only 18 months old.

Major Manish never said 'I have a daughter' before he took the decision to attack the terrorists in the darkest of nights. He never thought about having a family and he being the bread earner. No news channel covered this since they were too busy hyping a former drug addict, a suspect who's linked to bomb blasts which killed hundreds. Their aim was to show how he defied the TADA charges and they were so successful that his conviction in possession of armory had no meaning. They also concluded that his parents in heaven must be happy and proud of him.

Parents of Major Manish are still living and they have to live rest of their lives without their beloved son. His daughter won't ever see her daddy again. Finally Major Manish, to my generation is a greater hero, someone who laid his life in the name of this great nation."

Every other nation honours its senior citizens in the armed forces for their unstinted devotion to duty, discipline and services rendered in the past. This tradition is carried forward as an example for others to follow to inspire and motivate its citizens to honour and laud the armed forces for the deeds of the past and to continue those deeds in future. "Veterans Day" is a revered and solemn occasion when the nations soldiers sailors and airmen are remembered and honoured by the highest in the land. All we ever hear about are Valentines Day, Womens Day, and more recently Friendship Day! (who ever heard of it before?). The emphasis should be to preserve and glorify the "izzat" of the armed forces.

To a large extent it is the armed forces themselves who must shoulder the blame for this sorry state of affairs. They have taken very little initiative for informing the nation or educating the media about what they do, or just how difficult it is. The Navy feels it is a 'silent service' and talking about ourselves is taboo. The other two services are content to say a few inanities on occasions such as Flag Day (what a farce!), Army/Navy/Air Force day. They have lost sight of the fact that this is the age of communication, media hype and marketing a product. Why do they shy away from informing the nation of their difficult and thankless task and tom-tomming themselves? It should be bombarded out every other day. If the bureaucrats and politicians deny you the funds to do so then use some of the huge welfare funds which are collected - it is for the welfare of our jawans and officers.  Otherwise we will continue to be known as the sinecures who haven't fought a war since Kargil, enjoy several perks like canteen facilities and free rations and are a bunch of drunks who get cheap liquor.

It is time the armed forces took concrete steps to assidiously highlight the life in the services by almost daily stories in the press of glorious deeds - whether fighting the enemy, fighting the terrorists or training hard to be able to do so. In another tack they should undertake to educate the media about the nuances of defence reporting from the armed forces' perspective, for their and the nations benefit. The media cannot even distinguish between the ranks in the services vis a vis other services leave alone reporting on the nuances of military tactics or acquisitions.

Finally it is time that the nation and its rulers are made fully aware of the fact that the Armed Forces are your last resort. It would indeed be a sad day if they were to let you down due to the indifference of an unappreciating nation. For then even God will not be able to help you!


Let Us Shed Tears for Ourselves

by B. Raman

Large sections of the nation shed tears on July 11, 2007, in memory of the 190 innocent Indians belonging to different religions who were killed a year ago in a series of explosions in suburban trains of Mumbai by jihadi terrorists inspired by the ideology of Al Qaeda. Their tears were also an expression of solidarity with the surviving relatives of these victims.

Just as millions of Americans and their leaders belonging to both sides of the political spectrum shed tears on September 11 every year in memory of the over 2,500 innocent civilians belonging to different nations who were killed by Al Qaeda in the US homeland on September 11, 2001, and in solidarity with their relatives.

Just as millions of Indonesians and Australians and their political leaders shed years every year on the anniversary of the Bali bombing of October, 2002, in which nearly 200 innocent civilians -- Indonesians, Australians and others -- were blown to pieces by jihadi terrorists.

Just as millions of Spanish people, their royal family and their political leaders shed tears every year on the anniversary of the Madrid bombing of March, 2004, in which the jihadi terrorists targeted suburban trains, killing nearly 200 innocent civilians.

Just as millions of British, their royal family and their political leaders shed tears every year on the anniversary of the London bombings of July, 2005, in which jihadi suicide terrorists targeted the public transportation system killing over 50 innocent civilians.

There was a significant difference between the observance of the anniversaries of these great human tragedies inflicted on humanity by the jihadi terrorists in other countries and in India.

In other countries, the head of the State or Government participated in the observance of the anniversaries. On July 7, 2007, we saw on the TV touching scenes of Mr. Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, and his wife visiting the tube stations where the terrorists struck and placing flowers at the scene of the tragedy.

In India, our so-called secular political class and elite kept away from the observance of the anniversary of the Mumbai tragedy of July 11, 2006.

Forget about flowers. Not a tear. Not a word of sorrow. Not a sign of grief. Not a single expression of solidarity with the relatives of the victims.

I did not write this article yesterday because I waited to see whether our Prime Minister would fly to Mumbai and lead the people of the nation in remembering the innocent Indians -- -men, women and children -- who were blown to pieces by the jihadi terrorists last year. I was convinced in my mind that he would not. Still, I was hoping that he would prove me wrong by participating in the observance of the anniversary. He didn't.

Why didn't he?

Busy dealing with grave crises confronting the nation? No. Lack of time? No. Bad weather? No.

He did not attend because he was worried the Muslims might misunderstand.

