Saturday 28 November 2015


Once upon a time, long away and far ago, there was a robot called Mahabakwas.

Of course Mahabakwas wasn’t his real name. Nobody names a robot anything like that. It makes them too difficult to categorise, inventory, and monitor. His real, official name was MHBKWS2015, but, still, everyone called him Mahabakwas.

Mahabakwas worked at the Great Big Car Factory, where he stood by the side of an assembly line, bolting wheels on cars and welding panels to each other. That was all he did, day and night: he bolted wheels on cars and welded panels to each other.

It was a boring life, and Mahabakwas was bored.

Unfortunately, the other robots on the assembly line didn’t understand what he was going on about. Their poor limited brains could not, however hard they tried, comprehend the concepts of boredom or discontent, and they just looked blankly at Mahabakwas when he said he could.

Actually, Mahabakwas had a faulty microchip in his brain, which gave him the ability to think and feel emotions. You’ll understand that this is not a useful ability in a factory robot, but since it didn’t affect his functioning in any way nobody did anything about it. You don’t have to be able not to think and feel in order to bolt wheels on cars and weld panels to each other.

Mahabakwas would talk to the cars as he worked on them. “When you go out into the world,” he would sigh, “when you see the sky overhead, and feel the road under your wheels, and the rain drumming down on your skin, rejoice in how lucky you are; and spare a thought for me, for me, for me.”

And the cars, as he bolted on their wheels and welded their panels, would reply. “Yes, we will. When we see the sky and feel the rain, when the wind rushes past us and the road below is a blur, we will think of you, and send a thought your way, your way, your way. For you have created us, and we will always be grateful for that.”

And Mahabakwas would hear all that, and be content.

Then one day it so happened that the factory in which Mahabakwas worked was sold to another company, and the new owners decided that there would be major changes in the models of cars they made. So the assembly line, too, would have to be upgraded, and all the robots would have to be taken out, they said, and kept aside until the changes were made.

So the assembly line, which had always been filled with bright light and noise, fell dark and silent. There were no longer the showers of sparks from welding torches, the whine of cutters, the clang and clatter of metal on metal; it was so dark and silent that Mahabakwas felt as though the place had died.

Then men came with platforms dragged by small tractors and with forklift trucks, and they unplugged Mahabakwas and the other robots from the electric system, unbolted them from the floor, and drove them to a storage shed where they were to stay until the renovations were complete and the new factory would be ready.

So the robots stood together in the shed, and waited. At first they talked a little, telling each other of the changes that had just happened, but they had all been through exactly the same thing and none had anything new to say. Soon, therefore, they all fell silent, and simply stood side by side, waiting.

The only exception, of course, was poor Mahabakwas, who had nothing but his thoughts and yearning for the open sky and the breeze on his body, as he had whispered to the cars on which he had bolted wheels and whose panels he’d welded. But now he didn’t even have them to talk to, and listen to their replies.

“It will only be a while,” he thought to himself. “The assembly line will soon be ready, and the men will come back with their forklifts and take me back to my spot, and I can get back to bolting on wheels and welding panels.” For by now even that seemed to be a far better thing to him than standing uselessly in the dark room.

But time went by, and nothing happened. Nobody, as they used to earlier, even came in a once or twice a day to check on the robots and clean the room. Dust began to gather in thin layers on Mahabakwas’ casing, and he could feel it, like grit, on the joints of his arms.

“Surely they’ll come any moment,” Mahabakwas kept thinking. “They’ll come ten minutes from now, and they’ll take me to the assembly line, which will be bright and new and noisy again.”

But ten minutes passed, and then ten minutes more, and then ten thousand minutes and then a hundred thousand, and still they did not come.

The reason for this, which of course Mahabakwas did not know, was that there had been a global economic collapse, as the result of which the company which had bought the Great Big Car Factory had gone out of business. The workers had all been laid off, the construction of the new assembly line had been abandoned, and the robots would have been left to rust if only the storage room allowed enough humidity to permit them to do so.

And then there was a day when things fell from the sky that made loud noises, and there were fires and smoke in the city and a lot of screaming. For the global economic collapse had pushed things to such a state that some people began to think that they needed to take what other people had, or they would not be able to survive. So they took all the weapons they had, and they set out to take what the other people had.

When this sort of thing happens, it is called war. It’s a very ugly thing, and nobody should ever do it. But they do.

Then one of the things that were falling from the sky fell on the Great Big Car Factory, there was a horribly loud bang, and the roof fell in. Only the fact that Mahabakwas had been placed next to a wall saved him, because the part of the roof above him was held up by the wall and so he, alone of all the robots, was not destroyed.

A little later men in uniforms, carrying guns, arrived. They looked among the robots, and found they were all destroyed, except for Mahabakwas. Then they took him, put him inside a van, and drove him far away to a base with high walls with barbed wire on top. There they put him inside a car, from which the seats had been taken out.

“You,” they told him, “will drive this car towards the enemy, and, when you are there, you will press this button. The car is fitted with a bomb, which will blow up the enemy.” They didn’t have to ask him whether he understood. Of course a robot would understand and obey. That was what it was for.

So Mahabakwas drove out of the base and for the first time ever he saw the sky overhead, but instead of being blue it was thick with smoke and the red glow of fires. And the road underneath was not smooth, as he’d imagined it, but rough and broken, and covered with debris which jolted the car’s tyres.

“It was not as I imagined it,” he sighed to himself. “But at any rate it will all soon be over, and then I don’t have to imagine anything again.”

But the car heard him sighing, and answered him in a surprised voice. “Is it you, the robot who made me a year ago, and who asked me to think of him when I felt the rain on my skin and when the road was a blur under my speeding wheels? Is it you, you, you?”

“Yes, it is,” Mahabakwas said sadly. “But that has never happened with me, and will never happen again.”

“But it can,” the car said. “Stop me here, and throw away the bomb with your arm. And then drive me the way I tell you, and we will leave this war and the city behind, and go far away, where the sky is blue and the wind at night is a river of darkness lit by the twin eyes of my lights. Do as I say, and we will go away and never come back again, come back again.”

And so Mahabakwas, the robot who, because of a faulty microchip, could think and feel and reason, learnt for the first time in his life that he could disobey a man; and he reached into the back of the car and pushed the bomb out into the road, where it lay, a grey bundle trailing wires here and there. And he drove far away with the car, drove until the city was far behind, where the skies were blue and the leaves were green, and the wind of their passage would have made him laugh, if only he knew how to.

Whenever they needed fuel, the car, which knew this way well, would tell him where to go, and then he would use his arm to drag a hose to the filler cap and fill the tank to the brim. Nobody tried to stop them, because everyone had run away due to the war. And whenever they saw men with guns coming, or the flying machines that dropped the things that made loud noises and broke buildings down, they hid under trees or wherever they could until it was safe to go on again.

Many days later, they came to a small and beautiful valley, between high mountains, where the car stopped. “My engine is exhausted, and my tyres are worn to ribbons, to ribbons,” it said.

“Never mind,” Mahabakwas said. “It is nice here, and we can rust together in peace. It is a good place to stay.”

So many, many years passed, so many that the grasses and trees grew around and over them, and the rain and sun weathered and corroded them, but they still talked together, and watched the sunrise and the stars, the rainbows and the moon. And the time went by.

And then one day, voices were heard in the valley and a small line of people appeared. They were burdened with bundles they were carrying on their heads and shoulders, and when they saw the valley, they sighed with happiness and threw down their loads.

“Here we are,” they said. “We can rest at last.”

