Free counters!
FollowLike Share It

Friday 25 January 2013

When did India Become Part of Israel’s Stable?

January 08, 2013 When did India Become Part of Israel’s Stable?

Amazing stuff, India ink.  A few drops spread vigorously with a roller for
several minutes on an iron plate are enough for eight sets of fingerprints
and two sets of handprints on four ancient double-sided and folded Indian
police fingerprint forms.  By contrast, the mug shot was taken with a
digital camera.  After that, I was issued an official deportation order,
for which I signed to acknowledge receipt.  My passport remained in police
custody until I got to the security check at the airport, when it was
returned to me.

My crime?  I had spoken to an audience of 22,000 youth at a Student Islamic
Organization conference in Kerala State without having a visa that
authorized public speaking or conference participation.  India is perhaps
the only “democracy” where free speech for foreigners depends upon the visa
they are carrying.  In fact, it is probably the only such country that has
no visit visa category at all, and which has one of the most convoluted,
bureaucratic and invasive visa application procedures this side of North

Not that the visa restrictions are always enforced.  However, the myriad
regulations and procedures (“for public protection”) permit the security
apparatus to control individuals and events at their discretion without
having to cite the true reasons for their enforcement.  Every effective
police state knows the drill.

In my case, I used a tourist visa, because the conference visa is a truly
onerous procedure unless it is a state-sponsored event.  In fact, that is
the only type of conference participation permitted, because even private
groups must seek state sponsorship in order to bring speakers from
outside.  In today’s India, however, state sponsorship is hardly a routine
bureaucratic procedure.

It shouldn’t have been this way.  India was supposed to have been the model
for tolerant multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic, multi-confessional societies.
And when India was a leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, carefully
balancing its relationships among great and small powers and supporting
those who might otherwise be a mere pawn in world affairs, this promise
seemed plausible.

Regrettably, India has now become a home-grown Raj, choosing sides and
fomenting discord between competing interests as a means of governing and
controlling, in the best traditions of its colonial past.  Thus, for
example, conservative Salafist clerics are welcome when they attend
conferences on tourist visas, while human rights speakers like David
Barsamian, John Esposito, Yvonne Ridley, Wilhelm Langthaler and myself are
unwelcome, and are denied visas or expelled, and/or their hosts are

The Salafist treatment is part of a Machiavellian formula hatched by India
with its newest partner, Israel.  Salafists deserve free speech as much as
anyone, but the reason India accords more of it to them is on the advice of
Israel.  Israel promotes Islamophobia as part of its strategy of demonizing
Palestinians and Arabs, a majority of whom are Muslims, and the Salafist
brand of Islam fits Israel’s agenda of portraying Islam as an extremist
ideology.  This stokes the flames of the more extreme nationalist Hindu
groups in India and plays on the fears of many other non-Muslim groups, as
well.  Since Pakistan is an external Muslim enemy, such demonization helps
to unify non-Muslim India and permit popular tolerance of greater
government control as well as encroachment of security forces on civil
rights and privacy.

In fact, India has its own version of the U.S. Patriot Act, curbing the
rights of its people.  It is called the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act
(UAPA), and while the title is more honest than “Patriot”, it is also a bit
scary.  It implies that people can be snatched from the edge of a sidewalk
on the pretext that they were intent on jaywalking.  No need for the
infraction to happen
UAPA is an illustration of the degree to which human rights have been
marginalized in the land of M.K. Gandhi and Abdulghaffar Khan.

Not that India doesn’t have real security concerns.  Communal strife is as
old as India itself and has sometimes risen to the level of genocide, which
drove the 1947 Pakistan secession.  However, it is one thing to use law
enforcement to prevent fighting and quite another to use it to drive a
wedge between communities with a view towards playing them off against each

A case in point is the role that Israel is playing.  The self-proclaimed
Jewish state is selling itself to India as a worthwhile ally on the basis
that it is a) an experienced and effective leader in the fight against
Islamist extremism and terrorism, b) a supplier of high-tech weapons and
intelligence, and c) a means of access to U.S. support and cooperation.  In
effect, Israel is saying that both states have common friends and enemies
and that Israel is in a position to provide what India needs.

India appears to be buying, and is currently the largest customer for
Israeli military arms systems and services.  Never mind that the expensive
Iron Dome systems are effective less than 50% of the time against rockets
from Gaza that use 16th century technology.  Like most governments, India
has been seduced by the promise of omniscient surveillance systems and the
prospect of winning battles rather than preventing them.

This is obviously a devil’s bargain.  True to the nature of such contracts,
however, are the surprises that await the unwary.  It is instructive to
remember that Israeli agents once planted bombs in Baghdad synagogues to
encourage Iraq’s Jews to emigrate to Israel.  (It worked, and encouraged
Iraqi thugs toward violence, as well.)

Since then, Israel has stolen nuclear weapon technology and weapons grade
fissionable material from the U.S., conducted the most massive spying
operation in U.S. history against its “ally”, and staged numerous
assassinations and “black ops” actions outside its borders, including
friendly countries.  Questions currently surround the killing of Israeli
tourists in Bulgaria and the putative assassination attempt on Israeli
diplomats in India.  Israel blamed both of these on Iran on the basis of
flimsy evidence, possibly fabricated in collaboration with its allies, the
violent Mujahedin-e-Khalq Iranian exile group.

India would do well to be more circumspect toward friends like this.
Vilifying Iran is high on Israel’s current agenda, and Israel reportedly
provided “evidence” and pushed the Indian government to prosecute the
case.  The result was the arrest of journalist Syed Mohammed Ahmed Kazmi,
who anchors a news program on West Asia providing alternative views of
events in the region.  His open advocacy of better relations with Iran and
his Iranian contacts were enough make him an Israeli target and an Indian
suspect.  After seven months of incarceration, however, the Indian
government had to release him for lack of evidence.

Kazmi and I shared the podium at the SIO conference in Kerala and I was
able to chat with him privately just prior to the event.  He is a
courageous man, willing to accept the risk of speaking in public so soon
after his release, but appears to hold no bitterness.  Peaceful dissent of
this kind needs to be encouraged in India, which is well advised to heed
John F. Kennedy’s warning that, “*Those who make peaceful
revolution*impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

Sadly, Israel sees violent revolution in foreign countries to be in its
national interest, under the “divide and conquer” principle.  However, one
would think that India’s principle would be the opposite if it wants to
remain a successful unified nation with a highly diverse population seeking
assurance that all their voices are heard in a national consensus.
Furthermore, there is no need for India to acquire the same enemies as
Israel.  It may be in Israel’s perceived interests, but is it in India’s?

My few days in Kerala were an inspiring glimpse of what is possible.  I saw
thousands of young Indian Muslims whose religious and social mission is to
benefit all mankind, to alleviate the social ills of Muslims and
non-Muslims alike, to promote interfaith cooperation and to create an
umbrella that is inclusive of everyone.

Although this was a Muslim event, many who attended were not Muslim and
were invited directly by their Muslim neighbors.  I was invited to be the
keynote speaker even though I am not Muslim and spoke more generally about
human rights and about Palestinian issues, which are not specifically
Muslim or Indian.  Roughly 40% of the attendees were young women, in a
society not always known for its success in promoting women’s rights.

These young people were politically aware, committed, well organized and
motivated.  Society is supposed to create models for young people, but in
this case it was the young that created a model for their society.

*Dr. Paul Larudee is a human rights advocate and one of the co-founders of
the movement to break the siege of Gaza by sea.  He was deported from India
on 31st December, 2012.*

No comments:

Post a Comment