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Fighting Islamic terror intelligently

Fighting Islamic terror intelligently

Author: N. Kunju
Publication: Organiser
Date: August 20, 2006
URL: http://www.organiser.org/dynamic/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=144&page=23

Our so-called secularists have been proudly shouting from housetops that when Muslims in other countries were attracted to terrorism to vent their anger, the 150 million Indian Muslims were patriotic and had nothing to do with terrorist activities. The maximum they would concede is that some disgruntled Kashmiri youth might be playing a part in the militancy in the state, but then Kashmir's was a unique case.

The rest of Indian Muslims were nationalists, they contend, enjoying democratic rights and need not resort to extra-constitutional means to get their grievances redressed. Leave aside Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav who is more Muslim partisan than the Maulanas. Even Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh said not long ago "not even a single Muslim was on the rolls of Al Qaeda".

This myth got strengthened by revelations in earlier terror attacks of suicide squads when some of the attackers were shot dead by security forces and were identified as foreign nationals, mostly Pakistanis. Moreover, terror outfits like Lashkar-e-Toiba were based and their cadres trained in Pakistan.

However, the 11th July (7/11) series of bomb blasts in the crowded local trains in Mumbai has burst this myth - the balloon inflated and floated by vote-bank politicians to please the Muslims in general and appease their religious leaders in particular. It would not have been possible for that many Pakistanis to infiltrate into India and organise simultaneous bomb blasts in seven trains in different parts of the city, in which some 200 persons were killed and many wounded. The assumption is that the Al Qeada directed the operation and the actors were locals trained for the purpose. A few hundred Muslim youths, specially belonging to the banned SIMI, suspected to have a part in carrying out the bomb blasts, have been rounded up by the police.

No one with some common sense can believe that there are no anti-nationals among 140 million Indian Muslims. It is as absurd as saying that all 800 million Hindus in the country are all patriotic persons. All those who were caught for spying for foreign countries recently in the intelligence set-ups like RAW and Defence establishments like Naval Headquarters were high-ranking Hindu officers. And some of the secrets they leaked could have been used by Pakistan in her plots of hostility against India.

So, patriotism is not anybody's monopoly. Many Muslims partook in the freedom struggle and had stood steadfast for a united India. No Hindu leader was more pained than Abul Kalam Azad or Ghaffar Khan (Frontier Gandhi) when India was partitioned in 1947. There were Muslim heroes who fought wars for India valiantly such as Brigadier Usman (Maha Vir Chakra) and Havildar Abdul Hamid (Param Vir Chakra) and laid down their lives for the Motherland.

Nevertheless, there is a difference in susceptibility between Hindus and Muslims as far as attraction to anti-national acts are concerned. The latter are more vulnerable. This is an uncomfortable fact on which politicians in general are reluctant to agree. They feel that believing in this proposition will be discrimination against Muslims, rather vilification of Muslims as a whole.

But the truth cannot be denied and it is based on the ideology and outlook of the two religions. For a Hindu, the lure to betray the country's interest is material - money, better position and opportunities for himself and his children. He does it against his conscience and always with a feeling of remorse, besides fear of the consequences. And if he is religious, the fear of retribution for the sin will haunt him in this life and thereafter.

Not so to the Muslim who turns anti-national or terrorist. He could be fired by religious fanaticism to make him believe that the crime he does is his duty towards his God, his Prophet and the cause of Islam. The noted scholar on Islam Bernard Lewis writes: "In the western world, the basic unit of human organisation is the nation... virtually synonymous with country. This is then subdivided in various ways, one of which is religion. Muslims, however, tend to see not a nation subdivided into religious groups, but religion subdivided into nations." The basis for this is historical, for the Prophet of Islam was not only a religious leader but also a ruler. The concept of secularism, separation of religion from politics, is alien to Islam. Therefore Christ's dictum "Give unto Caesar that is Caesar's and give unto God what is God's" do not apply to Muslims. Moreover, Muslim terrorist does not suffer from a feeling of remorse for his act of killing innocents; on the other hand he is told that he was doing his duty as a jehadi and the eternal joy of jenneth waits for him even if he is killed in his endeavour.

This does not mean that all Muslims are potential jehadis ready to take to terrorism. Religious sanction does not mean that every Muslim takes advantage of the sanction or indulges in the sanctioned deeds. People, irrespective of their religion, are generally led by common sense. Islam may sanction four wives, but how many Muslims take advantage of the sanction? Perhaps one in ten thousand. So also an infinitely small per cent of Muslims are attracted to terrorism, which of course is more dangerous than marrying four women. But then, one in ten thousand constitutes a sizeable number in the 150 million strong population. And the resources and capacity of foreign fundamentalist organisations are enormous to misguide them to make them scapegoats at the altar of jehad.

The making of a jehadi often starts from the innocuous Madrasas that are supposed to teach religion along with general education and ends up in the training fields of terrorist camps in Pakistan, especially in Pak occupied Kashmir (PoK). Not that everyone who studies in Madrasa becomes a terrorist. But at least the Madrasa teaching helps one to make him a fundamentalist fanatic. And one with such a mindset is more vulnerable to the jehadi influence.

Coming back to the 7/11 Mumbai blasts, the government is now convinced that there are Indian hands that the foreign terrorists used to carry out their nefarious designs. The so-called secular politicians including the Prime Minister no more claim "there is not a single terrorist in the 150 million strong Indian Muslims". The needle of suspicion points to organisations like SIMI which is banned for spreading disaffection among Muslims. The police have found the SIMI cadres that went underground have become the agents of Al Qeada. Raids of SIMI dens and arrests of its members have become a daily occurrence and several of its senior leaders are absent from their homes for years and are said to be out of the country working for international Islamic terrorist organisations.