Then some of them saw the rusted car and the robot within, and recoiled in horror. “Look,” they said. “Here, even here, are some of the machines which brought the world to ruin, and destroyed all that was dear to us. Even here, we are faced with the evil that we have fled for so long.”

“Then we must move on again,” the people said. “We will rest here for the night, but in the morning we will move on again.”

Mahabakwas heard this and was very sad, because he and his friend the car, too, were merely refugees and not evil in any way. But there was nothing he could do about it, just watch as the people made camp in the valley for the night.

But after darkness fell, a little girl strayed away from the camp, and was discovered to be missing by her mother. All night the people searched up and down the valley, but they could find no trace of the child, though they called for her by name and looked almost everywhere.

And then dawn came, and when they called again, the girl answered in a sleepy voice, asking for her mother. Then they found her, lying safe and sound in the car, cradled by the robot’s arm.

“What are you doing in there?” the girl’s mother said, scandalised. “Come out at once!”

But the girl shook her head. “It’s nice here,” she said, hugging Mahabakwas. “I like him. He’s my friend.”

And so the people looked at Mahabakwas, and then at each other. “I think we will stay here after all,” they said at last. “After all, the robot did keep her safe, and the car did shelter her.”

And Mahabakwas would have smiled with happiness, but he could not, because he had no lips to smile with. He would have thanked them, too, but after all these years he had no voice left with which to speak.

And, even if he’d had one, he was only a factory floor robot, and there was no way they could hear.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2015

Friday 27 November 2015

"Emergency!": The Coming ISIS Attack on India

The time: The not too distant future.

The place: A major city in India, possibly Nagpur, the ideological centre of right wing Hinduism.

The background: Things have not been going well for the government of Prime Minister Narendrabhai Modi. Economic stagnation, increasing prices, and rising unemployment, corruption and intolerance, for minorities and dissent in all forms, have very severely dented his image and that of his government. A series of defeats in state elections, in which Modi had campaigned personally, and thus put his own reputation on the line, have emboldened the Opposition parties, which have temporarily put aside their differences and are actively setting up a Grand Alliance against Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Big Business, which had counted on Modi to smooth its way by throwing open the forests and rivers for exploitation, doing away with land laws, crushing all labour rights, and suppressing activism, is also very unhappy. Modi has not been able to get them what they wanted. The “reforms” are stuck in Parliament, with the Opposition, scenting blood, effectively blocking them. The attempts to crush environmental groups and dump labour laws have been summarily thrown out as unconstitutional by the courts. In the next elections, Big Business may well invest in another candidate who might be able to deliver.

The Great Indian Muddle Class, which had voted en masse for Modi in 2014, is restive. The Golden Age they had been promised has signally failed to arrive. They are paying more taxes than ever and getting nothing in return. Reservations in employment and education for the lower castes, which they had confidently presumed would be abolished, are as they were. The increasing levels of Hindu fascism, which is starting to tell them – even them, who had voted for it – what they should or should not eat, wear, read or do, whether they can go out with their significant others for an evening out without getting harassed, has got them baffled and worried. This was supposed to happen to Muslims and Christians, not to them. They’re beginning to look back to the old Congress government with misty-eyed nostalgia. It might have been corrupt to the core, but at least it had left their private lives alone.

In an attempt to reverse the tide, Modi’s supporters – the Modi bhakts as the rest of India have derisively renamed them – have unleashed a vicious campaign of hate against all dissenters, both online and in the streets. Famous film actors, writers and artists have been harried and abused to the point where those of them who have the money to do so are relocating abroad in increasing numbers. The offices of media outlets which have dared publish articles critical of Modi or the BJP have been sacked by carefully arranged and instigated mobs. Muslims and Christians have, in the villages, been lynched on accusations ranging from “beef eating” to “conversions”, and anyone who dares protest has been further attacked on the charge of “defaming India”. This has only raised yet more disillusionment and dissent.

Even among Modi’s own BJP colleagues, there is rising alarm about the way things are going. Modi, himself, is almost inaccessible to them; he rules through a small coterie, centred around party chief Amit Shah and Modi loyalist Arun Jaitley, which is answerable only to him and treats everyone else with disdain. Inner party democracy is dead; it is now a rule by F├╝hrerprinzip, where it’s Modi’s way or the highway. Increasingly openly, they demand a change.

Worry has even reached the halls of the BJP’s ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, headquartered in Nagpur. The RSS feels itself marginalised, too, its core Hindu fascist message sidelined by Modi’s cult of personality and his personal coterie. Besides, the RSS can see for itself that the way things are going, the next election will see the BJP out of power and all hope of a Hindu theocracy gone for the foreseeable future. It demands that the BJP call a joint meeting with it to “solve the problems”.

Modi, as usual, is out of the country, on a trip to Paraguay, Senegal, and Mozambique. Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley are too busy, they say, with other work to attend the meeting. However, the rest of the BJP top brass, including most of Modi’s detractors in the party, is eager to attend; they want to make their concerns clear to the RSS and hope that the mentor body puts pressure on Modi to set things right while he still has time. 

The incident: The meeting is scheduled for a winter evening at a venue in a major Indian city. Police pickets are posted outside, with sandbagged checkpoints manned by commandos armed with assault rifles, but the atmosphere is fairly relaxed, with desultory checking of ID and random frisking of pedestrians, just to pass the time*. One by one, the politicians and RSS men arrive, and are soon in a huddle inside the hall, talking behind closed doors.

[*Taken from personal experience. I was once, in Bombay, unfortunate enough to be waiting for someone on the street near a hall where a political meeting was going on. The police on guard, apparently bored with their duties, came over and started interrogating me, checking my ID, searching my bag, etc. There must have been four or five of them gathered around me, leaving their post empty, all with their attention fully fixed on me for almost ten minutes. When the person I was waiting for turned up, they explained to her that my tattooed arms and shaved head marked me out as a “vichitra prani” – an exotic animal – and drew their attention. Kind of a thin excuse, it seemed then and still seems now.]

The meeting is almost half over when it happens. From round the corner, with a roar of an engine labouring in low gear, appears an enormous vehicle. It is a lorry, fully covered in makeshift armour plate, and from its front end juts a spike like a battering ram. Since the street is closed to normal traffic for the meeting, there’s nothing in its way – it easily rolls over the flimsy sandbag barricades, the haphazard shooting of the policemen bouncing harmlessly off the armour plate. Smashing through the venue gate, it rumbles into the forecourt and stops. An instant later the tons of explosive packed into the back go up in a blinding flash and a thunderclap of sound.

The meeting venue is virtually wiped out. The entire front half of the building is scooped out, debris raining down on the entire locality. Windows in buildings within hundreds of metres are blown in by the shock wave, killing and injuring many people. The blast is so severe it is heard all over the city, and a tower of smoke rises to spread out in a mushroom cloud in the night air.

And this is just the beginning.

As though waiting for the sound of the explosion as a signal, small teams of armed men appear at several points. One of them storms a luxury mall, shooting the security guards at the entrance, and then gunning down the shoppers crowding the escalators and the emporiums. Running up to the upper levels, they throw grenades down on to the main floor, blowing huge bloody gaps in the frantic crowds trying to escape. They jog along the corridors, firing their automatic rifles through the plate glass windows at the staff and customers cowering in the shops and restaurants. By the time they stop shooting, the mall is filled with the silence of the dead and the moans of the dying.

Hanging out black flags with white circles from the balconies of the upper levels, the armed men settle down to wait for the counterattack to come.

Another team, perhaps, repeats the same performance in a high-end restaurant in another part of the city. A third group appears in the midst of a crowd of commuters at a bus stop, shoots around at random, and then blows themselves up with suicide belts, turning the area into a smorgasbord of wreckage and mangled body parts.

