So the media circus around Kasab is hopefully about to get over. I, for one, might be accused of being callous for not understanding what the enormous fuss was all about. The man deserved a fair trial; our judicial system – aided, no doubt, by the fact that the accused was captured on camera – outdid itself in turning in a verdict in a little over a year’s time. Hallelujah!

Many people have already picked up the pieces of their broken lives and moved on, some will probably find some closure with this verdict, and some will never be able to move on. And that’s that. Still doesn’t explain the circus, but then, I’m slow.

But does the matter end here? Fuck no!

There’s the small matter of there being no hangman available. So here’s how things might pan out in the next few years, according to Quirky Indian’s Crystal Ball.

Q4 2011: Various appeals by Kasab for commutation of the sentence are rejected. Finally, the sentence stands.

Q1 2012: Ooops, no hangman.

Q4 2012: Still no hangman

Q2 2013: Government decides to fill the vacant hangman positions. Raj wants only locals to even think of applying. “Others who even think of applying will face action, MNS style.”

Q4 2013: 3 candidates have been selected from amongst the 1673489 applicants (including engineers, lawyers and MBAs). But some disgruntled applicant who was not selected filed a lawsuit alleging irregularity in the selection procedure.

Q2 2016: The courts finally throw out the lawsuit and lift the stay on the appointment of 3 selected candidates. But now there are only 2, as the 3rd candidate has become a ward boy in a BMC hospital.

Q3 2016: Another lawsuit filed by an NGO demanding that the hangings take place in the chronological order of sentencing.

Q4 2016: The government agrees that the sanctity of the queue on death row be maintained.

Q4 2020: The backlog is finally over, Afzal is still ignored, but Kasab’s turn is here.

Q1 2021: A leading TV channel exposes a scam in the procurement of the hangman’s noose and prisoner’s hood. Opposition demands the PM resign, stalls parliament for 6th day in succession, and the talking heads slug it out on TV. Couple of officials transferred. JPC constituted to look into this. Opposition is now desperate – tones down its demand – now wants somebody, anybody to resign. Nobody obliges.

Q4 2025: JPC submits its report. No concrete proof of irregularities found. The hangings can continue.

Q1 2026: Human right groups make a concerted effort to abolish the death penalty. Endless chatter on TV news convinces the government to dither on this issue.

Q1 2030: Government still undecided on death penalty.

Q2 2035: Kasab chokes to death on a piece of his mutton biryani. He was also high on drugs, which is why he could not call for medical assistance on his cell phone. Turned out he called a stripper by mistake. Her services were not needed – he was quite stiff by the time she got to his cell.

Q4 2040: Afzal’s still waiting…..

(QI consults by appointment only)

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Dear Terrorists,

I hate you. Why can’t you stick to patterns? Do you have to change tactics all the time?

After more than a year of careful study and observation, we were that close to nailing the MO of you bastards when it came to a 26/11 type of situation. A few more years of focus on that, and we would have almost certainly been able to prevent a recurrence of such attacks – unless we had prior intelligence inputs, in which case things could get a little dodgy…

Anyway, just when I was feeling secure, you guys go all unpredictable and set off a bomb in a bakery. I mean, is that even fair? I agree with the honourable Home Minister. It was insidious. That’s essentially college-talk for “sneaky and treacherous”. Yep, it was sneaky. Imagine going into a crowded place and leaving a bag stuffed with explosives there. What a dirty, underhand thing to do. Well spotted, Mr. Home Minister. We’re with you on that one. How dare the terrorists not send a press release out in advance, giving the location and time of the blast?

And now we’re all stumped. What could you unreliable fanatics be up to next? How can we trust you now? Is that the way for any civilised person to behave? Here we are, in all our magnanimity, literally turning the other cheek. And you shaft us somewhere else.

Cut us some slack now, will you? We have you guys sneaking – insidiously – across the border in Kashmir and creating all kinds of mischief. Pakistan indulges in periodic sabre-rattling. China bullies us and gives us wedgies in the playgrounds of the North-East and Ladakh ever so often. These friggin’ Maoists are causing a ruckus in large parts of the country, blowing up stuff and killing people. And, to top it all, our own good citizens are hounding and attacking each other all over the place. Besides, there will be other films that we shall have to help release. And then there’s inflation. And Mamta Bannerjee. And the Bihar elections. How many things can we deal with? Mercy. Please!

But we’re not going to be cowed down. Apparently, we have something called “spirit” which keeps us going. Unkind people call it apathy, but let’s not split hair. The point is, we know you’re out there, but we’ll keep doing exactly what we have been doing all this while. Which is basically nothing. So there.