He did not attend because he was worried that any public expression of sorrow for those blown up by the jihadi terrorists might be misinterpreted by the Muslims as stigmatising their community.

A few weeks after the Mumbai blasts of July 11, 2006, I had been to Kolkata to attend a conference. One of the eminent participants told me that a few days after the blasts there was a meeting in the Raj Bhawan chaired by the Governor of West Bengal to discuss some other subject. One of the participants proposed that they observe a two-minutes' silence in memory of those killed in Mumbai.

The Governor ruled his suggestion out of order. Why?
Lest the Muslims misinterpret it as stigmatising their community.

Jihadi terrorists can go on indulging in one act of mass casualty terrorism after another.
But, according to our so-called secular political class and elite, we should not talk about it or even cry about it.

Our anger, our tears, our exasperation at the failure of the Government to deal with them might be seen by the Muslims as stigmatising their community.
How many acts of jihadi terrorism we have had in India since the present Government came to power in Delhi in 2004?

Delhi, Varanasi, Mumbai, Malegaon, Bangalore, Samjota Express, Hyderabad.
Shri Shekhar Gupta, the Editor-in-Chief of the "Indian Express", in a recent article drew attention to a fact to which I have been drawing attention in my writings for over a year. There has been no satisfactory progress in any of these investigations.

In the past, our Police might have been criticised in some instances for its inability to prevent acts of terrorism, but it had generally received very high praise for its successful investigation.
We all felt proud of the Mumbai Police of the 1990s recently when the case relating to the Mumbai blasts of March, 1993, in which about 250 innocent civilians were blown up by jihadi terrorists, ended in conviction. There were many other cases in which too the Mumbai Police of the 1990s had covered itself with credit.

So too the Delhi Police. So too the Police of other cities.

Why there is a perception now that they are not as good as they were in the 1990s? Has there been a deterioration in their competence? No. In the 1990s, they received the full backing of the political leadership of those years, which took active interest in the investigation.

The political leadership of those years did not give sermons to the police not to do anything which might be viewed by the Muslims as stigmatising or targeting their community. It refrained from inhibiting a thorough investigation through such sermons.

The political leadership of the past provided leadership and guidance. It took active interest in the investigation. It was determined that the guilty will be brought to book, even if they be Muslims.
The political leadership of today gives sermons and no leadership. It avoids active monitoring and supervision of the investigation lest the Muslims misunderstand.

I was in service at the height of terrorism in Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir under leaders like Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao. They never gave sermons. I had never heard expressions like "stigmatising a community" or "targeting a community" etc coming out of their mouth.
In the past, we used to accuse Western countries of following double standards in counter-terrorism because of their reluctance to co-operate with us. We accused them of adopting an over-legalistic approach in order to avoid co-operating with us. Since the botched-up London and Glasgow terrorist strikes by a joint Arab-Indian jihadi cell, we have been guilty of the same sins of commission and omission which we attributed to the West in the past.

Much of the initial leads about the Indian participants and their jihadi background before they migrated to the UK came from the Karnataka Police. It is they who were the first to identify the man who drove the car, which crashed into the Glasgow airport, as Kafeel Ahmed, an Indian national.

They were also the first to identify him as an aeronautical engineer and not a doctor.

They were also the first to establish that he became Wahabised in Bangalore and not in London, Belfast, Cambridge or Glasgow. He was not infected in the UK. He carried the jihadi infection to the UK from India.

Leaders of the Indian Muslim community are worried that digging out the truth might lead to a stigmatisation of the Indian Muslims abroad. They express their concern to the so-called secular political leadership. What does it do?

Till recently, our Prime Minister was giving sermons to our police and intelligence agencies not to do anything, which might be viewed by the Muslims as stigmatising their community.
Now, he gives a ring to Mr.Gordon Brown and gives him a sermon about the importance of not doing anything which might stigmatise the Muslim community.

The Australian Police want some quick check-up about the antecedents of an Indian Muslim doctor from Bangalore under interrogation by them. He is related to one of the Indian perpetrators of the London and Glasgow attempts and had lived with them in the UK before migrating to Australia.
What do we do?

The Central Bureau of Investigation gives them a sermon about the importance of making their request through proper channel.

Just as the Western Police and intelligence agencies used to tell us in the past when we asked for a quick check-up of a terrorism-related information.

New Delhi is afraid that any over-enthusiasm by our police and investigative and intelligence agencies in co-operating with the British and Australian investigators making preliminary enquiries about the suspected Indian Muslims might be viewed by the Indian Muslim community as stigmatising them.

So, the message is: Drag your feet in co-operating with the British and Australians.

The sensitivities and feelings of the Muslims are more important than saving innocent civilians----whether in India, the UK or Australia---by exposing the jihadi iceberg and neutralising it before it is too late.

We shed tears for the victims of last year's Mumbai explosions yesterday.

Let us shed tears for ourselves today for having the misfortune of having a Government for which the feelings of the Muslims are more important than saving the lives of innocent civilians from the continued depredations of the jihadi terrorists.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.
E-mail:itschen36@gmail.com )

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