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Opinions, the Manu Smriti, etc. August 9, 2008

Posted by K in Gender, Politics, Recent reads-and my comments, Reviews/Rants.
16 comments

What a pity we are all entitled to our own opinions.

(It is. Really. Because it then means that it is okay for a person to hold discriminatory opinions. It is okay to believe that a joke which goes like-there are three problems in the world, email, gmail and female-is funny. That believeing the Manu Smriti doesn’t spew venom against Shudras is ok.<–I was challenged to read the Manu Smriti and find out for myself whether the quotes used by Dalit Rights activists do actually figure in the ‘seminal’ text. I did; last night. I read 44 of the 274 pages, and then used the search feature to read every-tenet?- pertaining to Shudras. I will attach the link*, and the specific points that merit special reading, especially for those who still believe that the likes of Dr. Ambedkar were fools, and ranting out of context.)

(Somethings are just wrong. I won’t spend any energy trying to ‘compromise’/see the other side.)

*http://www.esnips.com/doc/133237a9-b9bd-4823-b37e-9555e3d0f707/Manu-Smriti—Sanskrit-Text-with-English-Translation

Leave a comment if you want me to mail you the particularly obnoxious-article?-numbers.

Bombay, theatres, and gender in educational spaces July 22, 2008

Posted by K in contemporary, Gender, Politics, Reviews/Rants.
17 comments

Maybe I need to go on a Saattvik diet or something (if I were to believe HT Brunch), but I HATE watching movies in theatres in Bombay! I resent the imposition of the national anthem on me, and I resent the arm-twisting of every theatre goer into standing up for the anthem. Just what is achieved by the exercise escapes me. I wonder if people rebel against it… or is the social pressure too strong for that. I know when I was late in standing up, I heard a voice say, rudely, ‘khare ho’. ‘Stand up’. I stood, because I was the only one not standing, around me. I succumbed to the ‘air’ around me. I felt threatened, as if I would get branded ‘anti-national’ or something. In ordinary situations, such a tag wouldn’t bother me. But in a strange city, amongst strangers, I’m not that brave. I suddenly realise, ever so often these days, what it is like, being the minority.

This automatically leads me to question how I became the minority. Was I, and people who think similarly, ever the majority? Or did the privileged space that I called my college lead me to believe in, and expect, a different reality.

I’ve often thought about the space and place of all-girls institutions. I was mostly against it. Incomplete education, unfair to the boys, unnecessary and bla bla. But Pallavi pointed out something that I had never considered. We are who we are, largely because we studied in an all-girls institution. And by that, I mean, we grew into people who are confident of their, our, ability. In several co-ed colleges, one sees that very few girls ever occupy union positions. If they do at all, they are elected into positions that are traditionally seen as a female domain-cultural representatives, literary representatives. Seldom will one find a girl sports representative. Very few girls are allowed to get their hands ‘dirty’ by running from pillar to post, arranging for sponsorships. In things like theatre productions, seldom do girls get to carry the heavier props, if there are boys around. I’m not making a very coherent article, but what I am trying to say, is that it is only in a girls college (I shall not speak about school at this point…) that girls do everything that goes into the making of college life, from administration, to running around, to doing a hell lot of ‘dirty work’, to you name it. Perhaps that is why students who pass out of such institutions gather such infamy as ‘feminists’. The lack of a need to depend on the other gender, or a need to protest against gender violence, verbal, physical and psychological, seems to ‘de-feminise’ the female. Having a mind of one’s own, and caring about things like how gender is portrayed and dealt with, automatically constructs a forbidding image.

How little the world has changed!

For Shame, India. February 13, 2008

Posted by K in contemporary, Disgust, Politics.
Tags: , , ,
7 comments

For shame, Maharashtra.

I’m finding it hard to believe that in our country we allow politicians to openly avow hate for a region WITHIN the country, and encourage party men to embark on a violent rampage against North Indians. The deaths have begun.

We bristle when charges of primitivism and barbarism are levelled against us. We are not ‘backward’ we like to claim, we are ‘right up there’ with the best in the world.

Yeah right. Sure. Whatever. Like, how many “PROGRESSIVE” countries have frightened women giving birth in a dirty train toilet?

It’s scary to think Narendra Modi is not an aberration, he might just be the norm.

Sick.

