Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Misadventures in terrorist-nabbing

India's security apparatus continues to work at cross purposes. Kolkata police not only mistakenly arrested an undercover operative of the Jammu and Kashmir police, who provided SIM cards to terrorists so that their phone calls could be tapped, but also promptly announced it to all who cared to know. Now the undercover operative's cover is blown, his family is in danger, and the J&K police are hopping mad. Great. Just great.

Meanwhile, interrogators of our lone captive terrorist from the Mumbai attacks apparently revealed to the press where the guy was being held (information was not published), complete with description of how he'd have to go past a long corridor full of cops in order to escape. I can just imagine someone in Muridke saying, "Thanks for the dope, chumps!"

On a more trivial note, it seems our terrorist craves Bachchan movies and a carnivorous diet (but has to make do with saatvik meals six days a week, and no movies). The poor dear.

The press also reports that this adult male citizen (Zardari's "stateless actors" claims notwithstanding, the guy is indeed Pakistani) and human butcher misses his mommy and daddy and wants to tell them he got misled into all this AK-57 stuff. "Misled" into AK-57s?? Maybe Sanjay Dutt can tell us how that happens.

And below, Jon Stewart's interview with an American interrogator who believes rapport and respect, not torture and insult, is a more efficient way to get information out of a terrorist.

By the way, today is international Human Rights Day.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Mumbai protests: Vision of peace? Or vituperation on vinyl?

At the best of times, I hate forwarded email by supposedly "concerned" people who have often not even Googled whatever the fuck they're forwarding. Nor do they particularly care about whether it has an effect, or what kind of effect it has. Nor will they follow up -- it's a one-off, directionless, trajectory-less endorsement of some fleeting sentiment. Such mouse-clicking "slacktivism" (isn't that an absolutely delightful epithet for when the vision-less, feckless Indian middle class believes it's "doing" something!) does serious harm when it peddles notions of revenge and hate. Here's a response to an uncle of mine, long-time Mumbai resident who now divides his year between Oceania and North America:

I can understand that people's feelings run strong at a time like this. I know what it feels like to be so frightened and helpless, because I was in the middle of it all. I was at work in ____, across from CST station and behind Cama Hospital, and between the BMC (where the attackers lobbed a grenade) and the lane next to Anjuman-e-Islam school (which they took to escape to Metro). We saw the attacks with our own eyes, outside our office windows. The terrorists fired at our building... and tried to enter it (as our security camera footage shows). And I was more fortunate than ____ [my cousin], who couldn't leave the Oberoi for two days.

Even so, I oppose the sentiments in some of the photos you forwarded. I don't think anything good is achieved by using vulgar language (the obscene pun on the Kerala CM's name), spontaneous calls for revenge (grabbing AK-47s, attacking Pakistan), and using womanhood as an insult (giving someone bangles??? I believe a woman is a human being, not an insult to masculinity).

I am also skeptical of "reform movements" that are spawned overnight with poorly thought out vision, and that may vanish within a week. In fact, people who have made solid difference in making politicians more accountable started doing so long before a terrorist attack, and they did it at the risk of their lives, too (Satyendra Dubey is no more). The true leaders and nationalists who deserve our attention are people like Aruna Roy, Sandeep Pandey and Arvind Kejriwal, and those who support them. Why not give their organizations a donation, if you feel strongly about reforming India?

With all due respect, I request that you kindly not forward me such photos or messages. I hope you will understand.

Below are some of the pix attached to my uncle's email, sent from Oceania. As of now, the URL is parked with GoDaddy and contains only random links like all parked domains.

Open house at Jamaat-ud-Daawa

As Pakistan comes under great international pressure, this controversial charity, widely regarded as a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba, opened its doors to journalists -- the doors to its classrooms and hospital. Other areas of the campus remained out of bounds. While the BBC appears to have taken this PR exercise at face value, the Guardian has not. It wrote that the
carefully orchestrated visit took foreign and local journalists around the beautifully equipped school and hospital. The school follows the national curriculum, the headteacher, Rashid Mehnaz, said, taking pupils from around the country. The poor were given financial help, with richer pupils paying fees. Mehnaz condemned violence, saying suicide attacks were "absolutely wrong - it is forbidden in Islam".

A press conference and sumptuous lunch was laid on for journalists. However, the madrasa, mosque, and other facilities remained out of bounds, and once the official tour was over the media were no longer welcome. Although the group had said anyone was welcome to look around the site at any time, the Guardian's attempt to take up this offer after the tour was met with a heavy-handed response: burly young men arrived on motorcycles and circled, demanding that we leave...

...Certainly there were plain-clothed officials present, who said they were members of "special branch" - often a euphemism for the Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency. They wanted to provide an armed escort back to Lahore, but why intelligence agents were there - and why an escort might be necessary - was unclear. Muridke is not in a dangerous part of Pakistan, and the offer was declined.

It has long been said that the ISI has secretly backed Lashkar-e-Taiba, though the agency always rejects the accusation.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Jon Stewart & John Oliver on the Mumbai terror attacks

"When you're a bankrupt ideology pursuing a bankrupt strategy, the only move you've got is the dick one."