Showing posts from November, 2008

The terror of the aftermath

Biju Mathew writes coherently about the dangers of responding to terror the way American did after 9.11.


As the Fires Die: The Terror of the Aftermath

As the smoke lifts from Mumbai, skepticism must prevail over those conjectures which support the official state narrative. It is crucial to increase the pressure for transparency and accountability at this moment to ensure that India doesn't slide into the same state as post-9/11 USA.

By Biju Mathew

This piece originally appeared in Samar 31, published online December 1st, 2008.

The deaths continue even as I write this. The death toll stands at 195. And of the several hundred injured some may not survive. It is now official. The siege is over. The last of the gunmen inside the Taj Hotel has been shot dead. The Oberoi/Trident hotel was cleared earlier today and the Nariman House Jewish Center at the corner of Third Pasta Lane on the Colaba Causeway was stormed close to 24 hours ago. The other targets - the Leopold Cafe (a popular…

Check out Enough is enough: India's 9/11

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A very good program on NDTV, called We the People, by Barkha Dutt, who has done a stellar job of covering this massacre. Simi Grewal's statement about how the slums have Pakistani flags was shocking and insensitive at this time. Her statements about American safety after 9.11 was shocking again. She has no understanding of what America has done in the name of it's security. People like her should not be allowed to speak at intelligent forums like We the People. She is similar to the politicians who are not in touch with reality and the mood of the people.

My heart goes out to the Muslim man who lost his family and all the people who are suffering the pain, loss and trauma of this tragedy.

I, too, am a Mumbaikar today

Adil Najam talks about living with terror.

I wish I could reach out and for just one moment hold the hands of the woman in this AP photograph. Maybe shed some tears on her shoulder. But I do not know what I would say to her. I do not think she would want me to say much. The expression on her face matches the feeling I have at the pit of my stomach and in the depth of my heart. I think - I hope - that she would understand how I feel. I can only imagine what she is going through.

And so, in prayer and in solidarity, I stand today with Mumbaikars everywhere. In shock at what has happened. In fear of what might happen yet. In anger at those who would be so calculated in their inhuman massacre. In sympathy with those whose pain so hurts my own heart but whose tears I cannot touch, whose wounds I cannot heal, and whose grief I cannot relieve.

The solidarity I feel with Mumbaikars is deep and personal.

The first time I ever visited the Taj Mahal Hotel was with my wife. We had been married just w…

The Ordinary Indian

The Guardian reports from JJ Hospital in Bombay of the ordinary Indian that has been caught up in this massacre.

Harishchandra Shiverhankar scribbled furiously on a notepad, gesturing with his fingers to explain his last bloody memories of Wednesday night before waking up in an unfamiliar hospital bed.

The 56-year-old was walking towards the Metro cinema when he felt his legs collapse - a bullet had been shot through his lower back. A hand then grasped his hair, pulled back his head and a blade slit his neck. He had been caught in the vortex of violence unleashed by people who wanted to murder, not just maim.

Setting down his pad he manages to croak: "This should have never happened to me."

The office worker's story, told from his bed in Mumbai's JJ hospital, is part of a largely hidden tragedy - that behind the headlines of wealthy westerners fleeing Mumbai's terror frontline it was ordinary Indians who bore the brunt of the bloody attack on this city of 19 million …

Marks on the water

Outlook has an interesting article on the planning, organization and backing of the terrorists.

As commandos of the Indian navy flushed the Taj Mahal hotel of terrorists, they came upon a bag containing ammunition, magazines, wallets with photo-IDs, fake credit cards and a huge stock of almonds. Twenty-four hours had passed and the terrorists were still active, so investigators were barely up to sifting through evidence. But pressed for an early assessment, they dismissed the e-mail sent by a certain ‘Deccan Mujahideen’ claiming responsibility as a red herring. The name doing the rounds is the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), purportedly working in close coordination with a section of the Mumbai underworld and rogue elements of Pakistan’s isi. But neither Maharashtra dgp A.N. Roy nor Mumbai police commissioner Hasan Gaffoor would confirm the involvement of this deadly troika.

