Mumbai Carnage: Kashmir connection?

 No sooner did the news about Mumbai’s unfortunate and shameful carnage hit the global airwaves, it was a foregone conclusion that Kashmir and Kashmiris will needlessly, yet inevitably, be dragged into the controversy.

That the injured included some Kashmiri businesspersons constituted enough of a reason for some to point fingers to Kashmiris. Even indirectly, the links have been summarily established with a militant group that clamors to ‘espouse’ the cause of Kashmir. Kashmiri students, visitors, and businesspeople in search of various lawful pursuits in India are suspect until proven innocent. That they continue to be harassed– and in many cases incarcerated—regardless of whether they are convicted or not is a painfully sad story to which Kashmiris are so accustomed.

Given the prolonged Kashmir-related political stalemate in the subcontinent, an end to this vicious campaign against Kashmiris to malign their freedom struggle is not anywhere in sight. This notwithstanding, Kashmiris of all shades must in unequivocal terms condemn these acts of terrorism, carried out by whomsoever in their name, and continue on their march towards freedom from occupation–peacefully.

Undoubtedly, this dastardly act betrays a pathological mindset that will not spare even such soft targets as unsuspecting people dotting the hotels and other public places. This mindset is akin to that of those agents of the State who unleash a systematic terror campaign against the peaceful civilians. Both engender repugnance and are worthy of unqualified condemnation. Unfortunately, the bewildered public may never know the real masterminds behind these incidents. Tragically, the subcontinent’s political violence has an inimitable record of being imputed to sources that may have nothing to do with it.

A set of recent examples will clarify this: From the late Benazir Bhutto’s assassination last December to the suicide attack at the Marriott Hotel in the Pakistani capital- Islamabad – this past September, the Pakistanis suspected a wide spectrum of actors ranging from the ISI, General Musharraf, Al-Qaeda and India’s RAW spy agency. That the perpetrators have not been brought to justice yet shows how clueless even after months of probing, the government in that country is about those who planned and executed these acts of terror. Whereas nothing can be ruled out as impossible in the ugly standoff between India and Pakistan, the theories regarding the Indian connection to these acts of terror have remained unsubstantiated, but the conspiracy theory continues to have its ardent subscribers.

During the February 2007 bombing of the Samjhauta Express, purported to be a symbol of friendship between India and Pakistan, the blame was appropriated squarely– and we now know unfairly– to Pakistan. For his credit, the then Indian Home Minister Shivaji Patil had tried to calm the anti- Pakistan venomous rhetoric in the country by stating the obvious, when he said:  "whoever is behind the incident is against peace and wants to spoil our growing relationship with other countries". Thanks to the recent astounding revelations  from  probe into the  Malegaon  blasts the blame for the newly resurrected case of Samjhauta Express  bombing  is being put on those who reportedly carried out the attacks—some of India’s own men in uniform. One cannot help wondering what the then Home Minster knew at that time about the truth of the matter. He could not have let "other countries" (read Pakistan) go scot-free for a pittance.

It is a common knowledge that governmental probes into various acts of individual, group or state- sponsored terrorism in India and Pakistan are hushed up for fear of exposing the nexus between the underground mangers of such crimes – the criminal-political-military mafia.  There are some in India even today who do not see any reason why the Malegaon blast probe should continue. A retired Indian army General could not see any "national benefit" in carrying on the Malegaon probe lamenting that the unintended consequence of such a probe was that it "exclusively held the attention of the security apparatus until November 26, 2008, when the [Mumbai] disaster occurred." (Rediff News, November 26, 2008). The retired general has questioned the magnitude of the material and human resources allocated to the Malegaon blast probe.

The Army general’s assertion implies that if it were not for the distraction caused by the ‘wasteful’ Malegaon blast probe, the disaster in Mumbai could be forecasted and thus prevented. The naiveté here is hard to miss. Regardless, his assertion also implies that unless the probing agencies find an all too ‘obvious’ Muslim connection to all violent acts in India, the prolonged probing amounts to wastage of national resource. Remember the cliché "All Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims"?

No wonder then the scourge of terrorism in the subcontinent continues unabated since the governments are usually pressured– and often persuaded—by the stakeholders to selectively probe, or worst yet, to hush-up the findings of such inquires into acts of violence against the civilian targets.

The Indo-Pakistan subcontinent will continue to be a theater of war of attrition between the two nuclear nations as well as a battleground for those who want to settle their scores with some of the Western nations. Kashmir will continue to serve as an alibi–a raison d’être– for, and sometimes even the venue of these unfortunate events for all the competing State and non-state actors in pursuit of their strategic objectives against one another. One lesson that accrues from these painful experiences is that the issue of Kashmir needs redress at an earliest to spare the subcontinent continued instability and