FP’s Modi Muddle: Postcolonial Paleospeak


What Modi could — and should — have done upon assuming power in 2014, was to use his extraordinary power and influence to reform not just the economy, but Hindu nationalism itself. Not only were the major themes of the movement almost 100 years old, they were rooted in a crisis — the breaking up of British India into the nation-states of India and Pakistan, the reaction of orthodox Hinduism to the arrival of political and social modernity — that needed to be rethought for the 21st century.

‘Modi Is Married To The Mob’


• • • • •

This piece is a Foreign Policy special. In a hundred different ways it is the sort of special that, starting the Great Depression, meant “kinda li’l slow’ and a half-century into PC-ness means the same again: the overstudied, underinformed special that blithely ignores the trees for the wood.

There is a serious enough argument that goes that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not “married to the mob”: He is and always has been the mob.

In shuḍḍh Hindi, such connubiality is known as “गिरोही गंठबंधन” (girōhī gaṅṭhbandhan, marriage within the mafia). The inspiration for the headline here is obvious – but, for Providence’s sake, Michelle Pfeiffer in Married to the Mob was, in truth, married to a mobster.

Narendra Modi is not married to a mafioso, or to a mafiosa.  If he is married to anyone with a heartbeat, it is to himself. He is not a mobocrat (or ochlocrat), who typically favours political control by a mob. Every demotic action Modi is a testament to that which he doesn’t want of: He doesn’t want the mob in control. The control room is his to own, not the āām-dhām, ærā-gærā janatā.

To suggest this is rude, admittedly, but so is Modi the Offhand Outgoer, a man of action in the company of world leaders – pumping hands, draping arms round the shoulders of starchy, $5,000, bespoke cotswold suits, insouciant in his role as a miracle-maker in a deathbed democracy – and a strikingly louche logocrat, a flashy maker of promises, on his rare excursions into the boonies back home. If words cranks out had been worth a paisa each, every Indian would have been comfortable off him.

And this is precisely why to think of suggesting that Modi “use his extraordinary power and influence to reform not just the economy, but Hindu nationalism itself” is to, very alarmingly, top up on snake-oil. Modi is a man impatient with dull-paced, logy-headed reform. He considers himself the head of a subcontinent-size Maker Faire. Indians wisecrack that Modi doesn’t reform, he deforms. To many – seriously mobocratic Indians – ‘reform’ and ‘deform’ are pretty much the same thing.

This extravagant union of opposites is so not a secret that it is passing odd that Foreign Policy hooned straight past unmissable signs of it.

Whether Modi is singular or exists in the plural, it is a diagnostic cop-out to separate the man from his function. Modi is the beating heart of the mob upon which he brings himself to bestow scant attention (no delighted jhappā-jhappī here). Modi is the mob.

And given the movement’s insistence on doctrinal stridency and continuous provocation, it could not be reformed from below, by a cadre or a brain trust, but only from above, by a powerful general showing that the responsibilities of power required a new sense of maturity and grace.

Miseading Modi is one thing, misreading India quite another. @ Foreign Policy: India is expressly not a ground-up democracy. A “brain trust” here does not – because it cannot – function “from below”. That job, below, has long been taken.

Either the Foreign Policy desk edited this piece with remarkable insouciance or someone at the FP brain trust believes, utterly unironically, that such is how India’s first majority party in three decades actually works – by reverse-osmosis, bog-up.

In which case, this would make of India either a true-blue Marxist state – or a kakistocracy, government by the worst and most unqualified. I doubt that Foreign Policy wants to go there.

Modi could have stressed the need, when he had the ears of both friend and foe, for Hindu nationalism to lead the task of modernizing a society that leans reflexively on tradition. In fact, he has done this to a small degree with his focus on the construction of toilets. India is the country where open defecation is the most widely practiced in the world. Hindu tradition in particular encourages open defecation to ensure ritual purity, and so there was a real courage and provocation to the party faithful in Modi’s call in 2014 for India to build ‘toilets before temples.’

I cannot for the life of me imagine this general tarring of contemporary, revanchist Hinduism’s bum going down too well with the roaring tigers of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh cadre. The second thing whose first I’ve heard of is that “Hindu tradition in particular encourages open defecation to ensure ritual purity…“.

While this might technically be correct – I make no promises as to verisimilitude: I’ve grown up hanging off Mr. Crapper’s tidy scoop – Indians (Hindus as much as of any other religion) take their dump outside because

  1. toilets cost big ₹, and most Indians own piffle
  2. the outside is so big;
  3. the gods couldn’t give less of a shit where their disciples crap.

I’m a bit bemused that the usually hyperreactive – and hyperreactionary – saffronísti haven’t lit a fire under Foreign Policy for farfetched, deliberate defamation of their whole ‘way of life’. Whole. Soul. And droll.

Moreover, exactly when did Modi have the “ears of both friend and foe”? (italics mine) I don’t recall that halcyon day – and I happen to recall everything. Modi’s ‘měrě sāāṭh yā Pākistān’ operating philosophy led long ago to a hardened Minus Modi Movement that’s ongoing.

Modi could have shown to young Indians today that it was time to leave behind the ghosts and resentments of the 20th century, and that Indianness was a natural right given equally to all who live in India. It would have been possible to attempt all this and yet remain a Hindu nationalist.

There is a great deal of this “could have” <> “would have” ping-pong in this pseudohistorical piece. Steinbeck’s ghost comes lurching out of the Depression Dustbowl, harrumphing, “…if he coulda…he woulda…!”

What part of “Hindu nationalist” does this liberal India, of a provenance far older than illiberal Bharat, not understand?

All of it, apparently.

• • • • •

C’mere, meet Acamedia, the Bizarro World bromancer of Academia.


The Pathankot Paradox-II: Communalism and the Scapegoating of Gujjar Muslims

The curtain should by rights have come down by now on the Pathankot AFS off-key opera. One would think that it had been milked to pretty much the last drop by the bipartisan India-Pakistan governance combine. That’s how things are engineered and have gone down since the first cross-border attack on India that India viewed as a declaration of war on its sovereignty (17 July 1995; Harkat-ul-Ansar aka Harkat-ul-Mujaheddin; scooter-bomb in a Jammu market; 17 dead, 100 injured).

But the Pathankot AFS attack has morphed into something greatly more significant, and greatly more disturbing, and of far greater national perilousness than a terrorist-security bhāngṛā de mésaventure.

An überestablishment screw-up has been turned into a communal strategy.

Punjab’s Gujjar Muslims: of scapegoating and ethnoprofiling

The most consternating fallout of the antiterrorist Operation Dhangu Suraksha – Yep, it was baptised thusly. Don’t ask. I had nothing to do with it – is not that it was a slapstick slugfest between two traditionally-irreconcilable institutions – the home ministry and the military – in the counterterrorism ring.

It is that Punjab has woken up to suddenly find itself approaching a Sikh vs Muslim communal meltdown – with the Parkash Singh Badal administration holding the match and pumping the bellows. Inside the ring of fire is Punjab’s time-honoured Muslim Gujjar community.

It became official on Wednesday, 6 January. Punjab’s reinvigorated apparatus of governance and security has linked the Muslim Gujjar community to cross-border Islamofundamentalist terrorism. No preamble. No cause. No incitement. No proof.

On the lugubrious, wintry early evening of Thursday, 7 January, the Punjab Police in Pathankot city and district quietly kicked off an ad hoc census of Muslim Gujjars living along the Barpani Nullah, the canal that snuggles along the western wall of the Pathankot AFS. The canal is the AFS stretch of a 19-km-long canal, the Ravi-Beas Link, which debouches from Gurdaspur district’s eponymous Upper Bari Doab Canal System into the Chakkī khāḍ on the other side of the airfield on the AFS’s eastern flank. Unlike most of the waterways in Gurdaspur district, the R-B Link is not seasonal and never runs dry – and therefore affords impoverished communities that have been drawn to its uncomplaining flanks a ready, gratis, flowing supply of nonpotable but essential water.

