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AN LeT OPERATION IN J&K AND A DETENTION IN THE US

The following is the transcript of INTV’s Primetime News Debate on August 15,
2009. The day was quite eventful. A group of LeT terrorists surrounded,
Pulwanpur, a border village in J&K holding its entire population hostage.
Indian security forces launched a counter attack to free an estimated 500
inhabitants of the village. After a fierce gun battle lasting more than twenty
four hours, the army finally succeeded in doing this but in the operation,
Major Pritam Singh, Capt. Harish Kumar and nine jawans were killed.

As a discussion on the subject was under way news about Shah Rukh Khan’s
detention in a US airport filtered in. The channel was able to switch debates
with great alacrity. It was able to rope in pop sociologists, quack historians,
and charlatan celebrities of the film world at short notice - for the more
momentous of the two issues, to wit, Shah Rukh Khan’s detention.

The debate was moderated – as usual - by INTV’s popular news presenter Rani
Bansal. With characteristic élan, Rani Bansal led everyone up the garden path
to steer the discussion in a direction that is in line with the channel’s political
philosophy and worldview.

Rani Bansal: Welcome to Primetime News Debate! The incident is in some ways
comparable to the siege of Mumbai last November which is still green in our
minds. Viewers would remember that it was this channel – and only this
channel - which scooped the news about Indian government’s clandestine
negotiations with the terrorists who held the city hostage, although the
government disowned it.

Is the current siege, which has mercifully ended, another instance of failure of
the intelligence agencies or of the security forces? Would we ever be able to
secure the country from terrorist attacks that seem to have become such a
constant feature of our lives? Or do we meander from one incident to another
after routine condemnations and futile discussions?

In order to discuss the issue and its implications we have with us in the studio
Ramesh Kumar, Spokesman of the Congress, Shiv Shankar Spokesman of the BJP
and Farah Khan, political commentator and columnist. Maj. Gen. Bahdur Singh
former GoC-in-C, Northern Command of the Indian army and A. S. Sharma
former IB Chief will join us on video link in a little while.

To begin with, Farah, we have had a peaceful election in J&K which has seen
the largest turnout in recent years; even the separatists did not call for a
boycott. J&K’s young and dynamic chief minister seems inclined to reach out to
the exiled Pandits. Viewed against this backdrop, do you think elements from
Pakistan want to keep the cauldron boiling, as it were, in the current incident?

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Or is it a feature of the twenty first century global phenomenon called jihad
which of course does not have any religion?

Farah Khan: The issue of the Pandits has been highly romanticized. Over the
years, they seem to have settled down to a steady rhythm of life in the camps,
prospering as cooks and cleaners with the more enterprising among them even
hawking samosas on pushcarts.

Shiv Shankar: To me, the remark about the Pandits seems gratuitous…

Rani Bansal: (Intervening) Ramesh Kumar, do you think the government’s


handling of the event leaves it open to criticism.

Ramesh Kumar: I speak for the Congress party and not for the government,
(a), and (b) having said that I must say that the government’s handling of the
issue has been exemplary. Under the guidance of the Congress president,
Shrimathi Sonia Gandhi - and of course the prime minister - our security forces
have launched a swift counter-offensive and Pulwanpur is now freed.

Shiv Shankar: (In sotto voce, for he knows he would no be allowed to make
the remark anyway) Does the Congress president guide the security forces?

Rani Bansal: (Ignoring Shiv shankar) Farah, do you think the government has
adequately countenanced the views of the Kashmiri people in handling the
siege?

Shiv Shankar: Rani, you talk of Kashmiri people as if they are distinct from
Indian people. There are no more Bengali people, Bihari people or Tamil
people than Kashmiri people. Aren’t we all Indian people?

Rani Bansal: (Cuts in with an expression of barely concealed disdain and


tolerance for Shiv Shankar’s impudence) I am afraid I have to interrupt the
discussion at this point. There is breaking news filtering in. It appears Shah
Rukh Khan has been detained at the New Jersey Airport in the US. Some might
argue that it was a mere security check, but that is the nub of the discussion.

(Poor Maj. Gen. Bahdur Singh and A. S. Sharma who have been waiting in the
wings to have their say have now been stood down without ceremony. And
Major Pritam Singh, Capt. Harish Kumar and the nine jawans that were killed
in Pulwanpur were dumped on the wayside.)

We have on the phone line Pramod Nadkarni the famous sociologist from
Mumbai, Krishna Pahad, historian and author of several historical works from
Delhi and also the award winning, ‘celebrity’ film director Suresh Karat from
Mumbai to discuss the subject with us. We’ll begin with Pramod Nadkarni…

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Rani Bansal: Pramod Nadkarni, Rani Bansal here. If you can you hear me, what
do you deduce from Shah Rukh Khan’s detention in the US?

Pramod Nadkarni: You know post nine-eleven the (Americans’) characteristic


swagger has given way to a sense of collective paranoia in their psyche. Shah
Rukh Khan’s detention has to be viewed in the light of this metamorphosis and
runs true to form.

Rani Bansal: Krishna Pahad, if I may turn to you, why would America, arguably
the most liberal society in the world resort to intimidating someone like Shah
Rukh Khan?

Krishna Pahad: I think it is a misconception. America has a long history of


segregation based on colour and race. If the practice of apartheid was de jure
in South Africa it was de facto in America till about fifty years back. A society
steeped in such prejudices is unlikely to transform in so short a time –
historically speaking. The shock of nine-eleven has had to merely scratch the
surface and expose the sub-stratum smugness that is deeply engrained in the
collective psyche.

(History is more intelligible than sociology. Therefore we can to some extent


make out what Krishna Pahad meant, although he may have had a personal
axe to grind – he was recently denied entry to the US after being first granted
a visa, for some reason. The defenders of Narendra Modi need not be too
dejected. It appears the test of ‘secularism’ as it is understood in India does
not seem to be the only criterion for the Americans to reject visas.)

Rani Bansal: Suresh Karat, you have directed Shah Rukh Khan in several films;
if you have been following the discussion, do you see in the incident a streak of
racial profiling?

Suresh Karat: Detaining a person merely because his name happens to be of a


particular religion is reprehensible. Shah Rukh Khan is not merely an actor. He
is a national icon, and a secular one at that. As a secular society we should all
condemn it with one voice. If we do not do this now, we would be playing into
the hands of the Hindu fundamentalists at home and destroying the ethos of
our composite culture.

(Any discussion involving America, Americans and terrorism should invoke


nine-eleven. Any one answering to the label of ‘expert’ has to say something
without actually saying anything or utter Gobbledygook. Any one answering to
the label of ‘celebrity’ has to invoke concepts like ‘secularism’ and ‘composite
culture’ irrespective of the context. Thus all three on the panel, to use
Pramod Nadkarni’s pithy phrase, ‘run true to form’.)

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Rani Bansal: I am afraid we have completely run out time. Thank you, Pramod
Nadkarni, Krishna Pahad and Suresh Karat for joining in the debate and sharing
your views. Until next time then…

N.B: The transcript is based on an imaginary interview. All the events and
characters mentioned in it are fictitious and any resemblance to real life
persons or events is coincidental. The only exception is Shah Rukh Khan’s
detention by the immigration authorities at the New Jersey airport in the US,
which was widely reported in the media.

Labels: America, Kashmiri Pandits, LeT, 9/11, Primetime News Debate,


Secularism, SRK, Sociology, Terrorism, US