Tuesday 23 February 2021

Disha arrest fuels false narrative on India ( Sunday Guardian)

To assume that incarceration enhances the ability of police to glean actionable information from an individual may not be correct in several instances.

Greta Thunberg revealed a protest “toolkit” that contained a plan designed to ensure that the “Chai and Yoga” image of India got replaced with less benign alternatives. Print as well as visual media have been ecstatic about the uncovering of the toolkit outed by the Swedish climate activist. What should not be forgotten is that there will not be one but several “toolkits” giving directions in detail about how to derail societal stability and economic growth in India. Unlike this “toolkit”, many may contain instructions that, if followed, would lead to the deaths, not by accident as on January 26 but by design. Even the “toolkit” now occupying so much attention would have remained undiscovered but for the itchy fingers of two young activists, one in Sweden and the other in India. The priority is to discover these other (more toxic) “toolkits”, else it may be too late to prevent the operations planned in them from being carried out. It was obvious that there was funding and forethought in the manner in which truckloads of protestors were ferried back and forth from their villages and the Delhi border. After a few days, those camping at the border would get a ride back home, and a vehicle return with their replacements. From 2015 onwards, there has been systematic planning and execution by GHQ Rawalpindi of a design intended to ensure that global opinion replace Pakistan with India as the epicentre of hate. Those who then wrote about some of these plans, and gave details accessed through their sources in India and abroad, were not taken seriously. Not even as late as November 2019, when information was received that plans were afoot (including from afar) to cause violent disturbances coinciding with the February 2020 visit of the 45th President of the US to India. The scrimmage in the national capital that accompanied that visit and continued after Trump departed went on for months, with the authorities unable to rectify a situation where several roads into and out of the capital were blocked by the protests. Only now is the extent of the planning that took place before and during those protests becoming clearer, at least to the general public. Similarly, it may take months for the connections behind the 26 January violence to be fully visible. What is clear is that the mastermind behind even the “toolkit” was not Disha Ravi, but known and unknown people from countries that are friends of India: Canada, the US and the UK. Several of them have valid papers to freely enter India, despite not concealing their activities or their association with elements close to GHQ Rawalpindi and thereby its mentor, the PLA.

Sending a suspect to prison has long been the favoured option of police in our country. Given that several civil and police procedures date back to the 19th century, it is not a surprise that these are proving less than effective in discovering and handling the security challenges thrown up in the 21st century. Were this columnist the decision maker in the situation involving Disha Ravi, the activist would have been quizzed in her home (in the presence of her parents) about the toolkit. About its provenance and the extent to which Disha understood its implications and the linkages of the sponsor with the externally-created violence that devastated Punjab in the 1980s. Not that the fault for such lack of awareness is entirely hers. Neither the forced removal of the Pandits from the Kashmir valley nor the mayhem caused in the 1980s by the GHQ-crafted “Khalistan” movement has been adequately covered in schoolbooks. Had they been, young people would have been better aware of the toxic nature of the impulses and forces behind such tragedies, rather than serve (wittingly or otherwise) as their accomplices in the present. To assume that the degradation and deprivation caused by incarceration enhances the ability of police to glean actionable information from an individual may not be correct in several instances. Disha Ravi is small fry. The hubbub created by the circumstances of her arrest has almost certainly led others higher up the causal chain of the “toolkit” conspiracy to cover up traces of their activities, thereby making the identification of more of the principal conspirators more difficult. There is a false narrative doing the rounds in friendly capitals that India is no longer a democracy. Spectacles such as the arrest and jailing of the 21-year-old climate activist from Bangalore will not help to dispel such a falsehood. Neither will social media posts from those who are regarded as being close to the ruling party, and which point to the presumed faith of Disha Ravi. Since his swearing-in, Prime Minister Modi has established far closer ties than Manmohan Singh did with countries in the Middle East that are overwhelmingly Muslim. He has done the same with countries in Europe and elsewhere that are overwhelmingly Christian. This reflects the reality of India, which is that Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians as well as citizens belonging to other faiths have unitedly made immense contributions to progress. It has been seen that several NGOs headquartered in distant shores seem always to be in a rush to search for horror stories about India. This is partly explainable by the competition for funding. Unless such horror stories be told about our country, big cheques by unwary philanthropists to “rescue it and its people” may not get written out. The people of India have made substantial strides, and have made the country very different from what it was. However, if such beneficial change gets reflected more in the New York Times, the Guardian or Le Monde than less flattering (and accurate) reports, the pulling power of select NGOs to get donations would be less than what would get created were Katherine Mayo-type stories to be generated about the situation in India. Those engaged in fund-raising have an incentive to ensure that the journalists they feed paint a dismal picture of the world’s biggest democracy. Going through the pages of global newspapers replete with tales from sources with a financial interest in going the Mayo way, one may be forgiven for believing that it is India (where the minorities have risen to 230 million) and not Pakistan (where the Hindu population has fallen from 38% in 1947 to less than 1% now) where the elimination of minorities has taken place. That it is India (where protests that choke the national capital linger for months before finally dispersing on their own) and not the Peoples Republic of China (where those who gave early warnings of the Covid-19 pandemic were locked up) that is authoritarian.

Disha Ravi and several more like her appear to have accepted the false narrative of India having been converted into a “fascist” state run in a dictatorial fashion. What has happened to her does not dampen such propaganda but gives it fuel. It is time that the 19th century governance practices still lingering in an India filling up with hundreds of millions of young people were replaced with procedures better suited to the 21st century.

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