In fact, early intelligence assessments suggest that some of the terrorists who came in were young British Muslims of Paki…

The possible role of Dawood Ibrahim

Alternet analyzes the possible link of Dawood Ibrahim to the Bombay massacre.

Don't miss Sandip Roy's article at the bottom of this report, arguing that the gun-toting, Versacet-shirt-wearing assailant whose image was beamed across the world at the start of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai who could as easily have been one of the victims as one of the terrorists.

The coordinated nighttime assault against seven major targets in Mumbai is reminiscent of the 1993 bombings that devastated the Bombay Stock Exchange. The recent attack bears the fingerprints of the same criminal mastermind – meticulous preparation, ruthless execution and the absence of claims or demands.

The eerie silence that accompanied the blasts are the very signature of Ibrahim Dawood, now a multi-millionaire owner of a construction company in Karachi, Pakistan. His is hardly a household name around the world like Osama bin Laden. Across South Asia, however, Dawood is held in awe and, in a twist on morals, admired f…


Amit Chaudhri on Bombay in the Guardian.

A couple of days ago, after a performance in London, an old schoolfriend who had come to my concert offered to drop me at the station. He had come to listen to me sing - and to show me how to operate my first ever MP3 player, whose stock of songs he had provided. Music, which had brought us together in conspiratorial and competitive ways when we were growing up in Bombay, had continued to be a common interest even now; and this exchange of songs and information went back to when we were privileged, tie-wearing, precocious schoolboys. The one thing, naturally, we never did then, and we always do now when we see each other, is talk about the city we still refer to as Bombay; it has taken on a retrospective, definitive meaning for us, but it has also burgeoned and changed unimaginably in our absence.

As usual, our conversation on the subject registered gentle disagreements: we both admitted to still loving the city, but I said I was increasingly di…

Quote from Sri Aurobindo

It is necessary to keep equality under pain and suffering - and that means to endure firmly and calmly, not to be restless or troubled or depressed or despondent, to go on with a steady faith in the Divine Will. But equality does not include inert acceptance. If, for instance, there is temporary failure of some endeavour in the sadhana, one has to keep equality, not to be troubled or despondent, but one has not to accept the failure as an indication of the Divine Will and give up the endeavour. You ought rather to find out the reason and meaning of the failure and go forward in faith towards victory. So with illness - you have not to be troubled, shaken or restless, but you have not to accept illness as the Divine Will, but rather look upon it as an imperfection of the body to be got rid of as you try to get rid of vital imperfections or mental errors.

- Sri Aurobindo [SABCL, 23:664]

The Hindu on the terror attacks

The Hindu gives a comprehensive analysis of how the terrorists got to Bombay by sea.Mumbai (AP): A trickle of bodies and hostages emerged from a luxury hotel Thursday as Indian commandoes tried to free people trapped by suspected Muslim militants who attacked at least 10 targets in India's financial capital of Mumbai, killing 104 people.

More than 300 were also wounded in the highly coordinated attacks Wednesday night by bands of gunmen who invaded two five star hotels, a popular restaurant, a crowded train station, a Jewish center and at least five other sites, armed with assault rifles, hand grenades and explosives.

A previously unknown Islamic militant group claimed responsibility for the carnage, the latest in a series of nationwide terror attacks over the past three years that have dented India's image as an industrious nation galloping toward prosperity.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh blamed ``external forces.''

"The well-planned and well-orchestrated attacks…

Attack on Bombay/Mumbai

BBC analyzes how this massacre is different from previous ones. How crazed can the terrorists be to hold hostages at hospitals, hotels and restaurants?

India - and Mumbai - are no stranger to terrorism but the attacks on multiple targets in the city mark a significant step change.

Previous attacks involved the leaving of explosives in public places like markets or on trains. These could be devastating in terms of the loss of life, with nearly 200 killed in 2006.

