Friday, November 28, 2008

Mumbai mayhem and its repercussions

It was horrific to see all the devastation caused by a few foolish people with wierd, unrealistic ideas that go against all of humanity. What was more horrifying was to hear some of the intellectuals of our country on what should be done. Some of the common refrains heard were "put security systems in place" and that currently there has been an "absolute failure of the system" and that there is "a lot of anger" which needs to be chanelised.

Of course there has been a failure but I am more circumspect on how to deal with a failure. It is something like that old joke about finding something: It will always be in the last place you look and obviously so; after all, it would be really foolish to keep searching even after you find it. Similarly; failure is unknown till you encounter it. Till such time you encounter a failure, everything that was done could look good enough or at least, tolerable.  And when you encounter the failure; you feel that it happened in the last place you were looking at and feel supremely guilty for not having plugged that hole earlier. Just like at the end of a long search, one often gets an impression that it could have always been avoided.

I believe failure is not something to be worried about by itself and neither it is something that can always be prevented. Let me take an example: A building can never be designed to be completely safe. It will not stand rock solid in face of massive earthquakes, for example. What an intelligent architect would do is to anticipate failure and divert it towards consequences than can be tolerated. So when an earthquake does happen, a building is designed to buckle and bend gracefully so that the shakes and rattles that will be caused will cause minimal damages, especially to human lives.

Is there a point I am making, you may wonder... after all, I am also pointing to handling failure even if it means diverting the devastation caused during a failure. Someone not understanding the fine semantics may think that I am also searching for a solution to prevent failures. 

There is a difference which must be understood between what I am saying and what is currently being bandied about:  If one attempts to fight failures head-on, it is foolish and completely unrealistic. Put it more simply: It just cannot be done. Nobody can prevent failures. 

We will be in a state of denial if we think that we can stop failures. We are living in a world where there is bound to be some weird people who want to resort to terrorism. Earthquakes are bound to happen. For whatever systems that may be put into place, there will be that one act of terrorism or an earthquake which can still defeat all the systems that may be cleverly placed by the most intelligent of system designers. And when that happens, there is bound to be devastation.

A more realistic approach is to design for failure and divert energies caused during the failure as it happens. So the system designers for response to terrorist attacks should concentrate on setting up methods to deflect the menace during the incident, rather than attempt prevention.  I am no expert on securty systems, so I can only volunteer some unsubstantiated conjectures.  Maybe: alternate ways of escape, defensive measures such as containment, focused attacks after ascertaining all risks, etc. Probably most important of all would be crisis response training to citizens who could find themselves in crucial locations/positions/responsibilities. Maybe architects can also help crucially; by carefully working on escape routes, designing for crowd control and use proactive environment-behaviour simulations and studies for designing public buildings. We could also proactively attempt to think like terrorists and conduct scenario analysis where the outcomes of possibile situations can be theoretically analysed.

I am afraid much of the intellectuals are not talking in this direction. They are stating things like "not a single drop of blood should be shed" and other similar unrealistic statements. If the decision makers heed such statements then I am afraid we'll go in the direction of many foriegn countries: Paranoid citizens continously on pins and needles.

I was recently at the Pulkovo airport at St. Petersburg, Russia and I could see the palpable tension which was present on what should have been any normal day at an airport. The Russians are so paranoid about attacks from Georgia, Chechnya and other trouble spots of that region; they have systems and systems and systems which have tied them in absurd draconian knots. The Pulkovo airport has just a small sliver of a lobby where one can enter ... and even to enter that one has to first dispose off all water bottles you may be  carrying ... a machine-gun wielding cop ensures that you do.  And of course, you enter through the usual x-rayed doorway manned by another half a dozen officials.

The lobby has a coffee shop at one end and a set of toilets at the other end, and an even smaller sliver of a mezannine overlooking the lobby with another coffee shop and set of toilets there. Now you just cannot enter the rest of the airport till your flight has been announced. Whenever flights are announced, it causes a mad scramble for the doorways to the rest of the airport from that tiny lobby, leading to serpentine queues dividing the length of the lobby.  Your passport is checked by officials peering closely into your eyes and your tickets and what not. You are then immediately pulled into a security check: Remove your shoes and socks please. 

