The ever more resonant image of India as a 21st century superpower has also had its attendant shadows and ghosts: such as the off-putting strangeness of India's systems of class, caste and religion, and the grim disparities of wealth so evident in Mumbai (which provide the premise and backdrop to the new hit movie Slumdog Millionaire.) Moreover, BBC Newsnight reported tonight that India has been taking its share of the pain of the global economic crisis – the stock market 50% down on the year, the rupee down 20%, £13 billion worth of investment pulled out - even before yesterday’s atrocity, and the loathsome CCTV pictures from Mumbai of those ghouls in sweatshirts and jeans, their backpacks heaving with grenades and spare magazines for the AK-47, stalking the softest of soft targets in hotels and train stations.
If, as they liked to say in the 1970s, 'political terror' is a form of 'communication', what are these ratbags trying to tell us? The rumoured hunting down of British and American passport-holders proposes one horrible interpretation – that these were Islamist jackals, unleashed from Pakistan or Kashmir or recruited by al-Qaeda, taking their glorious stand against the glaring evils of modernity and pluralist poly-ethnic democracy.
Tariq Ali, characteristically, and in Counterpunch, has countered the rush to this judgement: ‘The Lashkar-e-Taiba, not usually shy of claiming its hits, has strongly denied any involvement with the Mumbai attacks.’ Ali also sets out a list of grievances among Indian Muslims – ‘the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in shining Gujarat… supported by the Chief Minister of the State and the local state apparatuses’ and ‘the continuing sore of Kashmir.’ In short, Ali is warning India to get ready for the national angst of learning that these were homegrown murdering scum.
Shuja Nawaz draws a similar conclusion in the Huffington Post: ‘Chances are that this is a homegrown outfit’, and that they are "communicating" on behalf of ‘the Muslims of India, who despite being close to 150 million strong have a disproportionately tiny share of India's burgeoning wealth.’ But the real message Nawaz believes is being sent out is one designed to throttle some promising political progress, by the arousal of hatred: ‘This incident may spell danger for India-Pakistan relations at a time when a much-needed thaw seems to be emerging… Just one day before the attack, at a meeting in Islamabad of the Home Secretaries of India and Pakistan, an agreement was reached on a wide range of measures aimed at combating terrorism.’
Here's to that spirit and those measures, then, and let's be having them.