But the latest attacks are different in terms of both method and scale, with teams of well-armed men involved in synchronised attacks - the gunmen were also clearly prepared to die in their attacks.

Another major difference is the targeting of restaurants and hotels used by westerners and the apparent singling out of those with British and American passports.

This points to either a major shift in strategy by an existing group or the influence or direction of outside parties, perhaps even al-Qaeda, whose style of attacks this m…

Another face of ADHD

NYT reports on the other side of ADHD.

When pediatricians diagnose attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, they often ask their patients whether they know anybody else with the problem.

These days, children are likely to reply with a household name: Michael Phelps, the Olympic superstar, who is emerging as an inspirational role model among parents and children whose lives are affected by attention problems.

“There is a tremendous, tremendous amount of pride — I got the impression sometimes that some of the kids felt like they owned Michael,” said Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, director of the Child Study Center at New York University Langone Medical Center. “There is a special feeling when someone belongs to your club and the whole world is adoring him.”

But the emergence of a major celebrity with attention deficit has revealed a schism in the community of patients, parents, doctors and educators who deal with the disorder. For years, these people have debated whether it means a lifetime of l…

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama got a backside and a whole article about it here.

Nov. 18, 2008 | Free at last. I never thought that I -- a black girl who came of age in the utterly anticlimactic aftermath of the civil rights movement -- would say the phrase with any real sincerity in my lifetime. But ever since Nov. 4, I've been shouting it from every rooftop. I'm not excited for the most obvious reason. Yes, Obama's win was an extraordinary breakthrough and a huge relief, but I don't subscribe to the notion that his capturing the White House represents the end of American racial history. Far from it. There is a certain freedom in the moment -- as in, we are all now free from wondering when or if we'll ever get a black president. Congratulations to all of us for being around to settle the question.

But what really thrills me, what really feels liberating in a very personal way, is the official new prominence of Michelle Obama. Barack's better half not only has stature but is sta…

Quote from Sri Aurobindo

Vital desire grows by being indulged, it does not become satisfied. If your desire were indulged, it would begin to grow more and more and ask for more and more. That has been our constant experience with the sadhaks and it confirms what has always been known about desire. Desire and envy have to be thrown out of the consciousness - there is no other way to deal with them.

- Sri Aurobindo [SABCL, 24:1402]

Mom in Chief

The Root has an interesting dicussion on Michelle Obama and the choices she is making as a "mother".

For generations, The Mommy Wars have largely skipped black women. For most of us, staying at home to raise our children full-time was never a choice. Our families' survival depended on our wages—often earned from nurturing and caring for white families. With the rise of a post-civil rights generation, a critical mass of high-powered black women like the Princeton and Harvard-trained first lady Michelle Obama, have more options than ever. After gaining the educational credentials our mothers and grandmothers could only have dreamed of, many of us have exulted and rejoiced in having the choice to stay at home and raise our own children—a decision celebrated by black stay-at-home mothers' groups like "Mocha Moms."

As Michelle prepares to move to the White House to become "mom in chief," the always racially-charged Mommy Wars have reached new heights. I…

Obama has time for poetry

Telegraph saw Obama reading a book of poetry by St. Lucian poet, Derek Walcott.
But it appears he still has time for a little poetry.

Three days after winning the presidential election, Barack Obama was spotted in Chicago carrying a book of poems by Derek Walcott, the West Indies Nobel laureate.

The Illinois senator was photographed holding the new-looking book, perhaps a gift he had just received, and reading a letter as he headed to his car with his wife, Michelle.

The 500-page volume, Collected Poems 1948-1984, is one of 20 collections by the poet, theatre director and playwright, who has also written more than 20 plays.

Walcott, who won the 1992 Nobel prize for Literature, is often described as the West Indies' greatest writer and intellectual. He was born in St Lucia in 1930 and is best known for his epic poem Omeros, a reworking of the story of the Odyssey in a 20th century Caribbean setting.

