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Sunday, July 19, 2009

2767, 28 December 2008
The Counter Narrative on Terror Firdaus AhmedFreelancer email: firdyahmed@yahoo.com
The Urdu press has a restricted readership in minority pockets in the country. It purveys the minority perspective on the news and as with other vernacular press, it is sometimes sensationalist and parochial. But it does serve as an interesting window into the mind of the minority individual. The Urdu daily Siasat, which also has an English web edition and is popular in the Deccan in general, and in Hyderabad in particular, had a reflexive take on the attack, prior to the publication of details of the perpetrators. It makes for interesting reading. Though reminiscent of a conspiracy theory and, therefore, delusional, analysing it may be instructive. For one, it is with a piece in concert with the disinformation being spread on Pakistani websites disowning the attacks.
The conspiracy theory has it that the Mumbai attack had been carried out by a covert alliance between right wing elements in Pakistan and India. The connecting logic is the improbable manner in which the gallant leadership of the ATS, which was probing majority-perpetrated terror, was killed in action. The unthinkable alliance has been rationalised as having been brought about by the common aim of taking over power in respective states, for which they need each other as 'bogeymen'. That the unlikely theory finds expression in the first place, and has adherents not only in the minority, but also in the radical set - that follows the activity of the right wing more closely than mainstream security analysts are wont to - indicates a state of mind that should not be dismissed outright.
The perspective that emerges is that that right wing groups in both countries have a likeminded agenda. While the levels of collusion attributed by the conspiracy theory need not be conceded, the perspective does give credence to the threat from the traditionalist, ultra-conservative end of the political spectrum to the respective state. This is self evident in Pakistan and though less so in India, it would be imprudent to discount the threat. Fighting this would require an overt alliance, cutting across borders between the liberal-democratic forces. Dealing with this threat through the respective resources by the liberals in both states individually may not, in the event, prove adequate to avert an undesirable outcome. A scenario arsing from the current regional juncture could prove the point.
An angered India has posed some demands to Pakistan through a demarche. These have been reinforced by the US, seeking its own ends in the GWOT. A weak Pakistani government may not be in a position to respond positively. The resulting pressure on it could only weaken it further. It is already under siege from the recurrent American Predator attacks that violate its sovereignty and also from the terrorist response to these in the form of terror strikes in the Pakistani hinterland. In the eventuality of military pressure from an angered India, the right wing could ascend to power in Pakistan, justifying itself in nationalist terms. It is evident that such an outcome could only aid the political forces of the right in the Indian elections scheduled for next year.
While India has had a Hindu nationalist regime earlier, the threat apprehended by the minority is not so much from the nature of the government in power, but from the seemingly congenial environment provided by such a government to the spread of the Hindutva ideology. In a situation in which the extremists assume that they have contributed to the victory of the political party, they would make ambitious demands. Such a belief and action would not be unfounded, given their recently-revealed attempt at engineering a threat environment and perception through bomb blasts attributed to the minority. In the minority perspective, these investigations have, in all likelihood, revealed only the proverbial 'tip of the iceberg', confined as they were to the less significant Malegaon blasts as against the more significant 'BAD' (Bangalore-Ahmedabad-Delhi) blasts. The regional situation that presages a growth in terrorism - with the situation in Afghanistan-Pakistan becoming worse before it gets any better - would make for, and justify, a rightward tilt in the Indian polity.
Two conclusions can be drawn. One is on the origins of the counter narrative. Since the minority understandably finds the minority-baiting character of the Hindutva ideology dissuasive and threatening, it is apprehensive of the possible outcome of heightened, externally-inspired, terrorism. Presently, the perspective, widely subscribed to and also cross-cutting the denominational divide, is confined to marginalised discourse spaces on the internet and the niche audience patronising the linguistic press. The dominant discourse, reliant on a master narrative on terror forged in the western media, could do with the challenge of the subaltern.
Second, is that weakened governments in both states would require to collaborate in synchronising their foreign and security policies, since these policies address not only the external environment at which they are reasonably directed, but, in the current circumstance, are also crucial in determining respective internal security situations as well. The ongoing thrust for 'action' should, therefore, also include an option of a joint approach against what is quite obviously a common enemy.

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