Bombay Attacked VI: Rant Edition

Aryn Baker, in one of the most egregious example of bad reporting/analysis/pull-it-outta-your-ass-telology, quotes some “mild-mannered scholar” who yearns for the return of the Mughal Empire. What the fuck is Institute of Policy Studies, Islamabad? How do you even find these numskulls? More importantly what is this Deobandi v Aligarh match that has been going on for the last 130 years – defying all other histories? Then there was someone named Reena Ninan waxing eloquently about “our 9/11” on FOX News. Which, to the anchor, meant only that India must now act like US did (given the usual suspects, so far):

1. Bomb Pakistan
2. Bomb Dubai
3. Bomb Somalia
4. Bomb England

Here is Dalrymple chiding the Indian government for “continu[ing] to make matters worse by its ill-treatment of the people of Kashmir, which has handed to the jihadis an entire generation of educated, angry middle-class Muslims.” Is that really so? Let’s assume that these perpetrators are angry about Kashmir. Lots are. Hundreds. Thousands. Hundreds of thousands, even. Maybe, they are all Muslims as well. Maybe, devout, even. And yet, the injustice of Kashmir over the last 60 years seems to have not turned the lot into kamikaze fire-spewing terrorists. Why is that? Are Indian Muslims willing to kill all other citizens of their own land, Muslims included, because of 60 year old grievance? And they chose now why? More consequently, how is the manufacturing of this particular dissent made possible in Pakistan? Dalrymple plays up the ISI but nary a word on the role which the conflict of Kashmir has played in the self-construction of the state of Pakistan? Is that impolitic? Will we be embarrassed to learn of the deeds of Zia ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf? Why is ISI some monolithic mind-controlling entity that has “imposed” Kashmir as an Issue? On Kashmir, he states blithely that “the state should logically have gone to Pakistan”. And what logic would that be? The logic of Partition?

Or you may prefer the Fareed Zakaria model, where Indian Muslims are waiting patiently to be infected by this virus which is the enemy of “modernity and democracy.” Are you kidding me?

Even the more benign defense against profiling Indian Muslims seems to irk me. Is the analogue between state-sponsored terrorism? Or a face-off of atrocities? What exactly is the goal, here? Justification?

Biju Mathew, at the very least, makes sense when he calls into question this well-rehearsed charade that we have been playing since 2001:

The official story that has already begun to emerge is one that may have some facts embedded in it. But we must remember that between every two facts is a lot of conjecture. The conjectures that unite the few facts (16 gunmen, AK47s, grenades, passports of multiple nationalities, boats on which at least some of them arrived, a dead Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) chief, Hemant Karkare, who was heading the investigation against the Hindu Right wings’ terror campaign, the gunmen trying to identify British and American citizens) makes the story. The story then is as much a product of the conjecture as it is of the facts. And there are certain stories that we are already oriented towards. The conjectures that create that story – the story we are already prepared for – is the one the State will dole out for our consumption. Already the conjectures that will serve the State, are out there in great profusion.

I remember December 2001 and the armies which stationed themselves along borders. In everything I have read, and heard, over the last few days, nothing gives me hope that we are not hurtling towards a repeat. And here we have distinguished commentary that refuses to abandon the script.

I keep seeing Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. [see.]

Bombay Attacked V: The Versace Edition

Rohit points to this absurd “Roots of Indian Muslim Rage” piece (Jets v Sharks!). Suketu Mehta has the “here is why they hate our freedoms” piece.

I am waiting to hear from our enlightened commentators about the Versace connection between Cunanan and the Bombay raiders. What is in that brand that drives young men to madness? Well?

I will put up something more helpful in the next few days – maybe a reading list on the “indian muslim thing”.

Things will be ok. I have to believe that. I have to hope. Now more than ever.

Bombay Attacked IV

The attack is over. And suddenly everything must now be questioned, say the punditry. CNN is trawling with idiotic “experts”. We are awash in insipid commentary, as well. The nearly two hundred dead, though, demand of us harsher questioning of the status quo.

Some more reading:

Saikat Datta in Outlook India:

By the middle of November, as Indian intelligence continued to check out further inputs, the pieces of an intricate jigsaw puzzle began to fall into place. Sources say they learnt that the attack would come from the sea and that the Taj Hotel would be a major target. However, it was not known whether this attack would be carried out by planting bombs in the hotel or by terrorists carrying small arms. Indian intelligence assessments were tilting towards bombs being planted and security at the hotel was beefed up accordingly to prevent terrorists from planting bombs inside the premises.