Collected Poems 1948-1984 includes selections from all of Walcott's previous sev…

Rushdie on Religion and the imagination

Sepia Mutiny reports on the talk between Salman Rushdie and Gauri Vishwanathan at Columbia University.

Rushdie on Religion and the Imagination

Last Wednesday night, I had the chance to sit in on a fascinating conversation on “Religion and the Imagination” with Salman Rushdie. The author of Midnight’s Children [soon to be adapted for film by Deepa Mehta], The Satanic Verses, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, and East, West was, of course, the perfect person to launch Columbia University’s newly founded Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life. The Institute’s mission is to “bring together scholars and students in various fields to reflect and respond to the issues brought about by the “resurgence of religion and, with it, religious and cultural intolerance and conflict [that] are emerging as powerful forces in the new century.”

Orhan Pamuk, the 2006 Nobel Laureate in Literature, introduced Rushdie as someone who has been “fighting religious intolerance with humor, proving that we can…

Sonal Shah

More on Sonal Shah from the Stop Funding Hate website.

Friday, November 14, 2008: A virtual melee has ensued in print and digital media over the selection of Ms. Sonal Shah, an American of Indian origin to the Obama transition team's advisory board. Shrill accusations of Ms. Shah being a "racist and Hindu chauvinist" are being reciprocated by equally shrill attempts to portray anyone who raises serious questions about the selection as being anti-India, anti-Hindu, anti-progress, and recently, as against "liberal civility." We condemn such baseless and unfair statements.

At the outset we wish to acknowledge that Ms. Shah has had a record of being a visible and an important face of the "desi American" community- a successful professional, and a politically and socially engaged citizen.

We are also happy to note at least one positive effect from this debate. Even as this issue gets played out on public fora, the din of militant Hindutva drumbeats has suffer…

Immanuel Wallerstein on the election of Barack Obama

"Obama's Victory - Fear and Hope"

The whole of the United States and indeed the whole world was watching, and almost all of it was cheering, the election of Barack Obama as the next president of the United States. Although, during the electoral campaign, everyone tried to play down the centrality of the racial issue, on Nov. 4 it seemed that no one could talk of anything else. There are three central questions about what most commentators are calling this "historic event": How important is it? What explains the victory? What is likely to happen now?

On the evening of November 4, an immense crowd assembled in Grant Park, Chicago, to hear Obama's acceptance speech. All those who were watching U.S. television saw the camera zoom in on Jesse Jackson, who was in tears. Those tears reflect the virtually unanimous view of all African-Americans, who regard Obama's election as the moment of their definitive integration into the U.S. electoral process. They do not …

Maya Angelou

money within her control to move out
and rent a place of her own,
even if she never wants to or needs to...

something perfect to wear
if the employer, or date of her dreams
wants to see her in an hour...

a youth she's content to leave behind....

a past
juicy enough that she's looking forward
to retelling it in her old age....
a set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and...
a black lace bra...

one friend who always makes her laugh..
and one who lets her cry...

a good piece of furniture
not previously owned by anyone else in her family...

eight matching plates, wine glasses with stems,
and a recipe for a meal,
that will make her guests feel honored...

a feeling of control
over her destiny..

how to fall in love
without losing herself..

how to quit a job…

Sonal Shah's statement

Shah's brother has posted a statement from her on Sepia Mutiny. It's
been analyzed by Ennis as defensive and questionable.

As an Indian-American who has lived in this country since the age of four, serving on the Obama-Biden transition team is a unique privilege for me. A presidential transition is always a time of excitement and, in some cases, of rumors and unfounded gossip. I’d like to set to rest a few baseless and silly reports that have been circulating on the Internet.

First, my personal politics have nothing in common with the views espoused by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), or any such organization. I’ve never been involved in Indian politics, and never intend to do so.

Second, I’ve always condemned any politics of division, of ethnic or religious hatred, of violence and intimidation as a political tool. Some factually inaccurate internet rumors have attempted to link me to Hindu Nationalist groups through a variety of…