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Saturday, April 2, 2016


( “The act of God” remark in the context of the Calcutta bridge collapse and the  indigence senior civil servants and police officers as reflected in their property statements triggered these musings. Some of the remarks and statements have appeared in my interviews or articles published elsewhere. After all you can’t have something new to say everyday on the  timeworn old issue of corruption. )

Eradicating corruption is an impossible task.Impossible, because it would be a suicidal act for the governments, for the political system, for the society; and suicides are not the norm. Apart from the practical difficulties there are important objective, historical reasons for it. The integrity of a people depends upon their social and cultural context. Scandinavian societies tend to be more honest; the societies in the Indian subcontinent fall far short of the ideal. Our system of values favour clientelism, favouritism and nepotism (Casteism, is the main culprit but of that later). Problems of corruption are also rooted in structural causes; they are inscribed in the pattern of governance. The system we have inherited was created to encourage corruption and suits us fine too.

We may be a corrupt people but on the scale of hypocrisy and self image we must award ourselves full marks. Under populist pressure and competitive moralistic posturing the definition of corruption has been steadily enlarged just as the moral stature of public servants has diminished in equal measure. More and more areas of conduct of public servants are being labeled as corrupt. Stringent corruption laws are being brought on the statute book setting extravagant public goals and giving rise to enormous public expectations. The issue of corruption naturally comes to occupy the centre stage of public concerns and governments who are dead keen not lose support need to be seen to be doing something. The idealistic ambition and puritan rage are writ large in our approach to anti – corruption strategies. 

 At the same time impracticable, unenforceable laws are made for no other reason than that we have elected lawmakers and progressively there has been a radical contraction of the formally unregulated space yielding ever greater areas of our concern to bureaucratic scrutiny and control.  As if this was not a bad enough thing in itself, poorly drafted rules and regulations open up many more opportunities of rent seeking and bribery.

 In a crony capitalistic order in an advanced stage of state capture, “society naturally divides itself into the very few and the many” according to the “unequal faculties of acquiring property” of its constituents. Such a differentiation of traits is most likely to occur in civil servants, politicians, powerbrokers, pimps, and all others who owe their ascent to nontraditional means of economic climbing- proximity to power. The several fold increase in public spending dramatically enlarges the “corruptive interface “.The poverty alleviation programmes not only do not alleviate the poverty of the poor as pollute the public space. (See my “The Poor Must Prevail”

How do democratic governments handle so many contradictions? As a matter of public policy they resort to what, Leo Strauss calls “necessary lie” wherein, the rulers, in a bid to displace awareness from what is terrible or inescapable in our lives, feed the people fables to keep them peaceful and pacified. Anti corruption strategies are palliatives, reduce public anxiety and assuage their sentiment. Hence zero tolerance to corruption becomes the avowed goal of governments with exaggerated self image.

 Officers manning the anti corruption / vigilance outfits know the futility of it.  That is why they do not not take the official anti corruption policy proclamations of the government too literally. Too well aware that even people in the highest echelons are corrupt, they nevertheless allow ourselves to be used as props in this absurd theatre. Every day news papers are full of stories of lowly government servants being arrested accepting petty sums of bribe. It is presumed that such a strategy of making an example of the lowest of the low works, even if nobody believes in them. In fact the “knowers”know that a cynical attitude towards it is what is actually required; for   the zero tolerance policy to be taken seriously and acted upon in right earnest is what would be catastrophic   both for the government as well as the naïve civil servant.  I learnt it the hard way, too late in the day in fact, to benefit from it.
Our politicians are clever, inventive fabulists. Making public the assets of all the public servants including that of the Chief Minister is one such latest and deeply layered fable. It is also the supreme exemplar of the idea of “necessary lie”.  Implicit in this move are several fallacious assumptions but its sheer capacity to mesmerize the common man makes it a potent tool of propaganda. For one thing, is it being suggested that the dishonest public servant will grab this offer of the government and invite for public inspection all the fruits of his forbidden pursuit? The other equally comic notion is that the people, once they are aware, each one of them would assume the role of amateur investigators, and try to dig out the unaccounted property paving the way for prosecution under the PC Act for disproportionate assets. The mother of all fallacies is that the issue of corruption is treated as   an ‘idealist’ problem of knowledge. The mere awareness of corruption would trigger radical resistance in the people. The truth is quite the contrary. The people know it only too well. They realize that corruption is the ghost in machine which runs the system.  There is no point antagonizing it beyond a point, if at the end of the day one has to live with it .Some would merely leave the corrupt to be punished by God.In such a context, is it any wonder that falling bridges are called acts of God; non performing loans worth a million crores of rupees, or the coal scam and many others scams may equally be called acts of God .No wonder again that God, unable to answer so many charges has absconded from our midst.

