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Saturday, September 10, 2011

milligazette
BLASTING THE TERROR NARRATIVE

By Firdaus Ahmed

In a first, the NIA has been launched from the very outset to probe a bomb blast at the Delhi High Court. It has earlier been grafted onto cases already being pursued by the police. In yet another useful precedent, the government has been careful not to point fingers prematurely. These two suggest an improvement in India’s response to terrorism, even if yet another blast is a case of one too many.

As is usual by now, ‘informed’ analysts are taking it upon themselves to dwell on the helpful pointers in the email purportedly received from the perpetrators. The HUJI has apparently claimed responsibility, with the blasts intended to force the release Afzal Guru from death row. With newspapers carrying the identity kit portrait of a bearded suspect with upper lip clean shaven, the know-all analysts rest their case.

But the government’s initial caution bespeaks of a wider set of suspects. By its two acts the government has broadcast that the net cast will be much wider. It will hopefully include majoritarian terrorists, even as the HUJI angle is pursued to its logical conclusion. The implication is that there is more to the Abhinav Bharat case than out in the open.

It is lazy analysis and worse crime forensics to assume that emails from unidentified sources serve as evidence of culpability. For one, an earlier email for instance had the sender identifying himself as al Arbi, corruption of al Arabi, quite like the current one does. Al Arabi incidentally was a renowned sufi. Second, arrest of a cyber café owner in in Kishtwar suggests a link to Kashmir, the email could be merely to take advantage of the occasion to press home the case for Afzal Guru. Third, that the emails have incendiary content against the majority could equally indicate a desire for deepening the rift, an aim that saffron extremists mirror. Any creative writer can put together such emails.

Questions surrounding the Batla House encounter make the explanation of the blasts in the cosmopolitan cities in 2008 unpersuasive. The blasts that did not occur in Surat remain unexplained. Perpetrators of the blast of May this year in the court premises and those involved in the drive by shooting of the Taiwanese tourists prior to the CWG remain unknown.

One nationalism inspired anchor asked if vote bank politics holds back the government. He is right in sensing that it does, but wrong in his unstated understanding, an understanding seemingly widely shared with his viewers and therefore left unstated, that it is the minority vote at stake. Instead, the government’s reticence stems from its inability and unwillingness to beard the majoritarian terrorist in his den. That would cost it credibility with the majority, misled for over a decade of media fanned minority baiting. The decade since 9/11 formed the perfect backdrop for the campaign.

The government is rightly circumspect, but on the right track. Its noose, with a little help from the Supreme Court, is closing in on an opposition stalwart. The extreme right, with subterranean linkages with the political right, is mobilising silently to thwart it. Behind the current attack can be read once again a diversionary gambit; now that Mr. Anna Hazare is back in Ralegaon Siddhi.

The popular narrative is flawed. It carries little conviction with the minority community. This is itself evidence of the inter-community distance opened up over the last three decades, index of the success of the as yet unidentified standard bearers of Hindutva’s challenge to secular culture. The government, run by center-right party cannot, as the well worn clichĂ© will have it, ‘run with the hare and hunt with the hounds’. It needs taking the opportunity offered by the investigations to open up India’s violent recent past to a ‘warts and all’ scrutiny. This will fetch it votes of the non-denominational secular majority.

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