What about Ghandi?
What about Gandhi? by Antonio C. Abaya poses some important questions and also our perception of India as the land of pacifists. You can read his article here:
The daring attack by Muslim militants on several high-profile targets in Mumbai last week has stunned the political and security leadership of India. Which may explain why various narratives of the incident have been hard to reconcile with each other.
Depending on who’s saying what, there were 10 or 13 militants, of whom nine were killed and one was captured. Or six were killed and seven were captured. It is hard to imagine that only 10 or 13 militants could attack 10 or 12 targets, simultaneously or one after another, killing 179 people (or was it 193?), of whom six or 12 were foreigners, including five (or six) Israelis or American Jews.
Or that an unspecified number of militants were routed out of the Oberoi Hotel, leaving 30, later reduced to 24, bodies behind. At the Taj Mahal Hotel, one or maybe three militants were holding one or perhaps five persons hostage, but were finally all killed.
I think the first thing Indian authorities should learn from thus tragic incident is how to count accurately, and to assign one official spokesman to release the presumably accurate official numbers.
The official storyline is that the militants came to Mumbai by ship: Two Pakistani ships, later reduced to one, were detained. From the ship(s), the militants were landed by rubber dinghies to make their daring assault on Mumbai.
Who were these militants? A previously unknown group, calling itself Dekkan Mujahedin, claimed credit for the attack, which has been called India’s 9/11. Later, after the sole (?) captured attacker was interrogated, it was announced that the assault was planned and executed by the Lashkar-e-Taiba, (“The Army of the Righteous”), a Pakistan-based Islamist group that had carried out earlier attacks on Indian targets, including the Parliament building in New Delhi.
Although they could not strictly be classified as suicide bombers, the militants launched into their attacks apparently knowing that they would not come out of it alive. They were sayeed or martyrs of the Islamic faith, who die in the process of killing infidels—be they Hindus, Jews or Christians, especially Americans and Britons—who each will be welcomed in Heaven by those legendary 72 virgins.
India has become one of the most violence-prone countries in the world, after Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. What ever happened to Mohandas Gandhi, the universal icon for non-violence, who is credited with having inspired the non-violent Civil Rights movement under Martin Luther King in the US, the dismantling of the apartheid regime in South Africa, the People Power “Revolution” in the Philippines, the largely bloodless overthrow of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union?
In an article in the Oct. 25 issue of the International Herald Tribune—appropriately titled Forget Gandhi, violence is now the chosen path—Anand Giridharadas, wrote from, also appropriately, Mumbai, that:
“From Mumbai to Bengal to the central plains, violence is achieving an exalted new status even by this region’s bloody standards. Politically motivated beating and burning and killing, never wholly absent from the subcontinent, have become more than spasmodic human failings. They have started to replace hunger strikes, sit-ins and marches as the basic tools of Indian political life, guiltlessly deployed, fatally effective.
“Forget what you’ve heard about Gandhi and nonviolence in India. This is a nation of militias now…”
The author was writing not just about political violence. In his Mumbai, taxi drivers went on strike against a new city ordinance against aging and decrepit taxicabs, and those drivers who did not support the strike had their cabs’ windows smashed. Later on another strike was called against immigrants from Northern India who were being given franchises to drive taxicabs. Their cabs’ windows were also smashed.
Mumbai nationalists also staged protests against shopkeepers who displayed store signs only in English, not in the local Marathi language. Their shop windows were also smashed. When the airline Jet Airways laid off 1,900 workers due to the global financial crisis, the same nationalist group—led by the Hindu rabble-rpusert Raj Thackeray—vowed that no Jet Airways would be allowed to take off from Mumbai airport unless the 1,900 workers were rehired.
Continued Anand: “Maoist insurgents are firebombing their way through central India, winning control over some destitute areas. The government’s response? More violence. Government security forces, in tandem with a vigilante group called Salwa Judum, have, according to Human Rights Watch, engaged in “threats, beatings, arbitrary arrests and detention, killings, pillage and burning of villages to force residents into supporting Salwa Judum.”
“Meanwhile, Muslim extremists blow up markets, Hindu extremists slaughter Christians and politicians convene commissions.
“Whatever its reputation, India has never exactly been a nation of pacifists. Gandhi represented just one strand of thinking, and his view is not the only one to have prevailed. From Kashmir’s jihad to various secessionisms to Hindu-Muslim riots, political violence is as Indian as tandoori chicken…
“This political fragmentation pits tribe against tribe. It has corroded the faith among Indians that the institutions that hear and answer grievances—the police, courts, media—are neutral. All increasingly are seen as biased, answerable to their different masters, rather than impartial executors of the public good.
“All contribute to a growing sense of powerlessness. And so if you are a leader of a political faction that wants to be heard, it is not irrational to believe you need a militia of violent young men to make yourself heard…”