One of the completest cases of ethnic cleansing – that entailed the murder of 500,000-800,000 Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs – took place in 1947 in the Punjab Province of British India. Until now very little research had been conducted on it though in Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi literature the horrors of the partition have figured extensively, mostly in short stories but also in novels and poetry. The trauma of a gory and shattering destruction of the demographic structure and culture in Punjab has never been absent from the public conscience although the generation that went through it is now on the way out. However, once the Punjab was partitioned it was impossible for an Indian citizen to visit the Pakistani Punjab and do research and likewise a Pakistani scholar stood no chance of doing the same in the Indian Punjab. International research on the Punjab partition had also been limited – confined to some cities and districts.
As a Swedish national of Pakistani origin, I did manage to visit both Punjabs and do extensive field research. Therefore now for the first time after 65 years a holistic, detailed and penetrating research on the events of 1947 have been published under the title, The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed: Unravelling the 1947 Tragedy through Secret British Reports and First-Person Accounts (Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2012, ISBN 9780199064700, pages 640). It is theoretically and empirically a very distinctive study, because it seeks to solve the Punjab partition puzzle as part of a general phenomenon that has appeared elsewhere in the world as well. More than 250 interviews were conducted over a period of 15 years, though the most intense period was 2003-2005 when a very generous research grant from the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskaprådet) enabled me to do field research in both the Indian and Pakistani Punjabs. In some cases I traced people from both sides of the divided Punjab after 50 and more years to check the same incident.
Punjab was partitioned in mid-1947 as part of the overall partition of British India into two independent nations of India and Pakistan. The main party of Indian Muslims, the All-India Muslim League, had argued that the Muslim minority (roughly one-fourth) constituted a separate nation from other communities of India. Therefore they were entitled to a separate state in areas where they were in a majority. This was reluctantly agreed to by the Indian National Congress, the main secular-nationalist party, which was dominated by Hindus. The British, who had decided to withdraw from India by June 1948, also agreed to the partition of India. However, the partition of India was also to include the partition of two Muslim-majority provinces, Bengal and Punjab.
The total population of undivided Punjab was nearly 34 million living in 357,692 sq. km. Of it more than 28 million lived in territories directly administered by the British and its territorial expanse was 256,640 sq. km. The Muslims constituted a slight majority of 53.2%, while Hindus and Sikhs together formed a very large minority. Less than 2% belonged to other religions. In the directly administered British territories the Muslim percentage was slightly higher, 57.1%. The Sikhs, who were a minority of around 14%, were essentially a Punjabi people – their religion and history and most of their community was located in Punjab. On the other hand, Punjabi Hindus and Muslims could link up with their communities in all nooks and corners of India.
The Sikhs were insistent that if India is partitioned on a religious basis then Punjab should also be divided on the same basis. They feared persecution under Muslim rule based on a religious notion of nationhood. The problem was that the Sikhs were not in a majority anywhere in Punjab. They were, however, an important community because they were disproportionately overrepresented in the British Indian Army and were also a propertied community with regard to agricultural land and even business and commerce. When it became clear that India could not remain united because the Muslim League and the Congress would not agree on a mutually acceptable formula the latter threw its full weight behind the Sikh demand for the partition of Punjab. While the western regions had a clear Muslim majority and eastern regions of Punjab a Hindu-Sikh majority the central areas, even though mostly comprising Muslim majority, had substantial Hindu-Sikh minorities and in some districts even majorities.
The book argues that if India had not been partitioned Punjab would also not have been partitioned. However, that did not mean that if India were partitioned then Punjab must also be partitioned. Had the Muslim League and the Sikh leaders agreed to keep Punjab united even if the Punjabi Hindus did not they would have made up such a large majority that Punjab could have remained united. Why could not the Punjabi Muslims and Sikhs agree to that? That is the main puzzle I have tried to solve. No division of Punjab would have been a satisfactory to all three main communities – Punjabi Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. Moreover, any partition of Punjab would have inevitably divided the Sikhs into the two states. The British governors as well as the chief secretaries, who from 1945-47 were Indians, were warning that Punjab would explode into unprecedented violence if it was partitioned and pleaded for a power-sharing formula that could prevent its division.
Historically Punjab had excellent record of inter-communal relations as Sufi Islam, the Bhakti Movement of Hindus opposed to the caste system and the early Sikh Gurus (spiritual leaders) had over the centuries preached communal harmony. In the 20th century religious revivals took place, which instead of bringing Punjabis closer drove them away from each other on the basis of religious purity as compared to the folky forms of Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism. Yet, from 1923 onwards when the Punjab Unionist Party, headed by Muslim leaders and supported by Hindus and Sikhs, was founded on shared Punjabi values and interests the three communities had managed to live in peace and harmony. Both the Muslim League and the Congress had no major following in Punjab before the 1940s.
Trouble started in Punjab during the 1945-46 election campaign. The Muslim League had to wrest Punjab away from the Punjab Unionist Party and that necessitated portraying it as an agent of anti-Islam forces. Consequently, ‘Islam in danger’ was launched as the battle cry, the Muslim League was projected as the saviour and Pakistan as the utopia where no exploitation would exist, moneylending would be abolished and a model Muslim society based on Islamic law would come into being. Pages 81-106 of my book The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed provide the details. Islamic slogans, of which the most famous, Pakistan ka nara kiya? La Illaha Illillah (What is the slogan of Pakistan? It is that there is no god but God), were used profusely. The pirs (custodians of Sufi shrines) and ulema (Muslim clerics) told the Muslims that voting for the Muslim League would be voting for the Prophet Muhammad; those Muslims who did not do so, their marriages would be annulled, they would be refused an Islamic burial, and so on. The Hindus and Sikhs were told that they would be tried under Islamic law and they would have to bring their cases to mosques. Governor Sir Bertrand Glancy noted on September 13, 1945, “Muslim Leaguers are doing what they can in the way of propaganda conducted on fanatical lines; religious leaders and religious buildings are being used freely in several places for advocating Pakistan and vilifying any who hold opposite view. Communal feel is, I fear, definitely deteriorating. Sikhs are getting definitely nervous about Pakistan, and I think there is no doubt that they will forcibly resist any attempt to include them in a Muslim Raj” (page 84).
He noted on February 2, just days before the elections, “there seems little doubt that the Muslim League, thanks to the ruthless methods by which they have pursued their campaign of ‘Islam in danger’ will considerably increase the number of their seats and unionist representatives will correspondingly decrease” (page 88). The Muslim League swept the reserved Muslim seats. It won 73 seats (later increased to 75) out of 86. Its tally, however, fell short by at least 10 to form the government in the 175-member Punjab Assembly. The Congress swept the general vote getting 50 seats, and the Sikh Panthic parties secured 23 reserved for the Sikhs. The Unionists were reduced to a rump of 18. The rest were reserved seats for the scheduled castes, Christians and Anglo-Indians. A coalition government comprising the Punjab Unionist Party, the Punjab Congress and the Panthic Parties was formed with Khizr Hayat Tiwana as premier. The Muslim League felt deprived of the chance to form the government but it could not produce evidence that it enjoyed a majority in the Punjab Assembly.
Meanwhile, violence elsewhere in India increased sharply in 1946. The Muslim League ordered ‘Direct Action’ or mass agitation in Calcutta in August 1946. It resulted in thousands of deaths. The violence was unleashed by Muslim groups but later the Hindus and Sikhs struck back with equal savagery. Thousands of people were killed. Violence then spread to Bihar where the provincial Congress government was involved in a butchery of Muslims.
Punjab too was heading towards a confrontation and Chief Secretary Akhtar Hussain reported that “private communal armies” were being recruited. In December 1946, the Sikhs and Hindus of Hazara district, NWFP, were subjected to unprecedented savagery of Muslim mobs. Thousands fled to Punjab, some got refuge in Rawalpindi, but most went eastwards where Sikhs were in substantial numbers. On January 24, Tiwana ordered police raids on the headquarters of the Punjab Muslim League and the RSS. Muslim League leaders who resisted were arrested. It triggered a mass movement of defiance of authority by Muslim League agitators. Every day Muslims courted arrest and the jails were filled with them. Slogan mongering against Tiwana was conducted in the filthiest of Punjabi abuses and taunts. The agitation also became increasingly violent. Glancy’s successor, Governor Sir Evan Jenkins noted in his report dated February 28, “The Sikhs have been profoundly moved by the obvious desire of the Muslims to seize Punjab for themselves and would not permit them to do so. The agitation has shown Pakistan in all its nakedness and was a fair example of the kind of treatment that the minorities, including the Sikhs, might expect from Muslim extremists”(Page 124). Chief Secretary Akhtar Hussain wrote on March 4, 1947, when direct action was over and an uneasy peace had been established, “Muslims in their stupidity disgraced Sikhs, singled out Sikh policemen for their attacks and brutally murdered a Sikh constable. The effect of this was grave in the extreme and, as has been stated, communal strife between Sikhs and Muslims was almost inevitable if the League movement of defiance had continued” (page 125).
On February 20, 1947, the British government had announced the transfer of power to Indians by June 1948. Although the Muslim League agitation ended on February 26 and all Muslim League detainees released, Premier Tiwana had lost heart because British rule would soon end. He therefore resigned on March 2, 1947, precipitating an acute political crisis. On March 3, Master Tara Singh famously flashed his kirpan (sword) outside the Punjab Assembly, calling for the destruction of the Pakistan idea. That evening, Hindu and Sikh leaders gathered in Lahore and made even more extremist speeches (pages 128-135).
Next day Hindu-Sikh protestors and Muslims clashed in Lahore, the capital of undivided Punjab. The same day in the evening, Sikhs and Muslims clashed in nearby Amritsar. On March 5, violence spread to Multan in south-western Punjab and Rawalpindi in north-western. The same day, Governor Jenkins imposed governor’s rule. Punjab remained under governor’s rule until power was transferred to Indian and Pakistani Punjab administrations on August 15, 1947.
