Tackling Terror – Some Key Issues
Dr Satya Pal Singh*
Abstract :- Repeated serial bomb-blasts and terror-attacks in the country have brought into focus the inadequacies in our legal and administrative supportive system. Is our counter-strategy faulty and weak ? What is the genesis of terrorism ? What is the extent of terror network ? Are there some myths associated with the acts of terrorism and adversely affecting our thinking ? Are we aware about what really dwells in the minds of perpetrators ? What could be an effective strategy to counter the hydra headed monster of terrorism ? These are some of the questions which have been addressed in this article.
The 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai and the earlier serial blasts in Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Delhi and Malegaon have again brought into focus the serious implications of unchecked terrorism.
The 26/11 Terror attacks in Mumbai exposed the systemic failure of the administration. It not only brought on fore the weaknesses and pitfalls of police, other security services and intelligence agencies, it also expressed the deep crisis of confidence in the polity of the nation. The police remained largely unscathed not because it has not faltered or committed no lapses but for the supreme sacrifices made by its brave officers and men in the line of duty. The terror attacks also brought into focus the over-enthusiasm and untactical overdoings of the media. It also compelled the government to think to have some checks on the unfettered freedom of the T.V. channels.
However, the anger and anguish of the people; the stirrings of intellectuals and the frustration and heightened activity of security forces usually get subdued within a few days or weeks.
For the past four decades, particularly after the suicide attacks on the US Marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983 in which 241 US Marines died, the international community has been really concerned about the dangers posed by the religious or ideological terrorism.
In India, we faced terrorism in Punjab for over a decade, and now encounter the onslaughts of the terror networks in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of the country almost every day. In the last few years, thousands of innocent people – including women and children – have lost their lives in various terror attacks across the country. Today, - terrorism has become a hydra – headed monster, a contagious dreaded disease and a dangerous virus. It has no preference for any caste or creed, race or religion, country or community. It is detrimental to all. While most nations are serious about fighting this scourge, and their intelligence and security forces are working overtime -- the sting of terrorism has not been blunted.
* Presently as the Commissioner of Police, Pune (Maharashtra)
Is there a flaw somewhere in our thinking, in our strategy? Are we failing to comprehend the problem in its entirety? What immediate measures can we initiate, and what should be our long-term strategy to contain and curb the menace of terrorism? These are some of the questions I would try to address in this article.
The genesis :- The roots of terrorism lie in the mind, in the feelings of fear and insecurity, in hatred and intolerance. Hatred is the outcome of fear and the fear stems from the realization of duality-the feeling that we are different or unlike others . The extreme manifestation of hate reflects in violence and acts of terrorism. And hate, like love, begets and stays in the mind. The merchants of hate preach like,
'Besides us - the believers, all else are impure, ugly and threat to our existence and enhancement. We only are the right, our beliefs are unassailable and our religion is only revealed and divine. It is our bounden duty to spread it around. Reward is almost instantaneous for martyrs. The heaven, paradise or Jannat and its inmates are waiting for us with their beauties and bounties. This is the kind of religious rhetoric being used to brainwash our youth.
This dogmatism or fundamentalism leads to fanaticism, extremism and ultimately to terrorism.
The Arab-Israel conflict and the collapse of Soviet Union gave impetus to terrorist organizations allegedly claiming adherence to Islam.
The terror network : The dragnet of terrorists has spread far and wide. Though it is a global problem, South East Asia is emerging as the hotbed of terrorism. The situation is worse in India, which is a secular nation. The international borders of India are almost seized by anti-national elements who support and sympathize with radicals.
Gujarat, Rajasthan, J&K, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam and other northeastern states, as well as Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu all suffer from the upsurge of radical ideology.
Some coastal parts of Gujarat and Maharashtra and from Bhatkal in Karnataka to Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, in fact the entire western coast is afflicted with this kind of jihadi ideology. These organizations and groups morphing in name and form may be different and deceptive having camouflages of educational, social or cultural tags.
Big cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Indore and Ahmedabad are the primary targets. No one knows how many terrorist sleeper cells or modules are operating in our towns and cities.
The major source of spreading terror in India and elsewhere are the preachers of radical ideology. Their members might not be large, but they keep moving from one place to another in different guises and groups. Their network is being effectively coordinated through internet and mobile telephony.
This radical ideology is creating terrorists and their strategy is creating chaos – by killing innocents with a mindless brutality, building communal disharmony, derailing the economy and destabilizing and subverting the political structure.
