The beautiful land of Saxony is where composer Richard Wagner was born and this was the karmabhoomi and final resting place of Johann Sebastian Bach."The valley of the clueless, the failed state, the banana republic: these are but some of various unfortunate terms employed by Germans themselves for the free state of Saxony, Germany’s 10th largest and sixth most populous state today, one that ironically boasts of a glorious past. "Right-wing extremists openly abuse the President and Chancellor of Germany but are not stopped, Saxon politicians boast about the state’s economic success but there is anarchy both in the state parliament and on the streets.It is in Saxony that the historic movement for German reunification began. "But I will concede this: the administration and police of Saxony are lax because they are permeated by the same right-wing sentiment as a growing number of Saxons too. Not as a convict, but as a TV reporter who had been granted permission to interview Pakistani terrorist Ramzi Yousef, now serving a life sentence in a Colorado prison for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre. Its economy is healthy, its unemployment rate not particularly alarming. This is not a failed state, it’s a failed society. Albakr’s death in custody therefore, doesn’t surprise me."Over the past years, Saxony has come to be known as a failed state," says German reporter Michael Weidemann. It is this landlocked state bordering the Czech Republic that boasts of some of the best and oldest universities in the world.But Saxony is also the birthplace of Lutz Bachmann, controversial founder of the two-year-old, and abusively xenophobic group, "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamicisation of the Occident" (PEGIDA). As I watched two hefty policemen bring Yousef into the room where we had set up our camera, I wryly recalled "Bikini Killer" Charles Sobhraj’s satin-smooth escapes from prisons in India and Afghanistan and his life of luxury in Delhi’s Tihar jail. But also — that the rot in Saxony runs deeper than thought.Albakr spent the three days in custody on hungerstrike.Wanted men slipping past clueless immigration officials, convicts bribing cops and digging tunnels to freedom: if the international media is to be believed, things like that don’t happen in the West as frequently as in anarchic Asia.
And yet, PEGIDA’s frequent demonstrations and growing popularity have lent Saxony the reputation of being Germany’s most intolerant and racist state.But Saxony is one of 16 states of a country legendary for administrative efficiency and — since the Munich attack in July — of picture-perfect responses to terror threats. Indeed, it is Ms Merkel’s own Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) which has remained firmly ensconced in power in the state legislature since 1990. The invaluable information Albakr could have given the German authorities on his handlers and other suspects is now lost forever. Known as a major centre for IT and micro-electronics even before reunification, "Silicon Saxony" — a conglomerate of 300 IT firms — today employs more than 40,000 people, including many Indian techies.So how does one explain the simultaneous laxity of Saxony’s state machinery And if anarchy and xenophobia have grown since the birth of PEGIDA and other right-wing groups and become unmanageable for the state police, why has Berlin not intervened with, say, the German equivalent of "President’s Rule" Analysts point out that Germany does not have a legal provision for federal rule, unless there is a specific request from a given state government. So how does one explain the suicide of 22-year-old Jabel Albakr, a Syrian suicide bomber in the making, inside his prison cell in the German city automatic woodworking edge banding machine manufacturers of Leipzig last week Fellow Syrians had identified, tied up and handed over the radicalised refugee to the police just days before his suicide.Two decades ago, I underwent several body searches and was led through multiple layers of electronic steel doors at the New York Metropolitan Correction Centre in Manhattan."The writer is the former longstanding South Asia bureau chief of Der Spiegel and a veteran foreign correspondent.Saxony receives significantly lower numbers of Syrian and other refugees compared to other parts of Germany.
And yet, a psychological evaluator who met Albakr in prison briefly and with no interpreter present, declared him "free of suicidal tendencies"."If you count the thousands of Saxons who protest against PEGIDA and other right-wing goons, this talk of ‘banana republic’ is exaggerated," says veteran editor Hermann Denecke. Some of those who attended the latter, however, say that the police intentionally kept them away from the right-wing demo at the city centre, citing "imaginary" "Islamic terror threats". Attacks by neo-Nazis on foreigners have increased over the years, as has a noticeable reluctance on part of the Saxon police to contain the aggression. Public broadcasters last week reported 5,000 demonstrators at a PEGIDA rally to mark its second anniversary in the heart of Dresden, but the presence of only 150 people to demonstrate against PEGIDA.The rise of anti-foreigner sentiments in a country bearing the bulk of war refugees is understandable, though certainly not acceptable.By now, it was common knowledge both among the authorities and the public that Albakr had been radicalised by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and a maulvi in Berlin, and had recently even visited the German capital, where one of several airports would soon be the target of his dastardly suicide attack. It is a tribute to Saxony that thousands against PEGIDA demonstrated in the heart of town, the day after the racists had taken centrestage. He also tampered with plug-points and smashed lamps: easy to do, since German laws forbid the use of surveillance cameras in prison cells. Consequently and instead of being shifted to a high-security cell with a dedicated guard outside it, Albakr remained where he was and was found hanging by his own T-shirt on an iron grill the next day. In Albakr’s flat, the German police had found 1-1/2 kg of explosives and a suicide vest in the making. Goethe, Nietzsche — and even Chancellor Angela Merkel — were alumni of Saxony’s University of Leipzig.I had heard of how inmates of the centre were shackled, chained, handcuffed and escorted through an underground tunnel equipped with surveillance cameras to attend court trials