Corporate Governance and Nuclear End Games Cannot Make Us Secure
In the aftermath of Mumbai, sections of the media have made much of ‘people’s anger against politicians and the system.’ What do we make of this claim? Sure, people are angry. Anger with those who rule us and with the system is surely a healthy emotion. Anger at those who are putting us in a position where we never know when our loved ones could be subjected to sudden and violent death; anger at those who circled around the Mumbai tragedy for votes, with the eagerness of vultures spotting a meal; anger at the shamelessness of those who vilified Hemant Karkare for his courage (in investigating Sanghi terrorists) in life, and tried to appropriate him in death; anger at Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi of the BJP who dismissed the people’s anger in loaded gendered language; anger at the Kerala Chief Minister who could not gracefully accept the feelings of a bereaved parent who wasn’t interested in meeting him, and instead indulged in unwarranted and contemptuous abuse.
Armed marauders indulging in random shooting at public places and killing nearly 200 people is surely just cause for rage. Some sections of the media are telling us that the target of our anger must be Pakistan. RSS Chief Sudarshan has said in an interview that if it comes to a nuclear war to defeat the ‘demons’, so be it – a better world will emerge from it. Does he know what a nuclear war means – or does he imagine it like a scene from the TV Mahabharata? That may be a Bollywood scenario – go across the ‘Border,’ with the US backing us, and get the bad guys. Unfortunately in real life, the bad guys are not that easy to recognise. Take the Pakistani ISI: that familiar bugbear for Indian rulers for decades. The ISI is known to have had inextricably close links with the CIA – in fact, many in Pakistan’s beleaguered democratic movement were sure that the ISI listened more to US diktats than to those of the Pakistani Government. Ditto, often, for the Pakistani Army. So what are we saying if we demand an attack Pakistan with the US on our side? That we don’t really care about the morals of our allies; or for the true identity of our enemies; we just want a quick, easy, feel-good target to attack?
What does Pakistan stand accused of? Of allowing its soil to be used by terrorists to launch attacks on other countries. Of allowing banned terrorist organisations to rename themselves and get a new lease of life? It is a cautionary reminder that the very country being touted as our greatest ally and powerful friend in the war on terror – the US – is guilty of an even worse crime. The US Army ran the ‘School of the Americas’ (SOA) at Fort Benning on US soil, for decades – training Latin American troops to put down popular democratic movements, prop up dictatorships and defend US corporations in Latin American countries. The SOA, dubbed by a President of Panama as the “biggest base for destabilization in Latin America,” was not a ‘non-state actor’ – it was run by the US Army. Though public notoriety that dubbed it the ‘School of Assassins,’ it has recreated itself under a new name: the ‘Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.’ And that’s just the story in Latin America; there’s a similarly sordid story of US intervention to destabilise democracies in West Asia. So, are we willing to range ourselves against such ‘bad guys’? Or will we allow the bad guys to decide which of their disposable minions we are allowed to target?
Let’s also take time to broaden our perspective somewhat. Yes, Mumbai has taught many of us that the sight of innocent people and loved ones being killed in cold blood can enrage us. Let’s just remind ourselves that many thousands of Indians already live with this rage simmering within them. It insulted many that the media did not deem the deaths at CST as worthy of TV coverage as those at the Taj. Let’s not similarly insult the loss and pain of others whom TV has not brought to our sight. The National Crime Records Bureau has come up with its grim count of annual suicides. India, we’re told, saw 16,632 farmer suicides in 2007; and in 2006, the number was marginally higher. What do we tell the families of those 17,000 people whom despair (caused by Governments that would rather bail out stinking rich corporates rather than suicidal farmers) destroys every year? That just because there’s no AK-47-wielding foreign ‘aatankvaadi’ (dead or alive) to hate and kill, their rage is any less justified?
What about the thousands of Muslim kids in Gujarat 2002 who saw their mothers raped, wombs ripped out, families burnt alive, quite openly, by gleeful brigades armed with a carefully prepared arsenal of gas cylinders and sharp weapons? No commandos rushed to save them and put down the killers. The killers gloated about their deeds on hidden camera – and are yet to be punished; their patron is a Chief Minister is the darling of corporate houses. Don’t those kids have a right to feel that ‘Enough is Enough’?
If we expect sanity from the Vidarbha farmers and the Gujarat genocide victims, if we expect them to understand the ‘big picture’ and overcome blind rage to uphold democracy and secularism, surely we can expect a modicum of restraint and depth of analysis to guide our response to Mumbai?
The crude attempts by the media to whip up a mindless frenzy in the wake of Mumbai have been marked by breathtaking insults to our intelligence and independence. In one show, yesteryear film star Simi Grewal called for ‘carpet bombing’ of Pakistan and declared, “When you look down from the Four Seasons onto the slums, you see, not Congress or BJP flags but Pakistani flags.” She later apologised, explaining that she had mistaken Muslim flags for Pakistani ones; and that she thought ‘carpet bombing’ meant a covert military operation. Unfortunately there’s no ban on this Simi – she’s allowed to inflict her prejudices and idiocies on us all.
A media channel flashed a placard again and again, “CEO, Not CM;’ an article in the American Forbes magazine advised that Ratan Tata be made India’s PM. The article said that “Indians and Pakistanis alike criticized President Bush's” response to 9/11; and claimed that after Mumbai an Indian friend said that “only now does he understand Bush's cowboy reaction.” Others have advocated ‘army rule’ as an option.
One need not look far to see that corporate governance and army rule have never guaranteed security. Pakistan has had army rule (and US as an ally) for years and decades, yet today Pakistan is as insecure and unsafe as India. Ask the adivasis of Kalinganagar or the peasants of Singur, or for that matter, the Muslims of Gujarat if they trust Tata, who christened Modi the “good M,” to keep them safe.
The only option to a rotting system is to struggle for a system on radically new democratic foundations. Corporate and authoritarian forces are at the heart of the rot: we can’t peddle them as the solution to it. Anger and outrage at Mumbai must join the anger and outrage at all the victims of every kind of terrorism and mass murder in this country.