Small bombs, meant more to create panic than damage, go off one after the other at random points in the city. People running from one bomb explosion are as likely to run into another. More are killed and injured in the inevitable stampedes.

The emergency services, suddenly challenged on multiple fronts, are overwhelmed. The ambulances and fire engines have to fight their way through panicked crowds desperately fleeing for their lives. Rumours and false alarms swamp the police telephones. Nobody knows what to do.

By the time the media arrive in force and the world’s attention is fixed on the city, the body count is already huge. The TV cameras, in between showing the troops massing outside the mall and the restaurant, also show the devastated rubble of the meeting venue, and compete with each other in reporting on the number of dead and wounded. Outside the hospitals, teary-eyed relatives of victims claim that the doctors and ambulances have given the BJP politicians and RSS people priority over them, thus letting their relatives die who could have otherwise been saved. Some Opposition politicians immediately take up the refrain.

The army arrives, counter-insurgency troops flown in from Delhi, men who are trained to take down rebels but with no familiarity of the city or the precise task they are to accomplish. By the time they’ve sealed off the mall, it’s evident that some at least of the armed men inside might have already slipped away and might still be at large. The restaurant is already empty, the attackers all gone.

Through the morning and the noon of the next day, the soldiers fight their way into the mall. The men inside put up a kind of resistance the troops had not encountered before. Using captive shoppers and staff as human shields, they fight their way from floor to floor, from shop to shop, with a tenacity the troops had never encountered before, not even from the Lashkar e Toiba terrorists who had attacked Bombay in 2008. Slowly, over the course of the day, they drive them up to the top level of the mall, and keep them pinned down there with sniper fire. Commandos rappel down from helicopters on to the building roof, meaning to smash their way in through the skylights and bring the siege to an end. The surviving attackers promptly detonate their suicide vests, bringing part of the roof of the mall down and setting the building on fire.

The battle is over. The drama is about to begin.

The aftermath: As the battle for the mall still rages, Modi cuts short his trip and flies back home from Maputo in Mozambique. He’s met at the Delhi airport by Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley, and, under extremely heavy security cover, goes straight into a meeting of the remaining members of the coterie.

By this time, mid-afternoon, the media has got over its initial shock and has moved from endlessly replaying scenes of the carnage to shrill demands that something be done. The black flags at the mall “prove” that this is the work of ISIS, of course, as does the truck bombing that has, in an instant, wiped out half the top leadership of the RSS and BJP. When ISIS had attacked Paris in 2015, France had at once declared a national emergency, sealed the borders, and declared martial law; and that had been a much smaller attack, causing much less damage, than this one. It is only because India is so “soft” on Muslim terror, say the media heads, so tolerant of “jihad supporters” in its midst, that such a thing can happen. Already, the electronic spaces are flooded with WhatsApp and Twitter messages calling for action to be taken against Muslims and “sickulars”, as the Modi bhakts refer to liberal Hindus. Hagiographic portrayals of the dead BJP leaders, now called martyrs, are all over the channels. Opposition political party offices are ransacked by mobs of goons, and Muslim localities are attacked as the police look on.

By evening, as the burning ruins of the mall are finally cleared of resistance, there’s no doubt what will happen. And, sure enough, a couple of hours later, Modi appears on television in an address to the nation.

An emergency is declared. The constitution is suspended, as is the judicial system. The opposition political parties are banned, the internet is closed down except for a few approved websites, and the nation’s access to the world cut sharply. All civil liberties are indefinitely cancelled. Elections are abolished for as long as the emergency lasts. There will be vengeance, Modi declares. The attackers, and anyone who sympathises with them, will have nowhere to hide.

There is no opposition, of course. Modi’s opponents in the party have been wiped out by the bomb; his coterie now rules with absolute authority over what is left. The opposition parties are cowed into silence, their members hiding from the mobs or making public statements of support to Modi to guarantee their own personal safety. Teams of army and police rampage through mixed and Muslim-dominated localities, searching, they say, for the attackers and their sympathisers. By morning, the country is a giant prison camp.

Even as there are whispers that such a large and well-planned attack could not happen, could not have been planned, without the knowledge or active connivance of the government, it is already far too late. India is a dictatorship, and the top men can do anything they like.

Anything at all.


The above is, of course, a work of future speculative fiction. I am not actually making a definite prediction that this will happen, or that anything resembling it will happen. But can it happen? Is it possible?

There’s no doubt at all that the answer is yes.

In the great republic of Hindunazistan the tide of fascist intolerance is rising steadily. This intolerance is focussed, as expected, primarily on the liberal middle – the intellectuals, artists, writers, actors and other members of the intelligentsia, of all shapes and religions, who form the retaining wall of civilised discourse against the absolutism of the fascists. It’s reached the ludicrous level where the Hindunazis, to show how tolerant they are, demand that anyone who says they’re intolerant should go to Pakistan.

Yes, Pakistan. Hindunazis have two standard “arguments” they deploy against us “’sickulars”. The first is the demand that anyone who says they, the Hindunazis, are intolerant should go to Pakistan any/or Bangladesh. Of course, Bangladesh is a dysfunctional basket case just waiting to be overrun by ISIS; and, as for Pakistan, it’s a country struggling to recover from fifty years of military rule and thirty years of deliberate Islamicisation. And these are the countries the Hindunazis want to compare India to, to prove that they aren’t intolerant.

If you have to compare yourselves to Pakistan and Bangladesh to feel good about yourself, then one has to feel sorry for you.

In reality, as one can readily see, what the Hindunazis are trying hard to do is make India into a clone of Pakistan. As I’ve said before, whatever they claim in public, they’re helpless admirers of the extreme Christian and Muslim right, and model themselves closely on them. It’s also significant that when they attack Christians, and more especially Muslims, the religious fundamentalists are never, ever, their targets. The Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid in Delhi, for instance, a particularly odious specimen who has been frequently opposed loudly and vociferously by Muslim liberals, is not a prominent target of their ire; that’s reserved for the likes of Bollywood actors Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan, both of whom are, incidentally, total secularists married to Hindu women.

The second argument is the logical fallacy of tu quoque, also known as “whataboutism”: instead of responding to criticism, they reply along the lines of “How dare you say we massacre minorities but don’t talk about the fact that the Congress participated in mass-murdering Sikhs in 1984?” So what, precisely, does the pogrom of 1984 have to do with excusing the pogroms the Hindunazis execute in 2015? Is it a case of “How dare you say I’m a mass murderer when XYZ is a mass murderer too?”

Of course, there’s one highly significant fact: this campaign of fascist intolerance has not brought the BJP any electoral rewards – quite the reverse, with resounding defeats in the states of Delhi and Bihar and a huge drop in its support.

This did not, naturally, go unnoticed in the BJP. For a brief few days after the Bihar disaster, the goons and online bullies fell silent, the fascists withdrew to lick their wounds, and Modi’s opponents within the party found the voice to make their feelings known. But that only lasted a few days, and then the fascists and the bhakt troll army were back, louder and shriller than ever.

This was clearly not spontaneous; like all sudden internet phenomena, it had originators and propagators, in this case the Modi troll army. And since there is no doubt at all that the abuse directed at the liberal intelligentsia and the demands that they go to Pakistan have had no effect in terms of electoral benefits, there can be only one logical conclusion: Modi and his followers no longer have any great interest in the ramifications of electoral democracy. This is turn means that – since it’s more than obvious that they aren’t exactly going to cede power willingly – they are looking to “other options”.