 But come March and we celebrate the great festival of lies when the public servants of all hues  declare their assets with great fanfare ; the public servants lie collectively; the government proudly displays the lying product of their ingenuity; the media enthusiastically propagate it; and we the people consume it with great relish. What endless source of mirth and merriment do the disclosures provide? And, Oh! how much more comfortable is to escape to the enormous bubble of lie where at least corruption has been banished and the  poor uncomplaining, slaving public servants live within their means.   

Sunday, March 6, 2016


JNU has made great contribution to the  cause of learning  in India; it  has  also  played a seminal role in  the life of significant contention- the  proper calling  of intellectuals  – over the years but sadly the students of this premier university  are  being discussed for their intellectual daring which extended no further than a pledge to dismember their own  motherland  and a clever  application  of  their  assiduously acquired knowledge of “subaltern studies and dialectical materialism” to fox  and hoodwink plain, blunt policeman. To these inestimable achievements one more has been added – it has produced an orator of outstanding merit in Kanhaiya Kumar. Kanhaiya’s  very significant omission of Chandrasekhar in his speech, a former JNU student union president, who had stirred the conscience of people of Bihar by his fearless fight in favour of the lowest of the low against criminal warlords  shows  great awareness  of currents and cross currents of contemporary politics even before he has entered the choppy waters. Chandrasekhar’s martyrdom had got mixed up with issues of pragmatic politics. His cause was just, but he was not too careful in the choice of the enemy!

The political parties are no doubt celebrating but would it be mere intellectual Ludditism or cussedness to raise the very quotidian, very banal but very topical issue?  Even though as a body of thought Marxism still provides useful insights in the way our world works, one thinks much less of it than  what was thought of decades ago. It now belongs to the archeological museum of the history of knowledge.  The university famous for its “left-Centric student politics” burdens the participants with a certain intellectual and moral posture. “Once a JNU student, always an activist” is perhaps too optimistic a view which may not be shared by all.  They are not scarred for life by their brief flirtation with the precious ideology at the university. People like Chandrasekhar, and others of his tribe are the precious drops in the ocean.  Most others are absorbed in the job market as IAS officers, journalists, politicians and professors, coping with the compulsions of their respective professions with sweet docility, just like everyone else.

 The torrent of writings about  JNU by former students, teachers and those currently studying there- every media outlet is keen to air their views- confirms me in my belief that the government overestimated their dangerousness.  Yogendra K Alagh, former Vice Chancellor of JNU has to say (In the Mumbai edition it is captioned Argumentation is JNU’s Power) (HT Feb 24, 2016). “This is the reason that JNU students do so well in the UPSC exams for the higher civil services. I found out when I chaired a committee set up to develop the recruitment and training policies for the higher civil services. They are all trained in disciplined argumentation and would breeze through any discussion.” .The university is known to have a long tradition of alumni who now occupy important political and bureaucratic positions.”Wikipedia

