Terrorism is probably the most common word flowing out of our tireless lips these days, closely followed by recession and job losses.
There is little doubt that acts like these need to be condemned and stopped. Most of us may agree that there is no justification in killing innocent, unarmed civilians in a country that is not in active war with any nation. It may be hard to believe, but some people actually disagree!
We have been exposed to mass terrorism in the last 15 odd years, though it has been there in one form or the other for much longer. Let us try and give it a realistic perspective by relating events that we remember or recollect.
Was 9/11 the first act of terrorism? or was it the 1993 bomb blasts in Mumbai? or was it the 1984 assassination of Indira Gandhi?
Can we term the insurgency by Pakistani militants into India since the early 1980s as the beginning of terrorism? or did it take root with the original Afghan Mujahideen during the soviet invasion of the late 1970s?
Did it start during the World War? Was Hitler a glorified terrorist? what about the native American wars and the reservation problem? what can we call the Holy war of the Crusades? what about the merciless armies of Chengiz Khan or Kublai Khan? What about the marauding armies of Attila the Hun?
The Spanish invasion of South America in quest for Aztec gold cost the lives of countless natives. What shall we call the genocide in Vietnam, Cambodia, Rwanda, Angola, Congo, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan and the countless other strife torn regions across the world?
What should we call that? War? Colonisation? Anarchy? Merciless killing? Terrorism? Tough luck?
Closer to home, millions of Hindus were massacred over many years on both sides of the Hindukush mountains (Afghanistan), in what was known as Hindustan during the 1st Millennium. Hungry armies have mounted countless raids across the Arabian desert and through the Khyber Pass, leading into Hindustan.
With a blood soaked history such as this, one cannot be blamed for thinking that terrorism was born and thrives in the golden triangle of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Today, the world’s people have the liberty and capability to discuss heinous acts such as the one witnessed recently in Mumbai. Similar incidents have taken place the world over since the dawn of time. The only difference is that today we have dramatic effects like crumbling towers, exploding aeroplanes, heroic commandos and senseless newsmen clamouring for misplaced public attention.
Earlier, there was no 24-hour coverage about Alexander’s conquest across Babylonia and his tryst with India. I doubt if Sri Rangachari Mudaliar sitting in his veranda sipping strong South Indian coffee in front of Srirangam Temple in Trichi got to hear of a certain Alexander wreaking havoc half way across the world.
Faster communication, technology and travails of the modern world has given violence a new name and dimension that we have now come to recognise as “global terrorism”.
United States went about addressing its first “terrorist” attack by waging a “legal ” war with a people whose land was already ravaged by consecutive wars. Whether the war on terror did appease the kith and kin of the victims is something that needs introspection, but there is no doubt that it depleted their stock of expired military arsenal and gave the armed forces a chance to flex its muscles against an enemy they haven’t found in 7 long years of battle.
As people who tend to be less violent (when our husbands and wives aren’t around), what we could do is to understand the root cause of actions that attract the name “terrorism”, and try to address those issues.
In truth, we have always had individuals or a group of people willing to harm others for a variety of reasons like profit, hatred, conquest, greed, anger, power and quite dangerously, in the name of God. What makes incidents like these stand out is the unprovoked killing of civilians by armed gangs from a foreign land with no apparent demand or specific intent other than striking fear in the hearts of people.
Although the terrorists who stormed Mumbai on that fateful night could have been blackmailed, misled or brainwashed into committing the crime, they sacrificed their individual thinking for a school of thought that few people in the world can identify with.
Where is the problem?
The perpetrators of this crime harbour the same negative thoughts we know all too well. Their mind breeds anger, hatred and intolerance for others. Out of these three, i would single out intolerance as the key suspect. Be it LeT, JeM, Al-Qaeda, Taliban or Mujahideen, they are unable to accept the existence of people who may not agree with them. The same is true for many others across the world who spread hatred and violence.
They preach a system of intolerance and violent justice towards everyone who do not accept their beliefs. To add to their misery, misinterpreted religious doctrines and economic hardships have completely distorted their minds into following “laws” or “orders” that could not be any further from the absolute truth.
Where did this intolerance come from? my personal belief is that it comes from misguidance. “A” misguided “B” who misguided “C” and so on. It is another matter whether this was deliberate or a consequence of blind faith in whatever was dished out. I am not saying that the religion taught to them is wrong, but i do believe that its interpretation went horribly wrong somewhere. The right word would be, Lost in Translation.