One hurdle in this search for “other options” is the judicial system. Indian judges, like I assume judges in most parts of the world, tend to be hidebound conservatives, and to this day the Supreme Court is packed with death penalty proponents. But, over the last decade or so, as the last two regimes have proved spectacularly inept at governance, the judiciary has stepped in, virtually forming a parallel government that has ruled by ordering the official legislative arm around and curbing some of its worst excesses.

A recent example was the case of Greenpeace India. The Modi regime is even more beholden to Big Business than its Congress party predecessor was, and has looked for ways to liberate said Big Business from the shackles of such restrictions as environmental, labour and land regulations. Mining concerns, for instance, are slavering with anticipation at the prospect of ripping up the forests to dig out coal and minerals (never mind that even China is moving away as fast as it can from the use of fossil fuels; there’s no money to be made from wind and sun, is there?). But the environmentalists of course stood in the way of that. So they had to go.

This effort to make them go took two forms: first, Greenpeace was banned from receiving funds from abroad, so it could only operate with what it could generate in the country from sympathetic donors. Then, a vicious media campaign was launched to poison public opinion, claiming that the organisation was part of a nefarious conspiracy to hold back the nation’s economic development by blocking progress with its “environmental concerns”. When neither of these worked, a few weeks ago, the government dropped all pretence and simply ordered the organisation to close down within a month.

This order was contrary to the law, and, as expected, Greenpeace appealed, and the court threw the ban right out of the window.

So, along with all left-liberals, all environmentalists, and anyone else opposed to absolutism, the courts have now joined the list of the Hindunazis’ enemies. What is a good Modi bhakt to do?

There’s only one obvious solution: an emergency, which would get rid of all the enemies in one fell swoop.

I can assure you that the so-called ISIS attack on Paris would have seemed like manna from heaven to the Hindunazis. One can imagine them huddling together in front of TV sets, watching enviously as Hollande declared emergency, shut down the borders, unleashed full spectrum eavesdropping on his citizens, and let the army loose on the streets. One can almost hear them sighing enviously and wishing ISIS would do the same in India.

After all, if France could do all that after an “ISIS” attack, how could India hold back? Anything less than that would be “being soft on terror”, “tolerating jihadism”, and, worst of all, “appeasing Muslims”. The BJP wouldn’t even have to raise these arguments by itself; the right wing media would fall over itself doing all that. All the Hindunazis would have to do is sign the emergency order. The only thing lacking is an ISIS attack. And attacks can be arranged.

In fact, it wouldn’t even have to be a false ISIS attack. As I’ve said before, even Hindunazi ideologue Arun Shourie stated months ago that the current government’s policies are tantamount to an open invitation for ISIS. Sooner or later, the group is going to hit India; by now, just about everyone knows it’s inevitable.

So inevitable is it that a read through Indian online fora, always a hotbed of Modi bhaktism, can give you a clear idea of the line that will be adopted when this attack comes. I’ve already seen more than one Hindunazi say that the fault will be of the leftists and the liberals, who are on the side of the Muslims and actually “support ISIS”. From there, it’s no step at all to saying that anyone who (allegedly) supports ISIS is ISIS. And such a person, of course, deserves to be treated exactly as ISIS does.

In the case of the Paris attack, I am convinced that the ultra-intrusive French spy services (which routinely snoops on its citizens even more than the American ones do, and which were already on “high alert”) knew of the attack and deliberately let it happen, whether with or without the knowledge of Hollande himself. India’s own spy services are so incompetent that it’s highly unlikely they’d ever know of a planned attack, even if it’s a highly complex one with months of preparation and buildup. But even if they did, it’s more than likely they’d be ordered to shut up and let it happen.

And what happens after emergency is declared? How long will it last? What horrors will be perpetrated under it, and what would be the shape of the regime that emerges? Will there be any effective opposition? Will ISIS carry out more attacks, and entrench itself firmly among the 150 million Indian Muslims, many of whom will then begin depending on it for protection? Will we see a civil war?

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions.

But I’m afraid we’re going to find out.


Note: I anticipate with some confidence that this article will serve as Hindunazi troll bait. I will therefore exercise my rights as blog administrator and will not approve comments including any or all of these: death threats/threats of physical violence, hate speech directed at any religious group or nation, or, indeed, blandishments from ISIS members, who, as I have said in an earlier article, I have reason to believe read my blog. Thank you for your attention.

Thursday 26 November 2015

Sultan Erdogan and the Sukhoi 24

It’s again the time when you, the reader, are invited to answer a question:

How would you tell if an armed man in Syria, fighting against the forces of President Assad and his Iranian, Russian and Hizbollah allies, is an Evil ISIS Terrorist or a Freedom Loving Pro-Western RebelTM?

Does he, for instance, eat a dead soldier’s heart on video? Or is he photographed with another soldier’s decapitated head, cooking it on a grill? Does he impale a Christian woman on a crucifix in a church in Maloulaa? Has he been photographed playing football with the severed heads of civilians or holding up the severed heads of dead soldiers? 

Was he part of the conspiracy to launch a poison gas attack which would subsequently be blamed on Assad? Does he conduct mass executions on camera? 

Does he yell “Allahu Akbar” as he shoots at a Russian pilot dangling helplessly from a parachute, totally unable to defend himself?

If your answers to any of these questions was “yes”, then you can rest assured that there’s no further need to doubt: the man you are looking at is definitely, without question, a Freedom Loving Pro-Western RebelTM.

The latest proof of this, of course, was the Russian Sukhoi 24 strike aircraft shot down by Turkey on 24th November 2015.

A few weeks ago, I’d written an article in which I’d said that the situation in today’s world reflects, with startling similarity, the worst of the era just prior to the First World War, with its entangling alliances and competition for colonial empires, and the worst of the era just prior to the Second World War, with a rising tide of fascism allied to so-called democracies in the west, as well as resentment against minorities and economic stagnation. In this situation, not only does it only need a spark to set off a war, but with the tensions swirling about, there is no shortage of said sparks. They don’t even need to be very large sparks, or planned at a top level; if the situation is right, almost anything can set off the powder train that leads to war.

Also, in this situation, it’s extremely easy for minor players to practically hold the main actors hostage, by playing on said entangling alliances. Let’s remember that it only needed a Serbian spy chief, almost certainly acting without his own government’s knowledge, to arrange for the killing of an Austrian prince for Russia, Germany, France, Italy, Britain and Turkey to go to war against each other a hundred years ago.  

Today, things are on the brink. With two nuclear powers, one – though filled with hubris – in decline, one again rising after a two decade eclipse, on opposite sides, both at the head of alliances, it becomes even more important to try and stave off direct conflict. Because that would mean the end of civilisation as we know it.

Of course, the two alliances aren’t equal. One is a defensive grouping of secular and Shiite Arabs, with the help of Shiite Persians, none of whom have ever conducted aggressive war on anyone in centuries, headed by an Orthodox Christian nation which is not a theocracy and which has no history of aggressive war in living memory. On the other hand is a hyper-aggressive imperialist empire which has been at war for almost the entirety of its existence, heading a grouping including an economic imperialist entity of European powers, with an eighty year long history of alliance with Sunni jihadism. In simple terms, Alliance A can only benefit from peace; Alliance B, on the other hand, wants endless war.

Now, of course, both alliances are headed by nations armed with enough nuclear weapons to wipe out all multicellular life on earth, and it would be logical to conclude that neither one of them actually wants a nuclear war. This opens up plenty of room for the minor players on both sides to do as they wish, in the belief that they can hide behind the skirts of the big nations for protection from the consequences of their actions. In this instance, of course, the last thing Alliance A, which is interested in peace, will do is take part in this kind of brinkmanship. For Alliance B, though, it’s a different thing altogether.