Jammu and Kashmir, once one of the most peaceful and egalitarian states of India, fell prey to this ideology when the schools and madrassas in the Kashmir valley were subverted and the young boys studying in the institutions were brainwashed in the 1960s and early 1970s. We are harvesting the crop now. The same was the case in Punjab -- the most prosperous state in India.
It happened in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and North Africa. It happened with the Chechens in Russia, the Basques of Spain and this list can easily be lengthened.
The same strategy is being applied to subvert young impressionable minds in our educational institutions because the proponents of terrorism know that students and youngsters are highly energetic and if convinced about a cause, they can even be moulded to conduct suicide attacks. There is a report that the SIMI has clandestinely floated a new group codenamed ‘ The White Falcon ‘. Their job is to recruit and indoctrinate children aged between five and 10 years for the Jihadi movement.
Because of the revolution in computer and communications technology, the terrorist organizations have global reach and have no dearth of financiers, contributors, fund-raisers and disgruntled teachers of technology. We all have to realise that there is no place for radical ideology in today's borderless world.
Exploding the myths :-
There are some myths associated with terrorism and if we are really serious about finding a solution to this problem, we must explode and demolish them.
The first myth is that terrorism is rooted in injustice, frustrations, poverty and social economic backwardness. Scholars and experts, especially Alan Krueger and Jitka Maleckova, have shown that the terrorists are not poor people nor they are from poor societies. Poverty does not cause terrorism and prosperity does not cure it. We all know that Osama bin Laden, the world's most wanted terrorist, is a billionaire. And the same can be told about our fugitive Dawood Ibrahim.
The study of terrorism in Punjab and J & K in India has also shown the same results. The terrorists come from the places which have a concentration of radical preachers.
The second myth, specially in India, is that the terrorist activities are a reaction to the Gujarat riots and the demolition of the Babri mosque at Ayodhya. Security experts know this is not correct.
The Gujarat riots began on February 28, 2002. But many major acts of terrorism, like the attack on the J & K assembly (October 1, 2001), on Parliament (December 13, 2001), in Poonch district (January 20, 2002) happened before this. Also, in May-July 2000 there was a series of bomb blasts from Hyderabad to Bangalore and Goa
Similarly, Jalees Ansari, a government doctor, and Salim Ansari, an engineer working at the Mazgaon Docks, Mumbai, were responsible for more than 50 blasts in Mumbai, at gurdwaras, police stations, public places and aboard trains between 1989 and 1990 much before Babri mosque demolition.
The third myth is that many uneducated and unemployed youth and young men are attracted towards radical ideology or terrorism. This is also not correct as many of the terrorists are highly educated -- doctors, engineers, pilots, management graduates and technologically savvy.
The fourth myth: that more Hindus are being killed in terrorist violence, and Muslims are responsible for it. A look at terrorist victims worldwide show that more Muslims are losing their lives. In Pakistan and Afganistan the terrorists are killing their own co-religionists. It shows that terrorism has no direct connection with any religion.
The fifth myth or half-truth is that most of the time, for every major terrorist attack we start accusing our adversary the neighboring nation. Let us admit the fact that we have new homegrown indigenous terrorist outfits. And we have plenty of sleeper cells, extremist groups and a large number of people with subversive fanatic thinking.
No religious or social community can embrace or afford to be a terrorist outfit. The terrorists are a miniscule minority. Terrorism like criminality cannot be confined only to any caste, creed or religion. Recently, a few persons professing Hinduism have also been arrested for carrying out blasts in Malegaon (Maharashtra). Therefore, the administration and more importantly the community has to isolate and starve them of all direct or indirect material, manpower or mental help.
Strategy to counter terror :-
How do we counter and curb this hydra-headed monster called terrorism?
An act of terrorism is the result or consequence of the combination of four factors:
Perpetrators or terrorists
Contributors, collaborators and sympathisers and
Material (arms, explosives etc.)
The first and foremost requirement is to counter this radical/jihadi ideology. Unless the radical ideology and their preachers are neutralized or effectively countered the respective crop of terrorists will keep on resurfacing and growing.
How to impact the minds of the young, how to divert them from the path of hate, intolerance and violence, how to demotivate the believers from the clutches of false dreams of an all-blissful paradise, how to inspire the generation to seek true happiness and peace of mind are some of the vital questions which require the urgent attention of psychologists, educationists, strategists, parents, politicians and planners.