The security officer dealing with me was actually feeling the socks as if I had concealed something there. It made me feel as if I was the culprit and it was just a matter of time before I realized it for myself. Then I had to go to the ticketing counter where the young Finnair lady thought I was using a fake passport, and so she held me up till an official came over to check that out. After that ordeal was over, I had to again go through passport control: It didn't matter whether I was on the way out of Russia. They wanted to see my papers, visa and their absurd immigration cards once again, whether it was stamped by my host who verified that I indeed did visit them and so on. After that, I had to again go through security all over again! Remove your shoes and socks please! 

Then and only then I saw myself in the sanctum-sactorum of the airport: a lobby overlooking the tarmac. It had some threadbare sofas where people were morosely waiting for the transport to the aircraft. By the time I reached that place; I was shaken, stirred and possibly fully "sanitized" (a word that was being bandied about a lot in the media during this mumbai incident). For the life of me, I could not figure out what they could see in a pot-bellied middle-aged Indian with a smiling face. I then realized that they were purely systems driven and they were living in this mechanical, Orwellian world. I felt that it was most unfortunate that the terrorists who they were trying to prevent from coming into their lives, had actually succeeded though the Russians may not be aware of it.

Now landing at Mumbai airport, India:  No major systems to talk home about. Some minor scrap of paper to write the details of where you visited, etc. What a wonderful relief to be back in the chaos of Indians! We are humans once again. The shortfall of 'systems' that were missing was made up by actual human beings who were taking a look at what you did and curious about who you are and not whether you were a statistic in some system of theirs. There were some 29 counters at work to take care of the Airbus load of people who came in. By the time one could sneeze; each of us were out of most of the formalities, save for waiting for the bags to turn up on the baggage carousel. It does not mean that there was laxity. I could see that wise look from someone here, that subtle glance of appraisal from someone there to detect if anything was out of the ordinary. No systems. Real people. 

My friend, Dr. Nobhojit Roy, was agreeing with me the other day. One of the greatest strength of our country is that we can call ourselves truly free: We can stand in the middle of the road and laugh out loud, yawn without putting a polite hand over our mouths, even spit if we want to ... without anyone bothering us much about it. Dr Roy had spent a year doing a sabbatical in the USA and he could detect the difference. When in the US, he was straitjacketed by systems and more systems. He was "sanitized" and systemized.

Yes, of course there are downsides: There are people who would cross a red-light just before it becomes green, there will be loud-mouths with crass taste yelling and screaming outside a bar. Spitting is surely not an endearing trait. But we are also free to laugh here. In hindsight, all those deficiencies in us seem minor compared to the sepulchral world one sees in many foreign countries. Even the so-called "Mainhattan" of Europe, Frankfurt, does not have a soul in sight after sunset. When I was on the famous ICE high-speed train in Germany, I was chastised by a lady for playing my Mp3 player too loud. When I took out the earplugs from my ear, I could hardly hear anything from my player other than a small tingling sound. Maybe just a small buzz but to a systems-driven German, it was extremely out of the ordinary and therefore irritating.

A system that respects individuals is the only one that I believe in. Finally, it is the appeal to the individual inside us that would work. If we are carted into columns inside spreadsheets and other classification systems; we will only get alieniated.  You need subtle and supple systems that will bend and release energies built up during potential stresses. Rigid systems are prone to much more dramatic failures.  This is true of both the architecture of buildings as well as that of societies.

People are calling the Mumbai incident the 9/11 of India. I believe they are completely wrong. The terrorists had enough amount of explosives to cause more damage but they never got a chance to use them. One terrorist was singing like a canary within a few hours of the incident to our officials  -- definitely not a sign of a highly successful operation. The police, navy and the fire-brigade came almost in minutes; to the rescue.  Of course a lot of lives were lost in the incident. No amount of compensation can be made for each of those lives. Each life is a separate, individual story having incomparable value. Even if we want to blame whatever "faulty" systems we have in place, in a macabre way we should be thankful that only around 200 lives were lost here. I strongly suspect that the figures would have been much, much higher anywhere else which does not show the Indian fortitude and resiliance. 

As a simple example: The New York 9/11 saw two towers demolished and over 3000 dead. The potential to demolish two towers was equally present in the Mumbai incident but that did not happen. I don't want to draw up a one-upmanship based on number of people who died in such attacks because even if one person died, it would be an invaluable loss. The numbers are being mentioned only from a systemic point of view on what constitutes a complete failure of a system, as that is the subject here.