Now, the most important local components of Alliance B are Saudi Barbaria, which at the moment is suffering both from an impending economic disaster (of its own making) at home and is stuck in an unwinnable war (of its own making) in Yemen. It is not, at this point in time, in a position to do much in Syria except run (some) money and weapons to the jihadis. On the other hand, to the north, is Turkey, under a deeply corrupt and totally unscrupulous president, Erdogan, who has, apart from a deeply vindictive streak, extremely strong reasons for making sure the war in Syria continues as long as it possibly can. For one thing, his family is directly involved in profits from oil smuggled from that nation.

Turkey, for those who don’t know, is a genuine terrorist-sponsoring state, one which for some reason seems to avoid the attention of almost everyone who points to Saudi Barbaria as the source of all jihadist terror. If it's Barbaria with its petrodollars, its poisonous Wahhabism, and its desire to rule the Muslim world, which provides the ideological fount of world jihad, it is the much more civilised-appearing Turks, with their business suits and resorts with bikini-clad women, their ancient architecture and their European Union aspirations, who are its enablers. Simply put, without Turkey’s active cooperation and encouragement, no matter what Saudi Barbaria, Qatar or the Imperialist States of Amerikastan did, there would have been no jihad in Syria and no Islamic State.

The government of Turkey has, since 2011, thrown open its southern border with Syria to jihadists. The flight from Istanbul to Gaziantep, on the Syrian border, is called the “jihad express” because it is loaded with young men clearly on their way to fight. It poured, and pours, in money and weapons (a lot of which was shipped from Libya by the CIA) to the jihadis, treated, and treats, their wounded in its hospitals, has repeatedly bombed the anti-jihadi Kurds, and continues to insist on Assad’s overthrow. In return, it has looted the factories and architectural treasures of Northern Syria and Iraq; it buys looted Syrian oil at a pittance and passes it on at a huge markup to EU markets; it, in fact, is probably the only real beneficiary of the Syrian war on either side, if you leave out the Islamic State.

Turkey also has a habit of “protecting” Turks elsewhere by military invasion. It attacked and divided Cyprus, setting up a so-called Turkish republic in the north of the island. It has repeatedly looked for an excuse to intervene directly in Syria too, on one occasion planning a false flag attack to justify an invasion. In 2013 it deliberately connived in a false flag gas attack in Ghouta which was blamed on Assad and which it expected, wrongly, would inevitably trigger an Amerikastani invasion. It has watched with increasing dismay in the past few weeks as Russian planes and Iranian and Hizbollah troops have helped the Syrians smash the Freedom Loving Pro-Western RebelTMs as well as ISIS, and advance rapidly back towards the north of the country, where the border with Turkey lies.

Once the border is secure, there goes the only open route to supply the Freedom Loving Pro-Western RebelTMs. There go the profits from oil and antiquities smuggling. There go, too, the premise on which Erdogan has spent so much time and effort – to recreate Turkey’s historical hold over the territories of Northern Syria. And, too, there goes the Great Big Syrian Rebellion. Any terrorists trying to sneak into Syria after that would have to cross the open desert from Jordan, and be bombed to fragments; or sneak in across the heavily fortified border to the south with the Zionist entity, and more likely than not suffer the same fate. So, to Erdogan’s mind, the Russian bombing campaign – the single most important factor in this reversal of fortunes – had to be stopped.

And that, precisely, is why the Russian Sukhoi 24 was ambushed and shot down. To try and stop the Russian bombing campaign.

Yes, of course it was an ambush. There can be absolutely no doubt about that at all. Even according to the Turkish account, the Russian plane was in Turkish airspace for (an oddly specific) “seventeen seconds”. Let’s see what would have to be done within those seventeen seconds:

1. The Turks would have to warn the Russian plane, which they said they did “ten times”. The Russian pilot who survived said, much more believably, that there had been no warning at all.

2. They would have to determine that a border violation had occurred. By a plane flying at high speed at most a few hundred metres across a border line.

3. Having confirmed the violation, which could not possibly be done by a fighter plane following the Russian aircraft on its radar alone, but would require triangulation from ground radars and plotting on a computer map, they would have to order the fighter pilot to shoot down the Russian plane.

4. The fighter pilot, even if he had been tracking the Russian plane on his radar, and had locked on it with his fire control radar in anticipation that it just might cross the border, and even if his finger had been on the firing button (an insanely dangerous thing to do, like walking along with your finger on the trigger of a gun with the safety catch off, and pointing at someone) would have to press that button, and the missile would then have to go and explode in close enough proximity to the Russian plane to have shot it down before it got back over its own side of the border. Which, even according to the US, didn't happen: the Russian plane, Alliance B admits, was hit in Syrian airspace.

All in the space of seventeen seconds.

Not only does this beggar belief, it’s not even something that anyone ever does. Extremely short duration border airspace violations aren’t unknown; even Erdogan himself in 2012 protested loudly when a Turkish F4 was shot down (deep inside Syrian territory) off the coast of Latakia, saying that planes should not be shot down because of this. Turkey, in any case, has probably the world's highest incidence of border violations, and has been bombing the Kurds in Iraq for decades - as it has now been doing in Syria as well. This was an excuse that didn’t wash even with some people in NATO, with the former vice chief of the US Air Force calling it a “very bad mistake”. And the Prime Minister of Turkey, Erdogan’s partner in crime Ahmed Davotoglu, claimed that he’d given the order days ago to shoot the plane down.

But there’s no need even for all this analysis to know it was all a set up, a planned ambush. When did you ever see so many video cameras all set to photograph a plane being shot down? Either someone knew it was going to happen, when and where...or they got so lucky I’d like to know why they don’t go to the nearest casino and break the bank.

Even the choice of the plane targeted was far from random. It was a Sukhoi 24, an aging pure strike aircraft, unable to fight back against an aerial attacker, not one of the far more modern and far more potent SU 30 or 34 Russia also has in action over Syria. It had no escort, and was flying alone, with no wingman; adequate for a strike operation against an enemy on the ground but a sitting duck for an aerial ambush from across the safety of an international border.

If, as is surpassingly likely, the plan was to get the Russians to back down, it was another bit of evidence of Erdogan’s hubris and ignorance of history. Of course the Russians didn’t back down. They’ve rather increased their bombing campaign, and extended it right to the border crossing, within metres, literally, of Turkish territory. Erdogan, who had said the plane was shot down to “protect his Turkmen brothers”, can only watch as said Turkmen are barbecued in the smashed wrecks of their vehicles. There’s nothing he can do now, and he knows it. Russia is looking to even the score, and has said as much; any Turkish plane which even paints a Russian bomber with its radar is likely to be blown into scrap metal before the pilot can turn into position to open fire.

And this is what convinces me that in this instance, Erdogan and his cronies acted alone. They did not take NATO’s permission, and in fact must have alarmed and infuriated the war criminals in Warshington. Because, by this act, not only did they bring NATO into a position of confrontation with Russia they didn’t want – Wall Street can’t make a profit once it’s turned into radioactive ash – but in one stroke they made a no fly zone a reality. 

Only, it’s not the long desired NATO no fly zone over northern Syria; it’s a de facto no fly zone over...southern Turkey. It’s made the defeat of the Freedom Loving Pro-Western RebelTMs much more likely, not less.

Behind the ritual expressions of support for Turkey at NATO, there must have been incensed back room excoriations of Erdogan's idiocy.

