Sunday, August 03, 2008

Bomb Blasts: What do we do?

Recently we have had serials blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad. They killed one person in Bangalore and 45 in Ahmedabad. Whenever we have these blasts killing innocent people, we just don’t know what to do, except repeat some clichés. These clichés don’t add anything new to the subject and definitely do not alleviate the problem nor find a solution.

For example, look at some of the reader responses at THE HINDU:

The terror strikes… are shocking, cowardly and condemnable. The continuing resilience and indomitable spirit of the people are praiseworthy. The entire nation should come forward to counter the menace.

Why is it shocking? Didn’t we know that we had to face this problem in our midst someday? I mean, do we go about doing whatever we are doing, targeting certain communities using state apparatus, and expect everything to be really peaceful? There were enough number of signs – we just looked the other way.

Coming to the next sentence, ‘resilience and indomitable spirit of the people’ being praiseworthy. I don’t know what to make of it. What are we supposed to do when we don’t know who the actual perpetrators are? Who are they? Where are they hiding? What are we supposed to do with those e-mails sent out by hiding terrorists?

I mean, aren’t we the same people who go one enduring 8-hour power cuts day after day without complaining? Aren’t we the same people who pile rubbish next to us making them mountains without complaining? Aren’t we the same people who veer big buses off the hillside roads careening into valleys killing all the people on board without ever demanding the bus driver to slow down or protest for better roads? I am not sure if it is our resilience or our indomitable spirit. I just think it’s our apathy to all things in life – even the bomb blasts. Very soon, we will all forget about this, and go doing the same things we are doing right now, and wake up next time when similar things happen.

And how does the entire nation ‘come forward to counter this menace’? Haven’t we been sowing the seeds since very long time to reap the rewards now? How do we suddenly change our act and counter the menace? Is the problem-solving confined to finding the terrorists and increasing security and vigilance or it has to do with the way we have build our nation?

Another writes:

The claim by the Indian Mujahideen that it set off the blasts in Ahmedabad to avenge the wrongs done to Muslims is shameful. Except in some instances like the Gujarat riots, Muslims have enjoyed freedom and protection in India. We have a judicial system which is capable of punishing those who indulge in crimes. The terrorists forget that it is the community that feels ashamed when terrorists kill innocent people.

So naïve! In this day and age, it’s clear that terrorists strike with impunity no matter what and wherever they want. Their reasons may be anything. Terrorists want to create terror, and it involves killing innocent people and they reasons could be anything – they could be downright petty sometimes.

The most important thing to understand is where and why they get the support. Who is giving them a place to stay, who is housing them and supporting them? The abettors and sympathizers are actually ordinary Indians – who are really upset with the way things are going around, witnessing the blatant injustices done to their kin. They are coming from middle class educated families. They support, fuel, harbor and encourage such activities knowing very well what these terrorists are up to. That is the dangerous part of the whole act. These are ordinary people from well-to-do families, living exactly the way you and I do, and yet harboring such strong resentment and hatred towards this country and its people that they are ready to be part of a scheme that kills innocent people. Where did they get hatred from? Who sowed it in them?

And this is the best – full of clichés:

Terrorism has no caste, creed, community or religion. No politics, no conviction, no vow has a right to destroy an innocent life. Let the people who want to prove a point destroy themselves, not innocent people who want to live.

Unfortunately this terrorism has a name as far as common people are concerned – in this case it is called Islamic Terrorism. Earlier we had Sikh Terrorism during Khalistan episode. In Sri Lanka, we have Hindu Terrorism. In most parts of the world we are reeling from Islamic terrorism. To be politically right, we may not use these words, but the media is giving enough inputs for people to make up their minds. ‘Indian Mujahideen’, ‘SIMI activists’, etc, are not Hindu, Sikh or Christian names or groups. They are clearly Muslims names and groups. No doubt about that. So, the media repeatedly saying it has nothing to with Muslims or Islam is being politically right but people have already formed their opinions on who the perpetrators are. One caller calls his friend, ‘Ejaz, Kaam ho gaya!’ and his phone numbers is flashed on national TV. He is eventually arrested. Imagine if the caller said, ‘Rahul, Kaam ho gaya!’ I am quite sure nobody would have bothered to notice it. There’s a big difference between Ejaz and Rahul, and it is everything to do with religion. Though we may not admit it, this particular act of terrorism, the causes and solutions has religion at its roots. Unless we talk about it openly, we are not going to solve it.

Another reader writes:

Stringent and deterrent laws should be enacted to fight terrorism effectively.

The last thing we need is a knee-jerk reaction to these blasts. None of the previous measures were really successful. POTA, TADA, etc, were used by people to subjugate others, giving the victims no recourse to the law, further perpetuating the feeling that this nation is out to get certain sections of the people.

