India’s 9/11, Oklahoma City or Columbine?

During the last couple of days I have read several journalists and bloggers referring to the attacks in Mumbai last week as “India’s 9/11” (a quick Google search received 34,300 results, among at least the first 10 referred to Mumbai), or asking “Is Mumbai like Oklahoma City?” or stating “This is India’s Columbine”.

All these events were extremely tragic and obviously there are cross-cutting similarities, such as Islamic fundamentalism in the Twin Tower-case or young disillusioned nationals as in the other two cases. But even when I tried to make this brief generalisation here, we can see that it doesn’t work.

Islamic fundamentalism with connections to Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Taiba, yes, but the targets were not only “Western”, but also Indian local such as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.

Young, yes. But nationals? Hm. There are still uncertainties, rumours and guesses. But there seem to have been at least one Pakistani, a couple of British nationals of Pakistani background and a Maldivian.

Obviously it was a well-coordinated attack in style with September 11, but that doesn’t justifying the simplification of the motivations behind Mumbai. And whilst acknowledging the complexity of 9/11 for its own reasons, Mumbai is complex in itself.

My point is that we need to look at each case separately, to avoid simplifications that reduce our thinking to totalities such as “All terrorists are Muslims”, or “All Christians are fanatics”. Instead we must highlight the socio-economic structures and intersectional injustices that excludes individuals and groups from participating as equal individuals in our societies. We must never justify terrorism, but we must also never reduce it to only violence. It’s much more complex than that.

“We want Azadi and we will fight for it till our last breath”

So, the third round of State Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir has gone through. The Indian government reported a pretty high turnout, with 79% in Karnah constituency as the highest and 53.56% in Langate as the lowest. All figures, except Langate – which remained the same-. were higher than in 2002. But one may wonder how accurate these figures are. Allegations of fixed elections or tampered voting results are frequent in Kashmir. Also, often people have been forced out of their homes to vote, sometimes even under gunpoint.

In the constituency of Trehgam the Indian army attacked and abused a large crowd of women protesting against the elections and for independence. When the police cornered the group and snatched their banners, the crowd responded with stone-throwing, which exaggerated the protests. Yet, despite the violent abuse by the policemen, the anti-election protestors managed to get their voices heard, as the queues to the voting booths dispersed.

In Greater Kashmir these voices were cited.

Khalida: “We want Azadi and we will fight for it till our last breath. Voting will do us no good…”

Abdul Hameed: “We support the call given by CC and we would not cast our vote come what may. We have gathered here to see the people who come out to vote ignoring the sacrifices that Kashmiris have made all these years … All these years we have seen what Indian government is all about but every Kashmiri should understand that by casting the vote they are playing into the hands of India…”

But some other people regarded the voting as an important part of the democratisation and development process of the state.

Kaiser Malik: “I have been casting vote since I became eligible for voting. It is necessary to elect the representative who would work for our development. But this does not mean we don’t want Azadi.”

Sara: “We vote because we don’t want the same people to win again. They have ignored us all these years…”

And as the curfew is still imposed, despite some local clashes as those described above the Kashmir Valley has generally remained quiet. Policemen are stationed around Srinagar to keep people inside their houses. There were complaints about people not being allowed outside to buy milk and bread. Obviously Delhi fears more attacks after last week’s tragic rampage in Mumbai, both from militant Islamic groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and from secular or moderate pro-freedom orgainsations such as The Jammu and Kashmir Coordination Committee and Hurriyat.

However, one may wonder how far democracy can pushed in order for democracy to remain?

What’s happened to the Kashmir Observer?

The Srinagar based online newspaper the Kashmir Observer has been down for a couple of weeks now. Does anybody know why? I found it a great source for news and analysis directly from the Valley and I miss their uptodate reporting. Now I mainly rely on Greater Kashmir, which also is very comprehensive, as well as Pakistani based Dawn and various Indian newspapers.

No more communal violence!

Please join this petition and show you’re against communal violence – in India, in Pakistan and all over the world.

From Awaz.org:
“We citizens of India, and countries around the world, from all faiths, backgrounds and walks of life, declare with one voice that the terrorist attacks in Mumbai have not divided us, will not divide us, and that we stand together, as one people, against all violent extremists who shamefully target the innocent. We call upon all our political and religious leaders to come together at this moment, and take effective action to prevent the spread of violence”

“Real” curfews this time

After announcements by the leaders of the two sections of the Hurriyat, Geelani and Farroq, about anti-elections protests after Friday prayers, the Indian establishment decided on official curfew around the state today. This was allegedly to preserve “law and order” from the threat of separatists. But, one can speculate in whether, after the attacks in Mumbai, the government is now afraid that Kashmir will see similar disaster. We don’t know whether they expect copycats or simply a follow-up attack in the paradise state, but one can assume Delhi is on high alert at the moment.

Suketu Mehta

A couple of years ago I read a beautiful declaration of love to the city of Mumbai. It is called ‘Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found’ and was written by Suketu Mehta, an India-born, U.S. educated writer returning to his childhood home and rediscovering the politics, entertainment, criminality and friendships that are Mumbai.

Only questions and concerns after Mumbai attacks

There’s too much going on – at the same time as I have to finish a draft for a funding application, the Taj hotel is still on fire and a hostage situation is still going on at Nariman. 142 reported dead so far. It puts things into perspective.

Some concerns:

1, Media has reported that at least one of the gunmen is a member of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani-based Jihadi group fighting in Kashmir. Among the other captured, it is alleged that there were 3 British nationals of Pakistani background, 1 Indian and 1 Mauritian. A pretty international group then.

But who are they representing? A representative from the International Centre for the Study Terrorism (I think) thought the Deccan Mujahideen was a subgroup of the Indian Mujahideen, which is the fighting part of Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), the largest Pan-Islamic movement in India.

What do they want? The immediate demand was the release of all incarcerated mujahideens in India. However. Would anybody go about with so much trouble, as the years of training, the amount of money invested, and the risks involved to “Only” demand the release of a couple of hundred prisoners? The extent of the attacks, the singling-out of foreigners and the choice of high-profile targets clearly show that the mastermind behind the ongoing terror wanted, no demanded, international media attention. Why?

2, The Indian PM, Dr. Manmohan Singh, was quick to point finger to India’s “neighbours” (read Pakistan) and their involvement in the attack. Pakistan quickly replied that it was too early to put blame somewhere and stated that the Pakistani government did everything to stop the terrorism in its own country. Now it is proved (or at least alleged) that at least some of the gunmen had direct links with Pakistan. The blame-game has started. How will this effect the ongoing CDP (the bilateral peace process that partly deals with Kashmir, but also nuclear prolifiration and other issues)? Was the purpose of the attacks to disturb this slow but forward moving process? Hardly anyone has noted that the attack happened on Wednesday, the same day as the Pakistani Foreign Minister went to New Delhi to continue the peace talks.

3, What effects will this have on Kashmir? What are the links with Kashmir?

4, Despite its secular constitution and agenda, and its aim to allow all religions in the public sphere, India has seen too much communal violence since its birth in 1947. What will happen after this? The Hindu rightwing party BJP quickly sided with the Indian government to help out solving the crisis. In a recent past, BJP has been directly and indirectly instigating violence against Muslims as well as imposing Hindu-related names on cities and monuments around India. The question is how the propaganda will develop from now on.

So, there seem to be only questions and concerns, but very little knowledge after the attacks on Mumbai this week.