After my visits to various countries in Europe and Russia, my respect for our country grew much more. It is amazing that our country works the way it does: The local railways handles more people in two days than the entire population of some countries of Western Europe!  (3 million passengers per day. Denmark's current population is estimated as 5.5 million) Mumbai is one of the top 5 most populated cities in the world, and yet the kind of happiness and freedom quotient (if I can invent such a term) is far greater than any of the rest.  You can be out in the street and do practically whatever you want, whenever you want, without anyone asking you to turn down the volume of your Mp3 player.  

The approach on systems design that I propose reminds me of an interior design my office had made for the Konkan Railway Corporation: They wanted to have acoustic privacy for their officer's cabins and wanted "sound proof" cabins; which to them meant  cabins having only windows to the exterior and no visual access to the rest of the interiors. I told them that there is nothing which can be safely called "sound proof" and if attempted, it would only give a false sense of privacy. I convinced them of an Indian solution: The best sound proofing for privacy can be achieved by a cabin which is visually transparent. For it would be foolish for someone to stand outside such a cabin trying to overhear what is going on inside. The very fact that a potential listener can be seen from inside the cabin would become a deterrent. Such an approach is truly an Indian approach: Where we approach the problem laterally and give a focused, economical and subtle solution.

A danger of putting immature systems is that it can easily be hijacked by politicians for their own interests. I can imagine a political party (why imagine? the blame game has already started!) saying that the current system was not right for us, and something else should be put. Now such a blame can be placed irrespective of whatever system that may have been in place. So before we disturb the status-quo, we should truly understand what our existing strengths are.

I earnestly hope that those decision makers don't go for knee-jerk solutions and put in place so called "security" systems, which in the end will give only a false sense of security or be usurped by various vested interests. There is a saying among architects and structural engineers : A structure is only as strong as its weakest link. Hence more systems we put in place, more would be the chance of massive failures merely because there are more linkages. That is why a good structural engineer has to strike a good balance between minimal use of material and redundancy. Some of the greatest structures that man has made show such characterstics. The four towers surrounding the central mausoleum of the Taj Mahal (not the hotel) lean outwards by 4 degrees. The reason is subtle: In case of an earthquake, the towers will never fall on the mausoleum. The Taj Mahal is designed to handle failure but not stop it.

I agree with one point which surfaced after the Mumbai incident: It can serve as a wake-up call. We can demand for better individuals to enter politics. As citizens, we can go out there and do our bit by putting in our vote. Currently much of the voting is done by the uneducated/under-eduacated masses who are lured by populist and often sectarian interests. It is also easy to detect that politicians can easily divert incidents like this for their own use and we should not fall prey to their schemes. The absurd politics played by politicians who used divisiveness as their central method to garner popular support can now be proved to be hollow: I detected for once that most people were talking about India as one and not based this on this religion or that one, or this region or that one. Another lesson that should be learnt is to let agencies such as the police, the ATS (Anti-Terrorist Squad), NSG (National Security Guard) be given enough freedom to do their duties in a secular manner, without political parties coming in the way to support people of certain religions/regions.

Now to the question of "anger". Of course there should be anger. Anger is like a fire. It can be used for cooking or to burn your finger. We should be careful on how we focus the anger in us. If we allow it to dissipate, like the way it has happened many times in the past; the politicians will happily say that we are "resiliant" and they will go about controlling us in their own nefarious ways. The fire inside us should not be allowed to burn out. Yet, if we use it to burn our fingers; i.e. use it for hateful politics to divide religions, then again the politicians will (mis)use it. 

One crucial aspect of the Indian culture is that we forgive people. Forgiving is often mistaken for forgetting. We must forgive. Lack of forgiveness will lead to even more greater ills, and repetition of the same problems over and over again. But we should never forget the lessons learnt. Much of India emphasized on the much misunderstood concept of peace and non-violence. These times; such virtous qualities are often the stepping stones on which a lot of ill is carried out; especially by political parties. Yes, we need to be angry. Yes, we need to have systems. Yes, we need to handle failures even if we know we cannot prevent them. But we need to do all of that keeping in mind that we have many things going good for us in our culture. Let us carry out all the changes carefully without throwing the baby out with the bathe water.

4 comments:

Arby K said...

I think more than failure, it is the repetition of failure that has incensed people. Most of the lessons of 1993 seem to have forgotten by 2008.

Sabu Francis said...

Failure due to external reasons always repeats. Earthquakes always happens. Stupid determined terrorist will always turn up in this world, maybe till such time ignorance is removed and there is goodwill for all. If there is a way by which one can measure that the efficacy of measures implemented (during the failure occurance) and note that those measures were done poorly then I can be convinced fully. Only failures due to internal systemic issues are the ones that can be prevented. There are of course always scope for improvement, but I seriously doubt whether the failure such as a terrorist attack could be avoided completely because terrorists work outside the system...any system.