At AlterNet, Yoichi Shimatsu wonders if Ibrahim Dawood did it:

The eerie silence that accompanied the blasts are the very signature of Ibrahim Dawood, now a multi-millionaire owner of a construction company in Karachi, Pakistan. His is hardly a household name around the world like Osama bin Laden. Across South Asia, however, Dawood is held in awe and, in a twist on morals, admired for his belated conversion from crime boss to self-styled avenger.

Mohsin Hamid:

The alternative is to acknowledge that – like rivers, languages, and history – terrorism ties India and Pakistan together. India cannot prosper while Pakistan festers. Pakistan cannot progress while standing in the way of India’s ascent. Only by cooperating can both countries hope to achieve security and make dreams of prosperity come true for more than a small minority.

Sandip Roy:

Three days after the start of this awful siege, which has killed more than 150 and injured more than 300 people, I remember one of the first faces to emerge out of the horrifying scenes of burning hotels, sprawled bodies and uniformed police in Mumbai. “Is he one of the victims?” asked my roommate as we looked at the fuzzy image of a young man in a dark t-shirt, the word VERSACE written across it in white. My roommate obviously hadn’t noticed the assault rifle he was holding.

Washington Post:

Islamist extremists and their backers inside Pakistan do not want that; the attacks in Mumbai may well have been calculated to set off a new Indo-Pakistani crisis. India’s foreign minister said as much, pointing a finger of blame at Pakistan and telling its foreign minister, who was visiting New Delhi at the time of the attacks, that there could be no “leap” in relations unless Islamabad cracked down on the people responsible for the attacks. Pakistan responded constructively, agreeing to an Indian request that its military intelligence chief go to India to share what Islamabad knows about the origins of the attacks.

And finally, Rohit expresses many of my own misgivings on the response from the Left:

Ali parrots a well-worn Marxist line in his article. Aside from any number of grounds on which the vulgar Marxist reasoning that permeates the article (and any number of such articles on Counterpunch) can be questioned– such as simplistic assumptions about economic base and cultural superstructure— there is one major problem with this argument: it completely fails to explain why other disenfranchised groups or communities in India or elsewhere are not compelled by environmental or structural causes to act in the same way as those who committed the Bombay blasts.

Bombay Attacked III

Timeline to date.

From BBC:

The fidayeen technique – a rudimentary form of “shock and awe” warfare – was introduced into Kashmir by Pakistani radical organisations that entered the Kashmir insurgency from the mid-1990s onwards.

From Guardian:

Six young men with large bags came ashore, after which the two who remained in the boat started the outboard motor again and sped off,” said one witness. “They were fair, chikna [well-off] and looked around 20, 22, 25 years old. They said they were students. When we tried to find out what they were doing, they spoke very aggressively, and I got scared.”

From Guardian:

Other guests also praised the conduct of the hotel staff, one telling Reuters that kitchen workers even managed to continue preparing food for the first few hours of the siege.

“Only when the kitchens became out of bounds did they express regret for not being able to serve us food,” said a guest, who asked not to be named.

Amit Chaudhuri:

The politics of Bombay itself became intolerant in the past 25 years, but the city, discovering its true metier with liberalisation, became more heterogeneous and variegated than I can remember, partly because its old centres of wealth had to disperse and scatter from within, as property prices rose unthinkably and offices moved to the less salubrious suburbs. Similarly, the uncontainable, swelling traffic enforced the creation of new routes, flyovers through previously unvisited (for the middle class) areas, and random, swift, and intriguingly uneven, gentrification.

Maria Misra:

But despite the multi-religious and multi-ethnic origins of terrorist violence the Indian authorities have, until recently, tended to treat only Muslims as terrorists. So while Muslim “terrorists” have been subject to extraordinary laws of detention and trial in special courts, Hindu nationalist “rioters” have been tried in regular courts, or, more usually, not been punished at all.

One of the principal complaints of Indian Muslim groups is the failure to bring to trial any of the Hindu ringleaders responsible for pogroms in Bombay in 1993 and Gujarat in 2002 in which more than 4,000 Muslims died.

From Telegraph:

The men looked beyond the instant updates of the Indian media to find worldwide reaction to the events in Mumbai.

Their analysis of at least five BlackBerry mobile phones recovered suggested the terrorists had links to England.

“There was a lot of content from the English media, not just in London but the Urdu and Arabic sites that are very strong in the north of England,” the Commando leader said near the site of the city’s third siege at Nariman House. “We have some analysis started on this and we will pass it on to Scotland Yard, no doubt.”

Bombay Attacked II

The aftermath of the horrific attack seems to be overlapping the attack itself – it is not over. However, information is starting to trickle out in the usual manner. Pakistan, Pakistani-based, ISI, Kashmir-based, “home-grown” are some of the usual suspects before us. I heard/read Somali pirates somewhere which did give me some hope that our script is not as hackneyed as any old Bollywood issue. But no.