The police are not calling it a ‘census’: That’s me. They are calling it a rather more sinister “headcount” – a word that comes weighted with association straight out of the witchhunt manual. National Investigation Agency investigators deny any knowledge of the city’s Muslim Gujjars having had a “direct supportive” role in the attack – or, indeed, any role at all. But the police say they “are ruling nothing out” – which seems precious considering that part of the reason why the shit is still being cleaned off the fan is because the security agencies were initially ruling everything out.

Why nailing service providers is a bad idea

The family quarters in the AFS campus has lots of people currently throwing a fit. As if having to duck heavily-armed terrorists and clueless security honchos for days wasn’t disruptive enough, now the Gujjar essential services have been herded off, too.

One hassles the milkman at substantial risk of pissing off homemakers and orderlies and the nation’s rarest stalwarts, the lactose tolerant.

Following the establishment huddle the previous evening, on the morning of 7 January, even as sleep-deprived investigators found themselves stymied by too many clues but none that would interconnect, it blew up into an acute national security problem that the Muslim Gujjars along the Barpani Nullah had forever had a free foray-and -forage pass into the AFS, entering the compound from the western side – often after a sneaky transfer of ₹20 to jawāns manning the gate – to let their cattle graze and offload some animal fertiliser.

As airfields tend to be, the Pathankot AFS is mostly untenanted land free from constructions. Allowing in small herds of cattle to crop the quick-surging grass (Kikuyu grass – Pennisetum clandestinum) to the height of 4 cm, which the Airports Authority of India mandates as necessary to prevent bird-hits (especially in military airports with weaponised high-speed take-offs and landings), makes good sense and saves scads of mowing money. And keeps the cows – and their Gujjar owners – happy: milch cattle just love Kikuyu grass, and the military families resident in the AFS campus get fresh milk straight out of the udder, so to speak. It’s an arrangement of long, honoured, and mutually-beneficial standing.

This relationship has so far worked out without incident. Since the day the Pathankot AFS was operationalised in November 2006, there has not been a single documented incident of noteworthy malfeasance by the Muslim Gujjars who comprise the station’s civil ordnance component.

Counting the uncountable

The headcount has now been extended way beyond the service threshold of the Pathankot AFS. It has turned into a rapid and pugnacious stocktaking of all the Gujjar Muslim dērās in Gurdaspur.

Late on Wednesday, 6 January, one contingent of the Punjab Police conducted an enumeration operation at Dhaki, a 2.25-sq km, hard-packed urban village of 4,203 documented inhabitants located 1.48-km northwest of the Pathankot AFS. On Thursday, 7 January, Punjab Police landed up at Manwal, a 5.84-sq km urborural enclave of 8,885 inhabitants – and a handful of Gujjar Muslims living, not very well, in unfired mud huts with thatch roofs. The Punjab Police had their assault rifles drawn, like battle was about to be joined.

Other villages, many with peripheral Muslim Gujjar households, have already been marked: 1.88-km from the Pathankot AFS, village Nauṅshera Nalbandan (422.5 acres and with a population of 884 in 167 agrarian households, and an outlier Gujjar Muslim community), and nil-privacy Deriwala, 1.86-km from the AFS, with 3,425 inhabitants in 685 households spread over 986 acres.

How a headcount will be accomplished, and repeated (to establish rate of mobility – or stasis, as the case may be), considering that the Muslim Gujjars remain seminomadic herders and brummagem-sellers in spirit, is a mystery. While many in Punjab have now ‘settled’ – meaning they have homes that cannot be uprooted or disassembled and hustled away during fodder-hunts – their livelihoods depend upon constant replenishment of merchandise from the Muslim Gujjars who have grown firmer, more communitarian roots in Kathua in Jammu, Gurdaspur’s northern neighbour.

This is not the first time that the Punjab Police have gone on an invasive and ill-advised ‘headcount’. But the first time they attempted this – during the blame-shifting frenzy following the previous terrorist attack in Dinanagar on 27 July 2015 – it turned into a logistical and methodological washout.

The five terrorists at the Pathankot AFS had ingressed from more or less the same spot on the Gurdaspur-Narowal border and had escaped detection for between 24 and 70 hours. The earlier batch of three had also covered an extraordinary distance on foot, without anyone the wiser, despite that the border belt is not quite unsecured or disregarded by the paramilitary.

Then, too, the Punjab Police – as attention-seeking as now – had, unilaterally and hurriedly, taken the media into confidence about its ethnoprofiling and auditing intentions, before it informed the Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s office at the Civil Secretariat in Chandigarh.

Which was flat-out foolish overreaching.

In the aftermath of the 27 July 2015 hit, much of Punjab swivelled to focus attention on Muslim Gujjars living precariously in unprotected mud huts (today rather conveniently renamed ‘dērās‘, a word that, to most Sikhs, connotes garrisons of cultish subdenominations) in the border belt, wondering how they had “escaped” being ponked by the terrorists. (Suddenly, outliving a terrorist strike became a disqualification.) And then someone in the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal questioned the Punjab Police’s gall in crashing the power picnic. The Muslim Gujjars were, briefly those days, the unofficial wards of the state.

In umbris potestas est. In the shadows, there is power.

On 3 August 2015, a day before the Punjab government reeled in the Punjab Police, Senior Superintendent of Police (Pathankot) Rakesh Kaushal had been quoted as saying truculently:

“On our part, we have launched a drive to check their antecedents. Their photographs are also being clicked to maintain their [Gujjar Muslim] record.”

Two days later, Kaushal was summarily transferred. On 5 August 2015, along with 31 other police officers, including 8 SSPs, he was given a quick shunt from which he has not found a way back to active policing. Handed the DGP’s Commendation Disc for consolation, he was told to take over, with immediate effect, the Punjab Security Training Institute at the Police Recruits Training Centre (PRTC), Jahan Khelan, Hoshiarpur. RK Bakshi, Commandant, PRTC, was simultaneously brought in as SSP (Pathankot). Such en masse punishment postings were unprecedented.

Not to knock the PRTC – the campus is as pretty as a picture – but its USP is providing well-trained security guards to the public sector and to corporates. It was a demotion to the echelon of police inaction.

The government’s explanation for this so-called “administrative shake-up” was that the terrorists had infiltrated through the Narot Jaimal Singh subtehsil area, which was under the jurisdiction of the Punjab Police.

It so happens that Narot Jaimal Singh is still under the jurisdiction of the Punjab Police. Six months after that rather lesser atrocity, the terrorists who attacked the Pathankot AFS still entered through the Narot Jaimal Singh subtehsil area.

Is SSP RK Bakshi staring at a punitive relocation, too? While the advisory has long been out in Punjab’s giant power combine to never be complacent about the temperaments of either half of the diptych at the government’s apex – the chief minister and his deputy, his son Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the president of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal – it seems unlikely that Bakshi will face attrition, even as the transfer dominos have begun to fall in Pathankot and Gurdaspur.

Speaking for Bakshi is one significant difference between then and now: The Muslim Gujjar census has not been stoppered this time round. If anything, it is expanding its reach to shimmy up as far north as the Gurdaspur-Kathua border.

The question on everyone’s mind is: Why, what’s changed? (Not this politely, of course: the Badal clan no longer invites poise and civility.)

