At 14 one doesn’t really care. Not about terrorism, bombs, caution. Certainly not when one has a friend for company. That is what Ajay Chauhan did on 26th July this year. Playing with Sumit, his classmate, that evening he heard commotion caused by vehicles bringing loads of injured people to Ahmedabad’s Civil Hospital, not far from his place. They rushed, some say, with water pouches for the injured thirsty, never to return. Their bodies, mutilated unrecognizably by the second bomb blast that blew up a parked vehicle, were later collected by deeply shocked parents.
At Salaam Awards conferred recently by SPRAT on heroes emerging from these serial blasts I couldn’t look Ajay’s mother in the eye. The ‘Hasan’ in me stood ashamed and guilty. Earlier that morning, too, I had stood similarly dumb-founded when some victims of 2002 genocide, interfaced with the victims of the serial blasts, gave the count of who lost how many. Javed, for instance, lost both parents and both siblings to the swords of the Bajrang Dal.
Terrorists in both these carnages, thus, were categorized and divided along religions: Hindus and Muslims. They were united by a common desire to avenge their perceived wrong, and acted of their own free will. On the other hand the victims, even though labelled Hindus and Muslims, were involuntarily enrolled to just one creed: suffering. And reduced to data.
Who really are these annihilators of life that took 60 million years to evolve? Why are they doing this? What actually led them to treat this precious gift so disdainfully? How does one check this serious menace of terrorism?
The most inclusive definition of terrorism is ‘use of severe illegal force against one or more individuals by an individual or a group’. Suddenly, then, I see colours of terrorism: green, saffron, red. I read names: ULFA, Maoists, Naxalites, LTTE, Al-Qaida, Bajrang Dal, LeT, VHP, JeM, Shiv Sena, IM.. I also see that they come in civil dress – and also in police and para-military uniforms. I see private groups, but I also see states: Gujarat, Israel, US.
Then I see soft terrorism: spouses killing each other, parents abusing their young – or the other way round; employers sucking their employees’ blood and the latter choking the former to bankruptcy. Their weaponry is varied, too: swords, bombs, trishuls, chemicals, money.
Some terrorists are themselves victims of earlier terrorism, such as those in Gujarat. Denied compensation and justice, reduced to second grade citizenship, discriminated against and humiliated every day, they are targeting people that did no wrong to them. Ajay and Sumit for instance.
Other terrorists believe they are heroes righting the wrongs done: Al-Qaeda to US and the West, Hamas to Israel, Naxals to landlords and the Police, the Tigers to the Tamils.. And each one of these is passionate about their cause.
Some others - like the Jihadis - are held hostage to an ideology that severs all their links with earth, and connects them with a paradise in the hereafter they are yet to verify. They are ever eager to grab that heaven, even leaving their aged parents mourning behind.
Osho found terrorists to be the oppressed weak fighting guerilla war against the stronger oppressor. I wonder, was Shivaji, faced with the might of Aurangzeb, one? Were Bhagat Singh, Azad so? Are Kashmiri and ULFA separatists these, too?
In Indian context terrorism is seen closely related with communalism. Sharad Pawar had a point when he traced the genesis of Indian Muslim terrorism to Advani’s rath yatra leading to Babri Masjid demolition. I was reminded that the only major act of terrorism outside of Kashmir that India faced before was the blowing up of Rajiv Gandhi.
Gandhi? My mind suddenly drifted to the Mahatma. Did he foresee this? Is it ‘violence’ in its myriad manifestations that we should be fighting really? But, then, is non-violence the effective strategy against such a deadly enemy? Did the non-violence of 2002 genocide’s victims get them anywhere? Did it stir the conscience of fellow Gujaratis? How, then, in the land of the prophet of non-violence, the architects of the genocide growing in power?
If terrorism is a man-made tragedy, the solution must emerge from human endeavour. Societies have produced states to attend to this. And fortunately most of the modern states – and the unions of states – have by and large created fairly judicious legal frame-works that can work, if implemented fairly, impartially, professionally. It is not the absence but the abuse of this apparatus by partisan leadership that eventually led to the jungle justice we see around us. If Gujarat Government violated the constitution of India, the US Government violated the international treaties and conventions in Iraq. And both produced counter barbarism.
Terrorism, it is being said, is born when the state fails in maintaining law and order – and the society fails to recognize this. At least that is how current Muslim terrorism in India appears to me. Therefore the only effective way to tackle terrorism is to pre-empt its justification.
Yet while everyone seems to have ideas on how to tackle terrorism, including by enacting draconian laws all over again, few address to its facilitator, viz, communalism. The suggestion to set up an Anti-discrimination Commission has so far fallen on deaf ears.
Banning SIMI didn’t work. It won’t, while their cousins Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena and VHP go scot free. Ask the hapless Christians of Kandhamal that had to roam the jungles of Orissa to escape their wrath. Ironic, isn’t it, that jungles provide greater security to the modern Indian?
But all this explanation, however, offers no consolation to Ajay’s mother. What did MY AJAY do, she asks? Nor to Javed. Who will return their lost ones?