Tapan Bose


(I was asked to prepare a note for members of PIPFPD on terrorist activities by different groups in India and Pakistan, its impact on the people of both countries and the relations between India and Pakistan. I do not claim any expertise in this area. However, I have attempted to analyze why the use of “terror tactics” has proliferated in this region, particularly among the Muslim groups, what are their objectives and locate this in the context global imperialism. I hope my efforts will be of some use to my fellow members – Tapan Bose)


We are told every day the India is facing a serious challenge of “terrorism”. If we are to believe the media, the investigative agencies of the state and the propaganda of the right wing parties, every terrorist act in India is perpetrated by Muslims and most of these Muslim groups are inspired and funded by Pakistan. The Indian official view is that Pakistan state is terrorist state and is sponsoring terrorism in India. India wants Pakistan to end cross-border terrorism. Pakistan suffers terrorist attacks almost every day. The number of people who fall victim to these terrorist attacks in Pakistan is many folds higher than that of India. The question is whether Pakistan state has the capacity to control the terrorist organizations that operate within Pakistan.


‘Terrorism’ is the new global threat against which global war must now be fought, according to ruling class politicians and the media. Since the attack on the World Trade Centre by Al Qaida, thanks to the US policy, blaming the Muslims for every act of violence has become a global practice since 2002 when America began its “Global War on Terrorism. The expression, “terrorism” is a misconception. There is no political theory or ideology that aims to achieve “terrorism” as its ultimate goal like capitalism, socialism and communism. Some of the political, groups at times indulge in terrorist activities as a part of their strategy and tactics to force the state to accept their demands. Religious and sectarian groups also indulge in terrorist activities against those who they consider as their enemy and also to force other to convert to their religion. The forces of the states often use excessive violence to terrorise people opposed to the state and its policies.


Historically, the left has been accused of indulging in terrorist activities.  During the past extreme left wing organizations and individuals have indulged in terrorist activities to further their cause in Ireland, Russia, France and many other European countries. However, these actions were always condemned by the ideologues of communism. Marx, Angles, Lenin and Trotsky have held the terrorist activities harm the struggle for socialism. Lenin was scathing about the claims made by Social Revolutionaries that heroic single combat excites a spirit of struggle in us all. On the contrary, he argued, “Only new forms of the mass movement or the awakening of new sections of the masses to independent struggle really rouses a spirit of struggle and courage in all. Single combat, however, inasmuch as it remains single combat, has the immediate effect of simply creating a short lived sensation, while indirectly it even leads to apathy and passive waiting for the next bout”. (V I Lenin, Collected Works, vol 6 (Moscow, 1961), p184.)


“Terrorist” Past and Present:


During the days of national freedom movements, sections of leftist intellectuals were sympathetic to the terrorist activities of nationalists.  Many Indians have been sympathetic to the Naga and Kashmiri freedom fighters as they were seen fighting for a secular progressive ideology – national self-determination. However, today it has changed as the groups involved in terrorist activities, irrespective of their cause, are seen as reactionary, anti-democracy, anti-progress, anti-development and religious fundamentalists.


I would argue that today’s terrorists, who are called the “Islamofascists” are not different from the nationalists of the past were. The objective of the so-call Islamic fundamentalists is not to convert the entire global population to Islam. Rather, their objective is to throw out the western imperialists from their countries and set up their own rule. They want to setup Muslim states, impose Shari- a and root out the west inspired political institutions. This is a political objective, not a religious one. These are neither a throw back to pre-modern days, nor are they savages who kill people and destroy anything and everything just for pleasure. Horrible as their ways are and unacceptable as their objectives are, there no denying the fact that they are engaged in a war against the Western imperialists and their ruling elite, whom they see as the agents of Western imperialism.  They target civilians. So did the Algerian resistance, the Basque ETA, the Irish underground and the LTTE. In fact it is the LTTE which started the suicide bombing campaign not Hezbollah or Al Qaida. Yet the Irish Republican Army, the ETA were not classified as demented votaries of terror – enemies of civilization.