  • Narendra Modi has changed, in that he answered his rollcall. He didn’t, the previous year. From 13 July-4 August 2015, Modi was in constant peregrination, either abroad or jetlagged and preparing to go abroad again: 13-16 July in Brasilia for the BRICS summit; 3-4 August in Kathmandu on an exhaustingly showy visit.
  • Ajit Doval has changed, in that while in June-August 2015, he had been frenetically expanding and marking his territory – which is, basically, whatever bailiwick wherever held an invitation to interventionist Machiavellianism –the past week has shown him to have settled in, sly and confident of his indispensability.

For all that the BJP leaders were heedlessly skidding about and running into one another and floundering in the bog of molasses called Parliament, they have not supported, with word or gesture, the unethical ethnoprofiling and harrying of Punjab’s Muslim Gujjars. They don’t have to. The results of the headcount are not for public consumption.

Sikkḥī vs Sikkḥiyatā

The anti-Muslim Gujjar bellyaching is being ramped up by the hour on various online forums. In many, an uncertain judiciousness is still saving the day. When – it is no longer ‘if’: that milestone was long passed – matters get too shrieky, admins are pulling the plug. The problem is that when one chat is being crimped by concerned admins, several more are taking its place. These discussions are face-offs between secular Sikhs insisting on the considerate nonalignment at the core of traditional “Sikkḥī” and nonsecular Sikh firebrands advocating a perception of all Muslims as driven and united by a malevolent and invasive “dhārmic bhāichārā“.

(In case you’re wondering, the altercation is actually being carried out using terminologie de l’foi, which I have placed in quotation marks.)

In the more volatile forums, address and manners have descended to differentiating between “Bhaiya Muslims” (Muslims from Central India who politely “leave after their seasonal work”) and “strict Sharia observant Muslims” from “J&K”.

Offline, the debate is on how to ‘reclaim’ “Sikkḥiyatā de ādhār” from being overrun by “parvāsī” (‘migrants’) and “ābādakārī” (‘settlers’). (Once a bit of backgrounded beefing, it was inflamed by reports that a Gujjar Muslim had been arrested after helping the terrorists of the 27 July 2015 attack in Dinanagar affix an IED on the Kathua-Pathankot railway line.)

As of Saturday, 9 January, discussions had  reportedly turned livid in radical Sikh organisations such as the Majha-based Guru Granth Sahib Satkar Committee (which destroyed a mazār of Peer Baba Abdul Shah at village Palasaur in Tarn Taran district on Thursday, 7 January), the Shiromani Akali Dal (Panch Pardani), the Dal Khalsa, the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat (the RSS’s Sikh wing), the Arkand Kirtan Jatha, and the synod of Patna Sahib (which is RSS-compliant).

Parkash Singh Badal’s government has said not a word, nor the Punjab Police tried to tamp down the friction. They seem engrossed in minimising, for their own rude health, the National Investigation Agency’s preliminary findings of a drug-trafficker/terrorist nexus embedded in Punjab’s governmental superstructure. Everyone in Punjab without shit for brains knows the identities of the politicians, police officers, and bureaucrats who provide logistical and informational support to the trans-subcontinental drug supercartel, which is larger and more embedded than the Latin American La Maña.

Nothing is of greater urgency to the Badal family patriarch and his oily son than winning the 2017 election in the face of churning doubts about his governance and his government’s probity.

• • • • •

‘Why trust Muslims with assault rifles?’ – Donald Trump

No Muslims fielded at Pathankot AFS

The National Security Guard (NSG), set up in 1984 as a Federal Contingency Deployment Force to tackle all facets of terrorism in the country, has never permitted a Muslim – or a Sikh – to join its ranks. This ostracism is not written policy – it is just customary law. The 7,800-odd NSG personnel at the barracks-and-training grounds at Manesar, Gurgaon, and at regional hubs at Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, and Hyderabad comprise a Hindu stronghold.

Therefore, obviously, the contingent of 160 Black Cats that was dispatched in a C-130 Hercules from Hindon airfield to the Pathankot AFS deep in the night of 1 January was all Hindu.

Among the ‘Veiled Vipers’, the Indian Air Force’s 77 Squadron flying C-130 Hercules aircraft, which were used during the Pathankot AFS operation for aerial thermal imaging and multisensor surveillance: No Muslim.

Five Defence Security Personnel died during the terrorist attack on their mess. Two of them were the first casualties at the AFS; three died in hospital. There was no Muslim in the DSC contingent posted at the Pathankot AFS.

The Garud Commando are the IAF’s answer to Special Forces. Tough as nails, they are however scorned because the Garud are the youngest of the military’s toughies and the government has cleared only 1,028 of them as députés from the mainstream military. Of the 12 who were sent into the Pathankot AFS campus – they were the only forces that engaged in a running head-to-head firefight with far better-entrenched terrorists – one was killed and another is in hospital on a ventilator with six bullets in his sternum. Again, not a single Muslim, in either the three ‘buddy teams’ or six lone stealths.

In effect, the entire five-day antiterrorist interdiction had not a single Muslim of any rank playing any role.

Then, again, it isn’t the Indian military – which shares a heritage and on/off nostalgia with the Pakistani military – that has pulled the plug on recruiting Muslims. Of all the world’s democracies with a substantial percentage of Muslims among their citizenry – and alone of all countries, bar none, where Muslims are inextricable from the Staatskultur – India has a policy against hiring Muslims for the national security apparatus.

It is a legendarily anticonstitutional bias. A showdown at an air force station in, of all places, Punjab, and the only Sikh who participated was in the DSC, which comprises de-retired and warmed-over forces personnel rehired for – I write this without derision: just a job description – chaukidārī. Even among these calm, diligent, avuncular types – not a single Muslim.

One might have expected any sufficiently mature dispensation – government and military – to have cottoned on to such irony.

Salwinder Singh’s FIR backdated: cooking up a cover-up

Superintendent of Police Salwinder Singh and Rajesh Verma – the former such a tireless fabulist and deflector that it is clear he knows the archetypal cop mind better than it knows itself – repeated this refrain to investigators and the media, every single time: that the terrorists spoke “Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu”. The Net is awash with proof of this is in hundreds of readily-accessible news reports, and newschannel clips on YouTube.



But nothing about the Pathankot Paradox is as it should be. On the afternoon of Sunday, 3 January, a First Information Report had been lodged based on Salwinder Singh’s oral statement to the Punjab Police (‘Case FIR No. 01 of 2016 dated 01.01.2016 registered at Police Station Narot Jaimal Singh, Pathankot under Sections 364, 365, 367,368, 397, 398, 419 and 171 IPC and Section 25 of Arms Act’). In this FIR, dated (Friday) 1 January 2015, there is the sort of aftermarket lingual duplicity that can recalibrate and revise everything – investigation, culpability, criminal trespass, armed conspiracy, war against the state.

This FIR states that Salwinder Singh had heard the terrorists speaking in “Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu and Kashmiri”. (Italics mine)

The FIR has been backdated. It is dated 1 January 2015. Salwinder Singh had it lodged two days later, in the afternoon of 3 January 2015.

The NIA, which took over the investigation from a jealously-possessive Punjab Police on 4 January (vide Central government ‘Order No.11011/2/2016-IS.IV’), has not yet got round to asking Salwinder Singh if what he heard was Koshur (spoken in Kashmir) or Pahari, Hindko, or Gojri (spoken in Pakistan Occupied-Kashmir, where Koshur is barely recognised, leave alone common currency).

In India, it isn’t unknown – what is? – for plaintiffs to inveigle upon a duty officer at a police station to backdate, or ante-date, the FIR. While the validation of an FIR is a magistrate’s prerogative – s/he must receive it in time to send it on, even if the run-up to delivery is all deception and distortion – it often happens that after one counsel has accused the client of the opposing counsel of sly backdating, judges tend to weigh the chicanery against the solidity (or otherwise) of the rest of the evidence. If the contention or counterargument of the falsifier is found to be as iffy as her or his ethics, judges will usually toss the case out on its ear.