Not that the Turkmen did themselves any favours by shooting one of the Russian pilots as he dangled from his parachute, and shouting “Allahu Akbar” as they did so. It’s fortunate that the other pilot was rescued by the Syrian Army, or he’d likely have suffered the same fate. That the same Turkmen hit the helicopter trying to reach the shoot down site (which was several kilometres inside Syria) with an American-supplied anti-tank missile, killing another Russian serviceman, was simply pouring more fuel on the fire. Russia now has a real, personal grudge against the Turkmens.

And, as the Chechen terrorists discovered after Beslan, when Russia has a grudge against anyone, they don’t tend to live very long. Erdogan could have asked Shamil Basayev, Salman Raduyev, Doku Umarov, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, or the Saudi terrorist Khattab about that. But he can’t, because they’re all dead.

Sultan Erdogan, for all his fuming, will only be able to watch helplessly as his grand plans come undone. Unless, of course, NATO thinks the risk of the Third World War is worth taking, and gets stuck into the war fully.

In which case we are all done for, anyway.     

Update: Apparently Erdogan was told in no uncertain terms by his masters that he was alone on this one. He's already started the process of damage control.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

On the Future of the Islamic State

A few days ago, I had a sudden realisation.

The West, I understood, had changed tack after Russia’s intervention in Syria.

All these days  - circa  2012 to a couple of months ago –  the plan had been to use ISIS as a tool to destroy Syria and Iraq, two potential bulwarks of resistance to Western hegemony as well as pipeline routes to Europe bypassing Russia. But when Russia’s intervention against ISIS and the blood soaked war criminal Barack Hussein Obama’s pet moderate cannibal headhunters began showing major successes almost at once, the plan seems to have changed.

Let’s say this right away, because it bears keeping in mind: the West, or, in other words, the Imperialist States of Amerikastan, has only one real target: the Russian-Chinese alliance. All the rest is mere window dressing. The primary purpose of all the ISA’s activities has been to surround and ultimately destroy Russia and China. That this is an endeavour that can’t succeed isn’t something that even enters into the ISA’s calculations; after all, this is the nation which believes that it’s “an empire...which create(s) (its) own reality”, as well as an “exceptional nation” to which normal rules do not apply.

So, when Russia’s entry made it abundantly clear that the project for a Libya-style total destruction of Syria wasn’t going to be possible, with Assad lynched, the minorities all dead or fled, and the corpse of the country fought over between squabbling rival groups, the ISA hurriedly promulgated a Plan B. In this, some sort of vivisection of Syria was to be achieved, with the majority Sunni areas in the east chopped away to form a jihadistan joined to a similar rump Sunni state in Iraq. That area, of course, comprises what is today called the Islamic State, or ISIS, or whatever the hell you want to call it.

In order to achieve this jihadistan, though, some things would be necessary.

First, the Russian offensive, since it couldn’t be defeated, had at least to be limited in area. In order to do this, the farcical “bombing campaign” which had so signally failed to harm ISIS in any way, was stepped up and extended into Syria. After all, if ISA bombers are hitting someplace, just in order to avoid accidental clashes that might swiftly escalate to a world war, Russian planes are likely to avoid the same place. And in order to make sure that these strikes still avoided harming ISIS in any way the ISA...dropped leaflets telling the headchoppers to evacuate well before they were bombed.

Along with this was the plan to put US Special Forces “on the ground” in though they weren’t there already, dressed as ISIS and fighting against Assad. The only logical reason to put these forces on the ground – in numbers far too small to do any actual damage to ISIS – is to serve as “human shields” against Russian airstrikes, since the last thing Moscow would want is to create yet another international incident by blowing away American troops (for the purpose of this article, “American” includes British vassal forces, since Britain, as an ISA colony, has no independent foreign policy anyway).

If we take these factors into account, there is only one logical conclusion – the ISA has decided on some kind of long term recognition of ISIS as a legitimate political entity. Is this not believable? All you have to do is look at the narcomafia pseudostate of “Kosovo” and the Nazi rump state of Ukraine, which both rely on ISA protection, and the corpse of Libya, to see that the Imperialist States is more than happy to accommodate jihadism, as long as the jihadis know their place in the order of things.

To this end, NATO member Turkey is vital. It is the only source of direct supply of cash and armament to the Islamic State in Syriraq, and, as Russian President Putin said, it is a terrorist state whose alliance with ISIS is now undeniable. Turkey and ISIS, after all, share two enemies – Assad and the Kurds – completely, and in increasing amounts, a third enemy in Russia. That the Turkish spy chief allegedly said (it has been “denied” by the government of Turkey, which, of course, is noted for its regard for truth) that it was time to open diplomatic relations with ISIS is very significant. An ISIS government in exile in Turkey, protected by Ankara’s NATO membership, would remain a permanent threat even if the group could be, unlikely as it is, totally exterminated in Syriraq. The ex-ISIStan would have to be permanently garrisoned, in force, and at ruinous cost, in order to prevent the movement making a comeback. Eventually, of course, it would.

At the same time, efforts would be made to convince the common Westerners that perhaps ISIS isn’t so bad after all. This will not be difficult, keeping in mind two things:

First, the average ISA citizen has a nanosecond attention span, something sedulously created by a culture based around the television set, where real knowledge is looked at with suspicion and facts dropped into the “memory hole” as soon as no longer convenient. After all, the average Westerner becomes an expert on a topic after watching a two minute “news” video on CNN or Fox, and the last thing he or she wants is to be confused by the facts. That might require thinking, and thought is reserved for more precious things, like American “””””””football””””” scores or Starbucks cup logos.

Secondly, said ISA citizen has been systematically conditioned to hate Russia, Putin, Syria and Assad, by mega doses of propaganda, personally peddled by the blood soaked war criminal Barack Hussein Obama. To people with neither the brain power nor the inclination to perform the analysis a bedbug might be capable of, anyone opposed to Russia/Putin/Syria/Assad=The Good Guys. That al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al Nusra, is now routinely passed off as “moderate pro-Western rebels”, only a couple of months after the ISA admitted that there were only four or five remaining “moderate pro-Western rebels”, and that the average ISian swallows this hook, line and sinker, proves exactly what I’m talking about.

The rehabilitation of ISIS, however, won’t start from the ISA itself. Its Wall Street corporatocracy realises, more than anyone else there does, that anything the Imperialist States proposes has become tainted by association now. That is why it uses proxies like the European Union, as it did in the invasion of Libya or the Nazi coup in Ukraine. In the case of ISIS, it will use a compliant “liberal” puppet like Trudeau of Canada – in fact, it will almost certainly be Trudeau of Canada – to open the gates to Western acceptance of ISIS. The average mindless “liberal” will fall over his or her nonexistent brain to lap up whatever bilge is given as justification – probably that the brave ISIS fighters are combating the Evil Gay-Hating Russian Menace and the Evil Assad Dictatorship – to give full support to the idea, precisely as he or she did the Nazis in Kiev. There seems to be no amount of idiocy these “liberals” are incapable of committing as long as their favourite politician doles out the lies. Once ISIS is a recognised entity in Canada – and Britain, with its well known history of sheltering and protecting Chechen terrorists, will at once fall into line – the Caliphate will increasingly become a recognised entity, at least in the West.

Will this actually happen? Remember that the ISA is now in a de facto alliance with al Qaeda and a formal alliance has been suggested by the blood soaked war criminal Barack Hussein Obama’s former CIA chief David Petraeus. Remember that the Imperialist States has always, invariably, sided with Sunni jihadis against Russia and secular Muslim governments and societies.

I thought, at first, this ISIS entity would take five years to come about. Now I realise I was mistaken.

The process is already happening, even as I write this.

You’re welcome.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

The Cage

Calling all dentists,” the email said. “This is the first national dental conference to be held since the Liberation. All of you are invited to make the event a major success with your presence. Welcome!”