President Bush claimed that the attack on the World Trade Centre was an attack on civilisation, progress and democracy. This was swallowed by the western media hook line and sinker. The Western countries and many others including India accepted this argument. Overpowered by the propaganda unleashed by the West we did not ask the question that should have been asked. Did Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri want to destroy Western civilisation or did they mount the attack to force the United States to leave Saudi Arabia because its troops were desecrating sacred soil and the United States was plundering his country’s national resources? It is true that Osama Bin Laden said the “United States had declared war on God” but he also claimed that he declared war on the United States because it was supporting autocratic rulers in Muslim countries and exploiting the Muslim people. Bin Laden never justified Al Qaida’s terrorist attacks on the West as a means of subordinating the Western non-believers to the true faith. (Stephen Holmes, ‘Al-Qaeda, September 11, 2001’ in D Gambetta (Ed), Making Sense of Suicide Missions: Oxford, 2005)


Bin Laden’s politics was politics of despair. Coming from a rich upper class family he saw the fight against injustice in non-class terns. For him the world was divided by nations and not by classes. In his logic, the ordinary people of the oppressor nations were as guilty as their governments. Terrorist attacks were justified on the ground that the people cannot be “innocent” as they voted for their governments. Bin Laden in his October 29, 2004 statement to the citizens of America said “Your security is not in the hands of Kerry, Bush or al-Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands,” bin Laden said, referring to the president and his Democratic opponent. “Each state that does not mess with our security, has naturally guaranteed its own security.” (AP October 2004. Also see excerpts in http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3966817.stm)


This is the logic of the terrorist. They believe that only a small group of dedicated fighters can avenge the wrongs in society as the masses are either corrupt or too weak to take up struggle. They hope to stir the passive masses of people through their “exemplary” actions. The idea that a select few can produce change through conspiratorial methods inevitably isolates them from the mass of the population. The terrorists begin to distrust the masses. They begin to kill their own people.


The Situation in Pakistan:


What is happening in Pakistan inside in Pakistan, in my view, is a struggle for hegemony between a pseudo- secular ruling elite, for whom liberalism means a Western life style and those who believe that Pakistan’s problems would be solved when it became a true Muslim country, ruled by Islamic laws. It will then be the “homeland for Muslims”.  Pakistan’s ruling elite is Muslim so are the vast masses of the poor. The contradiction between them is not religious. It is class and ideology. Pakistan’s ruling elite control the land and resources of the country. The vast numbers of Pakistan’s poor, own very little. Like the poor all over the world, they too want to change their condition.  This is why they had flocked around Z. A. Bhutto and his Peoples’ Party as Bhutto had promised to provide land to the landless and jobs to the unemployed. He betrayed them.


Terrorist activities in Pakistan have become a highly destructive phenomenon in recent years. The annual death toll from terrorist attacks has risen from 164 in 2003 to 3318 in 2009. According to estimates of Pakistan government between September 11, 2001 and May 2011, a total of 35,000 Pakistanis were killed by terrorists According to another estimate the direct and indirect economic costs of terrorist activities 2000-2010 total $68 billion. President Mushrraf and President Asif Ali Zardari have admitted that terrorist outfits were “deliberately created and nurtured” by past governments “as a policy to achieve some short-term tactical objectives”.


Pakistan’s ruling elite has used religion to keep the deprived masses engaged in sectarian violence and divided to ensure their own safety. General Zia’s most cynical use of religion and the so-call process of Islamisation triggered the Shia-Sunni strife in Pakistan. “Islamization” was “Sunnification” as the laws and regulations were based on Sunni fiqh. The Shias who constitute nearly 20 percent of Pakistan’s population protested. In July 1980, about 25,000 Shia came out on the streets of Islamabad to protest against the imposition of the Islamization laws.


The Shia of Pakistan formed student associations and a Shia party while the Sunni began to form sectarian militias recruited from Deobandi and Ahl-i Hadith madrassas. Anti-Shia groups like Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan were formed. These are offshoots of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI). The groups demand the expulsion of all Shiite Muslims from Pakistan. They have killed hundreds of Pakistani Shia since 1996. Clearly, the Sunni terrorist groups do not want to convert the Shia to Sunni. They want to get rid of them as they want to get rid of the US imperialists and their cohorts from their country. It is not religion, this they have it; is state power that they want to create a state of their liking. The Taliban fought against Soviet occupation forces. In this hey took the help of the US imperialists. After coming to power they turned against the US Imperialists.  Today, they are united with Pakistan radical Sunni organizations.