In Multan, the fight was uneven from the first day. There were very few Sikhs and the Hindu minority was also heavily outnumbered. Almost all casualties were those of Hindus and a few Sikhs. The gruesome murder of Seth Kalyan Das, a highly respected gentleman, whom all communities respected, is narrated by old-timer Ataullah Malik (pages 160-161).
In Rawalpindi, Hindu-Sikhs and Muslims clashed on March 5. In the evening of March 6, Muslim mobs in the thousands headed towards Sikh villages in Rawalpindi, Attock and Jhelum districts. Until March 13, they had a free hand to kill, burn, rape, and forcibly convert mainly Sikhs but also Hindus. I have given eyewitness testimony of Muslims, and a Sikh survivor from Thamali, interviewing him in Kapurthala city in the Indian East Punjab (pages 165-193). The pictures of the interviewees are also given.
According to British sources, some 2,000 people were killed in the carnage in the three rural districts. The Sikhs claim 7,000 dead. Jinnah, the leader of the Muslim League and founder of Pakistan, committed a major blunder when he did not issue any condemnation of those atrocities. An exodus of Sikhs took place in the thousands to the eastern districts and Sikh princely states from Rawalpindi, where they narrated their woes, and set up the nucleus of a revenge movement.
The Sikh leaders had been working on some Sikh princes to convince them to try establishing a Sikh State. If India could be partitioned for two nations based on religion, then why could it not into three for the Sikh nation as well? To achieve that, a compact Sikh majority was needed and that could be achieved only by expelling nearly six million Muslims from East Punjab. However, 1947 was too early for such a bid; it emerged in the 1980s as the Khalistan movement.
By May 1947, it dawned upon Jinnah that the Sikhs were not going to join Pakistan. For a while he argued that Punjabis and Bengalis shared a common culture and identity. However, since it contradicted his basic stand that Hindus and Muslims were separate nations who did not share any national character, the discovery that Punjabis (Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs) and Bengalis (Hindus and Muslims) shared the same culture was the weakest argument in his brief for the Two-Nation Theory. He then demanded that a corridor should be provided through more than 1,000 miles of Indian territory to connect East and West Pakistan!
Nevertheless, Viceroy Mountbatten brokered talks between Jinnah and the Sikhs during May 14-16 with a view to keeping the Punjab united. Jinnah offered very generous terms. Hardit Singh Malik who acted as spokesperson of the Sikhs reported the following concluding remarks:
“This put us in an awkward position. We were determined not to accept Pakistan under any circumstances and here was a Muslim leader offering us everything. What to do? Then I had an inspiration and I said, ‘Mr Jinnah, you are being very generous. But, supposing, God forbid, you are no longer there when the time comes to implement your promises?’ His reply was astounding…He said, ‘My friend, my word in Pakistan will be like the word of God. No one will go back on it.’ There was nothing to be said after this and the meeting ended” (page 213).
Meanwhile, the British military had on May 12, 1947 come round to the view that if Pakistan was created it would be good for their interests in South Asia and the Persian Gulf. On page 209, I have quoted verbatim the memorandum the British heads of the three branches of the armed forces and Field Marshal Montgomery prepared in support of the creation of Pakistan.
In any event, on June 3, 1947, the British government announced the Partition Plan. It brought forward the transfer of power date to India and Pakistan to mid-August 1947. On June 23, the Punjab Assembly voted in favour of partitioning Punjab. It was followed by the deliberations of the Punjab Boundary Commission, which culminated in the Radcliffe Award of August 13, which was made public on August 17. In June, the Hindu-Sikh locality of Shahalmi in Lahore was set ablaze. I traced one of the culprits whose confession is given in detail on pages 237-243. Until July, the East Punjab Muslims were not attacked. On August 17, when the Radcliffe Award became public, all hell broke loose on the East Punjab Muslims. In India, scores of studies exist on the suffering of Hindus and Sikhs in what became West Punjab. The fact is that more Muslims were killed in East Punjab than Hindus and Sikhs combined in West Punjab. 500,000-800,000 Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs lost their lives altogether. The macabre dance of death that took place in western Punjab until June 1947 was now played out in East Punjab more pitilessly and on a much grander scale.
The evidence is based on heart-wrenching interviews I conducted over a period of 15 years with many Muslims. Pages 411-525 highlight the slaughter of Muslims. The book also documents cases of extreme magnificence as Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs saved lives across the communal divide, sometimes of complete strangers and at great risk to their own lives. Humanity was debased in 1947 but not without outstanding examples of sublimation as well.
At the end of the day, 10 million Punjabis had been driven away from their ancestral abodes: it is the greatest forced migration in modern history. Except for the tiny Malerkotla State, Indian East Punjab was emptied of all Muslims; equally, from the Pakistani West Punjab, Hindus and Sikhs were driven out to the last man almost.
I have developed a theory of ethnic cleansing, which is tested in the Punjab case. It has also served as the theoretical framework to explain and analyse the events that transpired in Punjab in 1947. The theory can be usefully employed to analyse the events of ex-Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Iran and other such cases. Each case has its unique characteristics but they also share some essential common features. Among them the main are the end of a particular type of state system without a power-sharing formula being agreed among apprehensive communities suffering from great anxiety about an uncertain future. When state functionaries assume partisan roles ethnic cleansing and genocide can take place as organized force and terror can be used against the enemy groups.
by Ishtiaq Ahmed
The writer has a PhD from Stockholm University. He is a Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University. He is also Honorary Senior Fellow of the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. His latest publication is: The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed: Unravelling the 1947 Tragedy through Secret British Reports and First-Person Accounts (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2012; New Delhi: Rupa Books, 2011). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2002, the government of India embarked upon a highly ambitious image campaign to create a new brand identity for the nation. The idea was to transform India into “a global brand, with worldwide brand recognition and strong brand equity” that will bring high end tourists and investors to the country. But how does one establish a unified image of a country like India? And how does cohere India’s image as an ancient civilization in a new globalised world? The policymakers and designers with faced with an “extremely difficult and complex (project) to establish a clear, precise identity for a multiproduct destination like India. India is a land of contrasts, a combination of tradition and modernity, a land that is at once mystical and mysterious. India is bigger than twenty-three countries of Europe put together and every single state of India has its own unique attractions.” During my fieldwork in Delhi, I was often reminded of these challenges by the advertising professionals who had been entrusted with the task of creating a “global identity without losing the essence of the nation.”
The result of this exercise was a campaign called ‘Incredible !ndia’ that attempted to re-visualize India in a contemporary context. The campaign was released in major foreign markets in both print and digital media, and in a very short time gained a high visibility and recognition with its distinctive ‘!’ logo mark. The most remarkable aspect of this campaign is that even though it was aimed at foreign markets, it has gained a far wider popular constituency among the Indians living in India as well as in diaspora. The seductive pictures and mocking, witty words have created a narrative of India that conveys a contemporary feel and global sensibility. The reason for its popularity precisely lies in the fact that this newly designed India can now be ‘shown’ and ‘seen’ in the outside world with pride.
In India’s recent history, this is the most expansive image making exercise that seeks to manufacture a global identity on one hand, and on the other, to subvert the identities given by the colonial powers. The distinctive ‘!’ has become a visual unifier and a sign of post-reform India that is recognized both at home and abroad.
Ravinder Kaur, PhD
Director, Centre of Global South Asian Studies
University of Copenhagen
Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies
Ravinder Kaur is one of the organizers of the workshop Spectacle of Globality which is taking place 29-30 August 2012 at National Museum, Ny Vestergade 10, Copenhagen. The workshop which focuses on India’s makeover as a global power is a part of the research programme Nation in Motion and the first in a series of four international workshops organized within the programme.
by Stig Toft Madsen, NIAS
On April 19th India test-fired a long-range ballistic missile designed to carry a nuclear bomb. With a range stated to be more than 3.100 miles, the missile would be able to reach not only large Chinese cities beyond the Tibetan plateau. It could reach even further. The distance from say Srinagar in Kashmir to Vienna in Austria is 3.114 miles or 5.011 kilometer. In other words: Vienna is within its reach.
The missile has been developed by the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and other defense organizations and laboratories often located in science- and IT-cities such as Bangalore and Hyderabad. As the name Agni V indicates the missile is the latest in a series of missiles with progressively longer range. Already in 1971, Indira Gandhi reportedly directed the defense ministry and the DRDO to start developing long-range ballistic missiles (Kampani 2003). Agni V is the fruit of that labor, but some Indian strategic thinkers are not content with this. They have urged India to develop a missile (called Surya, the Sun) that may reach even further. Some argue that India should develop thermonuclear bombs in the megaton class. India has so far not capitalized much on its powerful weapons through sales to other countries. Some argue that India should do so.
Why, one may wonder, does India persist in developing and buying these and other weapons? Looking at such questions somewhat anthropologically, I will have a closer look at a few commonly used phrases, which say something about how Indians think about themselves and their role in the world today. The test-firing of a missile, the testing of nuclear or thermonuclear bombs in 1998, and the launching of a satellite into space are occasions, which lead Indians and others to make statements to the effect that India is now a superpower and that others should recognize it as a superpower. On such occasions three phrases are commonly used:
- India is now taking its rightful place in the Comity of Nations
- India is now a member of an Exclusive Club
- India is now sitting at the High Table
The High Table is an institution found in old British universities or colleges such as Oxford and Cambridge. Senior faculty members or fellows and their guest would sit at the raised table above and separately from the students. By contrast, in other universities (such as Princeton in the US) dining was used as an opportunity for students to interact with the faculty members (www.princeton.edu/~gradcol/perm/hightable.htm).
In India, the partaking of meals has been used since time immemorial to unite and differentiate people, often along caste lines. Historically, commensal rows or “feeding lines” consisting of people of the same caste or sub-caste have repeatedly defined or objectified group identity (Madsen and Gardella 2012). When Indians say that their weaponry entitles them to sit at the High Table, they thereby evoke notions of superiors sharing a meal. The image does not imply that only Indians may eat under conditions of grandeur. But it indicates that Indians may eat only with their equals and not with others.
