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Our neighbour’s view of 26/11

What does the aam aadmi in Pakistan think of the murder and mayhem committed by 10 of his countrymen in Mumbai last year on November 26. The question is of vital importance...writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: Oct 11, 2009 01:17 IST
Khushwant Singh

What does the aam aadmi in Pakistan think of the murder and mayhem committed by 10 of his countrymen in Mumbai last year on November 26? The question is of vital importance if you really mean to understand the Pakistan government’s tactics when presented with convincing evidence that the entire operation was planned by Pakistani nationals on Pakistani soil and executed by Pakistanis.

No government which pretends to represent the people of its country can afford to ignore public opinion. To begin with, there was blank denial of any Pakistani being involved in the crime. This was tinged with apprehension that India may retaliate by carrying out similar operations in Pakistan and trigger off yet another mutually destructive Indo-Pak war. When that fear proved baseless, it was replaced by a sense of achievement, a feeling of pride that their countrymen could plan and execute such a daring exploit with such finesse.

Kasab’s voluntary confession that he was involved in the crime and how it was carried out ought to have silenced all doubts about the identities of the perpetrators and their motives. It did not. Even the fact that among the innocent victims over 40 were Muslims was brushed aside. The sense of false pride in performing a foul deed still persists.

Hafiz Muhammad Saeed is a later discovery. Our official spokesman refers to him as the “brains behind the conspiracy”. I checked the allegation with a few Pakistani friends who have no anti-India bias and were in Delhi over Dussehra. Though general opinion was that if there is one thing Hafiz Muhammad Saeed does not have are brains. “He is a rabble-rouser,” said one. “At the most he could be a fund-raiser, motivator or instigator, but not a planner.” There can be no doubt that there were many others in the conspiracy.

However, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed has been accorded the status of a celebrity. There can be no other explanation of his present whereabouts. One day we are told he has been arrested, the next day that he is only under house arrest, the third day his lawyer professes over TV, radio and at a press conference that he is a free man. What are we to believe? Whatever evidence we produce is discounted as ‘half-baked’. In this atmosphere of mutual mistrust, the prospects of an Indo-Pak dialogue ending in an agreement to punish criminals still at large in Pakistan and elsewhere appear to be dismal.

Arunachal: a hidden land

What I knew about Arunachal Pradesh could have been written behind the proverbial postage stamp. I knew it is the easternmost part of India sharing a border with China which has never ceased coveting it. That is why our former Commander-in-Chief, General J J Singh was appointed governor based in Itanagar. Its inhabitants are tribals of Mongoloid origin who spoke different dialects. Some were Buddhists, some Christians and some animists. That was all.

Now I know a lot more. And all due to a beautifully produced coffee-tabler by a beautiful Arunachali journalist Mamang Dai, titled Arunachal Pradesh: The Hidden Land (Penguin). It is a kind of primer for those who want to discover the hidden land of densely forested mountains, rivers, lakes teeming with a variety of birds... a veritable museum in which you will find something you knew nothing about.

Maps, pictures and paintings help imprint the information in one’s mind. We owe it to ourselves to know more about a people we call our countrymen. Start with this book.

Indians Number One

Three contractors are bidding to fix a broken fence at the White House in Washington DC. One from Bangladesh, another from China and the third from India. The Bangladesh contractor takes out a tape measure. “Well,” he says, “I figure the job will run to about $900 ($400 for materials, $400 for my team and $100 profit for me.)”

The Chinese contractor also measures and says, “I can do this job for $700 ($300 for materials, $300 for my team and $100 profit for me.)”

The India contractor doesn’t measure or figure, but leans over to the White House official and whispers, “$2,700.” The official, incredulous, says, “You didn’t even measure like the others! How did you come up with this figure?” The Indian contractor whispers back, “$1,000 for you, and we hire the guy from China to fix the fence.”

“Done!” replies the White House official.

(Contributed by Vipin Buckshey)

The views expressed by the author are personal

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