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Roediger On Race
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The Mumbai Attacks and Regional Implications
The Mumbai attacks of November 2008 claimed nearly 200 lives and left hundreds wounded. Although they were far from the only terror attacks in South Asia this year, their military sophistication and their political incomprehensibility were remarkable. They were part of a troubling trend of attacks that maximized civilian deaths without making demands, a pattern that is likely to have far-reaching consequences.
Despite their importance, precise answers about the attacks do not exist. Years after the attack on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi in 2001, a credible story is not available about exactly how it happened, who was behind it, and why. The same may be true of the Mumbai attacks. There are accusations and allegations, a recorded phone call with one of the attackers, the testimony of a captured attacker, and several arrests, but all claims should be treated with extreme skepticism. The political objectives of the attackers can only be guessed at. They were probably twofold: to foment communalism in India and increase the likelihood of war between India and Pakistan. The two countries face very serious dangers. The attackers committed a horrific crime in Mumbai, but whether they actually achieve their goals will depend on how governments and peoples in India and Pakistan respond.
Communalism and Politics
Communalism in India, in the form of religious, ethnic, and caste violence and fragmentation, is exacerbated by these attacks. Indeed, as elsewhere in Europe and Asia, one of the goals of such attacks is to create a "security dilemma," to force citizens to seek protection from violence in more narrowly-defined communities, be they ethnic, religious, or political. Such a security dilemma becomes most acute when state (and media and other dominant) institutions are partial to one group or simply corrupt and ineffective. Communal violence also creates stories of victimhood and events that demand revenge, feuds, or vendettas. In Mumbai past terrorist bombings have been claimed by Muslim organizations as revenge for riots by Hindu communalists against Muslims in the city and elsewhere.
Because the battle against communalism is in some sense a battle over state and other dominant institutions, the communal threat comes from the political party of the Hindu communalists, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as well as their ideological and street organizations, the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). These organizations have considerable power in Mumbai, have a strong representation in Parliament, and rule several states of India including Gujarat. Had the BJP been in power at the national level when Mumbai was attacked in November 2008, the communal situation would be much worse. They have been out of power since 2004 and the majority of Hindus reject communalism. India's Muslims, too, have been moving away from communalism, seeking equality under the law while struggling for a non-communalist interpretation of their faith.
Kashmir and Pakistan
Since the partition of South Asia in 1947, India and Pakistan have been each other's principal enemies. Although currently their rivalry plays out in Afghanistan as well, the most constant flashpoint has been Kashmir, the site of a massive counterinsurgency by India, which, like other counterinsurgencies, victimizes the civilian population and creates hatred of the occupier. It is also the site of a proxy war by Pakistan whose establishment supports Kashmir's rebels. The desires of Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control are not foremost on either state's mind. Instead, political considerations dominate. For Pakistan, to abandon Kashmir is to concede defeat to India. For Pakistan's military establishment, this would forfeit much of its own reason for existing. For India, to abandon Kashmir would be to set a precedent that India can be divided. In such a multi-ethnic country with deep divisions and strong regional and linguistic identities, what is to stop other states and regions from going the same way? Kashmir isn't the only insurgency India is dealing with: there are Maoist (Naxalite) insurgencies in Andhra Pradesh and separatist insurgencies in Assam and other parts of the Northeast.
Like India, Pakistan is also fighting multiple insurgencies. Regional inequalities between the Punjab and the other provinces (Sindh, Baluchistan, and the Northwest Frontier Province, NWFP) have led to strong sub-nationalisms. While the primary cause of the insurgency in the NWFP is the NATO occupation of neighboring Afghanistan and the Taliban's presence there, Pashtun nationalism also plays a part.
On one side, Pakistan's military and intelligence apparatus has been shaped by multiple wars with India and covert intervention in Kashmir. On the other, that apparatus was forged in the covert creation, support, arming, and training of the Afghan mujahaddin in the 1980s war against the USSR, followed by covert support for various factions of mujahaddin and ultimately the Taliban until 2001 (and beyond). Many of the formative experiences of today's intelligence operatives and soldiers occurred under the dictatorship of Zia-ul-Haq, who sought to "Islamize" the country. In foreign policy, Pakistan's establishment traditionally appealed to the United States, offering to help encircle Russia and control Afghanistan, while trying to use the aid against its more important rival, India.