Being the member of an “exclusive club” implies an even greater degree of inequality. While students at Oxbridge may not sit at the High Table, they can at least see the table from where they sit. An exclusive club is closed in a more radical manner. Its charmed circle entirely sealed, an outsider cannot even enter the club. Such exclusive clubs have an aura of secrecy. Their members probably wine and dine, but others cannot really tell what they do. The members set their own rules which may not be in conformity with the rules that others follow. Evoking the image of an exclusive club signals power, non-transparency, and even the ability to act with impunity.
In contrast, to achieve one’s rightful place in the comity of nations does not imply exclusivism or secrecy. All countries, big and small, are entitled to a place as equals in the United Nations where, in principle, discussions are held openly and where every nation has a voice. In that sense, India already enjoys its rightful place in the comity of nations. It does not need to lay claim to it by demonstrating its power back-up in terms of weapons of mass destruction. But then the “rightful place” may be understood to mean something more than a place like any other nation. India’s rightful place – taking into consideration it size, it military muscle, its growing economy – then may turn out on closer inspection to be an elevated position. In short, what India claimed it achieved by test-firing the Agni V and similar acts was a rightful place at the High Table in an Exclusive Club for the select among the nations of the world. Not a very democratic vision but more inclusive than the idea of “the peaceful rise of China”, which portrays China’s rise as a form of “reemergence” whereby China is about to regain the all-encompassing hegemonic status that it presumably once possessed.
Gaurav Kampani, “Stakeholders in the Indian Strategic Missile Program”, The Nonproliferation Review, Fall-Winter 2003.
Stig Toft Madsen and Geoffrey Gardella, “Udupi Hotels: Entrepreneurship, Reform and Revival”, in Krishnendu Ray and Tulasi Srinivas (eds.) Curried Cultures, Globalization, Food, and South Asia, Berkeley, Los Angeles London: University of California Press, 2012.
With thanks to Sasikumar Shanmugasundaram for comments.
By Stig Toft Madsen
Research Associate, NIAS-Nordic Institute of Asian Studies
The Purulia Arms drop in 1995 was a rare example of a private team of white criminals delivering weapons to an oppositional group in India. The main organizer of the arms drop was a Dane inter alia named Niels Holck. This blog discusses various issues of the extradition case heard in the Lower Court and the Eastern High Court in 2010-11. The courts agreed that Holck could not be extradited mainly due to India’s poor human rights record. In return, India “froze” relations to Denmark
Niels Holck is a Dane presently living in one of the better cities north of Copenhagen. In 1981, when accused of bank robbery, he escaped from the police earning him the nickname “Barfodsrøveren”, the Barefoot Robber (Hansen 2008). Later Holck went abroad where his activities apparently ranged from development work among the poor in Guatemala to gold smuggling in Africa. In that process he acquired several passports one of which identified by as Kim Peter Davy, the name by which he is known in India. Holck’s entry to India was via the Ananda Marga, a religious group which has been at loggerheads with the Indian state. In December 1995, Niels Holck dropped four tonnes of weapons over Purulia in West Bengal for the Ananda Margis from a small airplane. According to a recent interview with Peter Bleach, who was on board the plane, the consignment included “77 cases of Kalashnikov rifles, Makarov pistols, sniper rifles, anti-tank grenades, RPG rocket-launchers, anti-personnel mines, night-vision binoculars and 25,000 rounds of rifle ammunition” (Scarborough Evening News 2011). However, the arms drop was not well executed by the crew which also counted five Latvians who later became Russian citizens. After a confusing return trip from Thailand, all were arrested in Bombay airport save Niels Holck who once more managed to slip off and make his way back to Denmark.[i] When India initially requested the extradition of Holck, Denmark was unable to extradite him because the crime he stood accused of was not a crime in Denmark (sic). After the attack on USA on September 11, 2001, Denmark passed a new and tough law in 2002 enabling the extradition of Danish citizens accused of serious crimes not just to the Scandinavian countries but to the EU and to other countries as well (Lov 378). India renewed its request to get Holck in December 2002. Denmark finally agreed to India’s request on April 9, 2010, but the extradition order was challenged by Niels Holck in court. With the help of a well-articulated lawyer, Tyge Trier, and his team, Holck won the case in the lower court. The state prosecutor appealed the case to the Eastern High Court, which confirmed the decision of the lower court when an unusually large bench of five judges unanimously held his extradition illegal because India has a bad human rights record as regards treatment of prisoners. Tellingly, India has not ratified the UN Convention against Torture and not signed the Optional Protocol to the convention. The diplomatic agreement reached by India and Denmark had sought to bracket such general issues by focusing on the individual case at hand, but it was found by the court to be devoid of sufficient muscle to secure Holck’s safety if handed over to the Indian custody.[ii]
According to Holck, important Indians, including a Bihari MP and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) were all parties to the arms drop and actually helped him to get back to Denmark when they realized that things had not gone as planned. According to Holck, key Indians had teamed up with him because, like him, they were frustrated with the violent communist regime in West Bengal. When the arms drop misfired they wanted to cover their trails. Were Holck to turn up in India again, the same actors or institutions would kill him to hide the truth, Holck alleges. Not only has Holck maintained that the arms drop took place with the knowledge and concurrence of the CBI and unnamed Indian MPs, but also with the knowledge and concurrence of Danish and the British Intelligence. In his version of the story, Bleach maintains that the British intelligence services were aware of what he did as an arms dealer after he contacted the Defense Export Services Organization to seek clarifications regarding the proposed arms sale. The MI5/MI6 sensed that a crime was in the making and they contacted the Indian authorities.[iii] British intelligence, Bleach holds, let him proceed with the plan to enable the Indian authorities to catch the kingpin, i.e. Holck, red-handed. Bleach acceded to the advice of the British authorities, thereby deceiving Holck. This was the storyline presented by Bleach when he made an appearance in the Danish High Court in 2011 and it may contain more grains of truth than Holck’s version. In a debate on this issue, the British Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said in a response to an MP:
“The hon. Gentleman also asked whether Mr. Bleach advised officials of issues relating to the arms drop. I can confirm that he provided details to North Yorkshire police about the arms drop during interviews on three separate occasions—on 14 September, 22 September and 8 December 1995. On 22 September and 8 December the police strongly advised Mr. Bleach to withdraw from the deal and not to go to India. The information given by Mr. Bleach was passed on to the Indian authorities on three separate occasions—10 November, 17 November and 15 December 1995.” (www.parliament.uk, 2002)
The British, it appears from this, were aware of the plan, but they did not concur. To me it is inconceivable that British Intelligence would accede to clandestinely arm a small and geopolitically insignificant sect against the democratically elected government in West Bengal in India.[iv]
The main armed opponent of the government led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) was never Ananda Marga. Its main opponent was the Maoist revolutionaries, or Naxalites, who intensified the class war in the late 1960s. During this period when the Congres was still in power, and later after the Left Front CPI(M)-led government came to power in 1977, the police spared few means to subjugate the revolutionaries. One of the people tortured was Archana Guha whom the police picked up in 1974 while in search of her brother. She was tortured under the supervision of Runu Guha Neogi against whom Archana Guha filed a case in 1977 after she was released. With the help of Amnesty International and others, she came to Denmark where she received treatment. The trial took nineteen years. In 1996, Runu Guha Neogi was sentence to one year’s simple imprisonment with a possibility to appeal (Roy 1996). During this period, the Left Front government did not suspend Neogi who retired as Deputy Commissioner of Police (Roy 1996).
Apart for its role in suppressing the Maoist revolutionaries, there is another side to the CPI(M). As one of its critics, Ramachandra Guha, has conceded:
It may be that of all the major parties in India, it is only the leaders of the CPI(M) who do not have Swiss bank accounts. (Some do not even have Indian bank accounts.) Their views may be out-of-date, even bizarre, but in their conduct and demeanour most major leaders of the CPI(M) are—the word is inescapable—gentlemen. As a bourgeois friend of mine puts it, they are the kind of people in whose homes she can safely permit her teenaged daughter to spend the night (Guha 2011).
Had British intelligence attempted to remove the CPI(M)-led government from office it could have created uproar far greater than the benefits such a removal might have entailed.
Arms supplies and resistance
It is not easy, in fact, to find any example of European governments aiding and abetting armed uprisings in independent India. Perhaps, the person to close in on is George Fernandes, the labor leader and socialist MP who rose to become the Defense Minister of India. Fernandes was accused (but never convicted) in the “Baroda Dynamite Case” of plotting to set off small bombs during the Emergency. Before and after he was apprehended in Calcutta in June 1976, he and his family did receive moral support and physical shelter from several Western governments or their representatives, but even during Emergency I doubt that UK or other Western European countries provided weapons for Fernandes or for anyone else in miniscule armed resistance to the Emergency regime.
Could Holck have a point about Indians in key positions condoning illegal trade in arms for non-state actors? Here it may again be worth noting that Fernandes has been sympathetic to several armed groups, including the LTTE. As Defense Minister… “In July 1998, he reportedly stopped the Indian Navy from intercepting ships suspected of carrying illegal arms to Tamil guerrilla groups…” The Sri Lankan government reportedly stated that, “the LTTE’s biggest supporter in India is Defence Minister George Fernandes” (Wikipedia). Fernandes has also morally supported Burmese rebel groups and students fighting the military government both before he became Defense Minister and while in office. Arms dealers supplying weapons (similar to those dropped over Purulia) to Naga and Assamese rebel groups in North-East India and in Burma are alleged to have been given free passage in the Andaman Sea on the order of the Defense Secretary while Fernandes was the minister. These allegations were fielded by amongst other the former Navy Chief Vishnu Bhagwat. I am mentioning this not only to lend some credence to Holck’s version of events, but also because after the extradition case against Holck in the Danish High Court was decided in 2011, the Government of India (GOI) asserted that the Danish decision not to appeal to the Supreme Court would increase the risk of international crime and terror. A former Defense Minister of India could be accused of having done much the same. In all cases, the counter-argument would be that external support to just armed resistance is legitimate – even if directed against democratic states.[v]
The “Purulia Arms Drop” made front-page news in India, but it is not as if the Ananda Marga is the only group in India or South Asia which has imported weapons for its struggles. The Maoist groups in the “Red Corridor” in central India have apparently been supplied weapons through a supply chain stretching from Tamil Nadu to Nepal, The Khalistani Sikhs imported relatively advanced weapons for their secessionist struggle launched around 1980, and umpteen Islamic jihadist groups have received weapons from Pakistan off and on from October 1947 onwards.[vi]
At home India has a considerable sector of illegal small-arms manufacturing. A United Nations study has reported that Indian civilians have around 40 million firearms of which only around 15 percent are licensed (Asian Age 2011). By tapping into these arms distribution networks Holck would probably have gotten a bigger bang for his buck than by contacting a Rhodesian Brit and five Latvians with scant local knowledge. But, then, he evidently wanted to supply the Ananda Marga with advanced weapons of a higher caliber than were necessary for an ordinary watch guard.