In this case, it is likelier than not that Salwinder Singh’s FIR will get the bum’s rush: because what at first might seem like an accidental infraction of the law (but by sworn officers of the law) soon takes on the shape and form of a planned transgression.

I have never, in all my years as a journalist, known or heard of a single case of unintentional backdating of an FIR.

What I do know is that once the security establishment admits the gravity of an FIR dated as having been ‘lodged’ strikingly earlier than when it was actually lodged, the case against the five ‘dead’ terrorists could be toast.

Here’s why.

Apex Court precedent: time subtracted is time added

In Rang Bahadur Singh And Ors vs State Of U.P dated 7 March 2000 (‘Appeal (crl.) 397 of 1998’) the Supreme Court Bench comprising Justices KT Thomas and RC Lahoti had concluded:

(1) Exhibit KA-22 (which is the written complaint signed by Bhulani Devi and which is the first information statement) would have been created much after the occurrence and it would have been prepared under the active care and supervision of the local police.

(2) FIR was ante-dated and hence is devoid of any legal utility.

First is that the written complaint made by PW-4 Bhulani Devi which became the basis for the FIR, reached the magistrate only on 3.8.1978. If the incident happened on the night of 1st August and the police was told on the next morning that appellants wer e the dacoits, we have no reason to think that the FIR would not have been registered against the appellants on the same morning. PW-11 investigating officer admitted that no case was registered against the appellants till the night of 2nd August, 1978. If so, the arguments that the case against the appellants was registered only on the 3rd of August 1978, cannot be ruled out. What was the reason for such a peculiar dodging in making an FIR?

At any rate, the reasons advanced by the trial court are by no means weak or untenable for not relying on the evidence regarding identity of the dacoits. In an appeal against acquittal interference cannot be made if the reasons of the trial court are good and sturdy.

We therefore, allow this appeal and set aside the judgment of the High Court. We restore the order of acquittal passed by the trial court and direct the jail authorities to set the appellants free, unless they are involved in any other case.

How to amputate your own rūḥ

The Muslim Gujjars who have woven themselves into Punjab’s subaltern sociohistorical fabric – with their distinctive role in the 1857 irruption – are mostly the Dodhi pastoral nomads. (If Punjab didn’t get the Gujjar Jamindārs, or, as the nomads refer to them with the unironic patronising by the rustic of the effete, rifāhī… Well, tough luck: the landed have sound reason not to bunk from their lands.)

The Mutiny of 1857 was ushered in at Bulandshahr by the revolt of the 9th Native Infantry, which took place on May 21, shortly after the outbreak at Aligarh. The officers were compelled to fly to Meerut, and Bulandshahr was plundered by a band of rebellious Gujars. Its recovery was a matter of great importance, as it lies on the main road from Agra and Aligarh to Meerut. Accordingly, a small body of volunteers was dispatched from Meerut for the purpose of retaking the town, which they were enabled to do by the aid of the Dehra Gurkhas. Shortly afterwards, however, the Gurkhas marched off to join General […] column, and the Gujars once more rose. Walidad Khan of Malagarh put himself at the head of the movement, which proved strong enough to drive the small European garrison out of the District. From the beginning of July till the end of September Walidad held Bulandshahr without opposition, and commanded the line of communication with Agra. Meantime internal feuds went on as briskly as in other revolted Districts, the old proprietors often ousting by force the possessors of their former estates. But on September 25 Colonel (…. flying column set out from Ghaziabad for Bulandshahr, whence Walidad was expelled after a sharp engagement and forced to fly across the Ganges. On October 4 the District was regularly occupied by Colonel Farquhar, and order was rapidly restored. The police were at once reorganized, while measures of repression were adopted against the refractory Gujars, many of whom still continued under arms. It was necessary to march against rebels in […] early in 1858; but the tranquillity of Bulandshahr itself was not again disturbed. Throughout the progress of the Mutiny, the Jats almost all took the side of Government, while the Gujars and Musalman Rajputs proved our most irreconcilable enemies.

‘Imperial Gazetteer of India (Volume 9)’, by India Office, Great Britain; Clarendon Press, Oxford; New Revised Edition 1931

Then, again, hauling out the corpse of the past and buffing and polishing and greasepainting it and blowing enough smoke up its backside to pump its wrinkles smooth is a limited-affect strategy. The past is axiomatically not up to the task of keeping up with the present.

There is a kernel of truth in the accusation of a communitarian imperative that supersedes nationalism – but just a tiny kernel. Since Gujjars comprise a fifth of Pakistan’s population (just as they are a fifth of Kashmir’s), there have been attempts, noted in police complaint registers in the border belt, of feelers from the far more affluent and influential Pakistani Gujjars in Gujranwala, Gujjar Nallah, Gujar Khan, Gojra and Gujrat; and, particularly, from places in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir such as Dadyal, Mirpur, Bhalot (in Mirpur), villages Mandi, Saliyeh, and Kund (in Dodiyal), Kotli, Khoi Ratta, Anderla Kothera, Shaheen Abad, Dakkhana, Phalini, Khor, Ghayeen, Kerjai, Barali Gala, Nidi Sohana, Nakyal, Chooroi, Sehnsa, Bagh (in Haveli), Bura Jangal, and in Muzaffarabad and Neelum districts.

Indian Intelligence have noted some epistolary contact, particularly among the Gujjar Muslims who took the Partition Express to Pakistan and their family who found enough cause to stay behind, despite Hindus and Sikhs racking up a body count ratio of 5:3 in their favour.

In a paper (‘Gujars and Gujarism: simple qaum versus network activism’; Bhalot, Pakistan Punjab; May 1999), Steven Lyon of the University of Kent wrote about “Gujarism [being] a more active variant of being a Gujar which involves seeking out other Gujars within associations and consolidating and maintaining ties to those people based strictly on caste affiliation”. The vast majority of Muslim Gujjars in Punjab are not upper-caste (in stark contrast to the entitled, powerful Pakistani Gujjar community). ‘Gujarism’ might apply in Pakistan: It doesn’t here.

Everybody’s pet phobia

However, doing its best to make matters worse through misinformation is not India’s primus inimicus across the border (although, to be fair, given the Pandemonium at Pathankot, there’s also that). It’s Capitol Hill.

In a note to Washington (a cable leak by WikiLeaks), dated 19 January 2010, titled ‘Neutralising Partition: Changing Demographics in Punjab’, the previous US ambassador to India (July 2009-June 2011), Timothy ‘Deadly Headley’ Roemer wrote:

Tarun Vij, Director of American India Foundation (AIF), asserted that Dalit (former untouchables) laborers from Bihar and U.P. have been replaced by even cheaper un-skilled Bengali-speaking Muslim labor since 2000. “On a visit in 2004, I heard the Muslim call to prayer in Ludhiana for the first time in my life” said Pradeep Kashyap, Vice-Chairman of AIF during a recent meeting with PolOff. Mosques in Punjab, once padlocked after the partition of Indian in 1947 and the ensuing mass exodus of Punjabi Muslims into Pakistan, are reopening and thriving. “Punjab, on both sides of the border, experienced what we would call ethnic cleansing today. There were almost no Muslims left in Indian Punjab, today, that is no longer true. Partition based on religion seems irrelevant in the face of economics” said Kashyap. (Note: The district of Malerkotla is a historical anomaly. Its Punjabi Muslim community was not displaced during Partition and has since prospered because of the protection guaranteed to it by the Sikh community, payback for a 17th century act of kindness by the Muslim Nawab of Malerkotla to the family of a Sikh guru.)

