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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Intellectual Terrorism

These are the first thoughts on reading Ms. Roy's article 9 is not 11 .


Every time the Indian state is in the cold glare of international publicity, whether it is its nuclear explosion, its difficulties in Kashmir etc, or the massacre in Mumbai, Ms Arundhati Roy author of God of Small things and intrepid writer of polemical essays discovers her moment of glory. Predictably enough she has chosen to engage in her favourite pastime of berating the Indian state on the Mumbai terror; to remind us that the comeuppance should hardly surprise any one. Ms Roy locates the root of the problem in the specific policies followed by the Indian state, the injustice and discriminatory treatment of its minorities, its callousness towards its own poor etc. As a creative writer of repute she brings no original insight into the unyielding dilemma of terrorism but only "restate(s) a case that has, over the years, already been made …. passionately, eloquently and knowledgeably" in several thousand words. Ms Roy knows "it's all been said and done before" yet she feels compelled to "say our line". Before we engage with her Mumbai Was Not India's 9/11 it would be useful to locate Ms Roy herself in the context of the global discourse on terror and why she says the things that she says. "If protesting against having a nuclear bomb implanted in my brain is anti-Hindu and anti-national, then I secede. I hereby declare myself an independent, mobile republic…. I own no territory. I have no flag. I'm female, but have nothing against eunuchs. "(The End Of Imagination). So Ms Roy is not speaking as a sympathetic Indian grieving at the things that have gone wrong and need to be righted, but as a secessionist, as a hostile alien indulging in virulent propaganda. No wonder there is such a congruence of views between her, the Lashkar-e-Tayaba and the hawkish opinion in Pakistan. She marshals pitiless evidence only to subtly, subliminally degrade the fetish objects of her hate-the Indian state, its security apparatus etc. But at the same time she provides a platform for the views of people like Hafeez Saeed, and goes to great length to explain the extenuating circumstances for the diminished responsibility – if at all they are responsible for their acts-of the fidayeen destructive and self destructiveness of the terrorist and their handlers. "What we are experiencing now is blowback, the cumulative result of decades of quick fixes and dirty deeds". The Mumbai attack has ushered in a new civilizational threat wherein soi disant stateless intellectuals, take it upon themselves to explain and contextualize the acts of mass murder and wanton destruction of terrorists disowned by their own state. There is another reason why Ms Roy can not find herself at peace with herself. The self confessed "fame junkie" that she is, suffers from withdrawal symptoms, if she is denied "the applause, the flowers, the photographers, the journalists", for any length of time. These essays which stir a great deal of controversy act as the much needed 'fix' for the publicity addict. But we still have this essay to contend with. The ugly communal incidents of the recent past have certainly been some of the worst in our political history. But these are local environments of oppression and injustice and can not be conflated over the whole body politic, to tar by the same brush the entire country to an extent that we have even "forfeited the right to our tragedies". Justice to all its citizens and the protection of their human rights are worthy goals no doubt for every state to pursue, and our record has certainly not been flawless, but which state as a model has she in mind while handing her damning indictment. Does she fancy the standards set by the Taliban, the achieved utopia of the army of the pure, where decapitating and dismembering people according to whatever jurisprudence is in vogue, or the summary punishment of death, decapitation, or externment handed out by the left extremists in the areas –liberated – they hold sway, to the "class enemies" Chastised perhaps by the example of Mohan Lal Sharma, Karkare and the two other police officers did their dying in the full public view under the eyes of the camera. But in her secular enthusiasm Ms Roy exchanges one form of extremism for another and insinuates some foul play because Karkare had unraveled the Malegaon case against Hindu terrorists. A rhetorical shape shifter that Ms Roy is, she has one voice for the terrorist and the other for the defenders of the Indian state. Justly proud to be a woman, she has nothing against the eunuchs but does that lead her to harbour such a deep seated prejudice against all the brave and committed members who bear arms to defend the state and society to take on these apocalyptic terrorists, so as to deny them their humanity and all that goes with it – the dignity of an honourable death, the glory of martyrdom.

Ms Roy will not give up though. "So already the neat accusation against Pakistan is getting a little messy ". The problem lies not with the evidence but her disposition because she can not bring herself to believe that the Indian state has a case or that its enemies can ever be wrong.