JNU attracts a large number of students form backward states, notably Bihar, who come here aspiring to make it to the IAS or other service but are swept off their feet by the grandeur of the setting as this lyrical outburst of one of the former students suggests, “Entering JNU, for me, was like entering a zone of freedom, overwhelming freedom. At the very first glance, JNU was like a vast expanse to spread one’s wings in — long-winding roads and overgrown valleys, the facility of being outdoors late into the night (what that could mean to a young girl!), milling in and around the library till 11 pm, mess meetings (no pun intended) after dinner, the chance to befriend anyone from anywhere, any class, caste or nationality (thanks to JNU’s admission system based on multiple deprivation points), and above all, the possibility of falling in love across all social barriers…… In JNU, we learnt quickly, through our little adventures and misadventures, the profoundly serious lesson that a free mind depended on a physically and socially free spaceWe also felt morally tortured by the fact of our privilege as JNU students. To compensate, we became involved in politics outside campus” . 

Living like royalty at tax payers’ expense, lording over a thousand-acre campus which could easily house at least two dozen average universities, or ten thousand primary schools for poor children- all their comforts taken care of at a parasitically low rate, they are bound to develop a self-image and feel driven to live by this image of themselves.  “Morally tortured by the fact of our privilege as JNU students. To compensate, we became involved in politics outside campus”.  Their protest is, indeed, an acid by product of privilege and good living.

That helps me connect with my memories of ten, twelve years back when I was invited to the Patna University. On my return journey  I made a detour to visit the hostel where I had spent two years as an undergraduate boarder long time ago. Not that things were princely then but now the place was in complete shambles. I came across a group of students loitering in the corridor, introduced myself to them and tried to start a conversation. It is always invigorating to know what the young people are reading, thinking, what are their aspirations, how do they feel about the world around them. My queries were met with brief dismissive answers. All that they wanted me was to speak to the authorities, to get something done. Now I wonder whether their revolutionary ardour was stilled by pedestrian concerns like toilets, and mending of leaky roofs, the appointment of another mess contractor because the old one had run away and they were forced to eat outside!

  Exploring this theme further in my imagination I wondered whether the charismatic teachers, if by some magic were transplanted in this dismal setting, would they still be able to ignite the same intellectual curiosity, the same iconoclastic impulse or “a free mind depended” necessarily, “on a physically and socially free space.”

  Brecht suddenly made sense to me,

 “Among the highly placed.
It is considered low to talk about food.
The fact is: they have
Already eaten.

The lowly must leave this earth
Without having tasted
Any good meat.”

 I had quoted another former JNU student in my last post, who abandoned his faith to quit the ABVP, who spoke of a Brahminical order of intellectual hierarchy in which the Marxists were at the top and everybody else at the bottom. Those who fight for the rights of the underprivileged, for the Dalits of the social order were equally assertive of their rights to keep the ideologically unsophisticated – the Dalits of the intellectual order- and all shades of the  "other" at bay.  This may itself be a form of “unfreedom” because if the avant-garde of the university thinks it is freedom to promote the dismemberment of the nation, some people may claim the right to be retrograde, revanchist, superstitious, reactionary.

 The arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar is one act of folly that the government will repent at leisure. How much of it was professional ineptness, how much the eagerness of a retiring police commissioner anxious to please, and how much of it was an administration under onus to be seen as decisive, I cannot tell. But we have a full blown controversy which, if it has lowered the image of the government, it has not left JNU totally unscathed either. The best course would have been to leave the kids alone. They are such a privileged lot that they will seek police help for making revolution!

Monday, February 22, 2016




Kanhaiya Kumar’s totally uncalled for arrest and slapping of the charges of sedition etc. have clouded the issue to  further the interest of the elements the government claims to rein in. But before we discuss the issue it would be worthwhile to recapitulate the basic facts of the story which have been told and retold and changed somewhat in every telling.  No one has come up yet with the theory that there were two editions of Kanhaiya. Otherwise every fact, every video clipping comes in two versions. You can take your pick.

It is beyond dispute that a group of students in the JNU organised a “cultural” evening to celebrate the death anniversary of the martyred Afzal Guru. To an overwhelmingly large number of Indians, he was a terrorist and enemy of the Indian state. Political leaders across the divide had endorsed this view in the immediate aftermath of the attack. The “cultural artists” chanted their determination to fight till the destruction of the Indian state, and felt ashamed that the killers of Afzal were still alive. They concluded by invoking the blessing of Allah for this project. The slogans need to be quoted in full for the enlarged meaning of “cultural activities”.