Today, under U.S. pressure to fight Pakistani Muslims in the NWFP, that establishment has fragmented. There are those who, out of fear, benefits, or conviction, wish to do the bidding of the U.S. But there are also those who, having fought the Russians with U.S. help, feel monumentally betrayed now to see Afghanistan occupied and Pakistan bombed by their former American allies. This division in Pakistan's establishment explains why the counterinsurgency in the NWFP has been so ineffective. It also explains why terrorist attacks against Pakistan's population can occur so frequently and with such devastating effect. One possible motive of the Mumbai attackers may have been to heighten tensions between India and Pakistan to force Pakistan to shift resources away from the counterinsurgency in the NWFP and to Kashmir and the Indian border.
Insurgency and counterinsurgency are one expression of the battle for control over the Pakistani state. Politicians, civil society, and a fragile middle class have struggled with the military establishment over control. The poor majority are excluded, though they have found ways to be heard at times, and may do so again.
Responses to Terror
Governments faced with terrorism have choices. They can offer superficial changes to security technology or systems or they can focus police and organizational efforts on investigating, catching, and bringing attackers to justice. They can engage in counterinsurgency, mass reprisal, and the politics of fear or they can look at the political causes that win terrorist organizations recruits and isolate the organizations politically by addressing the causes.
In the short term, policing responses for regional emergencies will have more positive effects if they involve coordination between India and Pakistan, rather than mutual accusations and threats of war. As the attacks were unfolding, Pakistan offered to send the ISI chief to India to help with ongoing investigations, but the offer was revoked as tensions escalated. Transparency and respect for human rights would also be necessary in any such coordination. Cooperation between the countries should help guarantee human rights. A policing agreement between two human rights violators—both states have terrible records, especially when dealing with insurgencies—will be of little value in solving the subcontinent's problems or enhancing people's security. Both countries are sites of heroic human rights struggles and have activists whose voices must be heard in the struggle against terror and violence.
In the medium term, only a "cooling down" of tensions and of counterinsurgency will make peaceful options visible. Both India and Pakistan have the option of cooling things down in Kashmir and creating the space for Kashmiris to assert their rights and aspirations without fear. For the NWFP to cool down will require more than a change in Pakistan's policy: the NATO/U.S. occupation of Afghanistan would have to end. That would leave Pakistan and Afghanistan with serious problems of their own, but there are social and political forces in both countries that could gradually move them in more progressive directions if they were given the space to do so.
What of the long term? Terrorism, communalism, and war have complex causes, but inadequate democracy and economic inequality both play a role. Democracy creates people who are invested in their society and one another, which is less fertile ground for terrorism to grow in. It encourages people to focus on the public good and provides a way to find it with others, rather than the bounded solidarity of a narrow nationalism. It also provides ways to settle disputes without violence.
Some of the targets of the Mumbai attacks, especially the Taj Hotel, were the most intense symbols of inequality on the subcontinent. Inequality makes real democracy impossible, since elites have to subvert democracy to protect their wealth. It undermines the solidarity and the secular notion of a public good that is urgently needed to fight communalism. It also complicates the solution of some of the most urgent problems.
Terrorism is not South Asia's most severe problem. Several storms are converging on the subcontinent. The presence of the United States in the region is greater than ever, with a full occupation of Afghanistan, frequent encroachments on Pakistan's territory, a nuclear deal and ever-increasing military co-operation with India, and trilateral India-U.S.-Israel links. U.S. behavior in the region is not cooling any tensions and both countries have played into U.S. hands, to their own detriment. The South Asian countries have integrated themselves into the global economy as dependents. Their people suffered tremendously from food and energy price increases last year and will suffer from global economic slowdown in the coming year. Climate change will exacerbate already serious agricultural and water problems for hundreds of millions of people. For all the fear of non-state terrorists, nuclear war between the two states is all too possible and would be an unfathomable horror.
Under such conditions, South Asian economies would do well to orient themselves towards the massive unmet needs of their huge internal (potential) markets (and those of their neighbors through South Asian integration) and away from export to a declining U.S. market; agricultural investment for scientific and organic production away from multinational control of the food supply; investment in solar and wind energy and green infrastructure, away from automobile production; and pursuit of regional peace independent of foreign powers and their arms suppliers. Such policies could help secure the future, if India and Pakistan refuse to be derailed by terrorism.
Justin Podur is a Toronto-based writer of Indian origin. He reported from India and Pakistan in July-August 2008.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.