The Purulia Arms Drop remains unique insofar as it involved an airdrop of arms by White Westerners to a religious group. The reaction in policy circles in India to the case may be compared to the Pakistani reaction to the US raid on Osama bin Laden’s residence in Abbottabad. In both cases the elite felt hurt when Western incursions into national airspace starkly exposed their state’s inability to enforce its sovereignty. In the Pakistani case, the reaction was widespread. In the Indian case, the reaction has been largely limited to the elite. The “Bengali Street” has been largely silent perhaps because the enmity between the Ananda Margis and others in West Bengal has declined considerable over the years. Moreover, the Ananda Margis themselves have kept a low profile as regards Niels Holck.
Self-defense and legal activism: Holck and Salwa Judum
What was the motive for the arms drop? As far as I can see, Holck purchased and dropped the weapons because he sympathized with the Ananda Margis whom he felt were persecuted by the West Bengal government and perhaps also by Maoist armed groups operating in the Purulia area. Others may have known about the plans, but Holck remained the driving force. It was his project. Who among the Ananda Margis wanted the weapons is unclear, but Holck wanted the Ananda Margis to have the weapons for “self-defense.” At the very end of the High Court case, Holck said that he wanted the truth to come out and that he would win a fair court trial case because the right to self-defense is a valid legal argument. The issue, therefore, arises when a situation exists that allows an actor to disregard the state’s monopoly of the legitimate use of force.
The Indian Penal Code (IPC) recognizes the right to self-defense in section 81, which states that … “Nothing is an offence merely by reason of its being done with the knowledge that it is likely to cause harm, if it be done without any criminal intention to cause harm, and in good faith for the purpose of preventing or avoiding other harm to person or property.” I am not sure whether an Indian court would find this section of the IPC applicable if Holck were to stand trial in India, but it is worth noting that the Indian state recently has walked the same thin line as Holck. In the struggle against the armed uprising of the Naxalites/Maoists in the state of Chhattisgarh in Central India, the GOI in 2005 raised an armed force of about 6,500 barely literate village youth aged seventeenth upwards ordering them to operate as Special Police Officers within the law at a honorarium of Rs. 3000 per month, i.e. much less than the 10 dollars a day that Taliban foot soldiers are said to receive. This force, named Salwa Judum, proceeded to engage in “mass violations of fundamental constitutional rights” (Venkatesan 2011:44) often in connection with the forced removal of people from “naxalite-infested villages” to safe village under Salwa Judum control. In 2007 anthropologist Nandini Sundar, who is professor of sociology at Delhi University, together with the historian-anthropologist Ramachandra Guha, and EAS Sarma, former Secretary to GOI and former Commissioner for Tribal Welfare, Government of Andhra Pradesh filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court. The court accepted the petition as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) case. Eleven judges heard the case for 26 days over several years before delivering the verdict in 2011. The case was repeatedly stalled by the Government of Chhattisgarh, confirming that it is not only private litigants who are adept at prolonging litigation in India, but that official India is equally adept in the art of adjournments.
The verdict of the Supreme Court in Nandini Sundar and others vs State of Chhattishgarh went in favor of the petitioners finding the formation of Salwa Judum an abrogation of the state’s obligation to protect its citizens by a professionally trained police force only. The court “directed the State government to prevent the operation of Salwa Judum or any other such group that seeks to take the law into its own hands or violates human rights of any person” (Venkatesan 2011:44). In other words, the court affirmed the state’s monopoly of violence specifying that the state can only delegate its right to use force to duly constituted groups. By extension, if the state did not have a right to defend its citizens against the Maoist threat – which is a real threat – by raising a motley army in the name of self-defense, it is also not likely that an equally motley crew of non-nationals would enjoy the right to arm a socio-religious group like the Ananda Marga. Niels Holck, the Government of Chhattisgarh, and the GOI seem alike in their in misconstruing the right to self-defense.[vii]
Were Danes and others to be acquainted only with acts of armed rebellion and armed “self-defense” in India, the decision in the Salwa Judum case would seem surprising. It is worth, therefore, to look closer at how the Supreme Court of India arrived at its decision. The short answer is: By legal activism and the scholarly deployment of social science. For a start, in section 2, the court says:
2. As we heard the instant matters before us, we could not but help be reminded of the novella, “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad, who perceived darkness at three levels: (1) the darkness of the forest, representing a struggle for life and the sublime; (ii) the darkness of colonial expansion for resources; and finally (iii) the darkness, represented by inhumanity and evil, to which individual human beings are capable of descending, when supreme and unaccounted force is vested, rationalized by a warped world view that parades itself as pragmatic and inevitable, in each individual level of command.
The verdict goes on to deride the “development paradigm unleashed by the State”, arguing that:
“The root cause of the problem, and hence its solution, lies elsewhere. The culture of unrestrained selfishness and greed spawned by modern neo-liberal economic ideology, and the false promises of ever increasing spirals of consumption leading to economic growth that will lift everyone, under-gird this socially, politically and economically unsustainable set of circumstances in vast tracts of India in general, and Chhattisgarh in particular.“
Touching on the “resource curse” and “developmental terrorism’, the Supreme Court verdict posits that:
“Policies of rapid exploitation of resources by the private sector, without credible commitments to equitable distribution of benefits and costs, and environmental sustainability, are necessarily violative of principles that are “fundamental to governance”, and when such a violation occurs on a large scale, they necessarily also eviscerate the promise of equality before law, and equal protection of the laws, promised by Article 14, and the dignity of life assured by Article 21.”
The verdict muses that:
“Tax breaks for the rich, and guns for the youngsters amongst poor, so that they keep fighting amongst themselves, seems to be the new mantra from the mandarins of security and high economic policy of the State. This, apparently, is to be the grand vision for the development of a nation that has constituted itself as a sovereign, secular, socialist and democratic republic”
Before finally ordering that:
“(i) The State of Chattisgarh immediately cease and desist from using SPOs in any manner or form in any activities, directly or indirectly, aimed at controlling, countering, mitigating or otherwise eliminating Maoist/Naxalite activities in the State of Chattisgarh;”
… and that:
(v) The State of Chattisgarh shall take all appropriate measures to prevent the operation of any group, including but not limited to Salwa Judum and Koya Commandos, that in any manner or form seek to take law into private hands, act unconstitutionally or otherwise violate the human rights of any person…..”
The Supreme Court’s verdict has been received very positively by some commentators. Liang (2011) writes that
“This judgment attains such greatness by virtue of its deft combination of insightful legal analysis, the articulation of a moral vision of constitutionalism and development and its sharp invocation of rhetoric (in the best sense of the term) and fiction to buttress its arguments” (Liang 2011).
In his write-up about the case, Venkatesan (2011: 46) makes reference to the 22 initial paragraphs of the judgment, which, as is evident from the above, are critiques of the “the neoliberal development paradigm and the resultant privatisation and globalisation” rather than typical legal arguments. The reason behind all of this is that the Indian Supreme Court since the 1970s has often been an activist court, which basically means a court “at war” with the way the legal system and the state normally works. Legal activism has been an emergency answer, or safety-valve, to the inordinate delays and the miscarriage of justice that are endemic to the courts. By taking up cases at the behest of concerned individuals without locus standi, the Supreme Court (and to some extent the state High Courts) have been able to re-interpret the fundamental civil and political rights and the directive principles in the Constitution. This means that Indian law is internally compromised and that it may externally compromise the state as it did in the Salwa Judum case. Since the invention of PIL in the 1970´s, Indians have been able at once to decry the Indian Penal Code and other laws as “colonial” while lionizing and exploiting Article 21 (guaranteeing the broadly interpreted “Right to Life”) and Article 14 (guaranteeing ”equality”) of the Constitution to secure a series of landmark judgement.[viii] Often this has been affected by applying justiciable political rights to social and economic issues where the non-justiciable Directive Principles exercise less clout. As Shankar notes (2009: xiv-xix), these legal innovations (bordering on judicial populism) took place in the aftermath of the Emergency which had undermined the Constitution. The courts tried to make up for its mistakes.
The number of PIL-cases has declined since the 1970. In 2008, PIL-cases only constituted around 2% of the cases seeking a Supreme Court hearing and very few of them were eventually admitted. Moreover, many PIL-cases are now entertained by the rich and powerful. Nevertheless, as the Salwa Judum case shows, the Supreme Court may still act as a forceful corrective to the executive akin to the courageous verdicts passed by the President of the Israel Supreme Court Aharon Barak.[ix] On this background it is understandable that the GOI, and Indians at large, may expect the Danish courts to take on a similar trailblazing role, but the Danish courts do not take that bait because they aim to maintain coherence in the face of contestation. A Danish court may be flexible, but the activism that has taken roots in India using PIL as an unorthodox quasi-political tool to intervene as a “last resort for the oppressed and bewildered” (Robinson 2010) has no counterpart in Denmark. In Denmark there is a strong Ombudsmand’s institution, but, so far, there is no PIL and no Anna Hazare short-circuiting the law and the legal process. The Ombudsmand’s institution takes up around 50 cases in its annual reports which the executive often consider as guidelines. It is rare, however, that ministers are impeached or civil servants tried (Elbæk-Jørgensen 2001: 223). The Danish political system may on occasion bend over backwards as it did in order to promise Holck’s extradition, but Danish courts remain careful. They see themselves neither as protagonists of the civil society, nor as tools of the state.