पाकिस्तान जिंदाबाद,
गो इंडिया गो बैक,

भारत की बर्बादी तक जंग रहेगी जारी,
कश्मीर की आजादी तक जंग रहेगी जारी,

अफजल हम शर्मिंदा हैं, तेरे कातिल जिन्दा हैं;
तुम कितने अफजल मारोगे, हर घर से अफजल निकलेगा:

अफजल तेरे खून से इंकलाब आएगा,

अल्लाह हो अकबर,
भारत तेरे टूकड़े होंगे इंसा अल्लाह, इंसा अल्लाह"

Kanhaiya Kumar later distanced himself from the shouting of these slogans and condemned this act. The evening, he said, was meant to commemorate Dr. Ambedkar and reaffirm faith in Indian constitution.

Afzal Guru the “martyr”, was hanged to death when the Congress government was in power, after the entire range of curative options available to an accused in a polity governed by due process of law – from the trial court to the mercy petition    before the President of India - were exhausted. Having failed to get a favourable verdict, few would dare indulge in public denunciation of the most sacred of our institutions.  Democracy is about building institutions; institutions work in tandem with other institutions and they have to be invested with authority by reposing faith in them and not wrecking them for perceived wrongs. That is our share of the democratic burden. Dr. Ambedkar must have turned in his grave to hear the public denunciation of all that we hold sacred.

 Lenin used to ask ironically: “Freedom -- yes, but for whom? To do what?”. The idea of free speech is so seductive that it seems wimpish to even suggest caution or moderation in the exercise of this sacred right, but we must wonder whether the democratic idealism provides a standpoint outside of itself to wreck and demolish its very foundational values. No law was violated in the chanting of these slogans, agreed, but are societies run by decrees alone? Are we subject to the prohibition of laws alone? There are no laws against incest. Should that then become an acceptable behaviour? Does good sense and consideration for the feelings of others not curb our freedom of action? I hear that declaring oneself to be anti-national has become the new normal for the enlightened beings, but there are people who would rather be seen dead than being dubbed anti national. If we inhabit a shared space, we have to consider each other’s sensibilities.  Kanhaiya Kumar was not unaware of this, as his subsequent condemnation of the incident shows. What was then the mainspring of his action?

 According to an apostatic ABVP member there is a hierarchy of intellectual order in the JNU; the Brahminical order consists of those from St. Stephen and Presidency College. Cerebral, articulate and fluent in the langua franca of power discourse – English –  their minds organised by the fundamentals of Marxism, they enjoyed  hegemony till the upstart ABVP types gate-crashed – perhaps riding pillion on the rise of the rightist politics. “Students in JNU’s history centre divided informally along class lines early on. Apart from a few exceptions, those from elite colleges like St Stephen’s in Delhi and Presidency in Kolkata turned left, while those from small towns were splintered among the left, the ABVP and the Congress’s student wing, the National Students’ Union of India. Apart from my background, it also seemed to me that falling in line with the left would mean acceptance of this intellectual hierarchy. Spurning the system seemed enticing.”

 Kashmir is very much on the minds of the Indian people. The ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri Pandits is an equally emotive issue for an overwhelming number of Indians, but it has  never seized the imagination of the progressively oriented JNU( or has it?) because it  does not command as  much traction as  liberation of Kashmir. If we argue by results they were dead right. JNU has become a global symbol of resistance and Kanhaiya Kumar, a nondescript entity from Bihar with no past to reckon with, is suddenly a martyr to the cause of  democracy. Secure in the knowledge that aggressive and institutionally entrenched national and global elite well-versed in the vernacular of law, who exert a tremendous pressure on politics will intervene on their behalf  makes  such gestures risk profitable. Prashant Bhushan has offered his services voluntarily; the likes of Arundhati Roy and Chomsky have given him the thumbs up. If the exercise of freedom of speech was this rewarding, who would flinch form murder?  The intellectually unsophisticated security personnel guarding the parliament building seemed to have laid down their lives quite gratuitously when martyrdom comes so cheap. 
 As an Egyptian poet said,
“What have we not done for our fatherland.
Some have laid down their lives , some made speeches.”


