Thursday, November 03, 2005

Nutcases Across the Border

Soon it’ll be a month since parts of our northern areas were completely devastated by the earthquake. Agonisingly we now watch the death toll heading towards the 100,000 mark. While we can verbally lambaste our military government for its overwhelming inadequacies, the picture emerging from certain sectors of the Indian populace can hardly be described as edifying either.

An activist Indian journalist J. Sri Raman

Like every humble scribe forced to speak up now and then against fascists, I am used to hate mail. But this was different. In my last article of October 13 on the earthquake and its aftermath in South Asia, I hardly mentioned my otherwise favorite subject of the subcontinent's far right. Even the title, "Disaster Finds India, Pakistan Divided Still," I thought, testified to an even-handedness.

The mere suggestion that India had not exactly rushed relief to Pakistan-administered Kashmir, which bore the brunt of the tragedy, however, sufficed to elicit a hate-dripping e-mail. At the end of a diatribe, the Indian reader declared: "Not a penny from my pocket for the terrorists."

I try to answer my critics, and have convinced some of them that talking peace is not necessarily traitorous. I tried telling the present reader that not all quake-hit Kashmiris could be "terrorists." My persuasive powers were no match to a provoked "patriotism" in this case. The next e-mail only asked me to go and settle in Muzaffarabad, capital of the Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. I politely informed the detractor that fascists here had not yet acquired the power to dispatch anyone to any place, and closedthe correspondence.

This, however, was not the only response of the kind to an appeal for a greater relief effort by India. And, more importantly, I was not the only one to receive a response of this kind.


For the sake of our millions of poor uneducated masses we can only hope that the fundamentalists on both sides of the border get a grip on their sanity. Let us forget this Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, etc. divide - when humans suffer such a profound tragedy it is time to focus on the issue of humanity instead.


Honest Desi said...

Onlooker is absolutely right.

South Asia must overcome its history of prejudice and bigotry. It is so unfortunate that even in a time of humanitarian disaster some people cannot stop looking at things in terms of religious and political divisions.

Nitin said...

Hi Onlooker,

I think you are making the mistake of assuming the views and opinions of J Sri Raman are somehow representative of Indian opinion. Hardcore righwingers will obviously write strongly worded emails to hardcore leftwingers (and vice versa) :-)

A cursory view of mainstream Indian media, as well as even centre-right Indian blogs reveals support for the view that India must assist the quake affected population as much as possible. It would have been impossible for the Indian government to make its offers of help if public opinion was not supportive of such a move.

In fact, it was Indian bloggers who set up the Earthquake relief blog and Blog Quake day to create awareness and help raise funds for the victims.

But Musharraf's gamesmanship and the upsurge in terrorist violence is not going unnoticed. That will cause a hardening of public opinion, especially if the involvement of Pakistan-based jihadis is established and Musharraf fails to go beyond lip service.

Onlooker said...


You mention Musharraf’s ‘gamesmanship’.

I wonder how much of his behaviour is really ‘gamesmanship’ and how much is simply due to the fact that he is (only) answerable to his constituency – the Pakistani Army.

Many analysts have commented on the inherent ‘tunnel vision’ of the Pakistani Army officer, who from the very day of his recruitment as subaltern is taught to regard India as the ‘eternal and treacherous enemy’ - the very idea that Indian army men (no matter how humanitarian their mission may be) venture forth unchallenged in Azad Kashmir would be an absolute anathema to his self-esteem.

So while thousands of Pakistani civilians may have suffered as a direct consequence of the shortage of helicopters in the early days of the tragedy, it was a price our Generals were prepared to pay so as to fulfil their job of protecting Pakistanis.

Isn’t there an irony of colossal proportions somewhere in all of this?