Social Justice and Mumbai Attacks : Arundhati vs Rushdie
Arundhati Roy, one of the best Human Rights activists in South Asia, has probably got it wrong this time. So far, she was right to some extent to connect Indian city bombings with the Social Justice. This time, it has gone far beyond the justice and it seems she didn’t wake up in time.
I agree to her that the Hindu fundamentalists are a threat to country. It has been proved repeatedly for last 20 years. I also agree that social injustice has fermented a lot of friction points inside India. But, I don’t attribute this particular attack to the same cause.
There are a list of factual and analytic errors in her article – “9 is not 11” published in The Guardian and The Outlook. It also has a lot of “contextual errors”. Let me go over a few of them.
“The Mumbai attacks are only the most recent of a spate of terrorist attacks on Indian towns“
It’s an absolute failure to identify the distinctive nature of the Mumbai attack. Unlike the others, it was carried out by a set of foreigners who came to India only to launch the attack. The preparation and training involved in the Mumbai attack was far greater than the “hit and run” bomb attacks on other Indian towns. If the other ones required only the knowledge of Mobile phones, SIM cards, detonators, RDX and co-ordination over the internet, then this one requires additional skills such as – handling of GPS, lobbing Grenades, use of AK-47s and intense training on fighting till death for 60 hours.
It’s (The Taj) an icon of the easy, obscene injustice that ordinary Indians endure every day.
This one hardly contextual in the ongoing Mumbai attacks.
On one side (let’s call it Side A) are those who see terrorism, especially ‘Islamist’ terrorism, as a hateful, insane scourge that spins on its own axis, in its own orbit and has nothing to do with the world around it, nothing to do with history, geography or economics. Therefore, Side A says, to try and place it in a political context, or even try to understand it, amounts to justifying it and is a crime in itself.
Side B believes that though nothing can ever excuse or justify terrorism, it exists in a particular time, place and political context, and to refuse to see that will only aggravate the problem and put more and more people in harm’s way. Which is a crime in itself.
The sayings of Hafiz Saeed, who founded the Lashkar-e-Toiba (Army of the Pure) in 1990 and who belongs to the hardline Salafi tradition of Islam, certainly bolster the case of Side A. Hafiz Saeed approves of suicide bombing, hates Jews, Shias and Democracy, and believes that jehad should be waged until Islam, his Islam, rules the world.
Among the things he has said are:
“There cannot be any peace while India remains intact. Cut them, cut them so much that they kneel before you and ask for mercy.”
This one is the most contextual in the ongoing Mumbai attacks. She admits that in some cases, terrorism doesn’t have any contexts. LeT and its mastermind belongs to that category.
Unfortunately, after this she compares Hafiz to Babu Bajrangi and tries to juxtapose the end results of these two persons. As per her article, Babu Bajrangi is set free despite his hate speech but Hafiz Saeed is “banned” by the UN.
Hafiz Saeed has lived the life of a respectable man in Lahore as the head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which many believe is a front organisation for the Lashkar-e-Toiba. He continued to recruit young boys for his own bigoted jehad with his twisted, fiery sermons. On December 11, the UN imposed sanctions on the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and the Pakistani government succumbed to international pressure, putting Hafiz Saeed under house arrest. Babu Bajrangi, however, is out on bail and continues to live the life of a respectable man in Gujarat.
True, but how does it link Justice to the attacks. It’s rather proved that either of these two would have attacked their perceived opponents without any contextual reasons. For an update, Pakistan virtually did not take any action against Hafiz Saeed, neither can they take one.
Interestingly, with all these examples, she took up the the option B.
So, on balance, if I had to choose between Side A and Side B, I’d pick Side B. We need context. Always.
However, she did not include religion, illiteracy and blind-belief as context, which is unfair and creates an analytic error.
In this nuclear subcontinent, that context is Partition.
And what was the context of Partition? Isn’t that a mix of politics, religion and illiteracy? Why the history begins at partition and not from a thousand years of Caste system in India? Why doesn’t it include the rule of Aurangzeb? Why doesn’t it include the divide and rule policy of the British? History is eternal and so is the context. The history of justice and the absence of it is as long as the history of mankind.
air strikes to ‘take out’ terrorist camps may take out the camps, but certainly will not ‘take out’ the terrorists. And neither will war. …
A superpower never has allies. It only has agents.
Absolutely. I agree to this.