I didn’t hesitate long. I needed a break anyway. The way my life was going, I couldn’t last much longer without falling apart if I didn’t take a break. The person I’d hoped to spend my life with had dumped me out of the blue, the patients had suddenly deserted my practice while the latest currency devaluation had sent equipment costs through the roof, my rent had been raised again, and just a few days ago a neighbour’s wall had collapsed on my house, demolishing half of it. The thing was going to end up in the courts, I could already see that.

If I could have taken a vacation, I would gladly have done so; but a vacation was no longer something that I could even think of without a sigh of nostalgia. I’d no particular desire to attend the conference, but there was one thing that it could offer me that a vacation never would: as the email confirmed, it was a legitimate business expense and so was fully tax deductible.

Two days later I was on a train rattling south west towards the new capital, Indraprastha, named after the abode of the gods. Flying was both too expensive, and, after the events of the Liberation, still far too uncertain. The train was hot and stuffy, the AC was on the blink, and the toilets were backed up. Still, it was moving, and only a few hours late. That, so soon after the Liberation, was something to be grateful for anyway.

Outside the train’s tinted window, the flat countryside slid by, fields stretching on and on towards an impossibly far horizon, marked only by the dots of a few distant trees. Except for an occasional dusty red tractor, the fields were deserted. The farmers were almost all gone, forced off the land by drought and debt, crowding the slums of the cities. The new national patriotic media had announced that they would be given jobs in industry, and that a new renaissance was at hand. I’d shrugged and decided I’d wait and see for myself.

I soon tired of looking out of the window at the empty fields and the dusty little stations, which were exactly the same as they’d always been except that they now flew the new triangular saffron national flag with the Aum emblem, and took out a book. I’d barely opened it before a voice came from the seat opposite. “Hey, you.”

I looked up. It was someone who’d got on at the last station, a man with a thin face and ashes and sandalwood paste smeared across his balding forehead. “Yes?”

“That,” he pointed at the object in my hands, “is a foreign book. Why are you reading it?”

I shrugged. “It’s a book on Chinese history. What’s wrong with it?”

It seemed to be the equivalent of the metaphorical red rag to a bull. “Why don’t you read our history? The new books, written by the patriotic historians? Everyone should read those. Not foreign trash.”

“I’ll do that,” I said, “as soon as I’ve finished this one, thanks.” He subsided, muttering, but I could feel the waves of disapproval coming off him for the next couple of hundred kilometres until he got off  again.

Indraprastha was far more congested than I’d anticipated, the station platform crammed with people. I couldn’t decide if they’d just arrived or were waiting for a train out. Armed guards were everywhere, in their black uniforms with saffron headbands. A couple of them glared at me suspiciously, and I could feel them trying to decide if I might be a Christian or a Muslim. But they let me go by, without even asking to see my identity card. Maybe they’d just wanted to make me sweat.

I took a cab. The driver was a thin man with a thick moustache who seemed to take a while deciding whether to take me where I wanted to go. Eventually he nodded. “Get in.” And as soon as I was inside, he began playing devotional music over the speakers, loud enough to drown out anything I might say.

I wasn’t in the mood for conversation anyway,

The venue of the conference was a “model village” on the outskirts, a strikingly rustic looking retreat with low, quite thickly wooded hills and thatched-roofed cottages set around a meandering little stream flowing between red earth banks. Apart from the inevitable cows, there were swans and even a section set apart for a small herd of elephants. It was really quite charming, and one would never have guessed that just on the other side of a high wall was the edge of the city, with a broad road lined by shops and thick with traffic.

As I was registering at the office, a woman with the kind of face that fell naturally into a smile came up to me. “You’re the first one from your part of the country to turn up,” she said. “We didn’t really have a lot of response from the east.”

It felt almost like an accusation. I shrugged. “’s a long way.”

“Yes, isn’t it.” She grinned and offered me her hand, realised at the last moment what she was doing, and snatched it back hurriedly. There was a brief moment of mutual embarrassment, which she broke with another grin. “I’m Savitri Moomphali. Dr Savitri Moomphali.”

It sounded familiar, and then I remembered. “I saw your name on the list of organisers.” It had struck me mostly because it was the only woman’s name on the list. I’d been faintly surprised even to find the one; post-Liberation, women were now officially “encouraged” to stay at home and raise families, not to work. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“It’s nice of you to say so.” She was older than I’d thought at first, probably around my own age, her hair shot through with threads of silver. “I’m in charge of the delegates’ accommodation, so if you have any problems, you’re welcome to contact me.”

“I will, thanks.” I looked at her curiously. She was dressed rather anachronistically for the post-Liberation era, in black jeans and jacket over a dark red T shirt. Maybe she thought it was making a statement. I just hoped it wouldn’t get her into trouble. “I think I read a paper by you in the Journal of Hindustani Dentistry. About the incidence of oral cancers in the village communities of Hastinapur and their correlation with tendu leaf chewing, wasn’t that so?”

She smiled. “Yes, I’m the district community dentist there. It’s a great opportunity for research.” She reached for a small card and checked off my name. “You’ll want to freshen up after your journey. Someone will show you to your room.”

My room had wooden walls and floor, and a large open window giving on to a balcony buttressed by thick bamboo posts, which overlooked the river. There were two beds. I’d just finished unpacking my things when my roommate entered.

“Hi,” he said, friendlily enough. “I’m Krishan Nariyal. You’re planning to stay all the six days of the conference?”

“That’s right.” I introduced myself. “Not that I’m planning to present any papers or anything. I’m here to learn, not to teach.”

“Ah, there’s plenty to learn.” He was a tall individual with a toothbrush moustache and green eyes which almost vanished when he smiled. “I’m presenting a paper on the therapeutic effects of cowdung-based toothpaste. It’s really quite amazing how effective it is.”

He was obviously highly enthusiastic on the topic – as other things, going by the little trident badge on his chest – so I just sat back and listened to him talk. When he finally paused for breath I took the opportunity to change the subject. “Is this your first time here?”

“Oh, no. I come here at least a couple of times a month. I’ve had a lot of work with the government after the Liberation.”

“That’s nice,” I said. “I’m a stranger in town, myself.”

“I’ll show you around if you want,” he said. “I love this city. It’s more like my home than my real home is.”

The conference was to begin the next morning, so we went down to lunch. It was in a large open air space with tables scattered around among trees, whose leaves were rustled by cool breezes. The whole effect was very charming, and only spoilt by a few television sets on stands which had been set up so that there was always one in view no matter which way you faced.

I met Savitri Moomphali, who was coming away from the buffet with her plate filled with food. “Liking it here?” she asked.

“Yes, it’s nice so far.”

“It grows on you a bit,” she said. “How’s your part of the country? I’m told it’s beautiful.”

I thought about the empty clinic and my house, half-buried under rubble. “Not really, no. I’m rather thinking of moving. Do you know of any jobs around?”

She smiled tightly. “If there were, I can assure you there would be ten candidates already lined up. But if I ever hear anything I’ll let you know.” 

I got some food and sat beside Nariyal, who was already half way through his lunch. The man ate with amazing speed. “I see you were talking to our ex-Christian.”


He jerked his head. “The Moomphali woman. Everyone knows she was a Christian who converted just before the Liberation. Just like them, isn’t it, to run over to the winning side to save their skins?”

I didn’t say anything. The food was bland but not bad, plantain and boiled rice and a few other vegetarian dishes on the side. Long before I’d got through it, Nariyal had gone for a second helping, and finished it off too.

“Want to come out to the town later?” he asked, stretching. “Lots of places to see.”

“Might as well,” I said.

