Asghar Ali Engineer



It is often maintained and rightly so that it is very difficult to define terrorism as one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. But in our case there is no such ambiguity. These people whatever they call themselves, Indian Mujahidin or something else, there is no doubt that they are terrorists pure and simple. It is great insult of the word mujahid as mujahid is one who struggles for higher causes, for humanity, for justice and is most compassionate to others suffering. No one can be termed mujahid who kills innocent people, women and children and in case of Ahmedabad even those of sick and injured. Let alone mujahideen they cannot claim to be human beings. A mujahid does not seek revenge. Qur’an condemns seeking revenge and describes Allah as ghafoorur Rahim i.e. a Pardoner and Merciful. Murderers cannot pass themselves as mujahideen in any case.


In history it has been common that we legitimize our actions by religious verbosity or religious rhetoric. I would appeal to my country people not to be misled by anyone’s religious rhetoric. In our country the Hindutva forces too use such rhetoric for their own political purposes. The issue of Ram temple raked up by BJP and the rath that Shri Advani rode was nothing else but to play with the devotional sentiments of Hindus towards Lord Ram in order to come to power.


In modern day democracy there are gross injustices of all kind and to cover up those injustices our politicians are very apt at invoking religious rhetoric. Mr. Narendra Modi exploited to the hilt the Godhra train incident to romp home to power on 2000 corpses using strong Hindutva rhetoric. After the bomb blast in Ahmedabad on 26th July when 19 bombs exploded in that unfortunate city, however he eschewed the same rhetoric.


Just 24 hours before after Bangalore blasts Narendra Modi had boasted while speaking at Chetpur, Saurashtra that terrorists may attack Jaipur or Bangalore but they dare not step into Gujarat and next day BJP state President while speaking in Virpur village of Kheda district had said that as long as Narendra Modi is there in Gujarat, no terrorist dare attack. Earlier during election campaign also Narendra Modi had boasted that it needs 36″ chest to face terrorists which Congress does not have. And Ahmedabad had such terrible terrorist attacks and next day even Surat had 18 bombs placed in diamond hub area which fortunately did not explode due to tactical glitch. What face Modi can have now?


He summoned army within half an hour and appealed for peace. One wishes he had shown such behaviour after Godhra train burning. Godhra train burning was as condemnable as the bomb blasts in Ahmedabad in which 49 innocent people lost their lives. But Mr. Modi’s behaviour was greatly different after bomb blast. After train incident he was worried about coming elections and after this bomb blast he already had won elections few months ago.


If Modi had employed his Hindutva rhetoric as he did after train incident one shudders to think what would have happened. How many more innocent people would have lost their lives. Of course credit goes to the people of Ahmedabad that they maintained peace and bore such tragedy with great patience and fortitude. And I am sure the people of Gujarat would have borne the Godhra train tragedy with equal degree of patience and fortitude had Modi not let loose his murdering hordes on innocent Muslims.


It is such a sad commentary on our 21st century secular democracy that it runs on the blood of innocent people and corruption as we witnessed the other day in Parliament on voting for or against the confidence motion. Democracy based on principle of partnership of people in governance has been hijacked by powerful vested interests who use democratic rhetoric but do exactly the opposite, manipulate people through murder and corruption.


Terrorism is a political response to a political situation. It would be futile to look for its roots in any religion. As Hindutva is not product of Hinduism but that of politics of rightwing Hindu party, jihadis are not product of Islam but of politics of rightwing Muslim political outfits. In principle our secular democracy should keep religion at a distance from governance and politics should be based on secular issues pertaining to people and people alone.


However, in all countries of the world including western countries and much more so in countries of Asia and Africa religion often determines direction of political events. It is indeed a sad commentary on our modern day democracy and the role of powerful vested interests. The communal politics played in our county since nineteenth century resulted in vivisection of India and we are still facing consequences of division of our country. Earlier we understand better it is for us.