In the Niels Holck case, the prosecutors limited the scope of their arguments to the central issues: Could Niels Holck be extradited or not? Noting that Danish law now opens for extradition to any country in the world and showing that both governments had proceeded correctly in entering into a diplomatic agreement, the prosecution largely left it at that. When the prosecution lost twice because the courts held that it could not be ruled out that Holck would be submitted to torture or mistreatment in Indian jails, the state chose not to appeal. In India, appeals all the way to the Supreme Court are common. In 2008, there was a 2.5 per cent likelihood that a case would be appealed from High Court to Supreme Court. In cases originating in Delhi the likelihood rose to 10 per cent (Robinson 2010). The official India might have felt disappointed by the non-activist manner in which the Danish prosecution argued the case, but it certainly felt disappointed about the decision not to appeal. Indians in Denmark expressed such opinions (Copenhagen Post Online 2011). Some held that the Danish decision not to extradite Hock was a result of a colonial superiority complex. Basing her interpretation on readers’ comments on the Blogosphere rather than on the court case at hand, which she considers less interesting, Kaur argued that while the official Danish policy of opening up for extradition correctly reflected the new reality of India’s increased economic and political power, the Danish public stayed mired in old prejudices viewing India as a pre-modern and uncivilized country to which Danish citizens should not be extradited (Kaur 2011). In contrast, a number of Danes to whom I have spoken consider it right that Hock is made to face justice in India not in order to atone for colonial misdeeds, nor in order to kowtow to the rising superpower, but because of the crime he had apparently committed. The irony is that it is the law (and not money or political influence) which stands in the way of extradition.
After a period of silence, the GOI in August 2011 announced it would freeze relations to Denmark as a (collective) punishment for its failure to extradite Holck. The Danish government did not announce any counter-measure but expressed its regret while it contemplated seeking the assistance of the EU (Bostrup 2011). The situation was reminiscent of the Muhammad cartoon crisis where Third World powers also felt slighted and put pressure on the Danish government to “do more”. In both cases the Danish government responded that court decisions – whether about cartoons or extradition – should be respected. The basic difference seems to be that among “argumentative Indians” contestation is God: Legal decisions are not necessarily reached by reference to the law in a narrow technical sense but by allowing a plurality of elite and subaltern interests to be presented and a compromise worked out within an expanded constitutional framework. Legal pluralism allows for such contestation while legal monism seeks closure by applying Occam’s razor.[x]
In India over 50,000 people were detained under TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act) over a period of ten years. Less than one percent of them were convicted (Shankar 2009: xxi). Doing more may not always be very efficient from a legal point of view.
RE-FRAMING THE ISSUE, SHARPENING ARGUMENTS AND COUNTER-ARGUMENTS
How could the prosecution conceivably have turned the case to his or her advantage? For a start the prosecutor could have painted a more detailed picture of the Ananda Marga which would have challenged the image Holck and the defense counsel painted of a development organization building schools and hospitals. What is the Ananda Marga? Based on an article by Helen Crovetto (Crovetto 2008), I have offered a short answer to this question in an earlier NIAS blog (Madsen 2010).
Had the prosecution paused to paint a detailed picture of the Ananda Marga it might have re-framed the issue from one relating to the legality of extradition versus the protection of individual human rights to an issue of the duty of one democratic state not to assist, actively or passively, any of its citizens to foster violence in another democratic state versus the protection of individual human rights. This would have addressed the question that many Danes have raised: “What if Indians dropped weapons over Copenhagen? Would Denmark not demand that such arms-droppers be extradited?” (Information 2007; see also Kyrø 2011, Hansen 2008), and it might have enabled the court to reach another verdict.
To illuminate the context, the prosecution could have reiterated that India has repeatedly sought the extradition of various people without success. India wanted LTTE-supremo Prabhakaran for the murder of Rajiv Gandhi, but did not get him. India wants Warren Anderson, the ex-CEO of Union Carbide headquartered in the USA, to face trial in the Bhopal Gas Leaks Case (Expressindia 2010, Misra 2011, and Zeenews 2011). Well-known writer and journalist MJ Akbar feels that Anderson showed contempt for the Indian legal system when he left India (or absconded) in 1984 (Akbar 2010). India also demands the extradition of about a dozen people hiding in Pakistan ranging from Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar for his alleged involvement in the Bombay Blasts in March 1992 to the Lashkar-e-Toiba and ISI operatives behind the attack on Mumbai in November 2008.[xi] The fact that India wants for the extradition of several others apart from Holck increases the likelihood that India would treat Hock according the agreement reached with Denmark in order to facilitate the extradition of other, and more wanted, persons, the prosecution could have argued. From the Indian point of view, the failure to hand over Niels Holck is one more example of other countries obstructing the process of bringing criminals to justice. The decision hurt Indian pride at a time when India has made a number of sweet deals in (including the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement) in the diplomatic field. With Indian pride growing, the setback in the legal sphere caused official rancor.
In return, the defense counsel could have mustered a list of Indians living in India and hiding from prosecution elsewhere. For example, he could have cited the case of confidence trickster and serial killer Charles Sobhraj who took shelter for decades in Indian jails (sic!) to avoid prosecution in Thailand (Wikipedia). Or he could have pointed to the case of Haji Mohammed Yaqoob, Minister for Haj and Minority Welfare in the state of Uttar Pradesh who in 2006 promised Rs 51 crore and the equivalent in gold of the weight of anyone who would chop off the head of Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard (Dougal 2006). Indian authorities apparently have not taken the initiative to prosecute this honorable MLA.
Apart from the above possibilities to reframe the issue the prosecutor could have pursued obvious mistakes on the defense side. For example, Niels Holck claimed that he did not know the true size of the consignment until the crates containing the weapons were reloaded in Varanasi airport. But then he felt helpless to do anything about it because, as he explained in High Court, the temperature was 55 degrees centigrade. Here the prosecution could have informed the court that in Varanasi the average maximum temperature for the month of December when the airdrop took place is less than 25 degree Celsius and the average minimum temperature about 10 degrees Celsius. The temperature, in other words, is likely to have been quite pleasant. Similarly, the prosecution could have faulted the defense lawyer for arguing that it would take 19 hours to drive the approximately 1,400 km from Delhi to Calcutta according to Google map by informing the court that the Danish embassy staff would most likely take a plane to Calcutta. More seriously, the prosecution could have nullified a string of key arguments the defense counsel made in the Lower Court and to a lesser extent in the High Court to the effect that prison conditions and police and army brutality was a particular problem in West Bengal. Several of the sources (International Red Cross, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch) which the defense counsel cited to build this argument referred to North-East India and not to West Bengal. In effect, the court was led up the garden path when the defense counsel wrongly placed West Bengal in North-East India. Further, the prosecution could have argued that it is never possible to guarantee that Holck, or anyone else, would not suffer death in an Indian prison. The prison population of India was about 332,112 (BBC News no date). The total number of prisoners who died in 2006 was reported to be 1,424 (Udskrift af Østre Landsrets Dombog, p. 10) amounting to 0.43%. In Denmark in 2009 the total prison population was 9,732 of who six died and six committed suicide (Kriminalforsorgen 2009, table 9.2). This amounts to 0.12%. There is a clear difference between India and Denmark but it is not as vast as the defense counsel (and Peter Bleach) indicated.
In return the defense counsel could have argued that the case against Hock could drag on for much longer than visualized in the diplomatic agreement between the two countries. The public prosecutor in the lower court held up the promise that Holck could be back in Denmark in three weeks provided he pleaded guilty, but the diplomatic agreement specified that Holck would not be tried in a Special Court. This means that the case would be initiated in a court of first instance, in casu the Calcutta Chief Metropolitan Court, from where appeals and interventions may be made (by either party or by third parties) to High Court, the Supreme Court and finally as a mercy petition to the President. Mercy petitions with the Indian President regularly take many years to decide.[xii] In effect, the case could plausibly drag on for years.
Even so the prosecution could insist that the issue is properly one of how democracies should relate to each other in the long run in a globalizing world. Political science claims that democracies do not wage war against each other. How could a Dane be allowed to do so with impunity? Denmark, as the prosecution did say in the Lower Court, should not become a safe haven (“et helle”) for terrorists. As the Security Council resolution 1373 states:
By other terms, the Council decided that all States should prevent those who finance, plan, facilitate or commit terrorist acts from using their respective territories for those purposes against other countries and their citizens. States should also ensure that anyone who has participated in the financing, planning, preparation or perpetration of terrorist acts or in supporting terrorist acts is brought to justice. They should also ensure that terrorist acts are established as serious criminal offences in domestic laws and regulations and that the seriousness of such acts is duly reflected in sentences served (Security Council 2001).
As noted by Sasikumar who traces the India route from “sponsor state” to “victim state”:
“This resolution has become the rallying point for ‘victim states’ like India. Indian leaders draw attention to the fact that it proscribes all forms of support to terrorists” (Sasikumar 2010: 620).
International cooperation is based both on law and on trust. India bent over backwards, exhibiting its soft underbelly in the process, to accord Denmark exceptionally broad guarantees in order to capitalize on the new situation arising after September 11, 2001. However, Holck still evaded them because the Danish courts did not want to extradite a citizen to an uncertain fate outside its civilisational orbit. As the defense counsel noted at the end of the High Court case: “This is a difficult case. It is the first time that a Dane risks being extradited outside the West European cultural area” (“Dette er en vanskelig sag. Det er første gang en dansker i givet fald skal sendes uden for vor vesteuropæiske kulturkreds”). Prominent defense lawyers, such as Trier, tend to plead for the rights of refugees to stay in Denmark. Drawing on international human rights law, they seem correspondingly eager to protect clients from extradition. On the prosecution side, feeble attempts to reframe the issue with reference to international law, the common fight against terror and the importance of supporting an ordered process of globalization turned out fruitless as the bench kept its focus on the protection of individual human rights.