Our police force is not geared to combat terrorism. They don’t know what it means. For example, a bomb was found in Bangalore a day before the blasts, but no action was taken. This bomb was picked up and dropped off at a police station for future investigation. One of the measures to take up is to have certain people trained in combating terrorism, to know the ways these terrorists operate, to keep in place a check on sale of ingredients to explosive materials, and make routine checks on such sales, etc. We have a long way to go get there. A random arrest without any recourse to law is exactly what we should NOT be doing.

I don’t think we are geared as a nation to protect our people. Let’s admit it. People die everyday in all kinds of accidents. The highways do not have a provision to make U-turns. The fastest lane suddenly has standing car in the lane trying to make a U-turn. The bus drivers drive recklessly – using their Volvos as if their Yamaha 100cc motorbikes, overtaking, slipping of the roads, careening into the valleys, so on. Yet, there are no changes. Every time I sit in that Volvo bus I think I am going die. The death is so near. Just few days ago, more than 32 people died in a train that caught fire. That news made a footnote in the newspapers and after a day not much was discussed.

We are just numb to all kinds of accidents. People die everyday. However a bomb blast evokes lot of reaction, mainly because it sounds ghastly. It is pre-meditated, a cold blooded murder. Other than that, these blasts kill far fewer innocent people than the negligence of our governments and people who build things for us- the roads, the bridges, the potholes, the sanitation system, etc.

Also, we never set good examples in our investigations of previous terrorisms and other acts that caused it – that won’t deter terrorists from terrorism, but influence the people who are on the border – of supporting and abetting terrorists – to know whether India is serious in finding the real culprits. In most of the previous blasts, the culprits were never captured. If they did, it was mostly rounding up innocents from a certain community further infuriating the people of that community. It is all a facile exercise which only perpetuates more hatred.

The root cause of terrorism is hatred.

Usually terrorism is like a last resort to correct things; the last resort is to blow oneself up and everything around it. Terrorists are not really interested in knowing who is killed as long as they create terror in the minds of the people. They want to create an impact to tell people that they need to fear.

A nation always has discontent people. All discontent people need not necessarily take up terrorism. As long as there is hope for themselves and their identities (community) a person will not take refuge in killing innocent people. It is the mandate of a country to ensure people have hope for themselves and their identities.

As an individual, as long as you have hope for yourself you may not embrace terrorism. If you know you have something to lose that is precious enough to hold on to, you may not think of killing up innocent people. One is looking at two welfares- welfare for himself, and welfare for his identity. A person who is doing well off at an individual level may still feel that his group, his community, his identity has no hope or future in this country. Individuals who have something to look forward to, and have faith in the system do not become terrorists. They do so only when they see no hope in this country, its institutions and its people.

A reader writes:

All talk of minorities and majority is repetitive and escapist.

India has never understood identity politics. It has always shunned every reference to it as distasteful, something that would break up India, as divisive politics, etc. It has never taken actions to decrease the disparities between groups – exception being reservations for lower caste. It has always allowed marginalization of people who were getting marginalized.

Even after many episodes of terrorism, naxalism, militancy, I don’t see any concrete thought process to address these issues to resolve them. Most suggestions are trying to combat the symptoms not the actual root cause.

Some people go on to suggest something more bizarre, not allowing us to discuss the problem at hand.

The UPA government is largely responsible for the growing incidence of terrorist activities.

Now, this gets really dangerous when a senior political says that.

BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said that the weekend blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad were a conspiracy to divert attention from the ‘cash-for-votes’ scandal.

The senior BJP leader also alleged that the blasts were an “attempt to win over the Muslim votes which got divided in the wake of the pro-American deal pursued by the government.”

She claimed that there was enough “circumstantial evidence” to support her charge. “Attacks in two BJP-ruled states in a span of two days and within four days of the UPA government winning the confidence vote have some meaning and what I am saying is proved by enough circumstantial evidence.”

A terrorist is successful not when he has killed innocent people, but when ordinary people live in a constant state of fear. A democratic state passing draconian laws that suppresses individual’s rights, curbs his freedoms is the last thing one should do.

Another reader writes:

With anti-terror laws dismantled, and our human rights activists vociferously defending them, why should terrorists be afraid of our legal system which can take eons to deliver?

Terrorists are not afraid of punishment – we punish them not to deter them, but to set an example that we are serious in bringing the culprits to justice. It increases people’s faith in the system when they see culprits get apprehended and convicted. We need an efficient legal system that exculpates the innocents and finds the right culprits.

We don’t need draconian laws that arrest Indian citizens without legal recourse, but a better managed legal and security system to deliver justice, and a little bit of compassion for our own people who seem to look different from us.

