Dr NARCO and Other Stories from KAFKA Land

Condemned, jailed and tortured, with no proof or with concocted evidence, the brutalization of innocent Muslims is a relentless epic of infinite injustice in contemporary, ‘secular’ Indian democracy

Manisha Sethi Delhi 

Action Reaction: We are sipping our black coffees in silence. Me, exhausted, and he, killing time before he is summoned into another TV studio. It’s a busy day for ‘security experts’, the day after the twin blasts in Hyderabad. We have just finished a show where this gent has been on the whole sober, arguing that media and public pressure force agencies to commit errors. At this point, the anchor strides in, and demands, “So, what is this Indian Mujahideen? (IM)”

“I was raring to answer this question. I wish you had asked me this. I have a theory on this,” he says, softly. As the retired head of the Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), he is expected to have a theory on this. 

“I think Indian Mujahideen is a rubric. There are many cells, not connected with another,” he continues. By then it is obvious that his theory is not original but the latest to emanate from the ‘intelligence community’. The honeycomb model of loose, uncoordinated cells, unrelated to each other, is the favoured IM theory these days.

“I don’t agree with UdayBhaskar that the roots of IM are to be found in BabriMasjid or Gujarat 2002,” he says, referring to the argument of our co-panellist, another strategic expert, on the show. Ok, here may be something interesting. “It goes back much further.”

“How far back? Independence? Partition? Pre-Independence?” ventures the anchor, gamely.

“Oh, no. Much further back. It will be the subject of a rather long monologue, I’m afraid.”

Then, undeterred by his own threat of monologue, he lowers his voice to a whisper. “Abrahamic traditions,” he reveals, as though this may be a State secret. The sound of his own words has a warming effect on him. “There is no meeting ground between Abrahamic traditions and traditions of the East. Abrahamic traditions are history-centred, unlike Hinduism.”

He launches into a fusillade against Islam, forgetting for the moment his own theory of Abrahamic traditions. “You see, jihad is a religious obligation in Islam. Hindus can never be violent.” The chief is in full flow now. 

‘What of Mecca Masjid, Ajmer Sharif, Aseemanand, Sadhvi Pragya?’ asks the anchor. My head is oscillating between the two, almost as though this were a tennis match.

The chief smiles beatifically. “Hindus have been involved only in five incidents. These were reactions to what they saw around them. Hindu terrorism is an oxymoron. It cannot exist.”

At this moment, I let out my breath, which I have been holding for the past five minutes, collect my bag and leave.

Tied to a plank with ropes, water is poured continually on the face till the chosen victim loses consciousness. A machine monitors blood pressure to ensure that it doesn’t spike up enough to cause death. Hours of this unceasing torture leads to severe pain in the neck and head. Legs torn asunder at 180 degrees, gases which cause painful swelling of the body, high voltage shocks on private parts, beatings by flour mill belts, humiliation and stripping of family members — it’s a sickening catalogue 

India’s newsrooms suffered a collective implosion following the Union Home Minister’s Jaipur ‘blasphemy’. The Congress was left collecting the detritus as senior ministers dismissed Sushil Kumar Shinde’s ‘Hindu terror’ remarks as personal opinion. ‘Terror has no colour’ became the sudden, righteous slogan of all channels and all regulars thereof. Have we ever termed jihadi terror as ‘green’, they asked, incensed at the coinage of ‘saffron terror’. The innocence of our experts was charming, if nothing else.

Many cussed characters took a more uncharitable view of this hullabaloo over Hindu terror, but we can ignore these conspiracy theorists for now. Let’s focus for the moment on one of the favourites on the endless discussion programmes on TV news channels: a retired cop. A former police commissioner of Mumbai, who had led the investigations into the ‘Black Friday’ blasts of 1993, condemned it as “politically coined terminology… very handy for some people to counter the charge of jihadi terrorism… In my opinion,” he concluded, “there is nothing like saffron terrorism. Itjust doesn’t exist in the Hindu pantheon.” (sic)

The SanatanSanstha and Abhinav Bharat were localized phenomena which had “been nipped in the bud” by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). Terrorists of the Hindu variety — oxymoronic as they are, even if they exist — lack the capacity, the capability, the resources, but above all “even the motivations”. Of course, ‘Mr Singh’ did not rule out the possibility of involvement of some Hindu groups, but their actions were to be classed as “retaliatory attacks” — “retaliatory attacks as opposed to organized home-grown terror sponsored by Pakistan” (1).

How could Hindus possibly bomb their own country — except in retaliation?

The idea of Hindus as the only true and natural citizens of India has long been elevated to the mythical. As is the binary between a violent Islam and a non-violent Hinduism. So, ladies and gentlemen, these prejudices are the operating codes for those at the apex of investigating agencies.  Frightening, but no longer surprising. 

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: APRIL 2013