Our investigations into the bakery blast have led to a number of clues. For starters, some explosive was almost certainly used. Additionally, we can, as of now, be completely certain of the involvement of that diabolical “foreign hand” that has bedevilled us for decades. But we have finally identified it for sure. Thing, you might have escaped the Addams Family Mansion but you can’t escape us. You can hide but you can’t run. (Ha ha ha…..see, that’s the spirit I talked about earlier. Humour in adversity.) We know you’re hand-in-glove (He he heh) with the bad guys. But we’ll get you. Hell, we’ll even revoke your visa if you’re not careful. If you didn’t come in using a visa, boy, are you in trouble!

As for the rest of you, you have been warned. Don’t fuck with us. This is not the way to treat an emerging superpower, with the second highest rate of economic growth in the world. We demand to be treated with respect, with civility and deference. Do not force us to get nasty. If you do not cease and desist, we can unleash our deadliest weapon on you and then you’re screwed.

Death-by-press-conference is painful, I kid you not.

Indignantly,

The Quirky Indian

Like two male frilled lizards, India and Pakistan are at their posturing best again. So if India’s External Affairs Minister reiterates that India has kept all its options open, Pakistan’s Army Chief says they are capable of retaliating within minutes and scrambles some aircraft to fly sorties as if to say “So there!” India seems to be sounding more and more petulant, and Pakistan, like a recalcitrant child, seems intent on digging in its heels and staying defiant. So where is this heading?

There are enough people within India who are pushing for some kind of action against Pakistan. The trouble is, after 25 years or so of blaming Pakistan for everything, there is a kind of weariness now in the international community. I mean, there can only be two options – either we are right, or we got it all wrong. Now, if we have been right for a quarter of a century, what have we done about it except whine, whine and then whine some more? And as any schoolchild will tell you, constant whining and running to the teacher every time you are pushed around will not only get you bullied some more, it will also make the teacher take you less seriously.

And that’s exactly where we find ourselves. Yet again.

So what do we do? Unfortunately, the options before us are very limited. We can continue to try and bring more international pressure on Pakistan, but given Obama’s views on, and the US agenda in, Afghanistan, as well as his limited understanding of the sub-continent, that’s not going to work for too long. Ditto for any economic sanctions. It doesn’t suit US interests in the region. The US is, as any nation should be, guided by its self-interest. (China is the best example of this, in their single-minded quest for world domination. If we had even a tiny fraction of the clear-mindedness and determination of the Chinese, we would have been on a completely different plane today.)

Today, we are, not to put too fine a point on it, between a rock and a hard place.

Given that we actually have no options – Pranab Mukherjee notwithstanding – how might the scenario unfold? In an election year, the UPA government might be constrained to escalate matters beyond mere sabre-rattling. A surgical strike, or anything like that, to my mind, will precipitate war simply because the civilian government (or what passes for it in Pakistan) will, similarly, have no choice but to retaliate to survive. The Pakistan military – even if it doesn’t decide to stage a coup – will welcome a chance to go to war against India, for three reasons: one, it gives them a chance to take centre-stage in the country again. Two, it takes the pressure off them in terms of attacking and disabling ideologically similar institutions – like the Taliban – that they have created, equipped and supported. Three, they know that while a war with India is not a war they can win, they also know it’s not a war they can lose.

I know the last point will shock a good many Indians. But that’s the truth. Our conventional military edge is not what it used to be. While we have clear numerical superiority – in personnel and equipment – the difference is not enough to give us victory. A conventional war will likely be a protracted, grinding affair with no clear winner, a military stalemate. It will, however, be disastrous for our economy and set us back 20 years. Even if we assume that India’s conventional superiority brings us close to victory, here’s a likely – but entirely fictional – account of what will happen next. (This also assumes that the nuclear option will not be exercised by either party.)

The moment India secures a military advantage, Washington will be told by Islamabad that there is huge internal pressure from within Pakistan’s establishment to go in for a nuclear strike. That ensures that there is suddenly tremendous pressure on India – from all quarters – to exercise restraint, and pull back with some face-saving measures. Simultaneously with India’s upper-hand in the conflict becoming evident, China will suddenly decide to hold some exercises on their side of the border with India, and make a show of moving some troops there. Perhaps even fly some sorties of their own. They will, of course, ratchet up the rhetoric on Arunachal and Sikkim as well, forcing India to divert attention, personnel and equipment to the east. And voilà, we are right where Pakistan – and China – want us. Militarily debilitated and demoralised, politically fragile and economically devastated. And that’s the end of our dream.

Regrettably, years of crying wolf, and a reputation of timidity, have left us with only one option – that of being defensive. And that necessitates setting our own house in order.

War is not an option.

UPDATE: A well-written article on how far our excellent diplomatic skills and clear-minded foreign policy have taken us….

