TERRORISM is a recent-say, some three decades-old development. It is to be differentiated from violent reaction indulged in by offended communities. The Warlis, a tribe in Thane district in Maharashtra, led by a young Marxist woman, Godavari Gokhale, spurred the tribals who had long been exploited by landlords, to burn their haystacks and indulge in other forms of mayhem. That was quashed soon enough by a concerned government who took the trouble to look into tribal grievances and provide them with relief. Then came the rebellion in Telangana sponsored by the CPM leader BR Ranadive. Later came the Naxal movement in West Bengal which had an ideological basis.
Presently in India, expecially in the string of tribal areas, Maoism is running rampant with the avowed desire to capture power at the Centre reportedly by 2050! That is quite a hope, but evidently Maoist terrorists have wide support even from urban intellectuals. Terrorism is also being practiced for political reasons related to religious affiliations. The Pakistan Army, for instance is using jihadi religious extremists to takeover Jammu & Kashmir. This anthology of essays, as its editor Maroof Raza states, is an attempt to study the unique nature and the roots of terrorism in the Indian sub-continent. Raza does not specifically say so, but terrorism has become war by other means to cow down opponents. It could, if patience on the part of the victim is exhausted, lead to war. In his introductory chapter Raza refers to the Mumbai attacks, saying what is significant about them is that “they were not linked to the Kashmir-related terrorism and therefore showed that jihadi terrorism in the Indian territory outside Jammu & Kashmir has become part of global terrorism.
While the Indian Army has handled global terrorism pretty effectively, it would seem that the Indian Police have failed for a variety of reasons. India, like many nations, is facing fundamental changes in the very nature of conflict. As Stephen P Cohen put it in his Foreword “organisationally what now passes for war has now been taken out of the hands of the Armed Services and is now executed by Intelligence Agencies, Special Forces and insurgents of all varieties and shapes.” Cohen believes that Pakistan’s support to jihadis in their attack on Jammu & Kashmir is more “in retaliation to India’s far more effective support of Bangladeshi separatists during 1970-71”. May be. But it is also true that “the blowback from asymmetrical war launched against India via covert groups based and trained in Pakistan hurts Pakistan more than it injures India”.
This book joins what Cohen calls a growing body of literature in which practitioners and scholars grapple with the causes and cures for what is ordinarily called insurgency, but which may also involve terrorism. The contributors to this book include Ali Ahmed, a former Indian Army Infantry Colonel, Gautam Das, another retired Colonel, Samarjit Ghosh who has written on the insurgency in FATA and NWFP, Afsir Karim, another Army Officer, a specialist on issues related to terrorism and low intensity conflict besides being a Major General and Bharat Karnad, once a member of the National Security Adviser Board. Others are Bhashyam Kasturi who has written extensively on intelligence matters, terrorism etc and Ved Marwah, an IPS officer. Their views, therefore, merit fullest consideration. Samarjit Ghosh, another writer, reminds us that Kashmir insurgency began after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, when the mujahideen felt jobless!
Al Qaida, writes Shairi Mathur, is “motivated primarily in attacking anything that is western or is allied to the West”. Bhashyam Kasturi believes that “we are good at investigating an act of terrorism after it has taken place, but our (Indian) record of preventing such attacks leaves much to be desired”. Bharat Karnad asks what will happen “if the Pakistan Army’s grip over the state and society erodes to a point where the vacuum is filled by the jihadis.” What is controllable is local violence, not a state-sponsored violence such as has been for years now encouraged by the Pakistan Army. A local eruption of violence, even terrorism, can be controlled and subsequently eliminated but state-sponsored terrorism is a wholly different matter. It can only be brought down by talks between state and state, in the matter of jihadis, between India and Pakistan.
In Pakistan, as Samarjit Ghosh has correctly noted, the army and the ISI have long been at the apex of the power structure of the country. They are the once responsible for jihadi terrorism against India. But now the situation is turning against the Army itself. As Ghosh sees it, “there is an increasing likelihood that the terror which was being orchestrated in Afghanistan, India and even Pakistan… is a monster they have perpetrated and which is no longer in their control, having developed the ability to raise resources, plan and carry out operations.” The early complicity between the government organs and the militants has only complicated the scenario. How did it all happen? First, the Americans made the Muslims extremely conscious of their identity. This identity consciousness was transformed into a force; when the Americans went their way from Afghanistan leaving this force bereft of any vision, it sought to find ways to express itself. Thus was the jihadi born. Fascinating as are the various analyses of terrorism expressed by various experts, what one sadly misses is a study of the civilisational basis of terrorism. Is terrorism a clash of civilisations as Samuel Huntingdon noted over a decade ago or is it merely a reflection of a people’s frustration at not being able to fulfill their dreams, whether ideological, political or religious? Will counter-terrorism be the only effective reply to a sustained but mindless terrorism? What exactly do the terrorists want? Establishment of an Islamic world? Can such a wild dream ever come through? If it is territorial, are there any other ways of achieving the terrorist’s aims, without the use of violence? Swapna Kona Nayudu says that one must “identify and redress the political, economic, military and other issues, fuelling an insurgency.” Easier said than done.
For all that, this is a useful study of the many faces of terrorism. Sadly, no contributor has given a thought to whether the professed aims of terrorists could ever have been attained through Gandhian ways. It is by itself a reflection of the degeneration of current thinking that is focused only on violence and its consequences.
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