Sounds like an Eskimo hired to decipher Tamil literature from the Sangam period and re-write them in Vedic Sanskrit.
Incorrect information, inculcating inaccurate, illogical and inane ideologies in a certain section of the society over an extended period of time has led us to this situation.
Deliberate or not, misguidance comes from a single source, Ignorance. If i deliberately hit my neighbour with a stick because i feel good, then i am showing my ignorance because the real “good feeling” does not come from hitting my neighbour, but by showing compassion, friendliness and tolerance.
By ignorance, we mean “Agyan” or lack of knowledge about the absolute truth. In this case, ignorance about many basic virtues of human life can be noticed.
If i have been threatened and misguided by someone to hit my neighbour, then it is again ignorance because i have surrendered to a thought that does no good to anyone.
The hapless terrorist and his mentors suffer from the same mental afflictions like anger, hatred, jealousy, intolerance, greed, lust, desire, etc. that we already know about. We ourselves are victims of these very same “terrorists” within our mind, although we could claim that the degree of our suffering is much lesser.
Other than these problems, they have been extremely unlucky to have been,
1) In a highly volatile environment that has a tradition of narrow minded and oppressed thinking.
2) In a region already torn apart with extreme religious and cultural beliefs, with stunted social development.
3) In countries suffering from acute economic and domiciliary challenges.
How to solve the problem?
The first Intifada or Jihad has to come from within. If more and more individuals take up arms against the ills that the mind suffers from, then the revolution from within will lead us to a source of knowledge that will douse the fire once and for all.
It is said that Islam teaches many good virtues and preaches non-violence. Pity that many of these killers are not taught to follow the very same good virtues mentioned in the Holy Quran. History has show us that there have been many saints and samaritans from the Islamic world. Sufi saints are very popular for their heart warming poems, all in the name of God.
They need not necessarily look outside their own society for answers. Following the lead from their own saints, they could accomplish a lot more than the western civilisation has, in terms of humanity and social cause.
Until each misguided person realises that he or she is doing wrong and needs to correct himself, there will be no end to the violence within, and outside.
If the people from these societies begin to shun violence and look at easier methods of finding inner and external peace, then their ignorance will begin to fade. Hopefully, a social structure and a system of education that teaches tolerance for other faiths and people can be established in these troubled countries.
Undoubtedly, they should be taught that violence is not the answer for a missing piece of bread from their plate.
Now comes the point of God and Grace. If these unfortunate souls had the great opportunity of having a peace loving saint explain to them about good, bad and eventually about the absolute truth, there is a good chance of them reforming.
With God’s Grace and Will, such an event could definitely take place and a revolution of epic proportions could be in the making.
Imagine what could happen if their society at large is led by a strong, peace-loving Sufi saint? His easy flowing philosophy could be explained to them in a way that will dispel all their doubts and misconceptions about God and help develop tolerance for other religions.
Imagine how content they would be to find out that the answer to their own suffering lies in putting an end to the ignorance they have about people, societies and most importantly, the ignorance about the true path to eternal happiness.
A very ideal situation would be that they begin to find solace in the tenets of “Sanatan Dharm” or the Eternal, Universal Religion. But that is a far cry, since political and religious boundaries will ensure unbearable taxes on such an import across the border.
If i could mention another critical point as the cause of their woes, it is the case of a missing leader. The region has missed a strong and balanced people leader with the highest ideals.
It would definitely help if the society creates a calm, serene environment free of violence and hatred. They should be taught the basic virtues of friendliness, compassion and so on. God has to be introduced as a form of love and affection, not as the leader of marauding killers. This will bring about a change in their outlook and eventually a huge turnaround in overall behaviour.
This shift should happen at the grass root level, in the streets and by lanes of the very same cities that churn out killing machines by the dozen.
If they get it all right, they should be picking up a copy of Tom & Jerry instead of their beloved hand-held rocket launcher.
Readers might find that this article has a moderate and soft view of the situation amidst war cries from various quarters. War is not a solution all the time, especially in a dangerous region like ours, and in a delicate situation such as the one we are in today.
Probably the best tribute to peace was paid by Led Zeppelin in their immortal song, “Battle of Evermore”.
The pain of war cannot exceed the woe of aftermath.
As usual, i must add that these are personal views and does not reflect that of any other individual or community.