Terrorism is a heartless ideology, and like most ideologies that have their eye on the Big Picture, individuals don’t figure in its calculations except as collateral damage. It has always been a part of—and often even the aim of—terrorist strategy to exacerbate a bad situation in order to expose hidden fault lines. The blood of ‘martyrs’ irrigates terrorism. Hindu terrorists need dead Hindus, Communist terrorists need dead proletarians, Islamist terrorists need dead Muslims. The dead become the demonstration, the proof of victimhood, which is central to the project.
Wonderful way of putting it. Now, where does the social justice fit here? Aren’t we going farther away from the arguments in favor of social justice and more towards another deadly cause – propaganda?
After this she went into media-apathy in covering other news and the “good” and “bad” classification by the media which ended up asking for a “Police state”. I believe, if dacoits would have attacked my house, I would have put more vigil at my home from the time being. Why is it wrong to have as an immediate reaction? Isn’t it expected?
Next she delves deep into the Parliament attack, Delhi encounter with Indian Mujaheedin and Malegaon blast. Those are no way related to Mumbai attack, at least the no links has yet emerged. After that she blames the Nation states – India and USA – for a lot of misdeeds. I don’t disagree with most of them, but of course fail to see a connection with Mumbai attacks.
If 10 men can hold off the NSG commandos and the police for three days, and if it takes half-a-million soldiers to hold down the Kashmir Valley, do the math. What kind of Homeland Security can secure India?
Then she raises one question which is valuable to me. However, she did not propose any solution to that. The hint of solution came at her ending lines :
The only way to contain (it would be naive to say end) terrorism is to look at the monster in the mirror. We’re standing at a fork in the road. One sign says ‘Justice’, the other ‘Civil War’. There’s no third sign and there’s no going back. Choose.
I know the best answer to this actually came from Salman Rushdie. I am adding the video entry for his comments.
Also quote –
But the point I want to make is that I do not believe that the terrorists such as these — I do not believe that their project has anything to do with justice.
Ask yourself the question that if the Kashmir problem were resolve tomorrow, if Israel-Palestine reached a lasting peace, do we believe that al-Qaeda would disband? Do we believe that Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad would put their guns down and beat them into plough-shears and say we would now be farmers because our job is done.
I mean the point about is that is laughable, right? And the point about that is that that is not their project. Their project is power. This is a power grab by the most obscurantist, revanchist, old-fashioned, medievalist idea of modern culture that attempts to drag the world back into the middle ages at the point of modern weaponry …
That’s what is fueling the Terrorism – as it did always in the past – the hunger for power. At this point, one might argue that its the social injustice that is generating that sense of deprivation and hunger for power. However, History doesn’t show us many such examples. Nor did it show the end of that hunger once the justice was “won”. One major example could be the Afghanistan Mujaheedins, who were nurtured by Pakistan and USA. They targeted the Soviet Army to expell them from Afghanistan to get their perceived justice. However, after the Soviet Army withdrew, they did not returned to the “Plough-shares” as mentioned by Rushdie. Rather, the majority of them, exported terror outside the territory – from Osama bin Laden in 9/11 to Bangla Bhai in Bangladesh. The case was simple for them – the sense of “injustice” changed once they achieved their bloody battle.What happens to the sense of injustice those are impractical – “Establishing a Ram rajya” or “Re-establishment of Caliphate in India”? Is it possible to arrange “Social Justice” to the victims of so-called context – the Partition.
Social justice, like everything else, has an equilibrium. Suppose there are two communities in a society – A and B. In a perfect democratic setup, A always wins since they are the majority. Now, B has a deep sense of injustice. Let me assume, as per Arundhati, that led to radicalization of the B community. The paradox is, if there are measures taken by the Government ran by A, to improve the status of B – that itself will create similar sense of injustice among A – may be less in percentage. However, the overall percentage of person, who are extremists because of injustice, remains the same, though, they are equally spread among the communities. So, the society doesn’t gain out of effort towards inclusiveness before we remove the community barrier. If both group A and B prioritize their Nation ahread of their Community, half the problem gets resolved. Now, the next question becomes – who creates the community barrier? I believe, there lies the answer … it could be race, color or religion.
The argument from injustice is a never ending one. The absolute justice is never possible. Because, the justice itself is a perception which, like all other inputs to human brain, can be manipulated or brainwashed. A deep sense of injustice can easily be injected into a person who has little to analyze. In our societies, where rational thoughts are always discouraged and elders are always true – no better can be expected.