Holck’s argument about the right to self-defense against communist misrule – setting aside the state monopoly of violence – was left hanging in the air. Perhaps the prosecution should have shot it down as it was shot down in the Salwa Judum case. The argument that a person, or a people, have a right to self-defense may have merit, but often is does not. In July 2011 Anders Behring Breivik committed a gruesome act of terror in Norway. Like Holck, he claimed to be fighting communism. Like Holck, the ideology of this “Angry Norwegian” was framed as a form of self-defense directed, in his case, against Islamic incursion into Norway abetted by the treason of crypto-communist multiculturalists paying no heed to the right to national self-determination. Breivik is likely to receive a hard punishment. It was India’s bad record which has prevented Holck from being sentenced. In that sense India has itself to thank for its defeat.
Interestingly, the Calcutta High Court has subsequently upbraided the Indian government for not ratifying the Convention against Torture: Acting on a petition the High Court directed the GOI to ensure that India would ratify the Convention against Torture because, “If the U.N. Convention against Torture had been ratified in Parliament, it might have been possible to ensure the extradition of Kim Davy” (The Hindu 2011).
This may be a vain hope, however. As has been argued by Asian Human Rights Commission, what counts is not only the signing of conventions, but reforming the police force which are charged with doing an impossible job:
“In most cases the officers are expected to discharge a job that no one in the world could ever do. For instance, what could a police officer responsible for traffic control do if the roads are filled with persons driving vehicles who obtained their licences by merely paying bribes?; what could a traffic police officer do if the junction at which the officer is posted has no traffic lights and the road conditions are terrible due to corruption in road construction?; how can a police officer investigate a crime other than by torturing a suspect and obtaining a confession when the officer is not trained in scientific crime investigation?; what else could a police officer do other than demanding and accepting bribes when the officer is not provided a house in the city where the officer is posted and forced to rent a house that would almost cost half of the officer’s salary?; how can police stations function when the telephones and vehicles at the station do not work?; what morality will such a force have when they are expected to protect political masters who enjoy fruits of corruption?
Of equal importance is the role of the Indian civil society, including the country’s media, to keep a focus upon the conditions of the police and to hear their concerns. In that there is no sense for the civil society to push the government to ratify the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), which the government for understandable reasons is delaying to undertake. The ratification of CAT without having a comprehensive national policing policy to improve the state of policing makes no sense. In fact in the neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh, which have all ratified the CAT without a sensible policy to improve the state of policing in these jurisdictions are examples from which both the government, and the civil society in India can draw learning (Asian Human Rights Commission 2011).”
It seems that even if the prosecution had been more innovative, (s)he would have a hard time convincing the judge to allow Holck’s extradition.
Akbar, MJ, 2010,”Anderson laughed at Indian law and State”, Times of India, 20 June, http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/TheSiegeWithin/entry/anderson-laughed-at-indian-law
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Crovetto, Helen (2008)”Ananda Marga and the Use of Force”, Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, 12, 1: 26-56. Also published in Violence and New Religious Movements. Edited by James R. Lewis. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Dougal, Sundeep (2006) “Off With His Head!”, Outlook, February 20, http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?230294
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Guha, Ramachandra (2011) “After the Fall”, The Caravan, June 1, www.caravanmagazine.in/Story.aspx?Storyid=916&StoryStyle=FullStory
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Misra, Savvy Soumya, “CBI can seek Anderson’s extradition”, Down to Earth, April 30, 2011, www.downtoearth.org.in
Liang, Lawrence, 2011, “A beacon of light in the heart of darkness: SC holds Salwa Judum unconstitutional”, Kafila, July 6, http://kafila.org/2011/07/06/a-beacon-of-light-in-the-heart-of-darkness-sc-holds-salwa-juddam-unconstitutional/#more-8334
LOV nr 378, Lov om ændring af straffeloven, retsplejeloven, lov om konkurrence- og forbrugerforhold på telemarkedet, våbenloven, udleveringsloven samt lov om udlevering af lovovertrædere til Finland, Island, Norge og Sverige (Gennemførelse af FN-konventionen til bekæmpelse af finansiering af terrorisme, gennemførelse af FN s Sikkerhedsråds resolution nr. 1373 (2001) samt øvrige initiativer til bekæmpelse af terrorisme m.v.), www.retsinformation.dk/forms/r0710.aspx?id=1344
Madsen, Stig Toft (2010) “The Path of Bliss”, Focus Blog, NIAS, https://infocus.asiaportal.info/2010/04/29/the-path-of-bliss/
Madsen, Stig Toft (1996) State, Society and Human Rights in South Asia, New Delhi: Manohar.
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PRS Research (2010) “The Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010”, http://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/the-prevention-of-torture-bill-2010-1129/
Rediff.com, 2000, “Fernandes’s flirtation with LTE is ominous for Sri Lanka”, December 7, http://www.rediff.com/news/2000/dec/07spec.htm
Robinson, Nick (2010) “The Judiciary: Hard to reach”, Frontline 27: 3, January 30, http://flonnet.com/fl2703/stories/20100212270304600.htm
Roy, Biren (1996) ”Archana Guha’s Fight for Justice”, Economic and Political Weekly XXXI, 31: 2069, , August 3.
Sasikumar, Karthika (2010) “State Agency in the time of the global war on terror: India and the counter-terrorism regime”, Review of International Studies 36: 615-38.
Scarborough Evening News, “Scarborough’s Peter Bleach tells us his story”, August 31, 2011, http://www.scarborougheveningnews.co.uk/community/local-focus/scarborough_s_peter_bleach_tells_us_his_story_1_3501499
SECURITY COUNCIL, ANTI-TERRORISM RESOLUTION; Resolution 1373, Dated 28/09/2001, see e.g. http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/3c4e94552a.html
Shankar, Shylashri (2009) Scaling Justice. India’s Supreme Court, Anti-Terror Law, and Social Rights, New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Singh, Prabhakar (2010) “Indian International Law: From a Colonized Apologist to a Subaltern Protagonist”, Leiden Journal of International Law 23: 79-103
Supreme Court of India, Nandini Sundar and others (petitioners) vs State of Chhattishgarh (respondents), ITEM NO.44 COURT NO.9 SECTION PIL, WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO(s). 250 OF 2007, http://supremecourtofindia.nic.in/outtoday/wc25007.pdf
The Hindu (2011) “Kim Davy extradition: time sought to file affidavits”, The Hindu, http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2453673.ece
The Independent (2000), “Mission Improbable”, February 1, www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/mission-improbable-726033.html
Wikipedia “Charles Sobhraj”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Sobhraj
Udskrift af Østre Landsrets Dombog, Kendelse, Afsagt den 30. Juni 2011 af Østre Landsrets 11. Afdeling, kære nr. S-3321-10, pp. 18.
Venkatesan, V (2011) “A proven case”, Frontline, August 12, pp. 43-46.
Walzer, Michael, (1977) Just and Unjust Wars …
Wikipedia, “George Fernandes”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Fernandes#cite_note-66
Wikipedia, Simon Mann, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Mann.
www.parliament.uk, 27 Nov 2002: Column 114WH-121WH, Mr. Peter Bleach.
Zeenews, 2011, “Why was Anderson not questioned, CIC asks CBI”, June 20, http://zeenews.india.com/news/nation/why-was-anderson-not-questioned-cic-asks-cbi_714072.html
[i] To be added: India Today article from 1995.
[ii] I attended some of the court meetings in the lower court in Hillerød and some of the meetings in the High Court in Copenhagen and I also monitored press coverage of the case to some extent.
[iii] The MI5 and the MI6 may have worked at cross-purpose in dealing with Holck. I hope to be able to add details later. See also Kyrø (2010).
[iv] Holck and Bleach both had previous experience from Africa and the Purulia Arms drop bears resemblance to African cases, in particular to the failed attempt in 2004 of British mercenary Simon Francis Mann to overthrow the President of Equatorial Guinea with the help of a group of mercenaries in order to install another President to gain access to the country’s oil wealth (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Mann).
[v] On Fernandes, see Asian Age 1999, Gokhale 1999, Rediff.com 2000, and Wikipedia. The Sri Lankan Tamil groups, including the Tamil Tigers, also received weapons and training from the Indian army in the early 1980s (Madsen 1996: 176). Later the Indian air-force airdropped food as humanitarian relief for the beleaguered Tamils in Jaffna. Sri Lanka vociferously protested this blatant violation of Sri Lankan airspace but in this case India chose to help the Tamils rather than abiding to the principle of national sovereignty.
[vi] See India Today (1996) for an overview of weapon routes in India.
[vii] Other relevant legal case from Denmark would include the Danish resistance groups to whom the British air force dropped weapons during WWII. In the legal aftermath to the war, these resistance fighters were found non-culpable. The Danish police, who were charged with stopping them, were also found non-culpable (oral communication, Mads S Jakobsen). Contemporary cases of ostensibly legal self-defense include the authorization given to the CIA to kill US-born Anwar al-Awlaqi. He was killed in a drone strike in Yemen in September 2011. For an extended analysis of the right to intervene in other countries, see Walzer 1977, chapter 6.
[viii] A similar schism between Indian laws and British values were used by lawyers and politicians during the independence movement to dislodge the British.
[ix] Another comparison has been made between Justice Krishna Iyer and Tom Bingham, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales (Raghavan 2010).
[x] See Singh (2010) for a glib attempt to deploy social science, in casu subaltern studies, to modern international law. For a recent study on mining politics, see Oskarsson (2010) who is puzzled by the fact that “Some fundamental rights have become established to the point where it is very difficult to change them, and land for tribal people seems to be one such right” (Oskarssson 2010: 239). The reason, again, is legal and political activism.
[xi] See the Interpol notice for Dawood Ibrahim at www.interpol.int/public/Data/NoticesUN/Notices/Data/1993/93/1993_14193.asp.
[xii] The appeal procedure was moot point in the court proceedings. I am referring here to a brief conversation I had with Ijaz Khan, the Indian CBI official present. The position also emerges from the High Court verdict, page 4.