I Believe in God April 25, 2006

Posted by K in Abstract Ramblings, contemporary, Death, God, Life, Politics, Reviews/Rants.
6 comments

I am inexplicably loyal to NDTV. It’s got nothing to do with the news they show; after all, every body in the business knows when there’s a blast or a fire, and they all seem to have enough moolah to buy a million Qualises that go zooming to the scene of interest. Its kind of stupid, actually, the way they are so desperate to prove that they and not the competition were the first to report the news. What do I care if NDTV flashed news of the Bihar air crash a few bulletins before Aaj Tak? If I were a relative, then I’d either have got the news directly from the scene(unlikely, but possible) or have had a few more moments of blessed ignorance. The mad scramble is sadly reminiscent of little kid fights, when children fight each other to be the first to present the days rose to the revered class teacher.

No, I think I like NDTV because of programs like We the People, Big Fight etc. True CNN-IBN is replicating some of those programs- after all, where did Sardesai come from? But NDTV had them first. Its their baby, and they get to keep my continued admiring glances. We The People is something every Indian ought to watch and be proud of.. True the audience is mainly made up of people who receive urgent phone calls disguised as YOU’LL BE ON TV! phone calls, but those people do get a chance to participate in a process of democratic debate. I am glad I live in a democracy. It might be a hollow democracy, a democracy of the elite, the mainstream India that is a part of the much boasted of ‘biggest democracy’, but it is still much more than what Nepal has of now.

This got driven into me by Maidenrays who posts on a forum I frequent. She’s from Nepal, and was naturally affected by the conflict raging there. She came online some weeks ago, and wrote that if things calmed down she would be able to go home that night; otherwise she would have to spend another night at the office.

Not a big deal, if one needs to come down to it. Many people spend nights at the office for whatever reasons. But atleast the democracy I as an individual, as a part of upper class India ensures that I do not encounter day to day in-your-face oppression.

Ofcourse this doesn’t mean that I sit back on my haunches and admire a job well done, for one needs only to be complacent to grab the poison leaves instead of natural toilet paper.

‘India’ is a non-entity. It cannot be a country. It is too diverse, but this diversity instead of fetching unity, fetches conflict, identity issues and, did I mention, conflict? To show you how this ‘unity’ doesn’t exist, let me ask you to look at Indian Literature. What is the ‘unifying’ factor between a Mahapatra and an Ezekiel? Between a writer from Meghalaya and Karnataka? Many people have tried to define Indian Literature, but the definition doesn’t exist. It is too vast, too varied for one to find a common ground, unless it be the ground of it being Indian. And I’m questioning the concept of India, aren’t I? For those who would like to read more about the problems of an “Indian’ literature, I would advise a perusal of Shormishtha Panja’s very interesting essay in Many Indias Many Literatures.

And because India as a country is such an unviable concept we have singular disparities arising out of superfluous things like caste, class, gender. See, I have this little pet theory. I think man has this primal urge, greater than even that of sex, to rise above other men. Everybody wants to be different, and this difference translates into many facets of one’s personality. Because man wanted to be different, and better than the person next door (a twisted form of survival of the fittest? A chronic state of competition?) he invented religion; gender differences; class differences; infact any and everything is enough to drive home a difference. Really, sameness is not so much ignored, as brushed under a humongous carpet. You rarely have a bunch of people celebrating humanity; atleast not the bunch that has the power to change all our lives. And it’s a strange, vicious cycle; the ones who are different change when they rise to a similar position. Sorry, Mr. Premchand, But Algu and Jumman don’t seem to exist in the world I live in. But-I’m straying from my topic.

What I mean to say is that larger the boundary, larger the competition. Larger the number of differences, larger the number of conflicts. Countries should be created purely because of administrative needs( I DO need administration; I rather believe in the chaos theory) and the basis of division should be similarity and most definitely not far-fetched, exotic, intoxicating concepts of ‘diversity’. If India would split up into 26-wait,now, how many states do we currently have?- countries, there would be less and more conflict.

Sigh. I’m rambling, but I do have a point. Sad thing is, too many prickly issues in the world today stands at a stalemate. Do the right thing, yes, Michael Moore, for what else can one do? But really, the Kali Yug needs to end. Most religions seem to agree on that.