Nasheet Siddiqui said...

..I am trying and all of us are trying to control our feelings....but this time...enough is enough..
too many false flag operations..yes this was India's 9/11.....in the sense that 9/11 was false flag...and this too is false flag...common people hardly know...but now..its upon us the silent majority to..expose this guys....some say it is a conspiracy theory..i say yes..itis...but now the onus is on these guys to prove they are innocent...uptill now it was ISi..and indian muslims...
now..the RSS..and extreme right..like Modi...has to answer..and prove he is innocent...read more...

The Attack on Mumbai

By Amaresh Misra


Doubts and People

Some people have raised doubts about the `theory' I am circulating supposedly on the net. They have every right to question and doubt anyone and anything. After all doubt is the mother of all kinds of right thinking.

I have recevied dead threats, hate mails--but more, I have received praises for courage and conviction.

I am not surprised and I do not mind people ridiculing me or anyone else--but I do mind when that ridicule actually goes a long way in hiding the hypocrisy and criminal face/intent of several prominent politicians and corporate figures.

Yes--corporate figures as well; what people do not understand is that in complex situations such as the Mumbai terror attack, new lines of thought will emerge as more facts emerge. But that should not stop anyone from offering critiques of the official or media version.

My initial theory that basically the Sangh Parivar elements instigated the terror attacks is stronger now. In fact more than the Sangh Parivar, it was Modi--yes he is the new, modern face of Indian fascism. He is the one to have a cozy relationship with Ratan Tata, one of the most ruthless and anti-Indian business man, whose family earned its money while smuggling opium to China during the 19th century, and sided with the British in 1857, when 10 million Indians, Hindus and Muslims, lost their lives fighting the British.

In fact, Modi has left the RSS behind in many ways--he is Mossad's number one man. Recently, a top RSS functionary told me that "Amaresh we have lost control over out cadres. We never wanted to let things get out of hand in Orissa and Karnataka. In Orissa, we had even planned a joint declaration with Christian leaders. But there was a revolt from below. The VHP and Bajrang Dal refused to fall in line. Then they got the subtle support of that man Modi. We were helpless".

Basically, the RSS lost control over the Frankestein they created.

In Modi's form this Frankestein struck a deal with Mossad--now remember Mossad has links in the faction torn ISI--remember also that several `Jihadi' groups, in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Middle-East are still remote comtrolled by either the Mossad or the CIA. In a recent case, a Muslim `Jihadi' organization in Yemen was found to be a Mossad set-up.

That is why it is possible the several young men who attacked Mumbai used Pakistan as a base. But their nationality is varied. Some might be Muslims from the UK as well; at least there is one with a Mauritius passport.

Now it is coming to the fore that someone from Saudi Arabia (called Maulana Bedi for now) probably collected and sent these `Jihadis'. That mastermind must have been paid by an Indian/Modi interest. These masterminds have no ideology. They are creations of America who now work for money, and even against American interests. This is again a complex but stark reality.

Also Nanda, the owner of Oberoi, is a close friend of Modi. He has millions invested in Gujarat. How come terrorists were holed up in Taj and Oberoi for days before the operation? How come arms and ammunition were stored for days in the two 5 star Hotels? Can the common man do this? Is all this possible without some sort of a connivance (known or unknown) of Hotel authorities? And is it too incredible to suppose that Hotel owners will not, knowingly or unknowingly, encourage the destruction of their own property? Taj maybe great for us--but what is its emotional or financial value for Tata? Modi's acceptance of the Nano plant in Gujarat on extremely favorable terms might be more important for Tata.
I leave this aspect to you all.

Coming to the Nariman House, I am really surprised at the perception that why would a Mossad backed operation kill Jews? Why not? In any case Mossad backs aggressive Zionism, which is very much a modern religo-fascist ideology like Hindutva. Zionism is not part of Judaism, just as Hindutva is not part of Sanatan Dharma, the real religion of Hindus. In the Praggya Singh affair, Sanatan Dharmis opposed Hindutva especially when they were maligning Hemant Karkare.

So Mossad and Zionists are known to have killed ordinary Jews--after all Hindutva ideology killed Mahatama Gandhi--can anyone deny that? Also Modi without a qualm masterminded the killing of several of his own people in the Godhara train incident, in order the create the atmosphere for large scale anti-Muslim and anti-India riots.

