CAN TERRORISM BE CONTROLLED?
Co-ordinator Pune based Inpad ( Initiative for peace and disarmament)
Athale has been engaged in study of insurgency in terrorism in Kashmir,
Sri Lanka, North East , Lebanon
and N. Ireland for over 20 years. He also has practical
experience of counter insurgency operations as an Infantry soldier)
On 7 July, after a longish lull
period, terrorism returned, in the shape of bombing of the London
underground rail system. Done at peak hours, it was designed to kill maximum
number of commuters. Just two days before that in Ayodhya
terrorists attempted to blow up Ram temple at the holy site of birth place of
God incarnate Shri Ram. This is an appropriate
occasion to look back at the near four years of ‘War against Terrorism’ that
the world has been waging under the American leadership, with virtually all
nations at least paying lip service to this struggle.
AS OLD AS HILLS!
Terrorism is not new to mankind.
In the Indian context, as early as 300 BC, the terror cult of ‘Thugs’ finds
mention in writings of Greek historian Magesthenus
who accompanied Alexander on his abortive invasion of India. That cult survived nearly thousands of
years and was claimed to have been finally brought under control during William
Bentinck’s tenure as Governor General by 1835.
Colonel Sleeman, who relentlessly hunted the ‘Thugs ( or Thuggee as called by the
English) became so popular due to this that a town was named after him, Sleemanabad. The general acceptance of British rule by
large number of Indians had much to do with this. In the Middle East,
since ancient times, the Jewish ‘Zealots’ and Shiaite
‘Assassins’ were to equally persistent and feared cults of terrorists.
Even a cursory glance of goings on
in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, would
show that the erstwhile cult of ‘Thugs’ is very much alive and kicking. It seems
that Thugs have earned a new respectability by entering politics and posing as
‘Leaders’ of the hapless people. The violence in the Middle East
on both sides of the Muslim-Jew divide would show that both the Zealots and
Assassins are also very much in circulation. To this long list of depraved
humanity is now added the cult of ‘Jihad’.
Terrorism, on whatever grounds, is
a state of warped mindset. I t has existed before and would continue to exist
in future. To talk of a ‘War against Terrorism’ is akin to say a ‘War against
Sin’. The realistic goal ought to be ‘control’ of terrorism.
This is not mere quibbling over
semantics as war implies total destruction, identifiable enemy et al. Could it
possibly be that the use of terminology ‘war’ is mere rhetoric on part of the
leaders when they actually mean ‘control’ of terrorism? The events in
Afghanistan and Iraq, the policies, strategies, tactics and means used all
point in the direction that the US ‘means’ that campaign against terrorism is
What this mistaken notion has
done is to actually derail the campaign. The actions in Afghanistan
and Iraq have
swelled the ranks of would be terrorists and added legion to its bank of
sympathisers. If the ‘Jihadi’ terrorism being faced
by the world today has to be likened to anything at all, it is closest to an
ISLAMIST INSURGENCY AGAINST WORLD
It was indeed extraordinary that
in the immediate aftermath of the London
bombing an EU Commissioner said that the terrorist who carried out the bombing
had no political aim! Time and again Osama Bin Laden
has expressed clearly that his fight is against Western domination of the
world. In its place he wants Muslims to rule according to the teachings of
Islam. As an evidence of injustice meted out to the Muslims he then makes a
clever use of ongoing conflicts in Palestine,
Chechnya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kashmir to exploit the sense of ‘victimhood’
amongst the Muslims world over. He then selectively quotes Quran
to give his insurgency a religious colour. By cloaking his worldly struggle for
power in the idiom of religion, he has managed to appropriate the vast resources
of Islam, spread world over.
Here it is necessary to make a
clear distinction between an ‘Extremist’, ‘Militant’ or an ‘Insurgent/Guerrilla
fighter’ and a Terrorist. While both use violent means to achieve their
objective, the ‘Terrorist’ uses ‘Indiscriminate’ violence. His targets and
victims have no direct connection to the ‘cause’ and its aim to spread terror
at all costs.
Both the terrorists as well as
those who profess to fight them are responsible for this confusion. All acts of
violence are labelled as Terrorism including attack on the armed forces. These
strictly are NOT acts of terrorism but normal battles in a Guerrilla War, be it
Chchenya or Kashmir!
Guerrilla fighters often use
terror tactics, as the PLO ( Palestinian Liberation
Organisation) did in the decade of 70s with hijacking as a principal tool. But
the PLO soon realised that the law of diminishing returns began applying soon
after the novelty was worn off. On the other hand Vietnamese insurgents who
successfully fought the American might for 20 years NEVER used terror tactics.
In the Indian context, the Naga or Mizo rebels similarly seldom used terrorism and never
attacked the families of Assam Rifles personnel. Kashmiri/Pakistanis on the
other hand have often killed soldiers families, bus passengers and even
marriage parties ( in Doda
however is common to both insurgents as well as terrorists, both rely heavily
on local support of sympathisers and apathy of the fence sitters. The famous
Maoist dictum, “Guerrilla without popular support is like fish out of water” applies
with equal force to Terrorism.