The ISI of Pakistan, in alliance with the CIA, encouraged the “mujahedeen” to fight against the Soviet forces present in Afghanistan. Most of the mujahedeen were never disarmed after the war ended in Afghanistan. Some of these Mujahedeen at the behest of ISI later groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Harkat-ul-Ansar, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and others. The same groups are now taking on the state and represent the biggest threat to it and the citizens of Pakistan through the politically motivated killing of civilians and police officials.


Imperialism Promoting Religious Sectarianism:


In my analysis, the Shia-Sunni strife is the main source of terrorist violence in Pakistan in Pakistan today. This has also emerged as the main source of violence in Iraq and Libya which the Western imperialists led by the US had “liberated” from despotic rulers and brought “democracy”. The Shia-Sunni strife helps the US imperialists. It keeps the Muslims divided and suits their agenda of destabilising Iran, the last Muslim country which has remained outside the West’s control.  Saudi Arabia, the cat’s paw of western imperialism in the Muslim world is a partner of the US in this game. An autocratic ruling dynasty belonging to a nomadic tribe that was created by the British imperialists and used against the Ottomans had switched their loyalty to the US after the fall of the British Empire. The Saudi ruling family, who follows a socially and culturally conservative doctrine of Islam – Wahhabism, dreams of controlling the Muslim world. They are the main source of funding for the Sunni terrorist organisations all over the world.


Wahhabism was largely confined to the Arabian Peninsula until the 1960s, when the Saudi monarchy gave refuge to radical members of the Muslim Brotherhood fleeing persecution in Nasser’s Egypt. A cross-fertilization of sorts occurred between the isolated Wahhabi creed of the Saudi and the Salafi jihadist teachings of Sayyid Qutb. They denounced secular Arab rulers as non-believers and legitimate targets of holy war (jihad). “It was the synthesis of the Wahhabi social and cultural conservatism and Qutbist political radicalism- that produced the militant variety of Wahhabist political Islam that eventually (produced) al-Qaeda” (Mohammed Ayoob, “Political Islam: Image and Reality,” World Policy Journal, Vol. 11, No. 3, Fall 2004.). What the Saudis want to achieve was clearly spelled out in November 2006, by Nawaf  Obaid, a close advisor to Prince Turki of Saudi Arabia in the Washington Post that after the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq in order to protect the Sunnis, Saudi Arabia would begin a programme of “funding, arms and logistical support” to Sunni insurgents. He further asserted “As the economic powerhouse of the Middle East, the birthplace of Islam and the de- facto leader of the world’s Sunni community, Saudi Arabia has both the means and the religious responsibility to intervene.” (See Nawaf Obaid, “Stepping Into Iraq: Saudi Arabia Will Protect Sunnis if the U.S. Leaves,” The Washington Post, 29 November 2006.)


“Arabization” of Islam is emerging as a main trend in most parts of the subcontinent as it is seen as a process of purification of Islam and a way of protecting the religion and the identity of believers. The Indo-Persian cultural matrix which formed the core of the subcontinent’s Muslim identity before the Partition has been discarded by the Wahhabi inspired clerics. The open and softer Sufi traditions of Islam, which embraced the culture of syncretism, are being rejected as un-Islamic. The traditions of praying at the shrines of the Sufi saints, which are often revered by followers of other religions, are being discouraged.  The Wahhabi trained clerics are directing their students and flowers to wreck vengeance against the Ahmadias and Shia. In Pakistan, the Ahmedia sect has been declared non-Muslim. The Ahmadis face jail if found saying “Assalam-o-Alaikum or calling their prayer house a mosque or praying like a Muslim.


