Cover Story: India Fights Back

Trinidad and Tobago The Resilient Indian

India took a beating in September, but stood up, even if slowly, and tentatively. It is the spirit of Indian resilience that provides us inspiration

By Sayantan Chakravarty

It is an open war out there, and please do not underestimate the enemy. He’s shrewd, silent and savage. He stops at nothing, he’ll kill because he has an agenda to keep killing. India is his slaughterhouse. He is attacking India everywhere—in the marketplaces and streets of her bursting metros, in the dusty by-lanes of her paddy-growing hamlets. The enemy is not uneducated any more, he’s aware, read and financially not too bad. The scary part is that he can at times be terribly good looking too, like a hero about to fill up a silver screen, except that his romance with the world has gone horribly wrong. Besides, his little knowledge of human history has made him pretty dangerous. The enemy is winning the battle at the moment.

But India is resilient, and no doubt is ready to win the war.

Each time the enemy strikes her, pokes her eyes, bloodies her nostrils, bleeds her belly, India’s resolve to bounce back just gets stronger. The enemy creates gloom, but from India’s heart hope springs eternal. The blasts across India may have shattered window panes and ripped apart limbs, but they failed to dent her resolve. A day after multiple bombs went off in New Delhi, a shopkeeper was telling a television reporter that he’d never shut his shop out of fear. “The terrorists will think we are cowards, and that will give them victory. Won’t let that happen, business will go on…” 

Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago

A.P.J Abdul Kalam, Former President of India

"A nationwide campaign to combat terrorism is required"

L.K. Advani, Leader of Opposition in Parliament

"India needs zero tolerance against terrorism"

Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago

Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India

"We have to bring the perpetrators of terrorism to justice"

P. Chidambaram, Union Finance Minister

"Indian economy will remain resilient, no cause for alarm"

Business does go on, but India keeps paying a heavy price. Like constantly looking out for the invisible enemy, by suspecting patriotic innocents, by spending billions for equipment it really does not have to buy, by paying with lives that walk in uniforms. In September, India lost a brilliant counter-terrorism specialist who collapsed taking terrorist bullets in Delhi during a raid. A state funeral was no consolation really. Not for the force he belonged to, not for his family, not for the nation. India cannot afford to lose lives to the enemy. The time has come to hunt him down everywhere. Speed is of great essence. And the state must win.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, India’s former President, and arguably one of the country’s finest brains says there is just one way to resolve this issue. “Go on a nation wide campaign against terror.” Kalam has sent a proposal to the Government, asking that speedy trials should be carried out in all terror-related cases. He also speaks about forming a single intelligence agency dealing with terror—currently there are numerous turf wars between our premier agencies that gather intelligence, a dozen of them at the federal level itself.

India’s resilience needs to be backed up by action, not just words. The formation of a single intelligence agency has been a subject matter of discussion for years. It should have been in place years ago, just like a National Security Technology Research Centre. But the research centre, proposed to the Union Home Ministry by the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur three years ago, is still a distant dream. The proposed Rs 100-crore, five-year project is aimed at assisting the ministry to improve both intelligence and warning systems, step up security at borders, airports and ports, and help protect against biological and chemical weapons—items that can be lethal in the hands of India’s enemy No. 1, the terrorist. 

Terror is one of the enemies, albeit the most damaging, and one that thrives on abundant oxygen provided by the Media. Without doubt, terrorist attacks provide the greatest number of channels, the maximum number of hours with news that is forever breaking—breaking the hearts of millions, and breaking up the nation, bit by slow bit. But then there are other enemies that lurk.

Like the enemy that all through September tried to rip apart civil society in Orissa, Kerala and Karnataka by attacking minorities. This enemy refuses to accept the good work being done at the lowest ends of India’s economic spectrum. But India is resolute, and promises to fight this enemy too. Its spirit lies not so much in its political will, but in the hearts of the common man. Says Chittaranjan Sarangi, one of Orissa’s foremost social workers, “The problems in tribal areas can be handled by youth who are willing to work there, and advocate at the grassroots. Question is, is there a political will to support them?”

Yet, when India needs political will, it can be there. Faced with another crisis in September—the global financial turmoil—India’s Finance Minister P Chidambaram announced that the Indian economy was resilient enough to stave off any spillover. “There is no cause for any alarm as no Indian bank is exposed or is vulnerable like a couple of banks that have failed in the United States,” he said. His timely comments helped the sensex bounce back quite sharply from a 705 point plunge on September 19.

While’s India’s ability to show resolve is not in doubt, what is definitely in short supply is its ability to deliver firmly, and on time. While dealing with matters that concern the citizen’s fundamental right to life, steps need to be taken that are ruthless, and swift. The country needs to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk. Much blood has flowed already, and the enemy must not be allowed to taste more.

To save India, Kalam wants a nationwide campaign against terror, and more teeth to intelligence. But there are those who rely on Indian wisdom and want the route of peace. Like Santosh Verma, an overseas Indian from Diamond Bar California who feels that a substantially-funded global peace foundation that reaches out to India’s millions will help the country more than the billions of dollars that will go into fighting terrorism.

Peace and terror are not traditional allies. Yet, over the centuries, India has shown that peaceful methods have paid richer dividends than by pitting sword against sword. The enemy is battling, but India has its eyes on winning the war.

October 2008

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