26/11: Move on and help Pakistan

Published: November 26, 2010

If one looks at the 26/11 in this light, Ajmal Kasab looks not like a terrorist but like a victim,

Time is a great healer and a great leveler- that’s what people say and believe. Is the passage of two years enough to heal the wounds of those who suffered an irreparable loss in the Mumbai terror attacks on November 26, 2008?

No, the loss of precious lives can never be compensated by the generosity and magnanimity of time. One has to accept the reality of loss, come to terms with the truth and move on. But have we started moving on? Are we allowing time to heal the wounded relations between India and Pakistan?

The Indian government’s rhetoric

On the eve of the second anniversary of the attacks, the Indian government urges Pakistan to “fulfill its obligation and commitment”, to bring the plotters to justice. This message is an indication that we are not willing to heal the wounds and look ahead in life. There is no doubt that those who conspired and executed such a heinous crime against humanity need to be punished. But by harping on the same theme again and again indicates a time warp, a mindset which does not want to look at the issue in perspective.

The 26/11 attacks are not just about the punishment of the perpetrators and nailing down of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT); they are about the perceived persistence of atrocities by the Indian government against Kashmiris, which many Pakistanis find unacceptable.

Culpability in the Gujrat riots: Does anyone remember?

There is also the question of lack of justice to those who suffered great loss in the Gujrat riots in 2002. Has the Indian government punished all those involved in the worst genocide in the country’s history after Independence? Narendra Modi, who is widely believed to have supervised and overseen the mass massacre of India’s largest minority in his own state, is now being projected as the “future Prime Minister of India” by the hardcore rightist Hindutva brigade, something which horrifies a large section of the Indian population.

What moral ground do we have to demand for the head of LeT chief, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, when we fail to bring to books those in our own country who have committed crimes against their own people.  Even after eight years, not a single person has been punished for the Gujrat pogrom.

Not only that, survivors live a life of persistent indignity as reports from various sources in Gujrat say that the government both directly and indirectly discriminates against its Muslim minority.

Don’t you think that calling for action against those involved in the 26/11 act is a bit misplaced and lacks moral conviction? If Narendra Modi and his cronies are surviving by manipulating the democratic mandate, so is Hafiz Saeed by manipulating Islamic ideologies and inbuilt contradictions in Pakistani society and politics.

The 26/11 attacks, therefore, are not about the punishment of one group, or a few individuals, or an agency. It is about justice – justice to those who have been victims of crimes perpetrated by the State or institution which acts as a state.

The effect of Kasab’s death sentence

If one looks at the 26/11 in this light, Ajmal Kasab looks not like a terrorist but like a victim – a victim of circumstances. An illiterate young mind coming from a poor background becomes easy prey for a fanatic group which uses the innocence of a poor man to execute a highly invidious and nefarious act. The perceived atrocities of fellow Muslims acted as an immediate spur for Kasab to join the gang of perpetrators.

Will the hanging of Kasab discourage the birth of future Kasabs? If this was possible, the various movements in different parts of the world would have died down long ago. Palestinians don’t get discouraged by the killings of their fellow countrymen by the Zionist forces. The war has gone on for more than 50 years and the might of the Israeli state has not been able to contain the spirit of the poor Palestinian people.

As long as the wrongs done to Palestinians by the Jewish are not rectified, people will continue to raise their voices.

Similarly, as long as the legitimate voice of Kashmiris is crushed by the might of the Indian state, and the minority harassed and denied justice by a secular country, there will be people in India and across the border who will get agitated and look for ways to settle scores.

This, however, does not allow Pakistan to give free reign to those elements who act inimical to the interests of India. These politics have lost their sheen now and the country understands the consequences of ignoring rabid fanatics. Today, Pakistan’s new generation wants to free itself from the old mindset and see their country emerge as a prosperous and democratic state.

India’s role in an emerging Pakistan

India can play a positive role in channelising this urge. It can be done by engaging its neighbour in constructive dialogue understanding its limitations and strengths. Merely harping on terrorism and cross-border infiltration is not going to serve the larger interest of these two countries and the whole of South Asia. India should understand that today, Pakistan is in deep trouble and is fighting hard to stave off different terrorist elements inside its territory.

As a larger neighbor, India should cooperate with Pakistan in rooting out nefarious elements from its land. A one-dimensional approach and the lack of long-term vision for a peaceful South Asia two hasn’t helped the neighbours in their growth. India’s ambition to emerge as a world power will succeed only when Pakistan stabilizes and it cooperates.

The media’s agenda

The media is not playing a constructive role in creating an atmosphere of trust and goodwill in the country. On the second anniversary of the 26/11, most of the Indian media is abuzz with rekindling the spirit of hatred towards its neighbour. At times,  the voice of the government and the voice of the so-called “independent media” look so similar that it makes one doubt the freedom of the media.

It seems those who are in a position to act are caught in a time warp. India and Pakistan should work on rebuilding confidence and this can be done when we understand the message of a changing time but, sadly, we seem to have become prisoners of the past. We need to move on.


Sanjay Kumar

The author is a New Delhi based journalist covering South Asian and international politics. He tweets as @destinydefier (twitter.com/destinydefier).

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.