Situation in India:


Unlike in Pakistan, electoral democracy has survived in India. However, since the mid-eighties when India joined the bandwagon of neo-liberalism, opened its economy to foreign direct investment, reduced its budget for the social sector the gap between the rich and the poor has increased enormously. The anti-poor policies of the government and its deals with foreign and Indian corporate houses which is destroying  the livelihood and traditional habitat of millions of poor people in rural , amassing of enormous amount of wealth by corrupt politicians and bureaucrats in power have disillusioned the ordinary people. The left political parties have virtually abandoned the working classes and the masses of rural and urban poor. Workers organisations, left without political support, have been crushed into submission. In the absence of a left alternative, the poor masses have become vulnerable to the manipulative politics and anti democratic values of local right wing religious revivalist groups. Like in Pakistan, where the young unemployed sons of the rural and urban poor have joined the Jihadist groups, similarly in India, bulk of the recruits of Shiv Sena, the Bajrang Dal, Kashmiri Jihadist and other such organization also belong to the homes of the poor from rural and urban areas. In fact it is the same class of people who populate the ranks of the ordinary soldiers in the army and constables in the police forces of the state.


The eighties was a turbulent decade. The Nehruvian model of welfare state and foreign policy based on the principles of nonalignment was in the process of being jettisoned. The country was facing deep economic and political crisis. Sant Bhinderanwale, an orthodox Sikh preacher, who was handpicked by Mrs. Gandhi to check the growing influence of Akali Dal which was demanding greater powers for the states had turned Frankenstein’s monster and launched an armed rebellion to create an independent country for the Sikhs – Khalistan. In June 1984 Mrs. Gandhi sent the army to the Golden Temple where Bhinderanwale and his armed gang had holed in. In October 1984, Mrs. Gandhi was assassinated by two of her Sikh body guards. Rajiv Gandhi came to power in 1985 after the genocide of Sikhs in November 1984. In 1989, Rajiv Gandhi government allowed the ground breaking ceremony for a Ram temple in Ayodhya in an “undisputed area” next to the Babri Mosque to placate the right wing Hindu groups like Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena, RSS and the BJP.


The BJP started its countrywide Rath Yatras to launch a campaign for erecting a Ram Mandir at the site where the Babri Masjid stood. In 1992, the Babri Mosque was destroyed by the Hindu fanatics led by the leaders of the BJP like L. K. Advani while the Congress government led by Narasinha Rao at the centre stood by helplessly. The demolition was followed by wide spread killing of Muslims in different parts of the country.


The demolition of Babri Masjid illustrated the degeneration of the Indian polity. It meant that the two biggest parties in Parliament could get away with any sort of crime to expand their vote banks. The genocide against Sikhs in 1984, following the assassination of Indira Gandhi, had already confirmed the fact that the new economic offensive required a new method of governance as well. The communal violence of 1992-93 marked the institutionalisation of this criminal method of governance.


In India, the replica of the Muslim right wing of Pakistan. Hindu radical groups who rejected secularism and want to convert in to a Hindu state like the Siva Sena, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal and Hindu Munnani were formed. After the killing of more than three thousand Muslims in Gujarat, 200 Muslim persons – children, youth and old people were arrested for rioting. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court of India sat over the appeals of these doubly victimized Muslim citizens from Gujarat for four years. The Student Islamic Movement in India was banned while killer forces like the Bajrang Dal and the Shiva Sena are allowed to roam freely. The Durga Bahini, women’s wing of the Bajrang Dal practice target shooting in public.  And the reality that the rapists of Christian nuns, killers of Christian missionaries, Muslim men and women and Buddhists are never put on trial – shows us how communally polarized Indian society has become.


The empowerment of the radical right wing in India has caused deep damages to the culture of democracy and secularism. The both the right wing and centrist parties have given up the core of India’s foreign policy –nonalignment and independence. Today, India is aligned with the USA, and has given up its support to its centuries old ties with the Arab world to become a partner in the Zionist enterprise of transforming West Asia into the exclusive home of the Zionist Jews.


After the USA declared “war on terror” on a global scale, the BJP led NDA government in Delhi claimed “Islamic terror” was also the main threat to India’s internal security and that Pakistan was the main sponsor of this threat. After the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2000 the BJP had started working on Israel to create a US-Israel-India anti terrorist triad. These ties flourished under the BJP led right wing government when India entered into military pacts with Israel, the USA and other western states ostensibly to fight ‘Islamofascist terror’. This alliance has continued to flourish under the so-called centrist United Progressive Alliance led by the Indian National Congress and supported by the Indian Communist Parties.