The Indian government has got really tough with the sole surviving Mumbai-attack terrorist it has in its custody. In a ruthless move designed to hurt, they have put him on an all-vegetarian diet. That’ll teach the bastard!

While they’re at it, how about learning something from Guantanamo Bay? To really show all those wannabe terrorists out there that India means business – and that they’ll suffer beyond their wildest imagination if they ever dare target India again – why don’t we subject Kasab to some music? Specifically, a strict regimen of Himess Bhai, Bappida and Altaf Raja, coupled with vegetarian food, should not only break the prisoner completely, but would be the most powerful deterrent India has against terrorism.

Sometimes I can be so evil, I scare myself.

Life seems to be getting back to normal. Almost. The blogging-Twittering-texting frenzy has reduced. Excitable news anchors desperately seek their next fix of sensationalism. The talking heads have all but disappeared. The bereaved are trying to get on with their lives. And after yesterday’s rally in Mumbai, it seems that as citizens, we are done with venting.

Sure, there is a lot of energy and anger out there. The question is, can it be harnessed? I am quite certain that politicians would have heaved a sigh of relief last night, after the Mumbai rally. They wouldn’t be very wrong in thinking that now that the rally was over, the collective anger would dissipate, and over time, the slivers of individual anger would subside. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for them to anticipate that when we go to the polls, it would still be business as usual. In other words, we would still vote on the basis of language, caste and religion. And please take my word for it, that is exactly what will happen.

Unless this momentum is maintained. And not only maintained, but harnessed and channelised. In the past week, we have seen unprecedented outpourings of anger, our legendary apathy momentarily set aside for a show of solidarity and some long overdue politician-bashing. All of which culminated in yesterday’s rally. It warms the cockles of my heart and all that but does little to change my cynicism. Tell me, is there a single actionable point after all this sloganeering?

There have been various suggestions made. Someone has talked about 49-0 and our duty to vote. Others have talked about amending the constitution. Some have talked about not paying taxes. Others have talked about scaling down the security cover that politicians enjoy. Some have called for war with Pakistan and others have called for more stringent laws. But in all of this, is there one thing that an ordinary citizen can take as a starting point and say “yes….this is what I can do…this is how I can contribute…this is how I can make a difference”?

There is. The only thing that matters and that can make a difference is your vote. Go and register yourselves. If you are already a voter, make bloody sure you vote. And make sure that everyone you know also votes. And please, please, please – for once in your life, try not to vote as a Maratha or as a Kappu or as a Malyalee or as a Dalit or as a Muslim – vote as a citizen of this entire country. Vote as a stakeholder. Vote as if your life depended on it.

Because it does.

*

PS:

1. For assistance in voter registration, please visit www.jaagore.com, or for those in Maharashtra, www.ceo.maharashtra.gov.in (Hat Tip: Indianhomemaker)

2. 49-O is not applicable because the government has not amended the Representation of the People Act to include that option. Since the political class will not like to see this through – it would be like axing one’s own foot – we need to do something. Please visit www.adrindia.org for this.

3. 60% of the NSG cadre provides security to politicians. This needs to stop immediately. Such security should be limited to the President, the PM and the Cabinet. That’s it. And even that’s a lot. This is part of a larger problem, where politicians live in an India different from the one we live in. For the more legally-inclined readers out there, can there be a PIL filed on this issue?

So there’s been yet another terrorist attack, and this one has clearly upped the ante.

My condolences to the families and friends of the people dead, and sympathies to those injured, as well as to the hostages and their families. Yet again, we have been attacked. Yet again, we shall pick ourselves up, gather the tattered remains of our lives together and move on. C’est la vie, unfortunately.

Two very disturbing takeaways from this attack. The first is the renewed parroting for more draconian laws like POTA – as one commentator on Indian Homemaker’s blog demanded. The other is the sight of crowds milling about the Taj and the Oberoi, as if there was a circus in progress. Why add to the madness? I am mystified – surely these people know that they aren’t helping any by being there – in fact, they’re only adding to the chaos and confusion. Why are they there?

The easiest reaction in a situation like this is to call for tougher laws, all of which aim to circumvent the adherence to due process. Due process anyway gets short shrift here in India, and do we really want to legitimise that? This is an issue I had touched upon in this post of mine. Shouldn’t better investigation, more co-ordination and better training be looked at first, instead of giving the police arbitrary powers to harass citizens? I am no expert on these things, and would welcome your views. I am just terrified by the knowledge that by bringing in such laws, we have pretty much capitulated to terrorism – their objective of destroying the civil and democratic fabric of India will have been achieved. And contrary to what people feel, these won’t be effective deterrents. Simply because, in my mind, they do not address the root of the problems plaguing our law-enforcement esablishments.