ALL LEADS END IN PAKISTAN!
Keeping aside the ‘politically
correct’ posture of taking a sympathetic view of Pakistan,
(currently the fashion in India a la LK Advani overwhelmed with nostalgia) it is a fact that most
terrorists had some sort of link to Pakistan.
This is true of most incidents in India,
the Madrid bombing, trouble in Manila,
the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks on US and UK.
Without prejudice of any kind, it needs to be found out what is it that has
the virtual GHQ ( General Head Quarters) of Terrorism
One of the major reason why Pakistani brand of Islam has become such a
problem is the ‘Literalist Interpretation of Islam.’ Mohammed Heikal, Editor of Egyptian news paper Al Ahram writes
“ Asian Muslims tended to take the Koran literally while
the Arabs were more inclined to interpret it in the historical context.” The problem became most acute in Pakistan that was created in the
name of Islam. “ Islam in Pakistan came to mirror the national personality, a
mixture of intense nationalism, hostility towards the OTHER, militant spirit
and propensity to violence” According to Heikal this
interpretation of Islam reached the Arab world through translation of Maulana Mawdudi’s books and
inspired the creation of organisations like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and
gained adherents in many cities in the Middle East.
( “Illusion and Triumphs’ Harper
Collins Pub. London 1992)
The British nurtured the ‘Triumphalism” amongst the Indian Muslims as a tool to
divide and rule India.
On 14 June 1945 the Simla conference broke up over the Jinnah’s
demand that the 12% Muslims be given 50% share in power. The basic impulse
behind creation of Pakistan
was anti democratic. It is therefore small wonder that over last 60 years that
country has failed to evolve a democracy and is a fountainhead of militaristic
The British sowed the seeds of
‘Two nation” theory to break up India.
But the notion has now gone so deep that Pakistani Muslims think that wherever
they are they constitute a separate “Nation” , be it the US or UK. By its
logical extension Pakistanis also refuse assimilation and loyalty to the nation
they live in, dubbing it as against ‘Islam’. The ‘Ghettoisation’
mind was complete when they ethnically cleansed the ‘Land of the Pure” by
throwing out the Hindus and Sikhs ( close to 15 % of population in pre-
. That the West applauded this barbarism and bestowed on it the status of
‘defender of Free world’ et al during cold war further strengthened all these
negative traits. Being heir to the ‘gene pool’ of the land that produced the
Vedas, Pannini’s grammar and soldiers like Porus ( who fought Alexander) , a
brainwashed pool of 145 million people has been created.
mushroom growth of Madarasas during Afghan war and
radicalisation of Al Quaida variety only added to the
existing disease. But the poisonous weed of Jihadism
could only sprout on Pakistani soil because the ground was well prepared for
FAÇADE OF ‘ROOT CAUSE’!
while we diagnose the terrorist violence, there is a clear need to debunk this
theory of ‘root cause’. After virtually every terrorist attack, Jihad
apologists have claimed that the terrorists were driven by the sense of
grievance about killing of Muslims in Palestine, Kashmir, Thailand, Afghanistan
et al. This is conjured up vision to justify warped world view.
killed by the Jordanians during the 1970 crackdown by King
Hussein than by Israelis over the years. A Killing spree in which the Pakistani
armoured brigade commanded by that darling of Jihadis,
Zia Ul haq,
and his Pakistani troops participated enthusiastically. More Muslims lost their
lives in the ten year long Iran-Iraq war than in all the conflicts combined of
last 50 years! Yet none of these are remembered as causes worthy of Jihad.
The Jihadis concern for Muslims lives and alleged atrocities is selective and
fraudulent. When concern is shown over the American attack on Afghanistan,
there is no answer to the question that does it mean that the barbaric Taliban
should have been permitted to continue their murderous reign? Or in case of Iraq,
it is forgotten that the majority Shia Muslims of
Iraq welcomed his overthrow. Even today as suicide bombers strike daily in Baghdad,
the Shia dominated South and city of Basra
is seldom in news.
CONTROLLING TERROR: WHAT IS TO BE DONE NOW!
There is indeed much truth in the
fact that the West dominated world order has been unfair to the Asians,
Africans and Latin Americans. The victims of injustice are not just Muslims but
citizens of all third world countries. Sensible countries and societies
therefore embarked on the path of ‘DEVELOPMENT’. Today the erstwhile third
world countries like India,
et al have began to be counted in world power balance that is shifting. With
the exception of Turkey,
Malaysia and Indonesia,
very few other Muslim majority countries took this path. Despite their fabulous
oil wealth, the Arab countries never used it for their people’s welfare,
industrialisation, education or health. All round development is the best anti-
dote to Western domination and injustices and not
Terrorism is global issue and
needs global solution. In the 1980s when the world faced a rash of aircraft
hijacking, a world consensus was built around the agreement that NO COUNTRY
WOULD GIVE SHELTER TO THE HIJACKERS. As a result of this measure hijackings
have been more or less controlled. Similarly the world needs to clearly define
a terrorist acts- as distinct from actions of Guerrilla fighters or militants. This may well entail
some form of legitimisation of Guerrilla war on the lines of Geneva
conventions dealing with Wars. Thus acts against armed forces/police et al
would have to be put in different category. While the world recognises this
form of warfare, ALL ACTS AGAINST CIVILIAN AND NON COMBATANTS must be classed
as Terrorism and all countries must agree to punish the perpetrators and put
behind bars all members of such organisations without exception.