These following links are worth your read. Neha at Global Voices is really the place to follow the media coverage. If folks know of other sources, kindly add them in the comments. I will update this, as we go along.

My thoughts and prayers go to the victims.

Who are the Deccan Mujahideen? by Blake Hounshell.

Militant complains of India army abuses in Kashmir – note the reference to “Urdu with a Kashmiri accent”.

Sophisticated Attacks, but by Whom? has Chris Fair using some strong language:

“There are a lot of very, very angry Muslims in India,” Ms. Fair said. “The economic disparities are startling and India has been very slow to publicly embrace its rising Muslim problem. You cannot put lipstick on this pig. This is a major domestic political challenge for India.

“The public political face of India says, ‘Our Muslims have not been radicalized,’ she said. “But the Indian intelligence apparatus knows that’s not true. India’s Muslim communities are being sucked into the global landscape of Islamist jihad.”

“Indians will have a strong incentive to link this to Al Qaeda,” she said. “But this is a domestic issue. This is not India’s 9/11.”

Tariq Ali’s The Assault on Mumbai also points a finger towards India’s internal dichotomy.

In the crowded suburban trains, you can run up to the packed compartments and find many hands stretching out to grab you on board, unfolding outwards from the train like petals … And at the moment of contact, they do not know if the hand that is reaching for theirs belongs to a Hindu or Muslim or Christian or Brahmin or untouchable, or whether you were born in this city or arrived only this morning. All they know is that you’re trying to get to the city of gold, and that’s enough. Come on board, they say. We’ll adjust.” – Suketu Mehta, Maximum City [via Salil Tripathi’s Bombay Can Take It]

Future of the Textbook

WBA Bob Stein was kind enough to invite me to a conversation with the historians (Stephen Brier, Joshua Brown, Ellen Noonan, Penee Bender) who wrote and maintain Who Built America? Working People and the Nation’s History. The first edition of that text was accompanied by a CD-ROM which was designed by Bob Stein’s company (with the world’s first crossword, no less). That CD-ROM was built using Hypercard and Quicktime, and sadly is no-longer functional (at least the Hypercard bits but probably the QT codecs as well).

The question: How can we re-think that textbook, now in its third edition, along with its interactive/multimedia components, now?

More than anything, I was amazed by, and greatly admired, the intellectual honesty and willingness to re-think central assumptions at display in the meeting. The little bits and pieces of the oral history of the project that I picked up, made me realize how incredibly “safe” my generation of historians has become. These graduate students who wrote the first edition were also the editorial board of Radical History Review – intent on re-telling the history of America, from the perspective of the ordinary Americans. Their emphasis on multimedia was precisely to enable wider dissemination of history beyond the traditional classroom.

In a sense, the vision of teaching history through multimedia, to spread it outside of the classroom, is now a reality. The archives of Google, Flickr, Youtube are crammed with amazing historical artifacts. More importantly, a highly synthetic account of history (of whatever kind) exists within easy grasp at Wikipedia. Given this landscape, what next?

To really re-think the textbook, one has to be able to jettison the very model of a unitary text. The textbook should be constantly evolving, socially networked, modular entity that can easily transport across various media and delivery devices, from print to web to ipod/iphone etc. It should allow various points of entry, the ability to restructure one’s own narrative, to compile and comment modules as desired. In essence, it should be truly interactive.

My only contribution to the conversation was to insist that a XML encoded, micro-formatted and tagged base-structure will allow not only future-proofing the product but its ability to take on different forms. Along the same lines, is the imperative to stay away from other “closed” or “silo” systems of delivery. But what of the need to have the product look good? How does one provide a working structure that can handle everything from a scanned pdf to a youtube video? Consider that the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – one of the best examples of expertly produced on-line compendiums – is severely limited in its aesthetic appeal. Perhaps intentionally so.

This textbook has have visual appeal, it must render text in a clear and legible (and readable) format, and it has to incorporate digital, visual media seamlessly. The web, for all its wonder, is horribly unsuitable to delivering even “good looking” print. Hence, the need for controlled environments like the PDF or Flash or QuickTime etc. My suggestion would be to do both – have a nice looking text built in, say Sophie, but also a vanilla Media-wiki incarnation.

Easier said than done, of course.

The conversation spurred me to think back on the dream of having a South Asia Sourcebook – a collection of primary materials for teachers of South Asia. Now that I have more time (theoretically), I want to really focus on cranking it out.

I am eager to listen in, and watch, the conversations about WBH, as they develop. Hopefully, they will have me back.