This revelation demands a new approach in fighting terrorism. Firstly, preventing infiltration of foreign jehadis into India at the borders alone will not do; internal vigilance and extermination of their Indian agents is equally important. Terrorism is no more a cancer in one part of India's body; it can't be cured by a local operation in J&K or elsewhere. It has spread almost all over the country and indigenous cells vulnerable to the disease exist almost everywhere. Therefore, the infection calls for a holistic treatment.

Also panicking and knee-jerk reactions can't help. Blaming Pakistan, halting Indo-Pak peace talks, asking Pak President Musharraf to close down terrorist outfits and breast beating at international forums are the usual exercise resorted to by the government after a terrorist attack. But these will have hardly any effect because Islamic terrorism is an international phenomenon that the Pak President can't stop. And even if he can stop, why should he do it? Religous terrorism has been a threat to Musharraf himself and several attempts have been made on his life. So, he will be only too happy to see some of the jehadis going across the border so that the menace is reduced inside Pakistan.

Immediately after the Mumbai blasts, the Prime Minister had gone to attend the G-8 meet at St. Petersburg in Russia. Normally India would have been content to talk of environmental damage that the industrial nations are causing because of their unchecked exploitation of natural resources, unprecedented oil price hike, etc. But the Islamic terrorist attack on Mumbai trains made a disturbed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh shift the focus to terrorism. There were fervent appeals to member countries to work together to help India to eliminate terrorism. Of course all the countries condemned the terrorist bomb blasts in Mumbai and showed sympathy to India. However, no one mentioned the name of Pakistan, the terrorist launch-pad against India, and the condemnation remained impersonal.

Is there any use of breast-beating at international forums for what the terrorists do to India? Others, including Pakistan, will join to condemn terrorist attacks. But India will have to fight its own battle against religious terror and cannot depend on international community to do it for us.

There is need to change the present strategy and tactics of the fight against Islamic terrorism in the light of the new revelation that it is not entirely foreign, that there is a prominent indigenous component in the terror machine. We have several models of fighting religious terrorism successfully and not so successfully. There is the Israeli one of war with no holds barred, our own Kashmir model of reacting rather than acting, the K.P.S.Gill model of encounter extermination of Sikh terrorists in Punjab, etc. However, entirely copying any of these models to confront the hidden enemy spread out in a vast country like India's size and large population may not be effective and sometimes could prove counter-productive.

Israel is fighting a war with an enemy based in foreign lands and could afford to be unscrupulous because of the unqualified support of the USA. The Kashmir experiment has failed because it has alienated a major part of the population, which is a bad development for a democracy. This writer, as a soldier serving in an ordnance depot in Srinagar in the 1950s has seen the humility and loyalty of the Kashmiri employees, mostly Muslims, who worked under him. The atrocities committed by the Pak raiders were still fresh in their minds and they had nothing but hatred for the Islamic state. How the alienation of such a docile people over the years happened cannot be described here, but suffice to say that it was not only cross-border support but also bungling by successive corrupt state governments and the indecisiveness of the central government that led to the crisis.

As for Gill's method of ruthless extermination, it was no doubt successful in Punjab. But India is not Punjab where half the population as a religious group had no part in the anti-national crusade and the small number of terrorists among the other group could be easily identified and dealt with a heavy hand. Such an action on an all-India basis may not be feasible.

India's fight against foreign-inspired indigenous Islamic terrorism has to be at two levels - prevention, and pro-active remedial measures. The strategy has to be developed through national expertise and not political expediency. Religious terror should be identified as a national danger and people should unite irrespective of their religion, political division and regional differences. Trying to score political points on successes and failures, earning the applause of one section by spewing the venom of hatred against another, and above all, apathy of the general public are all obstacles to be overcome. Fighting terrorism is a national goal, rather than something to be made aware of through police advertisements.

However, the Indian Muslims will have to play a more prominent and pro-active role in fighting the menace. They are the worse sufferers of terrorism than other communities. The first danger to them is increasing alienation and becoming suspect for no personal fault of theirs. Secondly, there can be collateral damage to the community because of police raids and preventive action. Thirdly, the community's frustration and insecurity could spread and it would help the foreign terrorist groups to get more Indian recruits.

What the Indian Muslims should do to save themselves and the nation from the danger of terrorism that goes in the name of their religion, is best spelt out by a young Muslim IPS officer Asif Jalal in an article in the Indian Express (July 30, 2006): "The Muslim community must take the extremists' act more seriously because the consequences of terrorism on Indian soil, in a multi-religious society, are enormous... A situation where boys born and brought up in UP and Bihar plant explosives in temples and trains would certainly script a terrible destiny for over 140 million Indian Muslims.

"To eradicate this ideology, the Muslims need to take serious, perceptible and relentless efforts. Counter-terrorism requires a systematic plan of action to insulate the general youth and de-toxicate those infected with the ideology. The thinking Muslims will have to go out of the comforts of homes and work in gallis, seminaries, mosques and other public places to acquaint common Muslims of the dangers of such an ideology... Terrorism is also a battle within the Muslim community; a battle between the life instinct of the many and the death wish of a handful of lunatics. A Muslim has reason to fight and win this battle for the good of the many of their brethren, besides the larger interest of India."

(The writer is a veteran journalist and can be contacted at 42-B, Pocket 1, Mayur Vihar Ph.1, Delhi 110091.E-mail: janunkunju@sify.com)

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