Of terrorism and the “bigger threat”

December 26, 2010


It wasn’t too long ago when Union Home Minister P Chidambaram spoke of ‘Saffron Terror’ attracting stark criticism from the opposition BJP and the Sangh Parivar. It was Digvijay Singh then, another Congressman, who spoke of his conversation with ATS Chief Hemant Karkare hours before his death in the 26/11 shoot-out and the slain officer’s fears that Hindu organisations were threatening him. And now, the WikiLeaks revelation of the poster boy of Congress and his concern regarding the “bigger threat” of the “growth of radicalized Hindu groups”… More uproar, more criticism, more discussions on the nexus between religion and terror…

TV Channels got a hot topic to put forth their experts and panelists, to discuss religion and terrorism and whether Rahul Gandhi was right in stating that ‘Hindu terror’ is a bigger threat than Lashkar-e-Toiba or so to say, ‘Islamic terrorism’. In one such panel discussion in a TV news channel, there was this ‘expert’ who was invited to present his view, who in addition to condemning the statement of Gandhi, went on to say that the so called ‘Hindu terror’ was no match to ‘Islamic terrorism’. “Hardly one or two people in the Hindu community may resort to such activities. But the case is different with Muslims. They have a jehadi mentality”, he said.

“You’re absolutely right”, the moderator of the show seconded, adding that “Islamic terrorism comes with state backing and is recognized as an international threat. You have to accept that”, as he posed his next question to the panelist who was defending Rahul Gandhi’s statement.

To begin with, it is indeed ironic that the same people who say that no religion preaches terror, go on to brand terror activities on religious lines. It is said “He who likes to generalise, generally lies”. This perhaps is the best response one can think of for accusations of people  who say that a particular community or an entire group or an entire religion is associated with terrorism. Secondly, you do feel that somewhere down the line, a larger picture is not being touched upon.

Terrorism cannot and should not be confined to killing of innocent people by masked men using bombs and guns alone. Terrorism in a broader sense, and in the real sense of the term, is anything that terrorizes people…that forces them to live in an atmosphere, where they spend their days and nights with a sense of fear that anything may happen anytime… a sense of insecurity.  Ask any eye witness of communal riots like the one that took place in Gujarat, and he/she will tell you what ‘terror’ is. Ask a victim of police atrocity, someone who went to the law protectors expecting justice only to get torture in return, and he/she will tell you what terror is. Ask a mother who saw her innocent son being dragged out of the house by cops for ‘inquiry’ and she will tell you what terror is. Ask someone who has seen an ‘encounter’ of an innocent unfold right in front of him, and he/she will tell you what terror is. Ask the family members of an eye witness who is scheduled to give witness against a politician in a court of law, and you will know what terror is…

Many a time, these acts are state-sponsored. The Gujarat pogrom is widely referred to as an act of state sponsored violence. The atrocities on Christians in Orissa were also viewed as state sponsored by many. There are reports of human rights violations and torture in Kashmir (By the way, no one seems to be discussing the WikiLeaks expose that appeared in news agencies the same day as the Rahul Gandhi one, about the torture meted out to detainees in Kashmir). If the Indian government is aware of it, and is refraining from checking it, then its attitude too can in a way be called state-sponsored terror. Go a step ahead and look at the wars and post-war scenarios in US-Afghanistan or US-Iraq cases, and you’ll find more evidences for state sponsored terrorism. Why then is this form of ‘state backing’ and ‘internationally recognized threat’ not discussed in the same breath on such shows?

The nation needs to discuss the larger issue of terrorism more than the religious affiliations. Even when the mainstream media discusses the nexus between religion and terror, why is that the larger picture is ignored? How many of us are aware that there is something called ‘Christian terrorism’ too? A Wikipedia page on ‘Christian terrorism’ will give you names of the many groups and country-wise terror activities of organizations that engaged in acts of terror, “the motivation for which is typically rooted in an idiosyncratic interpretation of the Bible and other tenets of faith”.  In one of the references is a BBC report on members of an American group called “Concerned Christians” who were “deported” by Israel as they were accused of “plotting attacks on sacred sites in Jerusalem”. The report goes on to add that the group was planning “unspecified extreme acts of violence in an attempt to hasten the second coming of Jesus, which they believe will take place at the end of the millennium”.

Forget Israel. There is a mention about Christian terrorism in India too. Wikipedia, while speaking about the National Liberation Front of Tripura, which it says is a Christian terrorist organization, says that it has been “classified by the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism as one of the ten most active terrorist groups in the world” and that “The state government reports that the Baptist Church of Tripura supplies arms and gives financial support to the NLFT. The Church is also reported to encourage the NLFT to murder Hindus, particularly infants. NLFT has also declared a ban against Hindus celebrating Durga Puja and other Hindu festivals”. Whether these reports  are true or not, we don’t know. But the point is, how often do we see the topic of the so called ‘Christian terror’ being discussed in panel discussions on terrorism on TV channels?

Terror has no colour, no religion. Terror is terror. Besides, it is the everyday terror that people experience that needs to be addressed first. India has repeatedly expressed concerns about security, and internal security at a global platform. But it has to first deal with issues that terrify its people under its own law and order system.  Issues, that at times shake a citizen’s faith in the governance and the entire ‘system’ of the country.



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