Herkawaljit Singh, of the Punjabi language Ajit Group, echoed the discomfort many Punjabis feel with the rise of Muslim and Dalit migrant communities. He told PolOff [political officer] that the migrants were “culturally different” from Punjabis and did not integrate into mainstream Punjabi society. Although some Dalit migrants have converted to Sikhism, mainstream Sikh orthodoxy – dominated by the land-owning, wealthier Jat community – views the religious practices of these converts as sacrilegious; some Dalits worship living Sikh “gurus”, directly contradicting mainstream Sikh belief. The poor and displaced migrant workers feel excluded from the religious mainstream. The inherent tension occasionally spills over into emotive outbursts, confrontations and violence. The mix is particularly volatile in a state like Punjab, which has the highest proportion of Dalits and transitory workers among its population in India.

However, Punjab, which has seen a relatively homogenous Punjabi-speaking population since 1947, will have to adjust to the changing religious and cultural demographic pattern on the ground. Given the scars of partition and enduring memories of the communal violence in modern-day Punjab, this may not be easy. Dealing with a permanent labor underclass, viewed as ethnically and culturally different from the mainstream, could become a long-term issue for the prosperous state. It will bear watching how the Punjabi population (and the state government) react if the Muslim call to prayer becomes more pervasive across the state in the years ahead.

Roemer wasn’t exactly gifted with the sort of political acuity and insider sociological knowledge necessary to get a larger-than-millimetric inkling of the tangled supercrisis that is Punjab. In the event, at least one of his sounding boards seemed to have visited Ludhiana during a lengthy auditory downtime – for I recall hearing the aẕān from Nūrāni Masjid at Sherpur in early 2002; standing at Giaspura Chowk, near Mohalla Amarpura, from Masjid Chūnī Mehmādi in mid-2003; from Masjid Madīnā at Gulabi Tibba in 2004; and an old muʼaẕẕin‘s quavery bāṅg-ě-ṣubḥ from Masjid Kūm Kalān in October 2007, returned from Sikh caretaking since Partition just that year.

But Roemer’s alarmism had a tangible effect in the US administration’s ever-primed halls of hearsay. Washington spoke to New Delhi. Five months later, India and Bangladesh were collaborating to roll out concertina barbwire fencing within 150-m of the International Border’s Zero Line. It modified the Indo-Bangladesh Boundary Agreement of 1974, which had limited all construction – including barbwire – to inside 150-m of the 0-L.

The Indian government’s significant emending of a longstanding compact didn’t escape the notice of Kashmiri Gujjars: Never slow on the uptake, they and the Bakerwal community demanded a separate Pir Panchal area to call their own and a Tribal Hill Council (an entirely notional idea filched from the Northeast and pickled without tasting), to administer it. (The unanchored, plastic Gujjars don’t do councils, hill or flatland or aerial. They don’t even cohere with one another very well, despite an unappealable endogamy.)

In passing, the Gujjars also demanded the inclusion of the Gojri language in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.

And that was that.

They’re not exactly pushy, these guys.

History is a carpetbagger

And this is why – as a counterargument to something someone gypsy(ish) suggested – it might be imprudent of Punjab’s Muslim Gujjars to hope for a bailout by the melodic memory of Sahir Ludhianvi, a Karimpura Gujjar with a moniker, Abdul Hayee, unfit for the film recording studio; or ‘Gāmā Pehlwān’ aka ‘The Great Gama’ aka Rustam-e-Hind – in his shadow-life Ghulam Muhammad, born in Gujranwala in 1888 to become the only wrestler in the world to have ever retired undefeated; or the famous early-19th century Panjistani poet, Mīaṅ Muhammad Buksh Qādirī….

Hindus – and, now, many Sikhs, in a gathering bushfire that is threatening to spread – believe that all Indian Muslim Gujjars have a qaumī shāmilāt with Pakistani Gujjars. Those part of a more worldly Sikkḥiyatā perceive Muslim Gujjars as distinct from other Muslim subcommunities: the Ahmadi Muslims of Qadian, the Malerkotla Muslims….

But even this distinction is a shaky one. In March 2009, the stunning singer Idu Sharif of Malerkotla, as fluent in metaphysical Sūfiānā qalām as he is in semiheroic Dhādhī, performed at Muktsar’s Khalsa College but was peremptorily shut down by the organisers when he was about to start singing ‘Heer Rānjhā’, on the grounds that it was too unorthodox.

* * * * *

Let’s face it. When Bollywood has for decades been dressing Gujjar (villains) in black (recall Gabbar Singh in Sholay?), it’s going to be difficult to dig in against more demonising in the same vein. Among India’s (putative) warrior cultures, black clothes have dire connotations: They’re not the ‘cool’ pomo couleur en façon. Black attire means regnal defeat. Black means end (kāāl, end times). And “Kala” is a Punjabi Gujjar subcaste.

No one needs this shit.

As long back as January 2006, BJP patriarch LK Advani, then Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, had known this much. He had walked out of the House over a proposal of a headcount of Muslims in the Indian Army.

Forthcoming update: The Pathankot Paradox

To everyone who is following the datahunting, collation, analysis, and other supermystical journo stuff in




I will be posting an update tonight (Tuesday-Wednesday, 5-6 January).

It won’t be in the nature of a sequel. (Not unless Hollywood pays me an honest shitload. And what are the odds of that happening?)

Here’s the thing: It is, gradually and sorrily, dawning upon the Indian post mahemium et mors investigating agencies that Superintendent of Police <> Assistant Commandant Salwinder Singh and his friend the Gurdāspurī jeweller Rajesh Verma are leading most everybody with an interest in the outcome – the government, the military, and the media – on a vérité confondre ride all over tehsil Pathankot.

And they ain’t done yet.

What is interesting – morbidly-speaking – is the offhand, snowballing duplicity that will probably become the most enduring memory of the antiterrorist Operation Pathankot.

Watch this space.

But don’t hold your breath – too long. The update will happen.

The Pathankot Paradox

India’s craziest antiterrorist operation is over – or so they say.

Even if it technically is, nobody is any the wiser about what in hell happened over the past three days. Or why. Or how. Or even, to be perfectly frank, when.

Very little of the hyperventilating, hypervigilant media coverage is making any sense. Nothing that the government’s superfunctionaries have been saying is making any sense whatsoever.

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar went out on a limb trotting out a hard line and was rewarded with the automatic displeasure of the PMO Oberkommando – which, in the prime minister’s absence, was itself uncertain about how much demotic anger to crank out in Pakistan’s direction. In the event, Minister of State at the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh decided to play it safe, sounding wary and wise – which didn’t go down too well because it sounded like a reprise of practiced Congress diplomatese. In an attempt to ramp up some righteous rage, Home Minister Rajnath Singh employed his remarkable baritone to bludgeon on about giving Pakistan a “mūh tōḍ jawāb” (‘jaw-breaking response’). For a couple of days, the BJP resembled nothing more than a can-can chorus-line of khaki bloomers dancing to entirely different pipers and roundhousing with their legs in 10 different directions. Rarely has a single party spoken in so many tongues. Never in recent memory has a unitary organisation like the BJP been reduced to such a welter of confusion.

It didn’t stop with the Union Cabinet. Prime Minister Narendra Modi took his time not hurrying back from his zero-urgency two-day visit to Karnataka until mid-Sunday, 3 January, when the antiterrorist operation had had enough of pounding a ghost it couldn’t locate inside the campus of the Pathankot Air Force Station. By the time Modi landed, fresh and perky from an in-flight rundown of events by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar – who reportedly himself had a tenuous understanding of the minutiae because he, too, had accompanied Modi – the Cabinet was in a lather.