Remember evil thrives in the world because the `good' lacks imagination. Evil triumphs because it is capable of out-thinking `good'.
Those who call themselves supporters of Modi and Advani, they are also supporters of the killers of Gandhi. Hindutva ideology and politics since its inception has been opposed to the idea of a secular Indian nation-state since 1947. They staged an uprising against Indian state in 1947; proof exists that Golwalkar the RSS chief was hand in glove with the British army in carrying out anti-Muslim attacks. This was brought to the notice of Rajeshwar Dayal, the then Home Secretary of the United Provinves (present day UP) who took the case to Govind Ballabh Pant, the the then UP Chief Minister.

Muslims who stayed back in India after 1947 did so because of choice. There was an acute polarization within Muslims between Jinnah and the Muslim League on one side and the Muslim Ulema and its supporters who sided with the Congress.

Karkare's death

Now the Karkare incident--two versions are already coming out. It is unclear how he was killed--and foul play is suspected. Karkare's mother came onto TV and wanted to know how her son was killed. Salaskar's cousin raised the same issue.

So the relatives of the brave martyrs are asking for justice. They feel that there is more than meets the eye--and that somehow Karkare's death, and that of Kaamte and Salaskar, was related to the Malegaon blast investigation conducted by Karkare.

Why has Karkare's son refused the 1 crore announced by Modi? The latter came to Oberoi when the firing was still on; he made a very petty statement disliked by everyone. Modi was probably feeling that he had pulled off an ace by triggering this crisis just before elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi, areas in which the BJP was clearly losing before the terror attacks.

Think--the boat to Mumbai could not have come without the co-operation of the Gujarat Government!

The fact is that Hindutva forces who were castigating Karkare and the entire Mumbai ATS team as villains and `enemies of Hindus' are now suddenly hailing them as heroes? What double standards man--people have send me mails, saying that they support Advani and Modi. All these people are supporting the killing of Karkare, just as they supported the killing of Gandhi.

Karkare and Kaamte were true Hindus and the most secular elements within the strife-torn, and highly communal Mumbai Police. They were men of integrity--how come Karkare died while wearing a bullet proof vest? Or like Sharma in the Batala House encounter, was he not wearing that vest? Was he shot in the heart or the neck? Probably we will never know.

But we should know--we have a right to know. Karkare was hated by Hindutva elements. And they masterminded his killing--they are responsible. Karkare is a great hero, a martyr in the cause of secularism.

Modi, Advani and all the anti-Sanatani Hindus posing as Hindus on the net have a distorted mind. In their blind or soft anti-Muslim hatred, they are unable to see how, to suppress the Malegaon Blast investigation, in which Karkare was about to take the name of Praveen Togadia and even Chota Rajan, Karkare was eliminated.

Communal forces backed by foreign agencies are hell bent on destroying India--America wants to dismember Pakistan, gherao China etc. and for that it needs India firmly in the US-Israel orbit. That is why Americans, British and Israelis were targeted. Nariman House was a hub where according to eyewitness reports, several suspicious Israelis were seen coming and out; it is possible that these people were involved in the terror attacks and that they killed their own people.

The Mumbai terror attacks were a gigantic exercise, a fight between those forces within the Indian establishment who want to take India towards the dangerous and suicidal US-Israel nexus and those who want India to stay Independent and have good relations with Pakistan, China and Iran.

Everyone in this battle would not everything or all the countours. But the pattern is becoming clear slowly and steadily.

Indian nationalism has to be redefined--India's slow drift towards a pro-US and a pro-Israel policy and towards Hindutva gives the ground for people like Maulana Bedi and Mossad to attack India. India has to go back to the anti-Imperialist, Hindu-Muslim unity, anti-Hindutva 1857 nationalism.

Why were the 1857 150th anniversary celebrations downplayed in India? Why was my book on 1857 downplayed? Because the pro-US and pro-Israel lobby did not want 1857, the nodal point of true Indian nationalism to resurrect.

Think...just think...we owe this to Karkare and all brave NSG men and army men...

Thanks to Bush, global terrorism has become an industry, a money making machine. It has other phenomenon like outsourcing war and terror to mercenaries attached to it. Mossad excels in forming armies of private mercenaries and destablizing states the world over. Just go to the net.

N

Sabu Francis said...

Nasheet, we will get all kinds of conspiracy theories. I have even more up my sleeve. But speculation will not solve the problem. Problems are solved only when real people do real nice things.