Straying YET again, Kierkegaard has a point. Too many issues, and too much news can be destructive. It can lead to intellectual, empathatical, ideological burnout. You can be pulled by 5-6 different strings at the same point, the result of which would be that you are where you are when you picked up the newspaper-eager to make a difference, but unable to. But please do not pick an issue randomly. That is stupid Mr. Kierkegaard. If you have no reason to pick an issue don’t. Stay issueless.

And if the title of this post seems unconnected, it isn’t. It’s what gives me hope and truly lights my way.

Go Buddha! March 26, 2006

Posted by K in contemporary, Politics, Reviews/Rants.
2 comments

Wow! I finally have a politician I respect! Saw Buddhadeb Bhattacharya’s interview with Karan Thapar a few minutes back. Karan Thapar decimates his interviewees; each and every one I’ve seen so far, the poor interviewee has been left stuttering, stammering and looking visibly shaken. and ofcourse, thapar has ripped him/her apart, and shown him/her to be a bumbling fool who doesn’t know what he’s doing and/or talking about.

TODAY, however, it was thapar who came across as petulant and wanting to pick a fight that didn’t exist 😀 Buddha didn’t lose any ground, he was articulate, honest and gutsy.

I think I want to know more about him. I think we need more Buddha’s in India.

Go Buddha!

The Election (More Kiddy fic by yours truly :D) March 17, 2006

Posted by K in contemporary, Fiction, Politics.
4 comments

On the 25th of November, 2004, a phone rang in a small, but elegantly decorated room in Vasant Vihar, New Delhi. A man spoke into it, and hung up.

Walking casually to the door, he barked some orders to the men standing outside, who started stripping the room of all furniture. In 20 minutes, the room was bare. It was once again what it had been for the past 3 years: a room once used as a maintenance office for IA Colony, but now left to offer shelter to an occasional stray dog on a cold winter night.

No one saw them leave, no one overheard the phone conversation, but someone ‘felt’ them.

******************************************************

The assembly elections in the states of Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi were approaching. The BJP were favourites to win everywhere except Delhi. Sheila Dikshit was expected to make a clean sweep, the Metro, and privatization of electricity sitting pretty in the Congress portfolio.

Campaigning was on full fledged- old film songs being set to new lyrics, extolling the public to vote for so and so candidate, auto rickshaws doing their rounds, megaphones mounted…the usual.

The news analysis on NDTV 24/7 predicted a congress majority in New Delhi, based on pre-election polls. On Wednesday, 26th November, the headlines of the 3 o’clock bulletin spoke about a voting machine ‘copy’ found in a raid on a farmhouse in Mehrauli. The election commissioner dismissed it as ‘non-threatening and easily detectable’.

The 3:30 bulletin saw it relegated to the scrolling lines at the bottom. By the 4:00 bulletin, it had been taken off.

********************************************************

Wednesday 10:00 am

I had read a bit about telepathy, the sixth sense etcetera, but I had never very much believed in it. I did not deny its existence, indeed it would be foolishness to do so; it just did not happen to me. No extra sense warned me about the person round the corner I was just about to bang into, the hot iron I was just about to unknowingly touch, or the extra tough math exam that I was TOTALLY unprepared for.

So was I unprepared for that funny sense of ‘knowing’ that I had to check out the colony shopping center! I tried to ignore it, telling myself that there was NOTHING of interest in the market, not even a decent junk shop, but that uncomfortable feeling wouldn’t go.

I gave in to it finally, and strolled over, pretending that the warm sun was what had drawn me out.

There was no crowd at the market, half the shutters were down, and loud yells were coming from the fly infested sweet shop. Just another day at work, infact. Wondering why that ‘feeling’ wasn’t going away, I bought a packet of chips and started munching my way home, only to catch the first few drops of rain.

Winter rain so early? (No, its Providence, you fool!)

Taking shelter in one of the many un-used rooms in the shopping complex I bided my time. I am not fond of dark, dusty rooms, but there was no way I could cross into the opposite gift shop without getting drenched.

Talking about dust, why wasn’t this room as dusty as it should be? Walking over to the switchboard I found that the switches were brand new. Hoping against hope I switched on what I hoped would be the switch for the light and hail Bosie! The room lit up.

