Rejecting the saffron narrative
Rejecting the Indian narrative blaming Pakistan for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, German-Jewish author Elias Davidsson published a book in April 2017 called The Betrayal of India: Revisiting the 26/11 Evidence. Pointing to many discrepancies in the reporting of the incident, the author countered the official narrative with meticulous research and authenticated resources in the 882-page book.
Opining that the official Indian government investigation aimed to mislead both domestic and international audiences, he cited court documents as well as testimonies of the main witnesses to show that Indian courts had ignored prime evidence.
As described by the author in his book, the Indian media, judiciary, police and investigating agencies seemed to be covering up the real perpetrators. Analyzing the motive for the attacks in the fifth chapter titled “Corporate and State Motives,” Davidsson explored who could have benefited from a terrorist attack in the financial hub of India. Purportedly, the intent was to project India as a victim of Pakistani terror so that Pakistan could be ostracized by the international community, including the United States.
Encountering a dead end in his investigations every time, Davidsson exclaimed, “I could discover no hint of a desire among the aforementioned parties to establish the truth on these deadly events.”
Reviewing Davidsson’s book, Professor Graeme McQueen also pointed out the mistakes committed by the Indian administration as revealed in the book such as immediate finger-pointing, contradictions, and failure to call key witnesses or carry out certain autopsies. Predictably, this book was largely ignored by mainstream media but the wonder was that it existed at all, as it negated India’s entire stance toward its neighbor, Pakistan.
Recently, making matters worse, a recent episode of the popular US television show Quantico upset Indians as it portrayed popular Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra unearthing and foiling an Indian “nationalist” plot to attack Manhattan with nukes and blame it on Pakistan immediately before an important international summit on the Kashmir dispute.
Much to India’s trepidation, the heroine catches the “saffron terrorists” by spotting the holy Hindu Rudraksha symbol worn on a chain by one member of the gang. Similar signs like saffron armbands had actually led to various analysts exposing the Mumbai attacks as being carried out by Hindu nationalists.
Too close for comfort, this recent TV show may be a silent reminder that the West is not gullible and nor does it endorse Hindu extremism. It is a fact that ever since Narendra Modi became prime minister of India, extreme right-wing Hindu nationalism has been encouraged and life has become difficult for India’s religious minorities and lower castes who live in fear for their lives.
Right after the Quantico controversy, in another surprising development, Britain’s Lord Nazir Ahmed organized a discussion about Elias Davidsson’s book in the premises of the House of Lords in London on June 20. Following up the debate with an award for the author on behalf of the London Institution of South Asia, the platform contributed to enhancing the legitimacy and credibility of the book, which countered the Indian government’s official version in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks.
Attended by British parliamentarians including Lord Qurban and Faisal Rasheed, the audience also consisted of members of the British Pakistani diaspora. Pointedly highlighting the negligence of the Pakistani political elite, particularly the top security official of that time, national security adviser Mahmud Ali Durrani, the participants of the event felt that responsibility was accepted by him in haste.
Considering that “saffron terror” or rather “Hindu right-wing militancy” has been mentioned in Davidsson’s book as well as the Quantico episode, is it possible that the Western bloc and even the UK government are beginning to wash their hands of India? Even as it sidles closer toward China and Russia and is trying to settle into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, are these signs a reminder of what fate awaits it once it decides to align with the Chinese bloc?
Changing world perceptions about India with books, movies or TV shows is established practice, and soft power has always been very effective. Interestingly, all this counter-narrative showing up the flaws of the Indian version of the Mumbai attacks is being carried out by non-Pakistani sources.
Last but not least, yet one more alarming signal for the Indian government is the inclusion of Hindu right-wing outfits Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad as “religious militant organizations” in the annual CIA World Factbook based on the US Central Intelligence Agency’s own resources and compiled information. Keeping all these indicators in mind, the public bonhomie of Indo-US relations seems very temporary and fragile.