Shailja Patel ponders what lies behind the recent attacks in Mumbai. Pointing to the stark inequalities that exist in India and elsewhere in the world, she asserts that the same violence could play itself out in any other city where the poor and oppressed are daily confronted by the opulence and arrogance of the wealthy globalized elite. Why, she asks, should the privileged classes of any society be exempt from fear in a world where war is the corporate strategy to open markets?
It will be Johannesburg next. Or Lagos. Or Nairobi. Any urban centre where the interests of global capital converge, meet local power brokers, to do business. Any spot where the "creamy layer", (journalist Mira Kamdar's term for Mumbai's upper classes) gathers to celebrate the international fraternity of the $3 latte.
I looked a long time at the photo of the young attacker in Mumbai, in the Versace t-shirt, cradling his gun. I wondered if he might be a survivor of India's anti-Muslim pogroms of the early 90s. Or the Gujarat massacres of 2002, that killed over 2000 Muslims, left over 50,000 displaced.
Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujurat, who sanctioned that carnage, was re-elected in 2007. Never one to lose a PR opportunity, he rushed to the Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai on November 27th, the day after the siege ended, and offered a reward of 10 million rupees ($203, 000) for the 14 Indian police officers killed during the attacks.
In the aftermath of the 2002 Gujurat massacres, the official compensation from the Indian government for each Muslim killed was exactly half the amount previously offered for murdered Hindus.
In Nairobi, the target locations are obvious. The Serena Hotel, where heads of agri-business multinationals lunch with board members of AGRA. The Israeli-owned Fairview hotel, where contracts are signed for the supply of bullets, teargas, water cannons, to the Ministry of Internal Security. Directly across the road from the Israeli embassy. Which demonstrates its blatant contempt for Kenyan sovereignty by erecting its own "checkpoint" on a public road.
And who will the attackers be? The children of the Kenyans "disappeared" by their own government, in extraordinary renditions demanded by the US? Survivors from the back alleys of Huruma and Dandora, who watched their fellow street kids shot or beaten to death by the police? Siblings of the 500 young Kenyan men murdered by the Kibaki administration, their bodies dumped in forests for children to stumble upon?
It's been a good week for the Israeli security industry. As Naomi Klein points out in her book, "The Shock Doctrine", Israel's exports in counter-terrorism-related products and services netted $1.2 billion in 2007 (an increase of 20% from the previous year). As the wards of Mumbai's hospitals overflow with the casualties of the attacks (bloody rather than creamy), executives of Israeli security firms are on the spot. Shaking hands and clinching deals at record speed in the back rooms of India's parliament and ministries. Surveillance systems, security scanners, coastline patrol weaponry. Call it market solidarity.
Sanjana Kapur, former director of Mumbai's acclaimed Prithvi Theatre, said on NDTV: "We need to have confidence that we can live without fear."
Asia, Australia, and Africa
Conflict, Peace and Security
With all sympathy for Ms. Kapur, who also spoke out strongly against the calls for war on Pakistan - why? The poor of Mumbai, Nairobi, Shanghai, face violence and brutality on a daily basis. Villagers in Afghanistan and Pakistan live with the constant terror of US bombardment, of sudden inexplicable death and devastation from the sky. 1.5 million Palestinians slowly starve to death under Israel's blockade of Gaza, in defiance of all international law. In a world where war is the corporate strategy to open markets, why should the privileged classes of any society be exempt from fear?
* Shailja Patel is a Kenyan poet , playwright and theatre artist
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