Not so long ago I was making a journey from Copenhagen to Bangalore, in India. I boarded a fully booked flight which I promised myself never to take again. No sooner I had landed in Delhi, and preceded to immigration control I noticed that I had started up a conversation while in line with a gentleman who was an electric technician from Europe. He told me that he was here in India to work with some software engineers on a product that they were developing for internet subscription via the power grid for Europe. I was fascinated on two accounts, first, I wondered what on earth is an electrical engineer working with software developers; the second reason was more bizarre as far as I was concerned. He indicated that the project he was working on was being designed aimed at delivering medical services through electrical power grid to rural communities. He indicated that it was an experimental project. He further launched into a detailed explanation, which I pretended to listen, for the fear of being branded rude, but after a ten hour journey I was in no position to exercise my faculties in comprehending his chatter…
One Year later…
No, I am from Brazil and I am in India for a project said a Mr, Zulcar after introducing himself during a flight from Delhi to Bangalore, a year after the first encounter. He told me that he was a doctor and was going to meet a software developer engaged in logistics. I was puzzled and recalled my experience from a year ago and asked myself to what was going on? There is something interesting taking place which I am yet to understand, I figured. During this period I was deeply engaged in a EU funded project of which I was a project manager and lead scientist.
When I started looking at the data I had collected over two and a half years in India, it soon donned on me to why I did not see what was obvious to the business men I met during my travels. They were all here to work with Indian companies who did not work in the domain they had special knowledge, why should they travel half the world across to work with firms that are in different domains? Why can’t they work across domains in the country of their origin? An answer to this question I am yet to discover. But I am rather confident of the answer to the first question, What was different in what they were doing now as opposed to earlier?
In my opinion the representatives are front runners of what I call the co-creation of innovation, which has not yet caught on in Northern Europe. I call this the fourth wave of interactive globalization, The first phase was the Y2K, where the interaction was specific and problems narrowly defined. The second, the body shopping phase, where the Indian companies sent out software engineers at a very low cost. The third phase was the outsourcing, instead of the bodies travelling, the contracts travelled to India instead. And now we are in the fourth phase, This phase is the co-creation phase, characterized as a process of interaction between ideas, opportunities and aspirations of market actors in an interactive re-invention mode, where the technology is reshaped, applications re-contextualised, services re-formulated and business model redesigned to ensure local uptake of the enterprise, leading to sustainable business venture.
The most interesting outcome of co-creation is that there appears to be a gain for all players because they end up creating either a new product or a new market. The new market or product consists of parts of all partners’ domains but is not dominated by one single domain knowledge. This is what the two people i met in my flights in India were up to, they were engaging in the process of co-creation with a host of Indian and western partners to develop something different that would create a new market place.
While this reflection is interesting, it brings into focus many more question than answers, for instance how is co-creation different from collaboration and outsourcing? What are the dynamics that enables co-creation and what are the best practices that firms can identify for working with co-creation, on the research angle what specific features and business models can co-creation bring to the table that has not yet been identified before during interactive globalisation. Currently these are the questions i am puzzling over and am trying to answer. If any of you have any ideas that could aid a better understanding of what you think co-creation is in practical terms and in research terms you all are welcome to join me in a research scholarship designed to discover, expand and explore the dynamics of co-creation of innovation. Particularly we need to be explaining why co-creation brings benefits to all firms that take part in it. Conceptually in a co-creation there should not be total winners and total losers. The results are more equitable and the drive more engaging. These ideas continue to consume me these days, In my next blog i will share with you one reflection I have been having on one aspect of co-creation which I call the notion of “generation”.
About the author
Dr Sudhanshu Rai was born in India in 1966. He has two Masters Degrees’, one in International Economics, Banking and Finance from The University of Wales and the other in Economics from the University of Copenhagen. He received his PhD from The Copenhagen Business School. During his PhD Sudhanshu was a visiting research fellow at the London School of Economics. Sudhanshu recently was the project manager and principle scientific investigator of the Euro-India team that successfully completed the Knowledge Mapping project, a first of its kind aimed at scientifically and systematically mapping ICT Innovation in India. Prior to initiating his academic career, He held responsible positions in large Indian firms, He was the director of system design at trust4health a health insurance company from 1999 to 2002, prior to which he was employed by Tata Economic Consultancy Services in New Delhi as Senior Economist with responsibility for IT valuation and IT infrastructural investments from 1997 to 1999. Earlier he served the government of Sikkim, Department of Tourism, in India as their economic advisor and was responsible for IT diffusion and strategy across the state. Sudhanshu works with New Institution theory, IT, culture and development. He has also worked in the past with knowledge sharing and transfer at an organizational level. He is currently engaged in research that explores virtual and networked teams from an institutional perspective, in addition to his long standing fascination with Indian logic and its potential for informing Information system design. Currently he holds a Post Doc position at the Department of Informatics and engaged in a funded research project on cultural usability involving India and China
By Stig Toft Madsen
Hard power – the power exercised by armed forced, by economic clout or, perhaps, through bureaucratic fiat – is no longer the preferred form of power. Supposedly soft power is smarter. Here is an example of how soft power is exercised in contemporary Copenhagen to win over the hearts and minds of the Copenhagen-wallahs.
For two consecutive days the Town Hall square of Copenhagen known as Rådhuspladsen served as the venue of South Asia related events, one Pakistani and one Indian. On July 3rd it was the Mango Festival. Following suit the next day it was the Festival of India.
The events took place on approximately the same spot in front of Rådhuset, i.e. the Town Hall. For both events a stage was erected directly in front of this building. On July 3rd, the stage served to exhibit the mangoes and as a henna application stall. On July 4th, a larger stage was used for a variety of performances. On July 3rd, pakora, samosa, mango and ice cream was served from a stall to the right. On July 4th, “spiritually enriched” vegetarian food was dished out from a stall to the left. On both days various merchandise was also sold. On July 4th, a fourth tent sheltered the more elaborate sound equipment used for the various “items” performed on stage, thereby creating an enclosure where rows of low benches offered the public a place to sit and watch.
The Pakistani events on July 3rd was inconspicuously billed. Though the Embassy of Pakistan had sent out invitations, it was PIA which had organized the event. Many Danes may not know that PIA stands for Pakistan International Airlines. They may therefore have had difficulty from visual cues to impute the purpose of the event, which was to promote tourism to Pakistan by associating Pakistan with the king of fruits in all their splendid varieties. For those approaching the stalls, the PIA supplied a folder inviting prospective tourists inter alia to go country skiing in Northern Areas, Chitral, Kaghan and Swat, or to embark on a Khyber Steam Safari by train from Peshawar to Landi Kotal. Considering that the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly discourages any unnecessary travel to Pakistan, the likelihood that the mangoes will work their wonder and make Danes tour Pakistan is minimal. Still, the event portrayed Pakistan as a destination like any other destination, and certainly not as a dangerous Taliban-infested place.
As far as I was able to ascertain, religious and political references were absent from the Pakistani event, except in the form of a collection box from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund requesting donations for the victims of terrorism. That was about as religious and political it got. The rest was mangoes (not like the ones in Mohammed Hanif ‘s novel A Case of Exploding Mangoes!) and Punjabi folk dance.
The Festival of India was different. It was neither an official event, nor an event sponsored by a business corporation. Instead it was arranged by the followers of AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The Festival of India was in reality a Hare Krishna event.
In addition to the physical structures already mentioned, the festival featured the full-fledged chariot of the Lord of the Universe, Jaganath.
The people gathered in Copenhagen were the “blessed ones who can get the darshan of the Lord here and now.” While the demons are on the increase in this world, the Gods fortunately become more active showing people the right way. In Poland alone 21 rath yatras have taken place in honour of the Lord, the spectators on Rådhuspladsen were informed.
Two Indian dancers from the Czech Republic performed Bharat Natyam in honour of Lord Krishna, while a couple from Moscow gave a stunning non-classical dance performance portraying the fatal attraction of a butterfly (or moth) to the God of Fire, Agni, a parable of the danger of desire. This was followed by a Magic Show by a ukulele playing Irish follower of Lord Krishna. His humorous show included a song directed against the biologist Richard Dawkins. Dawkins’ probabilistic message that “God probably does not exist” was debunked as a poor statement coming from a scientist. In effect, one of the main messages of the event was that the theory of evolution was wrong and that the magic of Lord Krishna was far greater.
Thus, the noteworthy difference between the Mango Festival and the Festival of India was the absence and presence of religious messages. No cry of Allah hu Abkar rent the air above Rådhuspladsen, while Lord Krishna was loudly and repeatedly evoked. Though the Hare Krishna movement in Denmark only counts some 200 regular followers and the number of Indians in Denmark is small compared to the number of Pakistanis, the Festival of India attracted more spectators. Indians and Danes, it would seem, are more susceptible to participate in religiously-moulded India-related festivals. Fewer Pakistanis and Danes are won over by mango power.
Compared to the simultaneously ongoing Roskilde Festival at some distance from Copenhagen, both events on the Town Hall square were small events. Though almost as dusty as a camel fair in Nagaur in Rajasthan, the huge four-days beer-soaked rock festival in Roskilde commanded umpteen times the soft power of net conversion than the decent family-friendly events in Copenhagen.
Knut A Jacobsen, ed., South Asian Religions on Display. Religious Processions in South Asia and in the Diaspora, Routledge, 2008.
Laura Elisabeth Schnabel, “Hare Krishna er næsten halveret”, Kristeligt Dagblad 4. Juli 2009, p. 1
The attack on Mumbai came after a series of terrorist acts in other Indian cities. Shortly after the attack, a hitherto unknown group, the Deccan Mujahidin, took the responsibility. Because the attack on Mumbai followed the attacks to which the similarly named Indian Mujahidin had owed responsibility, many commentators initially connected the two groups, tracing both of them to the better-known organisation called SIMI (The Students Islamic Movement of India).