There is the mistaken notion of
‘everything is fair in love and war.’ By that token even an acid attack due to
one sided love could be justified- it is not. Similarly, even within war, from
ancient times there have been rules of the game, norms and ethics, written or
unwritten, that are more or less followed by most
countries. Once a terrorist act is clearly defined, the UN must enforce a
universal adherence to mandatory and exemplary punishment to the supporting
organisations, instigators, helpers and propagators of this METHOD of
The counter terror operations
have lost much of its popular support by terming it a WAR ON TERRORISM. Instead
it should be treated as a counterinsurgency. The implication is that the force
used must be adequate and not maximum and discriminate and not indiscriminate.
In addition the emphasis must be on isolating the terrorists from support base
and NOT destruction of supporting people.
The obvious objection to this
would be that it would mean a licence for Guerrilla War. Which
is true. But the mankind has lived with this form of warfare since
ancient times. By separating Guerrilla war from terrorism, world would
certainly become safer.
DEALING WITH GHQ OF TERROR INC: PAKISTAN.
For long Indian complaints on
this score were ignored by the world at large by bestowing legitimacy to Pak
proxy terror against India,
be it in Punjab, Kashmir or
elsewhere. But as the fires of terrorism fanned from Pakistan
have reached other countries, this perception has changed. Essentially
Pakistani terrorism is product of its socio-economic malaise. With population
growth of 2.3% ( average fertility per woman has come
down to 5.1 children per woman), lack of economic development, feudalism,
illegitimate and rapacious govt.s and Western
mollycoddling are some of the issues that cannot be rectified in short term.
The export of Jihadi terrorists is not the only
export from there, Pakistan
has also been exporting its children to serve as Camel jockeys to the Middle
East for years. De-fanging Pakistan
ought to be a priority over dealing with North
Korea or Iran.
As a beginning of ideological cleansing of that country, the
British may well wish to come clean on its own intrigues and role in creating
this monster in the first place. Democratisation and bringing in moderation in
its governance should not be left to the tender mercies of ruling Generals and
world may wish to take a greater role in its governance.
ROLE OF INDIAN
It is indeed a matter of great
pride for India
that its own Muslims have stayed away from the suicidal path of Jihadism. Indian Muslims have the capacity to be the role
model for the Muslims all over the world. There are indeed icons ranging from
the President to sport persons to artists, industrialists and scholars.
But within India
as well the Muslim community must choose the path of say Pune,
where the educational institutes created by the Inamdar
family compete with the best! Muslim girls and boys have often topped the
school exams! This is crucial as there have been attempts by rabble rousers
from UP and Bihar to vitiate the atmosphere here as
well. A year ago, in Goa, the
local Muslims chased out a Maulavi from UP who had
began to preach hate in peaceful Goa!
In the end community opinion is the best check on extremism- whether Hindu or Muslim.
It is indeed fortunate that the
attackers in Ayodhya failed or else
consequences for peace in India
would have been far grimmer than even London
bombings. Muslims must ponder over this and ensure that such foreigners should
be dealt with and given no support on the mistaken notion of religious
I must end with two personal
encounters that show the kind of pluralism that we all can be proud of. Some
time ago while attending a wedding I was struck by the interesting sight of
Muslim Fakirs seeking donations for a ‘Darga’ out
side a Hindu marriage hall. Neither the Fakirs saw anything a miss in it nor
did the Hindus who donated to good cause feel anything odd in it!
The other day while travelling
from Mumbai to Pune by Deccan
Queen, I encountered a ‘Fakir’ with his green bandana and burning incense,
similarly seeking donations from all and giving blessings of Allah to all- very
The truth is that these Fakirs
have grasped the true spirit of Islam that calls for brother hood and peace for
all mankind. Unfortunately the so called monopolisers
of Islam have distorted the message by adding ‘Islamic’ to all. So for them
brotherhood is also confined to “Islamic Brotherhood” or the tribe of
‘believers’ is also similarly confined to only ‘Islamic Believers’ , both
distortions of the message of Quran. Much of the
current problems can be traced to this narrow definition and tunnel vision.
In this crisis faced by Islam
world wide, Indian Muslims with their Sufi traditions and universalistic
message of Islam could and ought to play the leading role. As the world’s second largest
concentration of Muslim community living in a pluralistic society they could be
role model along with Turkey,
Indonesia and Malaysia.
Ultimately only the triumph of these communities offers prospect of peace and control
of Jihadi terrorism.