Other experts are discussing failure of our intelligence agencies and other factors responsible for such terrible blasts. These are all very important and must be thoroughly discussed. But here I am more concerned with its political side. How far our politics is responsible for such terrorist violence or communal violence or Naxalite violence for that matter. The causes may be different for communal, terrorist or Naxalite violence but the common thread is violence and terrorist violence at that.


No such violence would take place without political failures and gross political injustices. Even after independence and vivisection of our country we never shed communal outlook and communal politics. Our politicians were hardly made of secular democratic stuff. Our administrative machinery was hardly any different. Majoritarianism was seeped through our political nerves. We had no will to secularise our education system. Gandhiji, Nehru and Zakir Husain had painstakingly emphasized structural change in our education system and to thoroughly purge it of its colonial overtones. But we continued with it.


Our administrators were also products of same education system and neither politicians nor administrators were willing to take stern action against those who provoked and executed communal violence. We did not even solve our ethnic problem in the northeast. The mainstream politicians came from North India and they were simply not sensitive to problems of people of North East. Thanks to our insensitivity the North East also exploded and AASU and later ULFA resorted to violence to focus attention. Though AASU by itself did not resort to violence but soon communal forces hijacked its agenda and there was so much bloodletting in Neli in Assam. Today whole of North East is on fire.


Our politics was never based on social and economic justice and the Naxal problem is outcome of gross socio-economic injustices. We know that either tribals or dalits constitute the core of Naxal movement. They have suffered for centuries; injustices at the hands of political and economic elite and caste system dehumanized poor low caste Hidnus. Now modern communication system and dangerous and murderous weapons have enabled them to seek revenge and they feel time has come to seek revenge. We think Naxal violence can be solved through jackboots of our police and thus we create more forces and equip them with more weapons and Naxalite violence does not subside. We are not ready to address their real problems as we do not want to give up our privileges and our hegemony over economic resources.


The terrorist violence is no different. Terrorism cannot be fought simply by better intelligence and better equipped police. It may help but only to a very limited extent. The problem is much deeper. Our police have failed to trace a single culprit and more and more such terrorist attacks are taking place. It is much more than failure of intelligence. The deep rooted prejudices in our administration and police force is the biggest obstacle in solving this problem apart from our political failure to do justice to minorities and secure peaceful life to them.


All that our police force has succeeded in doing is to arrest poor helpless Muslim boys after every terrorist attack and torture them into ‘confessing’ their role. It is happening in terrorist attack after terrorist attack. And these boys when they get released on bail dare not speak a word against the police for fear of being arrested again and tortured. For our police the only effective weapon available is torture and torture hardly ever succeeds in bringing out the truth. Only a solid work in the form of hard evidence and painstaking investigation with unprejudiced mind can yield some result. Our police is hardly made of such authentic stuff. The greatest barrier for our police in reaching truth is their own a priori assumptions and prejudices.


There is social and political turmoil in our neighbouring countries too and it has its own impact on our country and society. The role of ISI in Pakistan is beyond the control of Pakistani politicians. Recently there was announcement that ISI has been given under control of Home Ministry but soon it had to be taken back. The military constituency has much deeper roots in Pakistani politics and civil society does not enjoy real autonomy, much less hegemony.


Thus one thing should be clear to all of us that terrorist problem afflicting whole of subcontinent today (as other parts of the world including western countries) is basically political and cannot be tackled merely as a law and order problem. Also both ruling and opposition parties will have to cooperate in solving the problem. We know very well this is not the situation. These parties indulge in mudslinging whenever any such attack takes place. The pet theory of the BJP is to enact POTA-like draconic law. Let Mr. Advani answer a simple question whether he has succeeded in solving problem of terrorist attacks in Gujarat even after applying POTA on 100 persons 80 of whom are still in jail under POTA after the Godhra train incident. Whether they are guilty or innocent no one knows. They are under POTA for last 6 years.


Such draconian laws cannot solve the problem. It will only add to them and will enable police to arrest more innocent people and torture them. It can be a rightwing party agenda and not solution to the problem. If we love our country let us not politicize the problem of terrorism and instead put our efforts to solve it through sincere means.


(Secular Perspective August 1-15, 2008)

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