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Give Us a Break Now

Just when the national temper was cooling down, Mr. Aamir Khan has shared his wife’s sense of insecurity, which was blissfully short lived, just as his desire to leave the country but a transient impulse. Ironically enough, though Mr. Khan chose to stay back his momentary distress lead to such a dispute between  a couple that the wife chose to depart this world  and media is again firing on all cylinders, flagging the urgency of celebrity concerns to the exclusion of a hundred issues of greater magnitude in our impoverished, problem-ridden country.  The argumentative Indian is back at the job that he likes best, but is the least equipped for: critical debate. 

Let us face it.  The intolerance debate has conscripted us all to politics, the media included.  There is no middle ground; either you are with “us” or you are with “them”; to be neutral hints at moral dubiousness, even downright dishonesty. Normally the affliction of the common man, it has infected intellectuals and eminent historians like Irfan Habib, who went overboard with his comparison of RSS with ISIS. 

We are now witness to this argument without end, where the disputants reiterate their stated positions endlessly?  The banality of the debate can be summed up in the simple binary of “why” and “why not”.  Or the very dismissive “Worse immorality has been seen”; because, given their record, no political party worth the name can clear the minimum standards of a secular morality.  It leads to a selective rummaging of sediments of historical past.  If Godhra is the real and active component of the secular offensive, and that moment in the past a never-fading frame of reference, it becomes necessary for those under attack to remind their erstwhile partners now in the Mahagathbandhan of continued opportunistic alliance.   And of course, the reference to the “puppies” and “dogs” remark is bound to be countered by the eternal verity of that philosophical rumination “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes”.Some more in the same vein accrue to the anthology of such remarks.

Whether we like it or not, exploitation of fear is now recognised as a legitmate tool of electoral aggrandisement in our bitterly divisive politics.  The Intolerance debate itself was initiated in the run up to the assembly elections to Bihar, and the Mahagathbandhan snatched a spectacular victory from the jaws of a certain defeat; thanks to the increased awareness of intolerance.   The more terrorised the community is the better yields it gives in terms of votes.  The minorities flocked together like never before for Mahagathbandhan.  The “secular” alliance, Mahagathbandhan, returned the favour by the declaration of election in Bihar as a war between the forwards and backwards, which delivered the so called forward caste, bound hand and foot as bonded voters in the camp of alliance led by the so called “communal” party.  So would not one love one’s enemy for its egregiousness, if it is so productive?Is it because the Third Front could not think up  any divisive issue that they   ended up also rans?To expect a radical new commencement of politics after Bihar is idle and  we  can  expect the  debate to continue  unless the two different strains of the tolerant and intolerant being are separated.

The intellectuals have contributed all that they had to the situation; their independent minds and their elegant opinions. Some of them have  even gone  to the extent of returning their awards. Celebrities have graced us enough with their star presences; but the fire rages on.

The Dadri incident – itself an abject failure of the local administration – which was one of the focal points from which fear and intolerance radiated throughout the country, is as good a point as any to look for solutions.  As a former police officer, it fills me with a vague sense of unease: how did one isolated incident here and one there in a vast country like ours add up to envelop the nation in a huge blanket of fear and anxiety?  How did the tragic and unpardonable lynching of an alleged beef-eater assume an epidemic form of “mad cow disease”, which went on to infect a large population with beef-related anxieties across the length and breadth of our vast country?  Communal issues are the staple of a policeman’s work, and those of us who valued our profession took prompt action and nipped the disinformation machinery by absolutely fair and neutral action.  To buttress my point, a couple of days back, the Bihar police shot down two from a mob determined to lynch a runaway driver belonging to the minority community.  He had crushed two Hindu villagers to death.  The police officer in charge of Hajipur Police station was lynched to death by the “intolerant” mob but the situation was saved.  Had the police failed, would it have gone to substantiate the evidence of intolerance?  Had Dadri been prevented, would we still be self-flagellating ourselves with the evidence of our intolerance?  Incidents of communal nature are amenable to prompt professional response, and if they are taking place all over the country under various political dispensations, are they not contributing to the situation?
Should not we be looking for better policing also, apart from what we are doing- engaging in debate, counselling  the hate mongers-, as an option?  The law of the land provides every remedy for creators of distrust.

