All hail!! India has found a new enemy – and it isn’t our neighbour - it is us!! The latest hate word is ‘Naxal’, and it is almost amusing to monitor how frequently it pops up and how obsessed the media is with this new menace. Night after night, we find Arnab and others getting apoplectic over the newest, most horrific murder committed by the ‘Naxals’. Now the Naxal has a face – Kobad Ghandy’s. We now exactly what the enemy looks like. And horror of horrors, he looks like us! I mean… Kobad?? Aapro Kobad?? A well brought up, well heeled Parsee gentleman, who should be listening to operatic areas in a book- lined den pulling gently on a pipe? What the hell is he doing with those junglees in that jungle… you now…. those tribals? It is impossible to reconcile the visual of this effete-looking person, who claims to be a writer (hello, that is a factoid we can handle), but now stands accused of the most heinous crimes against the state. How could someone like Kobad get mixed up with something like this?? Cherchez la femme. Of course, it had to be a woman. Kobad’s late wife is the one the media is nailing as the instigator who pushed the Mumbai man into a life on the run. A dangerous and terrible life that has led to the grisly murders of innocents. What an extraordinary story… and so unbelievable.
Such is the power of stereotyping, that we refuse to accept ‘someone like Kobad’ could get mixed up with a movement that is threatening to cause mayhem in gigantic swathes of our country. Idealogy of this nature is something one associates with hard core unshaven leftists, carrying jholas, dressed in shabby kurtas and scurrying around shanty towns causing trouble. Kobad does not fit into this grid. Kobad belongs to the elite world of Willingdon Club types - the burra saabs who drink beer on Sunday afternoons, after a leisurely round of golf. Kobad and Naxals?? Baap re baap. What next? The reason why this bizarre story has captured the imagination of the mediawallas is because of these crazy contradictions. Parsee revolutionaries are somewhat rare. I have never come across a Parsee who would walk away from a life of refinement and comfort in Mumbai, and devote long years to working for the upliftment of desperately poor, disenfranchised tribals. As the Kobad story unfolds, more and more information is emerging that is adding to the mystery. The nugget revealed his extensive travels in five countries. This piece of ‘breaking news’ emerged in the wake of the Red Ultras’ beheading Francis Induwar, the Jharkhand police officer, “ Taliban-style”( making me wonder whether the Taliban killers have a patent on this ‘style’ of butchering victims).
Police spokesmen are calling Induwar’s murder a revenge killing linked to Kobad’s arrest. Across channels, the clips of the cop’s young son making a heart- rending call to his younger brother’s school teacher, informing the person about his ‘pappa’s’ death have been played over and over again. Juxtapose that with the clips of a calm and composed Kobad in police custody, and it is easy to whip up public outrage. But towards what end??
For all we know there are several other Kobads hiding in our midst. Your neighbour could be a Kobad. Or the guy you have a drink with at your favourite watering hole. Your tennis companion maybe Kobad’s best buddy. So could the mild- mannered librarian you discuss Tagore’s poetry with. There are Kobads everywhere, if one is to go by the present hysteria. And they have just one agenda – to destroy India. The scariest part of the Kobad phenomenon is that one can be so easily fooled…. so effortlessly misled. Our conditioning prevents us from looking beyond the obvious … we have a readymade picture of what a terrorist is supposed to look like( thank you, Bollywood\Hollywood!). So…. How does one crack the façade? Look beyond the mask? Bewildered by the Naxal war that is being waged against the state, we don’t now how to react. We can understand the threat Pakistan represents. We can gear ourselves ( albeit, clumsily), to handle the Chinese intrusions, we can deal with the LTTE, and pretend we are winning the separatist war in Kashmir. We delude ourselves that we have the 26\11 terrorists on the run because we have Qasab in jail. But what we have consistently failed to acknowledge is the seething unrest that has been gathering force right under our noses for so many years in the form of the Naxals in our midst. Kobad did not suddenly spring up out of nowhere. Had we bothered to notice him ( and people like him) earlier, our ‘haalat’ would not have been this bad. By refusing to acknowledge there was a problem and that mega trouble was brewing, we allowed a mouse to grow into a monster. For decades, those who have had to deal with Naxal uprisings, have warned authorities about the potential danger of ignoring their presence. We shut our eyes, buried our heads in sand, and hoped they’d go away. But,guess what? They didn’t!And today, they are in our backyard, and we don’t now what to do….. either, with them or ourselves.
This is exactly what Kobad and his comrades have been counting on. By patiently waiting for the somnolent State to finally wake up and take heed, the Naxals have won part of the battle. They have consolidated their presence in several states, and made significant inroads into the heart of the political process. We can ill- afford to wish them away… marginalize them. Experts tell us more than one- fifth of India is under Naxal control. Perhaps, they exaggerate.But only a bit…Kobad is one hell of a foxy dude. He ain’t singing. That leaves us with P. Chidambaram thundering away on television, warning the Naxals to lay down arms or face war. “ As long as the CPI(Maoists) belives in armed liberation struggle, we have no option but to ask security forces to engage them. Yeah, right on, bro. A bit late in the day to be issuing this dhamki. But, koi baat nahi. Listening to all these warnings, Naxal bosses in China must be giggling away in glee. Perhaps, this Diwali will see Indian skies lighting up with Chinese crackers.
Eerie and creepy that this appeared on the day 17 more people were chopped up by the Naxals. Creepy that Barrack Obama was given the Nobel for Peace when the world is being ripped apart and he hasn't really earned the honour. I was watching the news in my hotel and shuddering at the irony of it all - Rawalpindi under attack, most pockets of the troubled world reeling from ghastly, insane violence. And here I am in Goa, critically looking at the 5 remaining contestants as they gamely go through some really tough 'tasks' Milind and I assign them - this evening we dunked them into a bathtub filled with blocks of ice and asked them to 'emote' 5 expressions for the cameras. Are we heartless??
My daughter Anandita is with me in Goa, so my mood's up! We managed to sneak out during lunch hour to devour the best masala crab on earth at Martin's Corner. Once there, we couldn't stop at the crab, and ordered half the menu - rawa-encrusted King Fish, dried chilly beef, and of course, Goa prawn curry rice. This is what I call serious pigging out.
Now.... it's back to work. Last night we shot till 2. 30 a.m and the crew rejoiced!! Watch this space for tonight's report!