Action is definitely required. And that action can only thwart some terrorist attempts but never eliminate these attempts. In theory, we can eliminate all future terrorists’ attempts, but that would require a police state where every citizen’s movements are watched on a constant basis. Indians will have to lose many freedoms they currently enjoy. Security versus freedoms has been age old debate. What kind of freedoms are we ready to let go to earn securities?

The action that I see which I laud is the recent uncovering of 18 ticking bombs in Surat. But that action alone, involving security forces, vigilance, intelligence gathering, check posts, etc, will NOT eliminate terrorism. To attack the root cause, we need to look at this problem differently.

India has to introspect, and ask itself why are its citizens ready to kill and die for a certain cause? What is that cause? And why does it enroll ordinary well-to-do people? What can it do as a nation to address their issues? Is there anything this nation can do to make sure people do not lose hope for themselves and for their kin?

I would like to see that debate instead of knee-jerk reactions.


  1. "In Sri Lanka, we have Hindu Terrorism."

    Nice secular touch.

    I am surprised that you forgot to include Chhatisgarh Naxalites here. Most of them are Hindus, so it will qualify for Hindu terrorism in your dictionary.

    Has LTTE ever claimed to fight for Hinduism? Do you see verses from Gita in LTTE's terror attack mails? FYI, they are Marxists.

    Saying that everyone is equally guilty may be politically correct but is hardly a correct diagnosis. At best it fritters anti-terrorism energies toward non existing threats. At worst, it provides rationalization for the real threat .i.e. Islam.

  2. Hey Anon. You are asking for too much.

    This is the first time Sujai has used the word "Islamic Terrorism". Until now he had steadfastly denied that any such thing existed. If at all, such incidents were categorized as a reaction of Hindu terrorism or Jewish terrorism or Western imperialism etc. etc. Even in this post he has tried to rationalize Islamic terrorism but repeated terrorist attacks by jihadis have forced even Sujai to tone down his defense of terrorism. This itself should be taken as a big concession.

    - Manish

  3. "India has to introspect, and ask itself why are its citizens ready to kill and die for a certain cause? What is that cause? And why does it enroll ordinary well-to-do people"?

    Indian Muslims aren't the only ones who are ready to kill and die for a cause. Muslims all over the world are ready to kill and die for the cause. It is not a question of marginalization either. The most marginalized groups in India are the dalits, untouchables and landless labourers. All these people are not taking terrorism as a way to vent out their frustations.
    It is time Muslims re-examined their religion and wondered why it was so hostile to non-believers and other religions.

    "As long as there is hope for themselves and their identities (community) a person will not take refuge in killing innocent people".
    I don't believe this is applicable to Islamic terrorism. Islamic terrorism will exist as long as extremist interpretations of Islam exists.

  4. I think there are two sides to the story - one is the presence of extremist interpretation and second is the marginalization of the muslim community. Both have to exist for muslims to resort to terrorism.

    ~ Vinod

  5. "I think there are two sides to the story - one is the presence of extremist interpretation and second is the marginalization of the muslim community. Both have to exist for muslims to resort to terrorism."

    True. However instead of an integrated approach we have two different explanations in our country.

    First is the left wing explanation that stresses the materialistic grounds to the exclusion of ideological reasons. It ignores the fact that destruction of Bamiyan buddha does not cause the kind of terrorist attacks that a Babri mosque does. It ignores the fact that even relatively prosperous and reasonably fair societies of west such as UK and France are victiom of Islamic extremism.

    OTOH, the right wing explanation stresses the ideological grounds to the exclusion of materialist causes. To this group, islamic terrorism flows directly from islamic beliefs and has nothing to do with material causes.

    As usual, reality lies somewhere in the middle. On ideological front, Islam is indeed a xenophobic ideology that looks at people through the dichotomous prism of believers/non-believers and is full of contempt for non-believers. However, on a practical level, a substantial population of Muslims have been able to interpret their ideology in a manner, which is consistent with living in a modern society. It is this group that should be the focus of anti-terrorism strategy.

    Given the basic tenets of Islam, some form of fanaticism is inevitable. Its seeds go deep into the original scriptures of Islam. The ideological causes of Islamic fanaticim can never be eliminated. They are going to stay. The only cause that can be controlled are material causes. The rational strategy is to encourage the moderate voice among Muslims and eliminate material causes of marginalization. That is the only factor, which can be controlled.

    -Vivek Behal

  6. The ideological causes of Islamic fanaticim can never be eliminated. They are going to stay. The only cause that can be controlled are material causes.

    Vivek, good summary. But keep in mind that OBL was not in any dire need and in fact, was/is a millionaire many times over, as are some of his fellow-cave-dwellers and supporters. Many of the terrorists who hijacked the planes on 9/11 were also not poor, uneducated or marginalized.