I noted with surprise that I wasn’t the only person taking shelter. Curled up against the wall, wrapped up in a blanket lay Ramu, the neighbourhood errand boy.

Apparently my entry wasn’t noisy enough to wake him, but the sudden brilliance had him jumping up, out of bed.

“Oh its you!” he said, falling back down again.

“I thought it was those 2 men.”

“What 2 men?” I asked curiously, as he obviously expected me to ask.

“Don’t you know anything? They took this room for a week; paid me well, they did, to find another place to sleep.” he said.

“Had this place all done up, they did. Their boss came in the evenings.”

“How do you know all this ?”I ventured, only half believing him.

“I used to hang around here in the day time, they didn’t mind. They thought I was too stupid to understand what they were saying.”

I sniggered.

“I’m not stupid! They thought I wouldn’t be able to follow their English. Well, my English teacher says I’m the best student, but even SHE would have trouble understanding their Bihari English!” he laughed out.

“Aren’t you Bihari?”I asked.

“No, I am not!!” was the heated reply from the 10-year Hariyanvi.

According to him, their boss was some ‘election guy’. Had a lot of deliveries and phone calls.

The rain finally let up and I made my way home.

**********************************************************

I had forgotten all about the matter until I saw the news at 3:00. I have always had a very active imagination, and wondered how much chaos fake voting machines would cause. And how easy it would be to make one that registered a particular vote no matter what button you pressed. If you believe that all humans are rotten to the core or that anything can be bought with money, then the idea of planting a fake machine seems simple. Childishly simple.

*********************************************************

An anonymous caller ‘advised’ the Delhi Police to raid a liquor shop in RK Puram.

This time, the news remained in the headlines for the whole of Thursday.

More fake voting machines were found but the shop owners denied knowledge of the suppliers. They had been paid in lakhs to store them in their shop, and beyond that, they knew nothing.

The Election Commissioner was now worried. There was no way of knowing just how many of these contraptions had been circulated, and elections were a mere 4 days away.

The Delhi Police rushed into action, combing the city for more fake machines.

*********************************************************

BRRRRRRNNNG!!!

The doorbell rang early on Friday morning. Rubbing sleep out of my eyes, I went to open the door and found Ramu, excitedly hopping on one foot then the other.

“What is it Ramu? Mom didn’t want you today, she TOLD you she wouldn’t be home!” I said, trying not to yawn.

“ My memory isn’t half as bad as yours; I remember that.” He said, tartly. “ I thought you might want to know that ‘Boss’ is back.”

“Who’s Bos- oh, him! Where is he, and what is he doing?”

“ He came to the shopping center at 9:00 today morning (yes, readers, that IS early on a holiday!!!). He’s eating at the mithai-wallas. Those 2 men aren’t with him, though.”

I thought quickly (a remarkable feet, when last night’s dreams are still playing havoc on your mind) and decided that I would like to take a look at this mysterious ‘Boss’.

I changed hurriedly, and followed Ramu to the shopping center. Very few shops opened this early (they, apparently, concur with my idea of ‘early’!) and it was easy to spot the lone man eating at the sweet shop, one of the two that were open.

I wondered what to do. I obviously couldn’t just go up to him and say, “Hey! Mystery man! I’m curious to know why you rented that little room and paid Ramu so much to get out of it, rather than letting your ‘side-kicks’ chuck him out. I’m curious to know why you packed up so soon and left, and by the way, I’m also wondering why a well dressed man like you is eating from a fly-infested, cheap sweet shop, when you can obviously take your pick of fancy eateries to eat from.”

He solved the problem for me. Noticing Ramu beside me, he nodded and smiled a bit. He beckoned to him, and handed him an envelope.

Ramu ran over again, and told me that he had been given a letter to post. Like they say in poems, ’mine eyes brightened’.

I loudly offered to help him stick the necessary stamps, and pulled him into the post office, right opposite the sweet shop. No, I DID NOT open that envelope and look inside (sheesh! What do you take me for?!) However, I DID take my own sweet time sticking and un-sticking the head of Gandhiji onto the envelope. Not much of my saliva had gone waste, however, before Mr. Boss was joined by a distinguished looking man.

I gave a start. That was Shri Lokapalliya, the local independent candidate.

