Terrorism – 3: Turning In

There is a huge wave of anger, frustration, and fear welling up in South Asia.

Will this wave peter out only to arise again after the next incident of terrorism? Will it spiral out of control, plunging our region into further chaos and doing even more damage than terrorism alone could have achieved? Or will it be channeled into a force that would move us to a better and more secure future?

To some extent the outcome will depend on what we, the citizens of South Asia, do or do not do today. Let me propose a two-step agenda: turning in and reaching out. In this post I will elaborate the first of the two steps.

We have to begin by asking ourselves a simple question: Are we against terrorism or not?

If we are, we have to be against terrorism wherever it exists, not just across the borders of our own countries. It is quite irrelevant whether Lashkar-e-Tayyaba or the ISI were implicated in the Mumbai carnage. The fact of the matter is that Pakistanis know terrorist training camps exist inside Pakistan; the government has abetted them at times and ignored them at others. Pakistanis against terrorism need to state, loudly and clearly, that they wish such camps to be closed down. Pakistanis need to march down the streets if that is what it takes to close down such camps.

Indian citizens against terrorism need to articulate, equally loudly and clearly, that there is no place for the likes of Bajrang Dal or the violent wing of Shiv Sena on their soil. Indian citizens need to direct their anger at the sources of violence in their own country.

If we do not stand up against terrorism in our own countries, we are not really against terrorism. We are using the anger stirred by terrorism to settle scores with some ‘Other’ whose antipathy is burned into our psyches by personal experiences, false renditions of history or indoctrination and which is inflamed by ignorance, intellectual laziness or dishonesty.

This is a very sobering conclusion. If this is so, then we are no different from the terrorists we are opposing. The emotional forces of hatred that are driving us are the same. We are not directly using the violence that terrorists have been employing but we are urging violence used on our behalf to settle the scores that deep down we wish to have settled.

Let us be clear if this is the case. Let us ask ourselves again if we are really against terrorism or not?

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  • Gautam Sen
    Posted at 21:17h, 08 December Reply

    “If we do not stand up against terrorism in our own countries, we are not really against terrorism. ”

    Thank you for putting this so simply and directly, for the benefit especially of those in India who want to ‘put Muslims in their place’ or ‘send them to Pakistan’, and don’t mind exploding a few bombs or starting riots like Mumbai 1992 or Gujarat 2002 to make their point.

    I would only add that any condemnation of terrorism is incomplete and hypocritical without a condemnation of state terrorism as well. Unfortunately, those who would like to defend their country to the last drop of someone else’s blood are silent in the face of state terrorism, and indeed fully support it.

    There is also too much tolerance for state abuse of constitutionally guaranteed human rights, too much public approval of torture by the police. We can’t fight terror by supporting a terrorist state, but by adhering to the rule of law. And the answer is not to pass more laws that condone state terror and torture, because it assures the terrorists of victory when we we pay them the compliment of imitation. We need to learn lessons from the terror that countries like the US, UK and Israel have let loose upon the world.

  • SouthAsian
    Posted at 20:48h, 15 December Reply

    You are right. State terrorism is a major issue. State abuse of constitutionally guaranteed human rights also remains a major problem. The State turning a blind eye to violations of citizens’ rights is another dimension to be noted. As has been discussed in some of the posts and the comments on this blog, these require a very different approach towards a solution. We should continue to discuss how the efforts to redress these problems need to be supported.

    As far as the ‘my country, right or wrong,’ position is concerned, if we remain loyal to absolutely obvious violations of human rights and justice, we become a part of the problem. All reform must begin at home.

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