Modi’s nonchalance has apparently seriously nonplussed his close cohort. There is no shrugging-off the current feeling in New Delhi that it was an odd sort of unwillingness on Modi’s part to let a terrorism-related fracas, shortlived as it would probably be, interrupt his two-day whirlwind tour of Karnataka, where, among other commitments, he attended the centenary celebrations of Jagadguru Shivarathri Rajendra Mahaswamiji of Sri Suttur Math, inaugurated a Hindustan Aeronautics Limited light utility helicopter/naval multirole helicopter production facility at Tumakuru (earlier, Tumkur) in southwest Karnataka, and opened the 21st International Conference on ‘Frontiers in Yoga Research and Its Applications’ at Jigani Hobli near Bengaluru.

After he finally sat down to a powwow with his National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval, his post-parley statement was pretty much all about the excellence of the army’s response (which has never been more debatable):

Today, enemies of humanity who can’t see India progress tried to strike at our strategic area, a prominent airbase at Pathankot. I appreciate our armed forces and thank them for foiling our enemy’s attempt … I want to assure our countrymen that our armed forces have the strength to defeat the evil designs of our enemy.

And that, truly, was that.

Given this numbing nonchalance in the face of what is probably the most perplexing antiterrorist response in India’s independent history to the daftest terrorism incident in India’s independent history, the necessary thing to do is the easiest to contemplate: to look obliquely, peer at the breadcrumbs, follow the money. And ask the questions.

The media should’ve fallen upon the job like a tonne of bricks: This is, after all, its only and everlasting mandate. On the contrary, its head remains wedged firmly up there, in Modi-La-La-Land. The media is busy prattling on about how the terrorists came “well-trained” and “well-equipped”; and mournfully reprised  – again – the well-known perfidies of Masood Azhar, the chubby-faced, feral founder of the Pakistan-based terrorist outfit once known as Jæsh-e-Muhammad.

As one would expect, very little of this pique and putzery has bearing on the event itself.

Here’s why.


Gurdaspur Superintendent of Police Salwinder Singh, who was promoted as one of two assistant commandants of the 75th Battalion, Punjab Armed Police, PAP Jalandhar Cantt, was carjacked on the very day that he received his new posting order (Thursday, 31 December 2015).

i) What made the terrorists release SP sa’abji, with – we are so informed – so cursory a roughing-up that he didn’t need serious medical intervention, leave aside having to be hospitalised?

(The latest narrative in his defence – there have been so many that they form a palimpsest of explanations, excuses, justifications, and pure artful dodging and ducking – is that he outsmarted the terrorists by the simple, accidental ploy of being a helpless civilian in plainclothes. And by the equally simple, incidental ploy of being Sikh. Exactly how this worked he leaves to the public’s forgiving imagination.)

ii) What made the terrorists also release the cook, Madan Gopal, along with SP sa’abji? His injuries at the hands of the terrorists were also negligible injuries – but The Hindu reports that Punjab Police more than made up for the enemy’s leniency by clobbering him and, Gopal claims, torturing him, and then refusing to give cognisance to his leads on the terrorists.


iii) Why did they consider the SP’s friend, a jeweller named Rajesh Kumar Verma, a more viable hostage than Salwinder Singh (who, whether in plain clothes or no, looks the part of security honcho)?

It can hardly be anyone’s beef that the three survived the offhand ministrations of the terrorists (such as they were). But the questions abound.

iv) What’s with slashing Verma superficially round the throat and missing the unmissable, the carotid? Verma, in fact, says that he stumbled to a nearby gurdwara, and was then transported to a private clinic.

v) Verma also said that SP sa’abji and Madan Gopal were not dumped out of the moving car but were tied to trees by the terrorists – with such inattention that they both soon freed themselves.

vi) This is in stark contrast to the fact that immediately prior to carjacking Salwinder Singh, the terrorists coldly offed 30-year-old Ikagar Singh, a father of two and a native of the tiny village of Bhagwal, 170-km southwards of Pathankot AFS, who had been driving them in a Toyota Innova ‘people mover’. Ikagar Singh’s fault seemed to have been taking rough roads at too fast a clip – whether out of fear or from a young privateer cabbie’s love of speed. It either bent a rim or punctured a tyre (the reports are conflicting: there is more information about the politicodrama of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal gifting Ikagar Singh’s family a cheque for ₹5 lakh than about what befell the young man).

The terrorists killed Ikagar Singh because he inconvenienced them. And, yet, these very same men let all three of their subsequent ‘hostages’ go, alive and mildly damaged, despite that one of them owned the expensive SUV with a gran personaje flasher rotating on the roof.


Punjab Police seem not to be holding back from trying to keep Salwinder Singh free from any hint of dubiety. Unfortunately, there are way too many breadcrumbs.

i) Was Salwinder Singh’s Mahindra XUV500 – a midsize SUV with good genes – his private ride or government-issue?

ii) If it was his private vehicle, what led him to affix a blue strobing beacon to its roof?

(The Central Government in 2002, referencing rule 108 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules 1989, specified who could and could not use beacons. Private vehicles, whether being used by a government functionary or no and for whatever reason: unoptionally, punishably illegal.)

(The beacon on Salwinder Singh’s SUV is clearly an aftermarket addition: An official beacon almost never advertises a brand-name; it is also mounted neatly without an external flexicord leading from the beacon to the driver-side window. Salwinder Singh’s Mahindra is all visible flexicord. The beacon also carries the brand-name “Grand”.)

iii) Salwinder Singh has not, yet, climbed high enough up the seniority ladder to have earned a Mahindra XUV500 as his official car. At between ₹11.47 lakh and ₹17.37 lakh, the establishment only hands it out to the Special Forces, senior bureaucrats, and income tax hotshots.

iv) Finally, Salwinder Singh’s licence plate number – PB-02-B-W0313 – identifies it as a private vehicle registered at the RTO Amritsar.

v) Going by Rule 42-A, Punjab Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, 0313 was an auctionable ‘vanity number’ with a reserve fee of ₹12,500.

The above notification by the Transport-II Branch of the Government of Punjab was dated 9 December 2014, and was formalised by the pleasure of the Governor.

I’m not certain if Salwinder Singh gained ownership of this licence plate number after placing the winning bid.

But there you are: autrefois Superintendent of Police and Assistant Commandant titulaire Salwinder Singh didn’t have the law on his side when he was ‘taken’.

But this is small change compared to the enormity of the damage his misuse of the blue beacon would eventually do.


DSP Pathankot (Rural) Kuldeep Singh, reading from Salwinder Singh’s filed report, said that the blue beacon was on until the terrorists shanghaied the car. When the terrorists got in, it was switched off.

In the light of what transpired, this is bunk.

In India, up-dressing a private vehicle as an official one is a time-honoured ego-massager and tactic to pelt through tollgates and blocs routières. And so it was with Salwinder Singh’s SUV.

It shot through a checkpost on the Dinanagar-Taragarh Link Road near village Kolian with its beacon alight and spinning – thrice. The policemen smartly saluted.

The SUV then rocketed past the checkpost on Kathloh Bridge just across the border in district Solan in Himachal Pradesh.

According to news reports, the SUV sped through another 30-km to a toll plaza near the Pathankot bus station on the Gurdaspur Road – where the blue beacon saw it through, again unchecked.