Shri Lok, as his name was often shortened to, was extremely popular. He was one politician who genuinely cared for the people of his constituency. He was a Professor at a well-known College in Delhi, and never once had anyone any reason to doubt his integrity. He was a determined, far-seeing leader, and it seemed that everybody in Vasant Vihar, everybody in the whole of this constituency (just so that you know, Vasant Vihar falls under the RK Puram constituency.) wanted him to win the elections. Such was his popularity in a Congress dominated area.

Shri Lok and Boss had a nice long conversation before they went their separate ways.

Perhaps the ‘Boss’ just managed his election campaign, I thought. But that niggle in my sub-consciousness, also known as the sixth sense, wouldn’t stop telling me that this was going to be one interesting election.

**********************************************************

Saturday came and went. Sunday went creeping by, if you were a candidate.

The Police were still searching for the answer to the fake voting machines seized.

After much debate, it was decided not to postpone the elections, as the FVM’s, as they had come to be called, had been investigated, and found to behave like the real thing. Perhaps, mused the powers-that-be, this was somebody’s idea of a joke or a quick way to earn money.

**********************************************************

Monday morning dawned nice and bright. There was a holiday like air. Schools had given a day off, and students were enjoying a lie-in. Some schools, like mine, had given a whole week off for no earthly reason, but who’s complaining?

People went in trickles to the election center in our colony until closing time.

The day ended peacefully. No Kolkata style Election violence, thank you very much!

**********************************************************

School started the next day, and thoughts of ‘Boss’ and FVM’s were replaced by organic chemistry and co-ordinate geometry.

The results of the election were declared on Thursday, the 4th of December.

Surprise, surprise! The Congress DIDN’T win! Every constituency in Delhi turned up an independent winner. Sheila Dikshit lost, ML Khurana lost, all the big shots lost. True the margin wasn’t big, but there you have it. The elections were over in Delhi, and the Congress didn’t win, the BJP didn’t win.

All the news channels spent the day expressing surprise. Some suspected foul play, others cried it down. No trouble had been reported anywhere. The Congress was shocked into silence. They had been expecting a clear victory, so had, indeed, the rest of us.

**********************************************************

Friday, the 5th, saw another surprise. Instead of merging with a party, the independent winners decided to get together and form their own party. They elected Shri Lok their leader.

Chief Minister Lokapalliya was sworn in and was given a standing ovation after his speech.

The niggle in my sub-consciousness that had made me go and hear his speech, suddenly gave a ‘thump’ to my inside, as if saying, “You stupid moron! Can’t you connect it all even now?”

I was startled. The ‘Boss’, Shri Lok and FVM’s started revolving in a merry-go-round in my head, not unlike what they show in those Hindi serials, when the heroine has a flashback of her indiscretion.

Readers, I am only 16 years into the world. My mind isn’t yet half as scheming and evil as your average master-criminal. I think I have an idea of what happened in the Delhi elections of 2003. If my explanation sounds too simple, then remember the second sentence at the beginning of the paragraph.

**********************************************************

I think there was a conspiracy (I know the word sounds corny and is there in every other cheap thriller, but hey! I’m telling it like I see it.) to make Shri Lok the CM of Delhi. There was a conspiracy to deny every known party a SINGLE seat in Delhi. There was a conspiracy to form the Satya party, consisting of the independent victors. And ‘Boss’ and Shri Lok were behind it.

The educated middle class had taken a giant leap in the history of mankind. Tired of getting government after corrupt government, it had rigged an election in a democratic city, and got away with it. It, rather than the illiterate masses that vote on the basis of which party gives away more food sacks, finally chose the leader it wanted.

I suspect that the FVM’s had somehow been planted in a majority of polling centers. They probably registered something like every fourth vote in favour of the independent candidate. That coupled with the legitimate votes the independent got, made him/her a winner.

The ‘Boss’ is probably just another well-to-do serviceman/business man with some clout. Organising something like this in a mass scale isn’t easy, and 2 slip-ups did happen, but the seized FVM’s didn’t arouse much suspicion. He probably rotated between a lot of ‘offices’ like the one he set up in our colony, to escape suspicion. The planning for this must have taken up a lot of time and could only have come from the brain of Shri Lok. He is, after all, a distinguished professor of political science and foreign affairs. The other independents too are of a similar background. I suspect they too, had a brainstorming session or two over it.