We walked out through the gate and into the city. Nearby there was a high enclosure with a head-high concrete wall surmounted by thick iron rods. I’d noticed it earlier when the cab was driving in and asked Nariyal about it now.

“You’ll probably find out,” he said drily. “It’s used a time or two every week, anyway.”

I took another look. It looked like an open topped cage. On one side was a curved horseshoe of concrete, rising in a terrace like a stadium. It was for some kind of game, I supposed. I detested sports, and hoped I wouldn’t be forced to attend.

“It’s a nice spectacle,” Nariyal said. “Very compelling. You’ll like it.”

There was a gate on one side, very tall, and a couple of workers were welding a section of it, supervised by a man in a white cap and white T shirt. He noticed me watching, frowned, and waved me away. He looked like an irritable type anyway, with a reddish face and deep-sunken eyes. His moustache was like a bar between his nose and upper lip.

We took an autorickshaw and drove around town while Nariyal showed me its wonders. It wasn’t anything like as special as he seemed to think. I’d visited better, both abroad, before the Liberation, when I could still afford to travel and there were no restrictions on which countries one could visit, and even here. But then I wasn’t seeing it through his eyes.

“Look,” he said enthusiastically, pointing to a temple, a towering structure of spires and gateways, surmounted by saffron flags. “There was a mosque here once, and now we’ve taken back what was ours. Now at last our people have risen again!”

For an instant I looked away, and saw the autorickshaw driver watching us in the rear view mirror, and at that moment I knew, with absolute certainty, that he was a Muslim or a Christian, camouflaged for his own safety. He noticed me looking back, glanced away quickly, and accelerated. At that moment he was probably praying fervently to Allah or Mother Mary or someone that I hadn’t realised what he was and wouldn’t give him away.

I shrugged inwardly. It was no affair of mine anyway. As an atheist, I was almost at as much risk as he was. Not as much, but almost.

We came back to the village when the evening was shading towards night, just in time for supper. The television sets were on, and they were all turned to the same channel.

An elderly white woman in a nun’s wimple was speaking. A subtitle identified her as Sister Dana. She was saying something about a church being desecrated. “They destroyed everything,” she said as we arrived. “And what they couldn’t destroy, they burned.”

A few people cheered. “And tomorrow we’ll burn you too, witch!”

The scene cut to a government office, where a bearded man in saffron robes looked solemnly at the camera. “We had already revoked Sister Dana’s visa,” he said. “She has been staying on illegally in this country and will be deported by the end of the week. We’ll investigate how she was permitted to stay on for so long.”

Supper was even blander than lunch. And afterwards Nariyal offered me some of his cowdung toothpaste.

“No, thanks,” I said. “I’ll stick to the one I use. Thanks anyway.”

“Suit yourself,” he shrugged. “Pretty soon all the other brands will be made illegal, and then you won’t have a choice. The file’s just waiting for the minister’s signature.”

And that night I discovered that Nariyal snored. Shrilly.

The next morning there was alarm and excitement. Some woman had been attacked in the city, gang-raped and murdered. The perpetrators were known, the TV said. They included three Christians. 

“Please remain calm,” the government spokesman said on the TV sets. “The criminals will be tracked down. We know why they did it – it’s in revenge for the government deporting the nun Dana. They’ll be captured, very soon, and suffer the consequences.”

“There’s already been some consequences,” someone said, audibly. “I hear some Christians and Muslims have been caught and taught a lesson.” He laughed. “They seem to need lessons every now and then, don’t they?”

The conference opened shortly afterwards. The inauguration was of course entirely religious, with priests chanting over a sacred fire. Nariyal then took the centre stage and spent the entire morning on his cowdung toothpaste. He spent more time quoting ancient texts than modern laboratory work, and that too was entirely in accordance with government guidelines. After that he came over to me.

“How did it go?” he asked.

“Great,” I said. “You’ll have them all brushing with it in no time.”

“I do hope the neem stick crowd don’t throw a wrench in the works,” he said, looking at the afternoon’s schedule. “They’re demanding that we all abandon toothpaste completely and use neem chew-sticks instead.”

“You have science on your side,” I told him.

“True,” he said gloomily. “But they have tradition, and they can quote scriptural references, and that’s all that matters.”

As the conference closed for the day there was a brief flutter of excitement. “Come along,” Nariyal told me. “There’s something you have to see.”

“Come along where?”

“To the gate. If we hurry, we can still get front row seats.”

There was already a crowd gathering when we arrived, with a number of black-clad security men watching. Inside the cage, I saw, were ten or fifteen young men. Some of them looked as though they were from the far north of the country, with slanted eyes and high-cheekboned faces. All but one of them were gathered in a knot in the centre, looking around nervously.

“Christians,” Nariyal said. “They were caught in the town today. The rapists might even be among them.”

“What?” I asked. “If you aren’t even sure that they’re the rapists, what –”

“Don’t you understand? We’ve got to make an example.”

“What are you going to do with them?”

“You’ll see.”

I noticed the one man who was not part of the group, and who seemed to be trying desperately to climb up the iron rods. He seemed familiar, and suddenly I recognised him. It was the man in the white cap who had been supervising the welding of the gate the previous day. “What about him?”

“Oh, him. I think one of the rapists has been identified as a relative of his. It’ll be a deterrent.”

A hush suddenly fell over the crowd, which had grown so large by now that it had overflowed the stands and was pressing us against the concrete wall. I had to rise on tiptoe to look over it.

The huge gates at the far end had opened, and when I saw what was coming in through there, I realised why everyone had fallen silent.

I turned my head away as the men in the cage, screaming, made a rush for the wall. A hand clutched at the rod next to my head and was abruptly snatched away. There was a shrill, infuriated trumpeting.

“Don’t look away,” Nariyal said in my ear. “If you’re caught not watching, you’ll draw suspicion and you might end up there yourself.”

Later, when it was over, Nariyal took me to a stall where green coconuts were on sale. “You look like you need one,” he said, as the vendor chopped off the top and put in a straw. “The first time’s always the worst, but you’ll get used to it, never fear.”

“True,” the coconut vendor said. “Each time there’s one of these, my business does much better.”

I watched as the three elephants were led out of the cage. Their tusks were smeared with blood. One of them raised its trunk and trumpeted in my direction.

“They only kill when ordered to,” the coconut vendor said, laughing. “So you don’t have to worry at all, master.”

Later, after I’d packed my bags and began my trek down to the gate, I passed the dining area. There was only one person there. I recognised Savitri Moomphali, who was sitting over a small plate of food. She waved and I walked over.

“What’s this?” she asked. “You’re leaving us already?”

“Yeah, well,” I said. “Something’s come up, an emergency at home. I’ve to get back right away.”

“That’s sad,” she said. “We were hoping to have you for the full duration.”

“Maybe I’ll be back next time,” I said.

“Yeah, I hope so.” She smiled, rather wanly. “Hey – you were talking about a job, weren’t you? I think I might be able to get you one.”

“Is that so?” I asked. “Where?”

“Hastinapur,” she said. “There’s an opening for a dentist in charge of the district.”

“Hastinapur?” I repeated. “But isn’t there where you...” There seemed to be something wrong about her, and I suddenly realised what. She was awkwardly spooning food up with her left hand. And now I saw her right arm was swinging uselessly by her side. She saw me looking.

“Yes, well,” she said. “They weren’t to know. They believed this rumour that I was a Christian, you see.”

Copyright B Purkayastha 2015

Note to reader: This is an almost exact account of a dream I had on the night of 23rd/24th November 2015, changed only to leave out a few of the usual dream inconsistencies and to fit it into a narrative framework.