With the discovery that the group had apparently reached Mumbai by sea and that they may have communicated in Punjabi (which is spoken by only a few Indian Muslims), the needle of suspicion started turning towards Pakistan. The lone surviving terrorist confirmed this track of thinking by apparently admitted that the whole team of gunmen had reached India from Karachi after receiving training by the Lashkar-e-Toiba. The Lashkar-e-Toiba has for many years been in the forefront of the jihad in Indian Kashmir. It is also suspected of having (or having had) strong links to the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI and to the al Qaida (Matzen 2008). Unlike the Taliban which thrives in Pashtun dominated areas, the Lashkar-e-Toiba has its headquarters close to Lahore in the Punjab.
Indian (and Russian) news media further submitted that Mumbai gangsters may have helped the team of attackers. Many of the gangsters in Mumbai have been smugglers with extensive contacts around the Arabian Sea (Sheth et al.1984, Sanghvi et al. 1984). This brought the name of Dawood Ibrahim back to the headlines. Dawood Ibrahim is strongly suspected of having organized the serial bomb attack in Bombay on March 12, 1993 and he is among the people that India demands that Pakistan extradite.
The locations of the explosions in 1993 in chronological order were:
Bombay Stock Exchange
Narsi Natha Street
A petrol pump near the Shiv Sena headquarter in Dadar
Gopal Nagar Worli, near the passport office
Air India’s building at Nariman Point
Zaveri Bazar outside a well-known jeweller’s
Plaza Cinema, Dadar
Sea Rock Hotel
Centaur Hotel, near Santa Cruz airport
Centaur Hotel, Juhu,
and Machchimar Colony, Mahim (hand grenades)
These serial bombings were described as “The World’s Worst” by the Frontline magazine (Ramachandran 1993). Therefore, the present attack on Mumbai has awakened a range of memories in both the public mind and in the official mind in India.
This has lead Indians to speak of “India’s 9/11”.
The attack on the USA on September 11, 2001 was the first of its kind on US soil since Pearl Harbour. The attack on Mumbai on November 26 was not the first on its soil. In terms of causalities, the Bombay blasts in 1993 caused more fatalities. However, the notion of “India’s 9/11” does make sense for at least three reasons.
The attack on the USA on September 11, 2001 made the USA confront Pakistan, which for years had supported the Taliban regime that gave shelter to al Qaida in Afghanistan. The day after the attack, the ISI chief (who happened to be in Washington DC) was called to a meeting, where he faced Richard Armitage. Armitage demanded that Pakistan make its position on terror clear. Pakistan complied with USA’s demands and joined the war on terror. However, the Pakistani interpretation of what that meant focussed on al Qaida. The Taliban was not subjected to an all-out assault by the Pakistani military, and as regards the many jihadist groups found practically all over Pakistan, Pakistan did even less to curtail their activities. Nevertheless, Pakistan did scale down its subversive activities on its eastern sector, and from late 2002 onwards the relations between India and Pakistan markedly improved. The Pakistani election in 2008 promised further improvement. It is this improvement, which “India’s 9/11” may now jeopardize. Just as the USA talked tough to then ISI chief, India apparently was about to do the same to the current ISI chief until his visit to India was called off. Just as USA went on the offensive, Indian politicians came under pressure to act tough. Citing the US aerial attacks in the tribal areas of Pakistan, some Indians even demanded that India attack Lashkar-e-Toiba camps or other goals inside Pakistan. Despite the heightened tension between the two countries, their leaders have eschewed jingoism to a surprising extent. If the intention of the Lashkar-e-Toiba was to engender a war between India and Pakistan in order to give the Taliban and al Qaida a breather on the western front, the Lashkar has failed (Deadline 2008; see also Ghosh 2008 and Rashid 2008).
The phrase “India’s 9/11” also makes sense in an entirely different way. The attack on the World Trade Centre hit many people hard because it took place on an iconic building in a metropolitan city killing and wounding people of diverse backgrounds, including the wealthy. Similarly, the attack in Mumbai hit iconic buildings in a metropolitan city killing and wounding people of diverse backgrounds, including the wealthy.
In Mumbai, the attack hit ordinary people at the main railway station (Victoria or Chhatapati Shivaji Terminus) journeying locally, along the Konkani coast, or into the Deccan. A Jewish institution was singled out for murder and mayhem. Further, the attack was aimed at hotels and restaurants at Nariman Point and Colaba. Hotels and restaurants may attract the attention of terrorists, because the many unsuspecting people gathering there are easy targets. Moreover, at both the Taj, the Oberoi and in Café Leopold many guests were likely to be non-Indians.
Apart from offering potential high-value foreign victims, some buildings in themselves may attract terrorists. The pictures of the Taj at fire will stick in the minds of many people across the globe. The Taj is an institution closely connected with Bombay’s history over the past one hundred years. Built by Jamsethji Tata, the hotel is now owned by Ratan Tata. The Tatas are Parsees from Iran, who made Bombay their home. As the article “The Taj and Swaraj” in its in-house magazine amply bears out, the hotel has hosted key events in Indian history right from its inauguration (Allen 1998). The staff at the Taj has included both Muslims and Hindus as senior managers. The family members of a senior manager residing at the hotel apparently lost their lives during the attack.
The Taj hotel is expensive, but its doors have generally been open for anyone not too scruffy. By contrast, the Oberoi chain has cultivated its own image of exclusivity a notch or two above the Taj chain (Sanghvi 2007). Riding on a bubble in the Indian economy, both have been able to charge more than comparable hotels in Shanghai or Bangkok (Henrik Lewis-Guttermann, pers. comm.). Clearly, both hotel chains belong to the “Upper Crust” (Anonymous 2005).
Close to the Taj, Café Leopold was also attacked. Though much cheaper than the Taj, their clientele may overlap. Writes Dipankar Gupta about the place:
“The terror is now over but will Colaba Causeway be the same again? Will Cafe Leopold still attract sailors from the docks, unhappy clerks and Konkani girls with flowers in their hair? …. Mumbai is cosmopolitan and modern in a way no other Indian city is. A liquor vend can be run respectably by a woman… When beer was quaffed secretly in Delhi, one could have it in the open in Mumbai. It was not necessary to go to a luxury hotel or doctor a health certificate to buy beer. It was always available in Mumbai’s signature “Irani” restaurants. Schoolboys, sporting a shadow on their upper lip, grew up fast in these unpretentious watering holes. Cafe Leopold was one of them…. “(Gupta 2008).
“Dining out in Bombay” (cf. Conlon 1998) has acquired a sad connotation, and liberal cosmopolitanism has suffered a blow similar to what happened in New York in 2001.
There is a third reason to consider the attack in Mumbai “India’s 9/11”. In USA repeated intelligence failures allowed the hijackers to succeed. As detailed by Lawrence Wright, the FBI and the CIA rarely exchanged information “over the wall” that divided the two agencies. In India, the incompetence characterizing the response of the Indian state was plain for all to see. According to Edward Luttwak, it took 90 minutes for the Chief Minister of Maharashtra Vilasrao Deshmukh to call the Home Minister Shivraj Patil:
“Because Patil had no information of his own – a very peculiar situation for an interior minister anywhere – he put the key question to Deshmukh: How many commandos of the National Security Guard were needed? Deshmukh replied 200…. Patil had no competent staff to intervene to determine the right number, which was at least 1,000” (Luttwak 2008).
With some difficulty a plane was found in Chandigarh to fly the commandos from New Delhi to Mumbai. The commandos reached the scene of the attack at 7 AM, 9 ½ hours after the first reports of the attacks. It took an assorted force of police and military personnel several more days to neutralize the ten attackers. The political fallout of the poor response forced both the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra to resign. In New Delhi, Patil also had to leave office. As in the United States of America, security failures have led the Government of India to initiate a reform process to improve performance. Time will show whether this will make a difference.
In conclusion: The attack on Mumbai does, indeed, bear comparison to the attack on the USA on September 11, 2001, but so far India’s response has not been proportionate to the attack it has suffered. Instead, it has been measured in accordance with India’s new role as a responsible super power, and muted in view of the danger that a confrontation with Pakistan may cause a full-scale conventional or nuclear war.
With thanks to Henrik Lewis-Guttermann for bringing a bundle of newspapers from India to Denmark.
Allen, Charles 1998 “The Taj and Swaraj”, The Taj Magazine 27, 1: 40-53.
Anonymous 2005 “”Married to the Taj”, Upper Crust 6, 4: 58-61.
Conlon, Frank F. 1995. “Dining Out in Bombay”, in Carol A. Breckenridge (ed.) Consuming Modernity: Public Culture in a South Asia World, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
”Terror i Indien et forsøg på at få Indien i krig med Pakistan”, DR 2, Deadline, December 14., 2008, 22:30, http://www.dr.dk/DR2/deadline2230/Deadlineindslag.htm
Ghosh, Amitav ”India’s 9/11? Not Exactly”, New York Times, December 2, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/03/opinion/03ghosh.html
Gupta, Dipankar “What We Have Lost”, The Times of India, New Delhi edition, December 1, 2008, p. 12.
Luttwak, Edward K “MIA in Mumbi. Indian officials, police and commandos must share the blame for mishandling the attacks”, Los Angeles Times, December 5, 2008, http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-luttwak5-2008dec05,0,7905913.story
Matzen, Jeppe “Islamister i fri dresser”, Weekendavisen, December 12, 2008, p. 10.
Ramachandran, VK “Blasts of Terror”, Frontline, April 9, 1993
Rashid, Ahmed “Are Mumbai attacks a chance of peace?”, BBC News, December 10, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7764475.stm
Sanghvi, Vir Men of Steel, Roli Books, 2007
Sanghvi, Vir, Shirin Mehta, Hutokshi Doctor, Amrita Shah and M Amin “The World of The Smugglers”, Imprint, April 1984, pp. 23-27.
Sheth, Ketaki, Shirin Mehta, Vir Sanghvi, and Hutokshi Doctor “Will The Real Haji Mastaan Please Stand Up”, Imprint, April 1984, pp. 16-22.
Wright, Lawrence The Looming Tower. Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (many editions and translations)
PHOTO: The author (second from right) with fellow travellers in Colaba, January/February 1970.
Revised and enlarged December 21, 2008