Headley collage

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“At first, I was amazed, but when you’re fighting for a just cause, people seem to pop up, like right out of the pavement, even when it is dangerous. 

Doesn’t your New Testament say that when your enemy strikes you in the right cheek, offer him your left?

 People think that the phrase was used metaphorically, but I’m not so sure. I have thought about it a great deal. I think Christ meant that you must show courage. You must be ready to take a blow, several blows and not bow.

 When you do that, it does something to the human nature of the oppressor, something that makes his hatred for you decrease and his respect, increase.

I think Christ grasped that. I believe I have seen it work.”

– Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, to Rev. Charles F. Andrews (South Africa, 1897)

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There was a chill in the air that evening. Delhi in January is always near freezing.

The man in khaki was clean shaven, neatly dressed in a pair of khaki trousers, as was the norm those days. He had on, a bush shirt, half-sleeved, white. The cold didn’t seem to bother him. In fact, to tell the truth, he didn’t feel anything at all that day.

As he entered through the gate into the lovely garden, a crowd was gathering. Some had come to sit in on the evening prayers and to catch a glimpse of the great man. And there were others, like him and his saffron-draped handler in the rickshaw outside, who were there to put to test which was stronger – love, or hatred.

The man walked with the flow of the crowd around him. Like a leaf caught in the current of the nearby Yamuna, he let himself be gently pushed and shoved toward the steps. It was when he was still about a hundred yards away that he saw the man everyone called ‘Bapuji’ slowly making his way down, his two young nieces by his side for support. He was still a bit weak from all the fasting.

As for the young man in khaki, there was a much larger conspiracy here, with more insidious forces in play, but he had chosen to be the pawn. He knew that his life wouldn’t be worth two paises after that day, but so be it. If they had suicide vests in those days, he would surely have worn one.

On seeing the Mahatma emerge on the steps, the man in khaki didn’t break stride. His face set, his eyes on target, he approached the great man, his steps resolute. And soon there he was, right in front of the Mahatma, kneeling down and touching his feet, pretending to seek his blessings.

That is the moment when Nathuram Vinayak Godse made history. He suddenly rose with a jerk that made the Mahatma stagger back a bit. Then, from his khaki trousers, the Hindu nationalist brought out a Beretta M1934 semiautomatic. The pistol, manufactured in 1934, had been carried by an Italian officer during the invasion of Abyssinia and subsequently taken by a British officer as a war trophy. It is not known how the gun found it’s way to India. Maybe it boarded a troop ship at Southampton with it’s owner, at the start of the war and wound it’s way through the Suez Canal, briefly stopping at Aden to take on pantry supplies and then eventually landed unlicensed, in Godse’s hands.

Godse straightened his arm until the barrel was just a foot away from the Mahatma. For a moment it seemed as if the world came to a halt, while Godse pulled the trigger three times, all three rounds slamming into the Mahatma’s chest, their force throwing him back, sending him sprawling on the lawn, his last words – ‘Hey Ram’ (Oh Lord).

Thus, the man who might have been the only one who could lift the world out of the abyss it finds itself in today, passed into history.

Of the massive spectacle that was his funeral, The New York Times – quoting the words of Albert Einstein – wrote……

“The object of this massive tribute died as he had always lived – without wealth, without property and without title or office.

 Mahatma Gandhi was not the commander of armies, nor a ruler of vast lands. He could not boast of any scientific achievement or artistic gift.

 Yet Kings and Presidents from all over the world have today joined hands to pay homage to this little brown man in the loin cloth who led his country to freedom.

 Generations to come will scarcely believe that such a man as this, ever in flesh and blood….. walked upon this earth”

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I am thinking that maybe I should send the above quote to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi with a note that says, “Maybe there is another way to get to where you want to be.”

But I am being naïve. Gandhi certainly was. Perhaps, even Al-Baghdadi and his ISIS really have no option but to be where they are today, just as Nathuram Godse felt there was no other choice, both extremists, pushed into a corner by what they saw as the ‘aggression of the infidel’. Maybe we have all breached the event horizon, the point of no return. In the May of 2009, one man certainly did breach his – David Coleman Headley…..

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His reconnaissance of Copenhagen completed and the framework of a plot against the Jyllands Posten finalized with his Al Qaeda handler Ilyas Kashmiri, Headley headed back to Chicago where he lived in the west side with his wife and four children.

The minute he landed, he was placed under round-the-clock surveillance by the FBI. The concern was whether there was a homeland plot brewing. Anybody who came in contact with Headley became a target of surveillance. He couldn’t fart without the Americans not only hearing but even smelling it.

Through the NSA’s extensive eavesdropping capabilities, the FBI soon learnt that Headley was about to go over to Pakistan and from there on to Denmark once again, this time to carry through with his plan to take down Jyllands Posten building with everybody in it. They decided to close in on him.

Once he arrived at O’Hare, they let him check in through security and then agents approached and arrested him. In custody, Headley sang like a canary, giving up the complete details of his Denmark terror plot. His FBI interrogators found his tone eager and chatty, as if he was at a street-side cafe with them on a balmy afternoon, cool and totally composed. It went like,” Look, I know I cannot beat this rap, so I’m going to help you guys. I’ll give you all the information you need and some.”

David Coleman Headley spilt it all. He was touted by the American security establishment as a success story in the war on terror.

But there was more. This canary was unstoppable. To the consternation of the FBI, Headley of his own confessed to being a key player in another far more deadly terror attack which had already been carried out six months earlier and taken 166 innocent lives in India’s commercial capital, Mumbai. He told his interrogators that he had had an active role in every stage of the planning for the November 2008 Mumbai massacre that is now infamous among Indians as ‘India’s 9/11’.

For 60 horrific hours, Mumbai had been the scene of a horrific carnage and the world had watched in real time as an Indian icon – the five-star Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai’s waterfront – was set ablaze by ten Pakistani militants from the terror outfit, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), their orders very simple – spread out all over the city and kill as many Indians and western nationals as possible and die in the process. There was deliberately no escape plan, since they all expected to be killed in the process.

David Headley’s confession on the details of the prequel was fascinating. He described the groundwork for the attacks that he prepared, which happened sometime in the summer of 2008 through a reconnaisance trip to Mumbai, posing as a businessman. He chose traget locations and recorded video of the city layout and traffic patterns, pretty much the same work that he had carried out in Copenhagen.

At the end of it, Headley’s American interrogators became convinced that without Headley’s involvement, the Mumbai attacks might never have gotten the go-ahead from the Pakistani planners.

Now in FBI custody facing a possible death sentence, Headley bargained. Confessing that he worked for the Pakistani Intelligence agency, ISI, as well as the LeT, he agreed to be a witness for the prosecution. Eventually he was convicted, but America has a system of plea deals that reward criminality. For excelling as a canary, he was given an appallingly lenient sentence of only 35 years.

In 2015, Headley disappeared into the American maximum-security prison system, known as the Supermax Prisons. If he was smart, kept his trap shut and followed orders, he can walk free in 20 years, maybe even less. He can be a free man, by the time he is 60. Not a bad consequence for plotting mass murder. It is not for nothing that America is called the land of the free.

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That would have been that, had it not been for another event that had occurred just prior, in 2013, when another American some see as an authentic hero – Edward Snowden – took a series of steps that revealed to the world that America – through David Coleman Headly – had had prior knowledge of the Mumbai strike long before it had happened and both, the US National Security Agency and the FBI could have stopped the massacre if they had wanted……

(to be continued….)