The Prime Minister does not mind having sound sleeps over his utter failure to keep up his promises to identify and punish the guilty behind the July 11 rail-blasts in Mumbai that took away 190 precious lives and injured more than 450 last year.
At a recent seminar on national security, a former senior official of the Government of India revealed something that deserves to be quoted: ?A Pakistani friend once told me that India is such a soft state that it could never combat terrorism. There are 90 per cent chances that anybody committing terrorist acts will not be caught in India. If he is caught, then the human rights activists will make such a hue and cry that that he will be released from the police station.
?In case the matter goes to the court, then best lawyers of India will fight the case for him free of cost. If despite all this, the terrorist is convicted, then the politicians will come to the forefront and talk of the religion of the terrorist and how that religion is being persecuted. Ultimately, the matter will attain such a dimension that either the higher judiciary or the President of India, as the case may be, would be forced to release him free.?
The case of Afzal Guru fits perfectly into the above syndrome. Here is a person who has been convicted by the highest court of the country. The person'scrime was the unthinkable attempt at blowing out the country'sParliament, and that too, at a time when it was in session, with the entire highest-grade political class of India in the complex. But Guru'smyriad supporters, and many of them are supporters of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition, want him to be pardoned by the President!
Guru'scase is just a pointer to the approach during the last three years of a country, which has been one of the prime victims of terrorism in the world (since 1994, over 50,000 have died in terrorist-related violence in India). According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) 23,955 terrorists, 19,662 civilians and 7,320 security force personnel have been killed in such incidents between 1994 and June, 2005 only. The figure during the last two years will further raise this figure Prime Minister Manmohan Singh puts enough pressure on foreign governments to bring home the likes of Dr. Haneef, suspected to be linked with the aborted attempts to blow up the airports in the United Kingdom, because he could not sleep the night he saw the doctor's?worried relatives? on television. But the Prime Minister does not mind having sound sleeps over his utter failure to keep up his promises to identify and punish the guilty behind the July 11 rail-blasts in Mumbai that took away 190 precious lives and injured more than 450 last year.
The Mumbai rail-blasts top the list of the terrorist incidents over the last three and half years. But other incidents have been no less ominous; they were specifically chosen to incite the communal passions in the whole country. Let alone the selective killings of the Hindus in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the blasts near the mosques in Nasik, Aurangabad and Hyderabad, attacks in the temples of Ayodhya and Varanasi, serial explosions in Delhi just on the eve of Deepavali, and several other small but no less significant terrorist incidents, seizures and arrests in different parts of the country are all a disturbing pointer to the new game plan being executed by terrorists and their anonymous masters.
From information available in the public domain, it is clear that terrorist groups and their handlers have been systematically infiltrating various sections of civil society, including the political establishment. The terrorists now have a sound support base that includes financial networks (mainly hawala), safe houses, arms and field assistance. Such bases are in existence in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Kerala. In fact, if National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan is to be believed, Indian currency notes are being printed at a government press in Quetta in Pakistan and smuggled into India via Nepal. Narayanan also has pointed out how the terrorists are investing in the Indian stock market.
Terrorism has assumed alarming proportions in India by any yardstick. It is not that this menacing phenomenon was not there during the six-year rule of the NDA. The record of the NDA in combating terrorism was far from satisfactory. In fact, by its very nature, terrorism can never have a foolproof antidote. But the difference between the NDA and the UPA is that whereas the former showed a lack of proper political will to fight the terrorists (its shameful surrender at Kandahar, for instance), the UPA seems to have developed a carefully chosen political strategy to appease terrorism so as to strengthen its vote bank. It is now an open secret that in the last elections in Assam, the UPA had an ?electoral understanding? with United Liberation Front of Assam, while in Andhra Pradesh, it had encouraged Maoists, who had publicly made a statement that they had made an attempt on the life of former Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu.
But the most brazen instance of the UPA'svote bank politics has been the repeal of POTA and the mercy petition of Afzal Guru. In both the cases, the attempt has been to woo the Muslim voters. POTA, which was legislated during the NDA rule, was projected as anti-Muslim and thus repealed. Terrorism is perpetrated by persons who are prepared to die for their cause and therefore they cannot be dealt with effectively by the ordinary laws that are generally meant for the persons who value their lives. Besides, in this cyber-age, since the terrorists do not use conventional methods to commit crime, one has to have laws that take into account electronic interceptions. And that was what POTA meant for. In its absence now, it is not surprising to find no lesser a person than IB chief E.S.L. Narasimhan lamenting that India cannot win the war against terrorism since it does not have effective anti-terror laws.