But there are things here that defy not just credulity but also the logic of time and space: the distances are out of whack, the transit times are a joke.

i) The three men were shanghaied from Simbli-Gulpur, about 150-km south-southeast of the Pathankot Air Force Station.

ii) Salwinder Singh was dispossessed of his vehicle, along with Madan Gopal, at village Tajpur, in tehsil Pathankot in Gurdaspur district. Tajpur is a medium-size village virtually on the border of Gurdaspur and Kangra districts. It is located 32.4-km from the Pathankot AFS.

iii) Rajesh Kumar Verma was dumped at Damtal, on NH1A on the Jalandhar-Pathankot Road, in the Chambal-Kangra hills in Himachal Pradesh. Damtal falls on the east bank of the gulch known as the river Chakkī, off the west bank of which is the eastern flank of the Pathankot AFS.


i) Ordinarily, and without the aid of establishment spin, it would have taken the terrorists 2 hours and 15 minutes to travel the distance from Simbli-Gulpur to Pathankot via NH103A and NH1A – without traffic on these fairly busy highways. With traffic – 3 hours, give or take. This distance, as has been noted earlier in the Ballad of the Blue Beacon (section #3), is punctuated with tollbooths.

ii) Village Tajpur, where the terrorists ejected Salwinder Singh and Madan Gopal, is 2 hours 45 minutes – or 156-km – from Simbli-Gulpur.

iii) Damtal, where Verma was heaved out, is 2 hours 55 minutes – or 169-km – from Simbli-Gulpur. It is 21 minutes – or 13-km – from Tajpur.

Just thinking about this makes my head hurt – and I’m good with maps and distances. The route that the terrorists took in Salwinder Singh’s SUV was batshit-crazy. (And they were reportedly GPS-equipped.) It’s almost as if they were doing pretty much everything that is in Terrorism for Dummies to get caught.


Trying to see through the information fog that this attack is purposefully swaddled in, one can only surmise that the terrorists dumped Salwinder Singh, Gopal, and Verma sometime about 8 pm – 3 hours for the highway joyride and 1 hour for pootling around. But this is only a supposition, born of astonishment at how easy it should be to stand ferocious, dimwitted fedayeen such as these in a conga line and shoot them down like sitting ducks.

India’s überestablishment and the media insist that while the terrorists had the free run of Pathankot-Gurdaspur for a day, they started doing their thing only at 12:15 am on Saturday, 2 January.

A day on the lam doesn’t speak in superlatives about the acuity of Punjab’s incumbent security establishment. But the terrorists went on to do something even more counterintuitive: They contacted their handlers in Pakistan using Salwinder Singh’s mobile.

Among several other mind-bogglers, this is:

a. Unprecedented. It has never happened earlier because it’s not supposed to happen. Never before have Pakistan-based terrorists, with a clear agenda and scads of staying power ‘roided up with badass weaponry (and GPS, hear, hear!), landed up without their own comsets, even satphones. It is almost slapstick that a suicide squad should have to diddle around with a filched handset (a filched official handset belonging to a senior security official whom they ejected, alive, enabling him to blow both their cover and their schedule).

b. Odd. Salwinder Singh’s mobile numbers – it was a two-SIM phone – were open and unblocked for almost 8 hours straight. The last call the mobile was used for – involving a comedy skit of cross-intent, with both the Punjab Police and the terrorists politely asking each other, “Āāp kꜷṇ?”…” Āāp kꜷṇ?” – was at 3:26 am, in the wintry, wee hours of Friday, 1 January.


How many terrorists comprised this fedayeen klutzkrieg? Everybody is guessing. Not guesstimating: guessing, second-guessing, maybe even third-guessing. Who knows? Arithmetic went out of the window on Day 1. Salwinder Singh’s car apparently hosted four or five terrorists, only one of whom, according to the cook, Madan Gopal, spoke broken Punjabi. As of this moment, however, four – or five – terrorists are reported to have been ‘neutralised’, with another two – or maybe one – inside the AFS premises still.

Wait. One was ganked at 3:45 pm yesterday (Sunday, 3 January). And then there was…one. Maybe.

One more was offed at 12:45 pm today (Monday, 4 January) via the undeniably effective expedient of blowing up the entire building around him.

That makes six. But nobody’s taking chances – because nobody knows.

Never in India’s history has an antiterrorist smackdown been set in motion, set in order, and set aside with so little information.


But most everybody seems to have pots of information that the terrorists were from:

a. the Jæsh-e-Muhammad;

b. the Bahawalpur district in the Pakistani Punjab which, at 26,000-odd-sq-km, is an area huge enough to have become a catchment, since 1999, for allegations that it is a crucible for Islamofundamentalists.

(A significant chunk of this one can blame on Masood Azhar himself: The fat, hairy barbarian was born in Bahawalpur. Indians detest his all-grown-up evil-Chucky mug, and no body of citizens hates that mug more than the Sangh: He’s the one who, in 1999, got away. And then set about singlehandedly rescripting India-Pakistan relations. No matter that it was the NDA government that had released him, exchanging him for the passengers and crew of flight IC-814.)


But the truth is that Jæsh-e-Muhammad has not existed, in name, for nearly a decade-and-a-half. Pervez Musharraf had banned Jæsh-e-Muhammad in October 2001, three months after his sour-sweet visit to India, following which it snappily renamed itself a mellower-sounding Khuddam ul-Islām (Association of the Servants of Islam). However, clever enough by then to not plonk all its eggs in one basket, the JEM also renamed itself Tehrīk al-Furqān (Movement for Change).

Whatever their reason – laziness, protocol, or convenience – the world’s security establishments still favour the name Jæsh-e-Muhammad. Maybe it is axiomatic in the creepy world of Weltintelligenz that a known corpse is preferable to a living terror. The result is that the JEM’s formal new face, Khuddam ul-Islām, is today mostly unacknowledged.

In fact, Khuddam ul-Islām finds no mention in the GoI’s National Investigation Agency’s ‘Schedule-I’ of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, which is the list of 36 terrorist organisations banned by state fiat. Jæsh-e-Muhammad and Tehrīk al-Furqān, separated by a backslash that also serves to link them, have a placeholder at #6. But the name of Khuddam ul-Islām, umbilically connected to Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman group), which has been in coalition with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League since 2013, is conspicuously absent.

A terrorist group unnamed is a terrorist group unidentified.


As of the closing of this piece, the Indian security establishment was almost convinced that the remaining two terrorists, who were dug into the Pathankot AFS, were dead. But finecombing is in slow progress in the wonky W-shaped area of the Pathankot Air Force Station proper, the Pathankot airport and the air force secure zones (they share the single 2,384-m x 46-m runway, designated #01/19), the Air Force School, the Officers’ Mess AFS, and the tiny wedge of the AFS that abuts into Pathankot city just this side of NH1A to the north – with only a short dash across a dense copse of trees separating it from Pathankot Cantt Railway Station. It is a total area a mite less than 12-sq-km (not, as the media insists, 24-sq-km).

Inside the AFS-civilian airport compound, tightly clustered to the north and northwest, is a wealth of what are known in today’s military bling-jargon as “soft targets”: an Air Force Senior Non-Commissioned Officers’ mess, a cricket ground, a shopping complex, an Air Force Wives Welfare Association complex, an Officers’ Institute, an Air Force School, a joggers’ park, an open air theatre, an air force movie theatre.

Part of this acreage is undulating land and thick vegetation. The river Chakkī – or, to be precise, the Chakkī khāḍ – a major tributary of the river Beas but basically a seasonal terror that varies from a depth of 1.5-m during the dry months to 4.5-m during the monsoons, marks the eastern edge of the Pathankot AFS. Forming the curved western flank of the AFS is part of a 19-km-long canal, the Ravi-Beas Link, one of the dense network of canals of the Upper Bari Doab Canal System in Gurdaspur district. After an easy curve along the station’s western border, the R-B Link nips through the compound, cutting into the airport from the west and exiting from almost its southernmost needle-tip on its way to debouching into the Chakkī khāḍ, as the makers of the vast canal system had meant it to way back in 1954.