    We also have the history of Xtianity rendered mostly toothless from its days of witch-burning and inquisition. So, while what you mention about material causes holds true, I do believe that the fanatic and extremist aspects of Islam need to be hit on, and the moderate Muslims exhorted to do more to counter the Wahhabi virus.

  7. Vivek, that was a good one.


    The idealogical extremism can rely on the sufferings of other muslims and the strong brotherhood of believers as the trigger for terrorist attacks and need not have one's own suffering as the pre-requisite. The brotherhood of muslims can work in favour of extremists.

    ~ Vinod

  8. I also wish that the media would highlight the tolerant stand of many top muslim scholars and institutions. It is often ignored by the media in favour of sensationalist mullahs leaving a very negative view of the muslim community in the minds of most readers. I'm appalled by the vountary marginalization in the media of such tolerant scholars.

    ~ Vinod

  9. "The ideological causes of Islamic fanaticim can never be eliminated. They are going to stay. The only cause that can be controlled are material causes. The rational strategy is to encourage the moderate voice among Muslims and eliminate material causes of marginalization. That is the only factor, which can be controlled".

    I think that the material causes can never be eliminated either. If you define marginalization by poverty then we have a long way to go. There are 300 million Indians below poverty line!
    If marginalization means systematic discrimination of the community, maybe that could be prevented, however in a vast country like India (with a weak police force) that is questionable too.
    However if marginalization means that Islamic extremists get angry every time any Muslim in the world gets affected by Western foreign policy and hegemony(9/11), well that's plain stupid. There is no end to this type of marginalization. I'd like to know how the perpetrators of the London bomb blasts were "marginalized".

    There will always be discrimination and marginalization in this world. Terrorism is not an excuse for any of this and we shouldn't let them hide behind the mask of "marginalization."

    "The idealogical extremism can rely on the sufferings of other muslims and the strong brotherhood of believers as the trigger for terrorist attacks and need not have one's own suffering as the pre-requisite".
    That is the problem isn't it? Terrorists don't have to be affected directly by anything. All that matters is Muslims from any part of the world are affected, that gives them good enough reason to blow themselves up and others. Can we ensure that Muslims all over the world stay happy?

    Bomb blasts happened in India even before Godhra, bomb blasts will happen in India even if the Government makes sure the interests of Muslims are protected because there will always be someone who is discontented, marginalized or discriminated. Only way they can be prevented is an enhanced security network, strengthening the RAW and training the police especially for this purpose.

  10. There is one more important way - if the government can work with a suitable representative leadership of the muslim community across the nation to engage them in working towards the betterment of the people of India as a whole, building trust and cooperation, bringing the community out of their getto-mindedness while at the same time making meaningful and genuine efforts at meeting their grievances, instead of using them as vote banks.

    ~ Vinod

  11. Hi

    Terror has no cast,religion etc is true,but most of the terrorists have religion.We can not ignore it.
    What the community is doing to get rid of the teroorist tag.Any where in the world a muslim passport gets special attention.A asian muslim gets head turn,a gaze of hatred.

    Margenisation of indian muslims is a crude excuse.We have successful people in all walks of life A.Kalam,Azaruddin,Ajit premji.

    However,there is backwardness inmuslim community.This is based on the historical reasons that most of the people who got converted are poor who can not resist the repression of invading barbarian muslims,who killed lakhs of people.This is coupled with no birth control and no education of ladies.

    There is also good finacial incentives(Does 5 laks for terrorist is the right amount?)
    Crime is done in the name of Allah,no shame in the community even if they get to know about the criminal

    We also have problems like minority appeasement,vote bank politics,no regulation on madarasas,belief that all pro terrorist politics are liked by all muslims.

    There is a saying:If islam does not kill terrorism,Terrorism will kill islam.

    The moderate muslims should come forward and condemn these activities.There are no excuses for these satanic activities.

  12. Terrorism is not an "Indian only" phenomenon as this post suggests. The debate has to happen at an international level. Are the forces from the past ready to give way to the progressive forces of the future? There is a tremendous power shift happening right now which is troubling a lot of sections.

    The only thing that could solve it is the very thing that created this monster of terrorism - religion. Religions teach compassion and love. Compassion is the first thing that all the religions teach. Highlighting all the good things that the religions started with has a chance to revert this cycle of hatred. Otherwise, there is no hope.

    - Mulla

  13. Hi

    I understood why muslims sympathise to killings to Palestain people but not to the people of their own country,they think all muslims are arabs.What happend in india is foriegn to them.Though some muslims die in the jihad ,it is ok to do the qurbani to spread the message of islam(terrorism?),after all they are from different religion

  14. Oh, Talking about Terrorism in India?

    You shouldn't miss this link


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