**********************************************************

10th August, 2004

I never reported my suspicions, why should I? Shri Lok was running Delhi better than any of his predecessors. True, some of the usual glitches were there, but then, it would be silly to expect otherwise.

There was never a whisper of a scam, the electricity and water situation improved. Homes were set up for the homeless. Street children were taken care of. Crime levels came down. The sporting infrastructure in many Delhi sports clubs improved. CAS was done away with. There was an unprecedented transparency in the working of the Delhi government. Everything improved. The change in the functioning of the capital was monumental.

**********************************************************

I have never understood why my dormant sixth sense awoke for that particular period, because I have had no more such ‘flashes’.

Maybe in 50 years or so, occasional riggings like this will finally produce a central government consisting of members who have more of an interest in the progress of India, rather than the size of their back-pockets.

I hope I live to be 66!

**********************************************************

What is it like to be in a protest march? March 5, 2006

Posted by K in Action, contemporary, Politics, Reviews/Rants.
1 comment so far

When we reached the Ram Lila grounds, I was initially overwhelmed; there were people all around, the lal jhanda was flying everywhere(“Flag ko upar karo! Neeche nahi lagna chahiye!”) There were groups going on mini marches while everybody waited for the march to begin. There was a gentleman in a bush get up spoofing him and many others. There were a lot people around.

It’s when we started out on the march that I felt something in me. That there were a significant number of people who were willing to raise their voices against the government. That would raise their voices against a world dictator. Never mind that a large number of men and women seemed to have been hired for the march. Never mind that amidst the anti-bush slogans there were a fair few cries of ‘lal salaam!’ and ‘samajwadi party zindabad!’ Never mind that a large number of people who were marching probably had no clue as to why they were there. Never mind that the student turnout was disappointingly small. What matters is that there were students, that there was an effort to make a difference.

One (very cute ;)) journalist asked us what we thought would be the impact of the march, and I initially thought nothing. I thought the march would be an expression of protest for some people; but by and large, it wouldn’t affect non-marchers. I still feel similarly, to a certain degree. The march didn’t get reported in the news. And even if some channel did give it air time, I doubt it got more than 1-2 seconds. And thus it would have got reduced to another sterile piece of news.

No matter.

Even if the march didn’t revolutionise India’s pro-bush population, it changed the way some people think.

I know people around me gave Bush a longer thought. I’m sure people around the other marchers, too, gave bush, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran another thought.

I counted not less that a thousand marchers. In fact, I’m sure there were waayyy more than a thousand marchers. If every marcher affected at least four people, we have four thousand people thinking about what needs to be thought about.

And, in turn, if those four thousand people further influence four more people, we have sixteen thousand people willing to question, and stand up against imperialism, state-sanctioned terrorism, and economically motivated violence.

It’s an encouraging thought. After all, this is how the world changes…each drop in the ocean recognising its power.

Dude, youre not welcome March 1, 2006

Posted by K in Action, contemporary, Politics, Reviews/Rants.
3 comments

Tomorrow we participate in the anti-bush march. Why? Because we disagree with bush’s policies. Not domestic, mind you- i feel thats less of my business and more of americans’. But no person can assume the role of dictator supreme in the world. Its unhealthy for anyone country to have so much power. US prezs have being throwing their weight ever since WW1. And sometimes enough is wnough.

Between 28591-32225 dead in Iraq. Civilians, mind you. For what? Weapons of mass destruction.

A ‘war’ with afghanistan. A full fledged, lets-get-our-fanciest-deadliest killer machines into afghanistan. And afghanistan’s air force- 8 whole ancient aircrafts.

Pitting your might(billions and billions of dollars worth of sly killing machines) against non-existant opposition. It would be funny if it didn’t involved god knows how many deaths.

Is there place for a Bush in this world? Most of us know the answer.

There’s nothing we can do about his being President, about his coming to India(he’s probably already here right now). But we can utilise the democracy he goes on about to give him a piece of mind, to give him the royal finger.

Somewhere deep down I hope he’s human and intelligently human enough to recognize why we’re protesting. I hope he goes to bed plagued by guilt every night of his life. I hope he breaks out in sweat everytime he sees iraq. I hope he has night mares about each and every dead body-foreign and american. atleast until he repents.

fuck you bush. and fuck your ‘war’ on terrorism.