All-in-all, the terrorists were spoilt for choice of sneakaround terrain, so expansive and sporadically-wooded and, therefore, with almost zero open line-of-sight (except along and to the sides of the runway, with its bunkers and ammo dump and MiG-21 Bis taxiïng tangents) that they could afford to hide out without fear of being boxed in.

It is over. And, yet, because the whole shindig has been an industrial-scale nātak-nautaṅkī: who’d be willing to bet even a paltry sikkā that we really have closure?

(All data in this piece are published and in the public domain. Following the breadcrumbs and connecting the dots, however, is all me. It’s what I do.)

Friday the 13th

Curiouser and curiouser.

A false flag drill had been planned in the French capital on the very morning of the Paris attacks – Friday, 13 November.

Friday the 13th. Not a day of any particular significance in Islam. But paraskevidekatriaphobia – fear of Friday the 13th – is a peculiarly Western phenomenon.

The sort of thing that a false flag drill planner might have up his idiosyncratic sleeve.

Just saying.

• • • • •

The Free Radio Revolution video making this claim – minus the paraskevidekatriaphobia bit: that’s all me – is up on YouTube.


Now, personally, I have substantial reservations about Free Radio’s Jeff C being right every time he goes off half-cocked. I don’t, for instance, believe that the Charlie Hébdo attack was a put-on job.

I could be wrong, of course. But this boucherie à Paris – there’s far too much that is subsurface still, and far too much artful dodging going on by the Hollande government.

• • • • •

“The timing of the event – Aside from the obvious connotations derived from the attacks occurring on Friday the 13th, the Paris massacre has taken place shortly before a major climate summit that was set to take place in France. The French government was expecting massive protests they alleged could potentially become violent, by activists opposed to globalization and energy austerity. Interestingly enough, France had already planned to impose border controls starting on November 30th in anticipation of the U.N. Conference on Climate Change in Paris “because of the terrorist threat or risk of public disorder.” Needless to say, there will be no massive protest now considering the fact that 2015 France resembles the 1943 version of itself more than anything else.

“Considering the fact that the security had been so heightened both on the heels of the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the anticipation of disorder for the U.N. Conference on Climate Change, how on earth did such a major terror attack slip through the hands of the DGSE? After all, France is nothing if not a police state. It is also giving the United States a run for its money in the contest for how much information it is able to nab up on its citizens.”


Much of Brandon Turbeville’s claims in his blogpost above can be put down to a nimble shot at selling some more of his titles.

Not all of it, though.

There was a terrorist who surrendered yelling, “I am from the Islamic State!” (All sight of him was lost after his arrest.)

There were initial reports that some of the terrorists at Ba’taclan were hefting shotguns, not Kalashnikovs.

For a country that has been more or less under security lockdown since the Charlie Hébdo attacks, the security forces did take their time moving leurs croupes. Going by the words of French security, not one of the attackers was shot dead.

• • • • •

So much to ponder.

How the Islamic State is Using al-Intiqāl

The Paris attacks were waiting to happen. I’m sure I was hardly the only observer of Al Intiqāl – ‘The Migration’ – who expected the Islamic State to take advantage of it. In fact, it would’ve been an opportunity lost if the IS hadn’t.

As it turns out, French Intelligence – both the extérieur DGSE and the intérieur DGSI – were caught with their pantalóns down. As was German Intelligence (the famous Schengen Datentransfer went to pot when the Germans stopped a car packed with high-end arms at the border last month – and failed to give their French counterparts the heads-up).

One of the attackers at the Ba’taclan music venue has been identified as Omar Ismaïl Mostefaï, a 29-year-old French citizen of Algerian origin. A bloodied Syrian passport found outside Gate D of the Stade de France seemed to indicate that an attacker came in with the forced migration wave through Greece – but the latest news is that the Greece connection has been discounted. International Intelligence – it is an international investigation now, which goes to show just how farflung a conspiracy the current outrage was – is reportedly investigating the possibility that the Syrian passport is a plant.

[UPDATE: The Syrian passport found outside Gate D of the Stade de France is reportedly legit. Its owner has been identified as Ahmad al-Mohammad, 25, of Idlib, in northwestern Syria. He had passed through the Greek island of Levos on 3 October and had been registered at Presevo on the Macedonian border on 7 October. However, there is still no indication of whether the passport itself is authentic or a forgery, considering that there exists a healthy blackmarket in Syrian passports (because manifestum est Syrians get asylum more easily than other Arabs). Two other terrorists who died at Le Ba’taclan were from “the Brussels area”, according to Belgian authorities.]

But one thing is inescapable: Without help from members of Françafrique and Algeria, the IS wouldn’t have the fingernailhold it has in France.

The Syrian passport is exactly the sort of red herring the IS would employ if it wanted to spark-off a backlash against Al Intiqāl. Or just engineer an überestablishmentarian anti-Muslim backlash.

Here comes Pegida roaring to Europe’s rescue.

• • • • •

Here’s the kicker: The attackers were all well-armed with Kalashnikovs – the favourite weapon of ultraviolent suiciders worldwide – and suicide vests packed with nails and screws. All the better to take out as many noncombatants as possible. (In the event, the wounds upon the dead and the injured in Paris were horrendous beyond reckoning.)

Suicide vests are delicate things. Suicide vests are never smuggled into the country of impact: Suicide vests are made in the country of impact. (It’s not difficult to make one – just, going by the confessions of those who shucked them off, extraordinarily difficult to wear one.)

But setting up and coordinating a seven-member, three-group simultaneous suicide run – that’s a tough ‘un.

• • • • •

Tough or no, the IS managed it under cover of a legitimate Al Intiqāl, when Europe’s eyes were turned inwards and softened by righteous compassion. The IS had on its side deepset righteousness and zero compassion.

This isn’t about to stop.

US trying to draw India into Da’esh war

Here comes the chokehold, bang on time.

Or how to slowly draw India into a self-flagellating war with the Islamic State.

• • • • •

“We have certainly had very robust discussions between our two governments, including at the leader level, about the threat that violent extremism poses, and specifically the threat posed by IS, and ways that we can work together to counter that threat.

“Whether India decides to formally join the coalition to combat IS or whether India takes other steps is for India to determine.

“But we value and welcome the cooperation between our two countries, which is certainly growing and deepening on issues of combating terrorism and combating violent extremism.”

[US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal; Washington presse prélasser; Thursday, 27 February 2015]

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A day prior (Wednesday, 26 February 2015), India had got round to banning the Islamic State (which I shall henceforth refer to as ‘Da’esh’ because the name SO pisses those archfundamentalists off) under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

It was just a formality, but one which, piled into the Cabinet’s lazy inbox, had needled Barack Obama, POTUS, into making a point of it, on his Republic Day visit here, during his “not-everything-can-be-revealed” ‘broments’ with Primemin Narendra Modi.

The primemin had been warming up to it. On 16 December 2014, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had told Parliament that Da’esh had already been “declared banned in India” under a United Nations Schedule. What THAT means stood beside the actual, notified ban two days ago, I wouldn’t know – but it looks like a bit of sleight of hand that’s crippled by carpal tunnel syndrome.

Singh had then said Da’esh had been banned under the Schedule to the United Nations Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism (Implementation of Security Council Resolutions) Order, 2007 made under Section 2 of the United Nations (Security Council) Act, 1947.

– – – – –

In effect, Da’esh was internationally banned by the UN on behalf of its member states last year, but nationally banned by and in India two days ago via government notification.

This makes which event superfluous?

• • • • •

Anyway, why quibble? India is already in an official snog dance with Isrāel. The Indian government has just banned Da’esh (which it should have a long time ago). And, now, a senior Obama Administration official is making coy no-no-yes-yes eyes at India.

It’s perplexing. There is, at this moment, no other word for it.

Keep watching this space.