Intro : As Europe is facing the biggest influx of refugees in the history since World War II, the West seems to be bewildered and the discussion is drifting away from the crux of the problem– The Islamic State.
The lifeless picture of a Syrian toddler, who lost his life in transit, when an overloaded boat of refugees heading towards the shores of Europe capsized, shook the conscious of the world. It initiated heated debates on a wide range of topics like: i) human rights of refugees ii) political and economic ramifications of refugees on the host nation iii) International cooperation needed to end the IS menace iv) laws and mechanisms to protect women and children of ethnic minorities from barbaric regimes that indulge in ethnic cleansing. Rightly so, it is high time that we discuss and deliberate upon such touchy topics and come up with workable solutions as maniac leaders and cults have always been a part of human history since times immemorial and shall continue to do so in the near and distant future, emphasising the importance of safeguard mechanisms.
Like thousands of Shia, Yezidi and Kurdish refugees, little Aylan Kurdi with his family, comprising of his parents and elder brother, were in search of a safe haven in Europe. They were trying to escape the reign of terror unleashed by the Sunni-dominated IS (Islamic State) that has been spreading its diabolic tentacles with each passing day, in a bid to establish the Islamic Empire or the Caliphate, across existing countries and continents, creating havoc of an unprecedented kind and threatening the civilised fabric created so thoughtfully and meticulously by the International community post-Hitlerian holocaust. IS also calls for the support of Ummah (Believers or followers of Islam, true Muslims) across the world and urges them to join this movement that is given the status of ‘nothing short of jihad’, thereby threatening the Westphalian State System in more ways than one. The volatility created by the Arab Spring, followed by the ferocity of the IS, left a lot of ethnic minorities in an extremely vulnerable state, veering on the brink of extinction. The gory details of mass rape of Yezidi women and children, the brutal killing of their menfolk, have been making headlines for quite sometime now. What is a relatively new development is the mass exodus of these beleaguered communities to safe havens in Europe and other parts of the Western world. The first question that props up is ‘why the western world?’. Why not their immediate neighbours, that also happens to be a part of the Islamic fraternity?. The answer can be found in the complex superstructure of Islam that ceased to be a monolith the day Prophet Mohammed left the mortal world. With the passage of time, there were so many schools of thought and practice, each claiming authenticity, factual accuracy and divine descendancy so much so that it led to internal factionalism and intolerance of gargantuan propositions. The result was a ceaseless strife for paramountcy, leading to excessive bloodshed and violence, with women and children being the greatest casualty of the mayhem whenever it took place. The march of IS, resulting in the mass exodus of refugees, is one such episode in the 1400 odd years of Islamic history and political ideology.
However, it was technology that made the difference. 24/7 news channels, vigilant social media lapped up every minute detail of the exodus. The disturbing visuals forced all and sundry to take cognizance of the plight of the refugees and arrive at humanitarian solutions. The death of Aylan, his elder brother and mother, was perhaps the last straw. Leaders of the European Union were compelled to open their borders and share the burden of the exodus, albeit with reservations. Financial burden aside, there were fears of demographic changes with Islamophobics going to the extent of calling it a ‘well-planned conspiracy’ to make in-roads for prospective jehadis, with the mission to destroy the ‘civilised and secular’ western world. How far is this true, only time will tell but for the time being these hapless refugees, crossing the turbulent waters in the hope of life, will get some respite.
An interesting angle to the refugee problem is that many a times they act as a precursor to decisive battles that change the course of history or act as course correctors. A good and close-to-the-heart example is the Bharat-Pak War of 1971 that led to the creation of Bangladesh. This was largely propelled by the huge influx of Bangladeshi refugees in the North-east region of India that had become difficult to sustain. The urgent need for a full and final solution led to the confrontation, in which the host nation, ie, Bharat, played a pivotal role in the creation of a free nation, Bangladesh, and the re-settlement of refugees.
Will the IS-caused refugee crisis in Europe stimulate the Western powers to play a proactive role in resolving the IS menace? Will it lead to changes in the existing contours of world polity? Only time will tell. But going by past precedents, one can make a calculated guess and pray for best results in the interest of mankind.
K Aayushi (The writer is Director (Research) of J&K Study Centre )