Friday, July 14, 2006

The Mumbai Blasts: A Meeting With An Old Friend

I went for a stroll with an old friend yesterday and we went for a walk on the beach. There is something very odd that mumbaikar feels when he realizes that the beach is free from debris - it is very odd - hard to describe - almost weird. Somehow my friend never serves me anything more than tea and a few biscuits - most other places a veritable wazwaan is laid out but here it is always just tea and biscuits. I was prepared for the disappointment, I know its not personal.

From our conversations, I gather that Jabbi (or Zabbi) is just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty more where he came from. The SIMI boys are a bunch of village idiots and the Sa-Pa people are just their girlfriends. The LeT was the hand and the Rawalpindi people were the brain. The question one has to answer now is "why?".

A way to think about SIMI is to think of a corporate human resources division. They simply go out and recruit, they head hunt or just keep an eye out on things. It is not their job to think or ask you to do anything - they simply sort out the particulars of your hiring. Occasionally they ask you to do a small job here and there but nothing serious. A fellow who joins SIMI today can end up in Kashmir, Iraq, Israel, US .... pretty much anywhere - and most importantly the guys that hired in SIMI have no clue what happens after they pick him up. He is quite literally in Allah's hands.

Beyond this is the company's operational level. At this level once you are recruited you are tasked to a specific role. People like Zabbi are from this level. They are responsible for the day to day operations. Experts sometimes call the structures at this level "cells". Each "cell" is compartmented from the other. Usually for purposes of organization we label individuals at this level as being part of both the recruitment apparatus and of the tanzeem. So Zabbi is labelled both SIMI and LeT.

Aside of this are the local political groups that provide cover for the recuiting agency. There is usually a strong economic relationship between the political group and the recuiting agency. The parent organization of the recruiting agency usually runs a certain number of purely economic operations. These operations generate money. In our case the economic activity is drug and arms trafficing. Some argue that the tanzeems are merely set up to protect the underlying economic interests. This view has dominated several generations of Indian thinkers.

At the very top of this corporate like chain is the brain - the CEOs of the company and the board of directors. Unless the brain gives the order, the hand does not move. Unless the hand moves the SIMI and Sa-Pa people stay very still. The brain gives the order only when it percieves a definete gain from this sort of activity. Yes, I know you are all saying - "they are so irrational" - I am sorry you have fallen for their political theatre - they are perfectly rational. It is difficult to construct a rational explanation for this kind of behavior on their part. Projecting irrationality in the public domain is fine - but irrationality in private is unacceptable - that carries a very high price.

Now is a time to for some talks to resolve misunderstandings.


At 6:17 AM, Blogger DKPatel said...

The biggest blot on the post-attack management in Mumbai was PR. It seemed every minor official gave his confused retelling of what had happened. For example, first we heard there were 5 blasts, then it was reported 7 blasts, and then (since we can't be sure) maybe 11. Responsibility for the attacks was blamed on everyone from LeT to Dawood Ibrahim and the Mumbai underworld to Al-Qaeda. I understand that details maybe foggy during height of emergency situation, but that requires that media persons exercise responsibility in what they write. But given that there is no compelling reason to be accountable to an audience anymore, I'm not surprised.

At 7:39 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Actually that is what I was saying - it isn't the PR managers at the GoI end that are at fault. The problem is the media houses are thoroughly penetrated. As my friend who reads newspapers said - we are going to have to do something to keep these guys in line.

At 1:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Could you provide a clarification about what you said in that last paragraph?

Is it that you can not think of any definite gain for the CEOs and hence a rational explanation for their decision or is it that the CEOs have made their irrationality explicitly clear in private?

At 7:05 AM, Blogger maverick said...


The CEOs of the terrorism enterprise are believed to be a very rational lot. As long as we believe that - we behave rationally with them too.

If we start thinking that they are irrational - then we will behave irrationally with them too. I can't imagine that will be too good for them.

So acting irrational in public is fine - it gives those media people what they need - but in private - irrationally will only produce unpleasant outcomes.


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