Born of what is being promoted as common interest in fighting Islamic terrorists, the relationship between India and Israel extends to multiple activities in technology, military affairs, cultural exchange, and people—to—people contact. According to a Times of India news story, the high mark of the India-Israel alliance was a fast—growing partnership in the “field of security with New Delhi keen to benefit from Israel’s experience in counter—terrorism, as well as procure high—tech weaponry being developed by Israeli concerns.” (The Times of India, September 17, 2005)


After the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, terrorist activities peaked in India in which about 5,839 were killed. In Jammu and Kashmir which has been wracked by militancy since 1988, till March 2013, a total of 43,439 have lost their lives at the hands of the militants and Indian security forces. (South Asia Terrorism Portal).


Muslims make up the country’s largest minority group and India has the world’s second largest Muslim population after Indonesia. Sachar Committee released in November 2006 found that India’s Muslim population lag behind the rest of Indians in terms of literacy, employment rates, and income. Sachar committee made several recommendations for the improvement of the lot of the Muslims. The government is yet to implement it.


It is common practice of the police to arrest Muslim youths whenever there is a bomb blast or any terrorist activity in India. These arrests, without any substantial proof, are a cause of insecurity of Muslims in India and their alienation from the government. Over the years, SIMI has come to be a dread acronym for terror. The Home Ministry claims that it is a lethal and shadowy organisation intent on destroying the nation. SIMI was banned in September for crimes such as putting up posters, making speeches, putting up stickers After every bomb blast, the police routinely blames SIMI and the media begins a campaign to continue the ban on SIMI based on information leaked by faceless IB officials that the dreaded terrorist responsible for the horrible act were a part of SIMI or were former members an of SIMI. Now SIMI is also linked to Indian Mujahedeen, which many journalists have claimed that it was fiction created by the security agencies? A TEHELKA special report titled “All the Wrong Men”, based on investigation across the country, over three months in 12 cities of India, “found that entrenched prejudices in the executive and the judiciary, an abject lack of political will against framing” Muslim men.


The refusal of India state to address the main grievance of the Kashmiri is a demonstration of the “failure of the Indian state”. It needs to be recognized the trouble in Kashmir is a consequence of India’s Kashmir policy. For this reason resistance to the Indian troops is legitimate. But it is also necessary to make it clear that the bombings and killing of civilians are not a way to defeat the India state therefore has to criticized. Similarly involvement of Pakistan based Jihadist groups in Kashmir must be condemned. Holding Kashmiri Muslims hostage to India secularism is equally condemnable.

The fact that that after sixty five years of independence,  Indian Muslims population lag behind the rest of Indians in terms of literacy, employment rates, and income to address the main grievances of the Kashmiri is a to address the Muslims’ disadvantaged status in India is a sad commentary on Indian states commitment to secularism. It is easy to blame the Muslims for every terrorist act. The discovery that two Hindu organization. Rashtriya Jagaran Manch and Avunav Bharati were involved in the blasts on Samjhouta Express, Malegaon and Mecca Masjid for which several Muslim youth were arrested, tortured and forced to confess their involvement in crimes they did not commit does not seem to  have changed the attitude of the media and the investigative agencies.


Such biased actions are driving more and more Muslim to take up arms. Bomb blasts in public places, indiscriminate shooting and suicide bombing are inhuman and dirty as they target civilians. It is the strategy of the weak that do not have the fire power of the oppressor who have the legitimate right to kill.


We do not approve terrorist and their deeds. Terrorist actions do not bring social change. It is counterproductive. But we should not join the band wagon of the politicians and the media in condemning the terrorists and are painting Islam as a religion of terror. As Trotsky wrote in criticising terrorist acts, it was important not to side with “those bought and paid for moralists who make solemn declarations about the absolute value of human life”. (Quoted by Stephen Holmes, ‘Al-Qaeda, September 11, 2001’ in D Gambetta (ed), Making Sense of Suicide Missions (Oxford, 2005). Our critique of the terrorist needs to take into account the horrors of state terror and the racism directed at the Muslims otherwise we will not be able to meaningfully intervene why young Muslims resort to such terrible tactics. We fill to offer an alternative that can offer hope to those whose despair pushes them to join the terrorist organizations.

Top - Home