Even the conventional law-enforcement mechanisms are not being allowed to be used under political pressure if the members of the Muslim community are suspect. Police forces in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Hyderabad, the counter-terror veterans in the intelligence agencies and even the army have given enough hints that their hands are tied in apprehending the Islamic terrorists these days. After the attacks they faced in the first flush of the Mumbai rail attacks for ?targeting? Muslims and the hurry in which they were forced to call off the searches and interrogations have put the fear of God in the minds of security men. Politics is much too complicated for them to figure, and fighting this kind of terror is an unconventional and risky business at the best of time. In short, the country'ssecurity personnel who are trained not to make any distinction between the terrorists who commit these acts and those who harbour them are being asked to unlearn their trade.
The UPA government accused the previous NDA government of pursuing communal politics and targeting Muslims in the name of fighting terrorism. But by pampering Muslim terrorists, the UPA itself is guilty of the same charge, though in reverse. It has not served itself, and India, well by communalising the very approach to the fight against terrorism. This is reverse-communalisation of the fight against terror and the responsibility for this lies not so much with the security machinery as it does with this peculiar minorityism politics the UPA has fallen prey to.
It is true that overwhelming majority of the Muslims in the world are not terrorists. But it is equally true that overwhelming majority of the terrorists in the world happen to be Muslims. Of course, terrorists are found in all religions. There are Hindu terrorists in Sri Lanka (LTTE) and India (ULFA in Assam and Naxalites all over). There are Christian terrorists in many parts of Africa and Latin America. There have been Sikh terrorists in India and Canada. There are many who believe that some Jews do indulge in acts that are worse than those associated with terrorism.
However, there is a fundamental difference. Unlike terrorists of other religions, Islamic terrorists, invariably, justify their actions in the name of their religion. And unlike terrorists of other religions, whose goals are political and country-specific, Islamic terrorists have an international dimension. They all believe in the absolute supremacy of Islam over all other religions and they fight to strengthen their ultimate goal of establishing the Islamic domination all over the world. If they die in the process, they are ?confident? of going to the ?paradise? of their God.
One cannot explain in the frameworks of socio-economic-political exploitation of why the likes of Kafeel Ahmad, one of the highly educated and successful sons of Bangalore, choose to be suicide-attackers in a foreign country. In fact, he tried to fight against the western civilisation and the principal countries associated with this civilisation, convinced as he is with the theory that the rise of West caused the decline of Islam. Even otherwise, Al-Qaeda of Osama bin Laden has now added India (Hinduism) and Israel (Jews) in the list of ?enemy nations?. All these jehadists have been motivated by a cause that, in turn, has been fuelled by Wahabi fundamentalist sentiments, which are now pretty strong in the region stretching from Egypt to Indonesia.
Wahabism is rooted in an especially strict austere minority Islamism traced back to the fanatical Puritanism of the Bedouin zealots in Saudi Arabia. It believes that the ultimate sacrifice of a soldier is to give his life for a cause and that cause is jehad or holy war. The Al-Qaeda terrorist network found this tolerable given the historical Islamic suicide wars of AfIt. This gave substance to justify terrorism as a means where a warrior legacy of ?heroic masculinity? (perceived to be at the roots of the great Islamic empires in the past) was resurrected within a framework of an anti-modern and anti-secular holy war. Wahabism teaches that the martyrs? acts of suicide grant ideological compensations that would be reaped by their living communities, and that a harvesting of suicide martyr compensations would hasten the creation of ?public spheres? for the hitherto silent to find voice and articulate alternative visions and paths to secular globalization and democratic governance.
Wahabism is totally opposed to the Sufism, the main guiding force for ages of the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent that talked of peaceful and harmonious co-existence with other religions. It is high time the UPA government did a service to this glorious Sufi tradition by encouraging and supporting those Indian Muslims who raise their voice against the xenophobiac Wahabism that is dividing not only the Indians but also the other ?world citizens?.
(The writer is a senior journalist and can be contacted at A-35, Bathla Apartments, 43 I.P. Extension, Delhi-110092.)