The media plays- ought to play- its role of keeping the reporting to balanced proportions, helps in confidence building measures, which are the antidote to mutual distrust, fear and anxieties.  With the unruly and anarchic social media, now the mainstream media has not only to report but debunk the bogus and pernicious floated by the alternate media.

Fear is not a naturally occurring germ or virus; it is anthropogenically created information (or deliberate disinformation) riding on electromagnetic waves or other means of communication.  Once brought into being, it mutates and multiplies of its own to create anxieties and distrust.

We may now recall the background of the intolerance debate: the interviews and remarks  of the likes of Sakshi Maharaj, Yogi Aditya Nath, Pragya, and a clutch of sadhvis,  Giriraj Singh – the collocation is both decisive and damning, they are well known for irresponsible remarks – started it all.  The emblematic example of the intolerance against Mr. Shah Rukh Khan – certainly not the most tolerant of Indians, the man who only recently thrashed the security guards in the Wankhede Stadium in an IPL match, was involved in a high voltage star war performance with Salman Khan, and has reportedly dared one of his insulting followers on social networking sites to give him his home address and be prepared to be thrashed – needs to be examined at some length.  After a union minister was forced to certify Shah Rukh Khan’s patriotism, and for good measure heaped a whole lot of praise on him for his many qualities and the contribution that he has made to society etc., we could have expected a closure. (Could one of the lessons be that a citizen must be worried and get his patriotism attested by a union minister should any jerk ever question it?)  But that was not to be.  Giriraj Singh, an expert on who should be excommunicated to Pakistan, was again up to his incendiary tricks on a channel the very next day.   Whose interest was served by providing him a platform?  If every deed of a particular hue is blown into every eye, if every hot head with a slingshot and every wounded heart on the receiving end of the shot  is to be provided a platform, one cannot but feel snowed down under a pall of anxiety. If the Hinduttva brigade is the original arsonists are others also not fanning the fire? 
Paul Tillich, the existentialist Christian theologian of culture says, “He who is in anxiety is, insofar as it is mere anxiety, is delivered to it without help […] The only object is the threat itself, but not the source of the threat, because the source of the threat is “nothingness.”

My worry is that  Mr. Khan may not be the last victim of the anxiety to be delivered without help”.  This  creeping disease may create deep and abiding fissures in our society which would survive the departure of the man from the national scene who is alleged to be the “fountainhead” of it all.  We seem to be a little like the Chinese boy in Charles Lamb’s Dissertation on the Roasting of a Pig who, in order to roast a pig, burns down the house itself.  So it is time for common man and woman to take things in their hands. We plead: we are suitably alert to the situation, give us a break now.

We cheer up to think that even before the intolerance debate seized us by the throat we were not known to be a very tolerant nation.  Leave aside the ire of the high and mighty, common men like you and me, regularly get involved in road rages, parking disputes, and disputes over something as trivial as sharing of berths.  Inter caste and community love affairs have led to murders and honour killings.  But we take these things on our chins and move on, and life goes on as usual.  People still drive cars, use parking lots, travel in trains, and fall in love across communities and caste.  Even those unfortunate enough to have been embroiled in violent communal situations pick up the threads of their disrupted lives and move on.  

