Terrorism: Symptom or Disease?
By Prof. Ram Puniyani, member of the Committee for Communal Amity, Mumbai, India.
The bombing of the Indian parliament on December 13, 2001, has shaken us all to the core. This coming in the aftermath of World Trade Center (WTC) bombing is still more frightening. While words are not enough to condemn these heinous crimes by terrorists, a new dimension has been added up in the tragic scenario, and that pertains to its association with jihad, Islam and Muslims.
On one hand, social common sense is being subtly doctored to believe that Islam as a religion gives rise to terror and that jihad, which is an integral part of Islam, means violence and aggression. On the other hand, the means to tackle terrorism have been defined as the tightening of security, intelligence, etc. A prescription to harden the Indian nation and society is being dished out as it is being said that we are victims of terrorism because we have become soft. There is talk of launching aggression on the neigh-boring country where the terrorist camps are located.
Myopia at its worst is on display. Can violence originate from any religion worth its spirituality? Does jihad mean violence? Is there terrorism because we are a soft society and nation? How is Islam related to terror? How is any religion related to the cult of violence? Were the crusades undertaken by Christian kings to promote Christianity? Did Muslim kings undertaken jihad to promote Islam? Were the Dharmayudhas by Hindu kings undertaken to promote the Hindu religion?
By no stretch of imagination could war-related violence be attributed to these religions. It is the kings whose basic goal was to expand their kingdoms, who undertook these wars and misused the names of their religions to get people involved.
Timothy McViegh, the Oklahoma bomber, was not serving Christianity, neither was Dhanu serving Hinduism when she acted as a live bomb to kill Rajiv Gandhi and innocents around him, nor was Bhindranwale serving Sikhism when he promoted the cult of violence which led to the murder of Indira Gandhi and then the butchery of thousands of Sikhs. Nor was Osama bin Laden serving Islam when he thanked Allah in the wake of the World Trade Center tragedy. Nor are the Kashmiri militants serving Islam when they maim and kill innocent Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir.
Terrorism is the product of social and national discontent, discontent which flows though the barrel of the gun or explodes with bombs when democratic channels are not available for the expression of victims of injustice. People of practically all religions have resorted to terror in the name of religion. It is not that only one religion has the distinction of this misuse.
The present terrorism by the self-proclaimed jihadis is definitely a slightly different ball game. The role of Pakistan in this is very discernible. But here our myopic vision stops and fails to see the imperialist designs in promoting terrorism and routing it through the conduit of Pakistan. We are unable to see the deeper imperialist goals of control over oil resources, which has nurtured the Taliban.
Our policy makers are eager to jump to the softness thesis so that the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance, or even worse violations of civil liberties, can be enacted with ease by government. To get away with their hidden agenda of creating a religious fascist state, our government is prostrating in front of the very imperialist power which promoted the cult of violence - the cult of jihad - to ensure its control over oil resources by controlling political power in the subcontinent.
The U.S. has tightened its grip on the resources of the region since it helped oust Prime Minister Mossadegh of Iran (1954), who nationalized its oil wells. They replacing him with the puppet regime of Raza Shah Pehlavi to ensure the cheap flow of oil into U.S. tanks. Later, they went all out to promote fanatic groups in Afghanistan. Since then, the base for fanatic camps was laid in the region.
Pakistan, as the handmaiden of U.S. imperialism, kept acting as the conduit to promote U.S. interests by all possible means. To keep its hegemony in the region, the U.S. played various games. When Ayatullah Khoemeni replaced the U.S. stooge, Raza Shah Pehlavi, the U.S. backed Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war. Later, it turned against Iraq on the pretext of rescuing the Sheikh of Kuwait and his sovereignity.
With the Russian occupation pushed back, the fanatics who were products of U.S. training, started intruding into Kashmir. This worsened the Kashmir imbroglio, where - due to weak democratic institutions - the alienation of Kashmiris acted as the base for the terrorist game and the green valley turned red with bullets flowing from the barrels of militants and the Indian army.
Since September 11, the cycle has turned full circle giving a further pretext to the U.S. to interfere in the affairs of the region. With the U.S. acting as a super cop and super bully, the problems do not seem to have their respite. So, contrary to the U.S. attitude vis a vis September 11 - a blind reprisal and aggression on Afghanistan - it is advising restraint to India on one hand and increasing its own grip in the region on the other.
No amount of hardness of the Indian society and state, as if it is not already violating civil libertarian norms enough, can solve the problem. While the intensification of military vigilance and intelligence can act as a short-term measure, the region cannot breath in peace unless it is left to itself without U.S. interference. Removal of U.S. hegemony in the region is a must for any possibility of peace.
A regional confederation of Middle East and South Asian countries along the line of the European Commonwealth should be made an urgent necessity. The UN and the non-aligned movement (NAM) have suffered serious set backs. It's a tough task to restore and strengthen NAM and to expand the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation into an Asian Commonwealth, but that seems to be the only base around which we can think of sidetracking U.S. designs in the area and bringing an end to the symptom of terrorism in the region.
This symptom is secondary to the primary disease of imperialism. It is a symptom of an underlying disease which initially manifested itself as colonialism, then went on to crush nationalism in different countries, like Vietnam and Chile, in the name defending freedom, and is now continuing in the name of the "clash of civilizations," i.e., the economic lust of more powerful countries to control the resources of weaker countries and to create markets for their goods.
The choice before us is to buy the logic promoted by these powerful countries and focus on the superficial symptom of terrorism and to demonize one religion, or to have some vision and to prepare to chart out a long-term goal of Asian Commonwealth.
Source: IndiaNest, Dec. 23, 2001. http://www.indianest.com/voices/v001.htm
For more info. on the author, and selected writings, see: http://www.indianest.com/writers/rampuniyani.htm