Author: Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar
What exactly is terrorism?
Prime Minister Modi and his party men wax eloquent about the need to tackle and end terrorism. But what exactly is terrorism? The dictionary definition is “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims”.
Snippet of Terrorism:
Going by this definition, the lynch mobs that beat up and kill people suspected of carrying beef are terrorists. So too are Muslim lynch mobs killing policemen in Kashmir. All these lynch mobs are unlawful, use violence against civilians, and have religio-political goals. They fit the definition of “terrorist” like a glove.
Is exceptional violence understandable ?
Many in the BJP will not agree: they would like to say that Hindu sentiments have been hurt and anti-beef violence is an understandable though not entirely warranted reaction. The Hurriyat in Kashmir will also shed crocodile tears for the killed policemen but say the mob violence must be seen in the context of Indian military repression. Such excuses are as hollow and cruel as those given by al-Qaida or ISIS for their misdeeds.
Consequence of ‘Reign of terror’:
The murder of 15-year-old Junaid Khan, for the crime of simply being a Muslim, has been condemned — after a typical long pause that will not discourage mobs — by Modi. Many of his ministers have also issued condemnations. Yet the lynch mobs have not appeared out of a vacuum: they have grown in a socio-political climate created by three years of BJP rule.
A deadly mix of communalism and ultra-nationalism has stirred communal passions despite an absence of major riots. One more Muslim was killed by gau rakshaks in Jharkhand after Modi’s call for peace, showing how difficult it is to put the genie back into the bottle.
A look into the darkest hour:
My fear is that, unless checked quickly, Hindu terror will be met with Muslim terror, and the country will go up in flames. If the state cannot protect Muslims, there is a high risk that they will devise their own armed squads for protection. Hindu-Muslim terror can escalate with the state a helpless spectator.
Modi wants to sell India to the world as a global manufacturing hub. That will not be possible if India’s fastest growing industry is lynch mobs. Economist Dani Rodrik has shown that the ability to manage internal conflicts is an important determinant of economic growth and prosperity. Since Independence, despite a thousand flaws, India has succeeded in managing its internal conflicts reasonably well, and reaped the corresponding social and economic dividends. That achievement is now in jeopardy.
India was once cherished for ‘no terrorism’:
Fifteen years ago, President Bush of the US congratulated India on having 150 million Muslims but no terrorists. That plaudit was an exaggeration, yet it was not unearned. Given the strident rise of militant Islam across the world since 2001, the moderation of India’s Muslims stood out. That moderation owed a lot to strenuous political efforts to check majoritarian violence and persuade minorities that India was their land too. Alas, the rise of lynch mobs could signal the coming end of that phase.
Across the West, small Muslim terrorist groups (mostly homegrown) are wreaking havoc. They do not need financing or encouragement from ISIS or other foreign agencies: the expertise and knowledge for making bombs are on the internet. Militancy is not typical of Islam: the vast majority of Muslims in the West, as in India, are law-abiding citizens who condemn terrorism. Nevertheless, militants have become a menace in countries with just a few million Muslims.
India now has a Muslim population of 180 million. Even if 0.01% of these Muslims turn militant, that will guarantee havoc. And if 0.01% of Hindus interpret the violence of 0.01% of Muslims as a reason to bash all Muslims, communal terror can ratchet up. Even if 99.99% of both communities are against hate crimes, that will not save the situation, unless the sternest action is taken to halt vigilante groups.
Dawood Ibrahim’s bomb blasts in Mumbai did not occur in a vacuum.
Babri Masjid and the radicalisation of terror
They were a reaction to the anti-Muslim riots that followed the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992 and the Shiv Sena’s maha-aarti riots of January 1993. Thirteen bomb blasts hit prominent locations including the Shiv Sena’s headquarters. Fortunately, violence did not ratchet up further, and communal tempers gradually eased.
If Hindu-Muslim terror escalates today, it will not easily be doused. I fear that those who sow Hindu violence will reap Muslim violence and vice versa, in a vicious spiral.
Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar is consulting editor of The Economic Times. He has frequently been a consultant to the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. A popular columnist and TV commentator, Swami has been called “India’s leading economic journalist” by Stephen Cohen of the Brookings Institution. “Swaminomics” has been appearing as a weekly column in The Times of India since 1990.
Courtesy: Times Of India