Despite a hundred things that divide us, we have survived together this long.  Insha Allah! We will survive some more.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Terror Like Love No Season Knows

    An article that I wrote long time back for Bihar Times
    appears to be as relevant today
    I am posting it on  my blog in the memory
    of those killed in the Paris terror.

The German poet Schiler's remark "The man who fears nothing is no less powerful than he who is feared by everyone" could very well serve as epitaph to the thousands of Americans who died in that insane, random suicidal attack on the World Trade Centre New York on Tuesday morning. The live coverage of the horrendous events made the phenomenon of terrorism it a universal threat to contend with. The blurring of the distinction between science fiction scenarios and reality bytes narrow down the awareness that vulnerability is a condition of our existence to day. In 1993 it was the serial blasts in Bombay, which caused untold destruction, and death in hundreds and a trail of bloody communal clashes throughout the country. To day it is Manhattan, which has been struck by a calamity of much greater magnitude. Which city is ripe for picking tomorrow?

India has been only too familiar with this sense of hurt and outrage for years now. Terrorists strike downtowns, trains, cars, buses and aircrafts. Even school children are not spared, nor are the aged, infirm or women. But then our pain is of the less dramatic variety. It is dealt out in small installments. It is like an open sore; a continuous hemorrhage. But here the similarities end. When the serial Bombay Blasts took place all we got from the international community was some polite queries and a lot of skepticism about the evidence furnished by India about the source of terror. The perpetrators are free and enjoy the patronage of a sovereign state.
But America the sole superpower has the resource the wherewithal and the determination to wreak vengeance. It has domestic consensus and the unlimited and unqualified support of the international community at its beck and call.

Several truths are told as to the terrorist attacks on World Trade Centre, Pentagon and other symbols of American power. One that terrorism is a crime proper to the 21st Century and that centralised technological societies and powerful military states are as vulnerable as the lesser states. A lone malcontent exploiting the vulnerabilities of a society so organized can wage a war, almost on an equal footing. That the concept of security is illusory and the developing asymmetries are mind-boggling.

Consider the absurdity of the situation. America is hit right in its soft underbelly-its financial district lay in ruins, casualty in thousand and untold misery and destruction is wreaked in peacetime. It is already being described as the second Pearl Harbour. But the blame for Pearl Harbour could be laid on the door of the Japanese; there was a visible identifiable focus of rage, revenge and reparation. But here two days after the tragedy struck and benumbed not only the United States of the America but the entire world, the American President was reduced to take recourse to vague hints, or at best tentative conclusions about the source of mischief. They didn't know for sure who to hit. And it adds to the frustration, misery and the immense self-defeating rage.

Consider the asymmetry. The U.S.A. has mightiest military machine in the world; they have formidable offensive capabilities. Their capability to project their power anywhere in the world was show cased in Operation Desert Storm. And here it is lying devastated by its own civilian flights commandeered by a group of terrorists who cannot be more than a handful. NORAD or NO NORAD. And all its Minutemen and Midget men, Perishings and Cruise, the AWACS and Stealth Bombers proved to be so many duds on the shelf. What can the strategies of pre-emptive strike or launch-on-warning achieve or how does NMD eliminate this threat? That is the special appeal of terrorism. Dramatic success with minimum costs. A cat may like at a King. A David may take on a Goliath.

And where do you go looking for the enemy. It is dispersed within the body politic. To eliminate the possible risk of a terrorist attack you have to invade the privacy of a hundred thousand people on a hundred counts. To make a society free of terrorist threats who have to take away a very large measure of the freedom of your own people. And even then you cannot be sure. Because to know the terrorists mind is like knowing the devil's mind. It is inscrutable; the possible scenarios of deviltry limitless.

To the Americans resolve that "we will make no distinction between those who indulge in terrorist acts and those who harbour them" we can only say that let this be consecrated into a general principle. Because terror is terror and like love "no season knows". American society can never be safe even if it eliminates the potential source of threat to itself because like cancer any hidden focus anywhere in this global society is a threat to the entire international order. Terrorism is not a local enterprise. It is incorporated in the planet earth itself and it must be rooted out as such.