The modern society is a knowledge society. Knowledge has always been the harbinger of progress and peace. Today, knowledge is universally available and - accessible. Ideas create knowledge and so ideas rule the world. Therefore, we have to plan how to deactivate and attack the bad kind of ideas, which foster hate and violence. Some possible measures:
The various streams and plurality of religions are creating contradictions and conflict in society. If all religions lead to truth, peace and happiness, then what is the need for so many religions? Such populism must stop. If different religions are all the same and non-contradictory why is there this variety? And if they are different and contradictory, then how can they lead to harmony and peace in society? Let us admit that all religions have some good concepts and rituals. In fact, the truth is that the common concepts and practices in all religions are scientific, spiritual, beneficial and true. This commonality and this core of religions is called Dharma.
Intellectuals, not religious teachers, of the world have to come on a single platform and declare that religion means only one thing the courage to follow righteousness or right conduct in life. The core of religion is the conduct that what we expect of others, we must do to others. Religion is not just something private, something individualistic, but must be regarded as a social phenomenon; or norms for universal acceptance. The dictum of spiritualism is “ If we want peace, let us not disturb the peace of others “.
Similarly, we have to debunk the Clash of Civilizations theory advocated by Professor Samuel Huntington. A true civilization does not divide the humanity into colours, race, religion or region.
How can we divide physics, chemistry, mathematics, medical science, psychology etc into Christian, Muslim or Hindu sciences? The educationists and planners must rethink the role and design of our education system. There is a need to introduce a comparative study of all religions in our schools and colleges. Let a pupil choose which one is the best for him/her. Why do we want to chain a human being -- who is born free -- like a pet animal to fixed religious rituals or beliefs?
Such education would liberate man from dogma, pangs of fanaticism and acts of terrorism.
The advanced science and technology of today has not found any fourth or seventh sky, heaven or paradise in any part of the universe. Hell or heaven is part of this earth and the result of our doing. Misleading the youth and believers in the name of heaven or jannat is against the tenets of truth and humanity.
Today because of Internet, there is an explosion of knowledge. But the messiahs of hate are using this medium to spread hate and violence. There are hundreds of Internet sites providing terrorist manuals, encyclopedia of violence, techniques of bomb-making and other details and training of strategic field craft. To hide their identity and communication, the terrorists are misusing the cyber space through the techniques called pshishing, hacking, spoofing, stegano- graphy etc. Cyber terrorism will be much more menacing.
Can't we think of some strategy to ban such sites or to punish persons misusing the medium for sowing the seeds of hate and violence in impressionable minds?
We have umpteen number of instances where social, religious and political groups demand -- and succeed -- banning books which have some unpalatable lines or paragraphs. But we have hundreds of books available in the market and being taught in different schools, madrasas and seminaries which generate hate against other sections of society, and help spread the fire of violence. We should have the courage to ban such books too.
Let us not sacrifice our national priorities and international commitments, and the peace of our present and future generations, for temporary electoral or political interests. Many of our policies are dividing the society -- in the name of caste, creed and community. Many of our educational institutions are organized and run on ethnic, linguistic and religious denominations.
If we wish to stem the growth of radical ideology, the administration has irrevocably to develop and enforce the concept of zero tolerance.
Our ideology has to be much more powerful to counter the radical ideology of all hues and colours. It must appeal to the hearts and minds of people, especially the youth.
Will the jihadi elements listen to the meaning of 'jihad in life' in the words of the great poet Allama Iqbal ? He had sung the couplet :
Yakeen muhakam amal paiham,
Muhabbat fateh -e-aalam.
Jehad-e-Jindgani me Yahi hai mardo ki shamshire
Meaning that In a man's jihad (crusade) in life, the weapons, has he conviction that the cause is just, resolution to strive till eternity, and compassion that embraces all humanity. (As translated by Khushwant Singh)
The second most important constituent of terrorism is its perpetrators. How do we deal with the terrorists?
Most of them are generally brainwashed and committed people who are unwilling to accept any compromise, nor are they open to dialogue or discussion. Al Qaeda Manual says “ These young men (Jihadies) realized that an Islamic government would never be established except by the bomb and rifle. Islam does not coincide or make a truce with unbelief, but rather confronts it. The confrontation that Islam calls for with these godless and apostate regimes does not know Socratic debates, Platonic ideas nor Aristotelian diplomacy. But it knows the dialogue of bullets, the ideals of assassination, bombing and destruction and the diplomacy of the cannon and machine gun ,” They are ready to die or kill. You cannot change them. The solution is to arrest or eliminate them. People who kill innocent people, women and children deserve no human rights. For less committed or people on the fringe should be tackled with the policy of ‘ Iron fists in velvet gloves ‘ – surrender or suffer.
We should learn a lesson from the US, where no defence counsel came forward to defend the terrorists of the 9/11 terror attacks.
Thirdly the police too must go beyond the 'body-arms-kg' count approach -- like number of arrests, seizure of arms and ammunitions or quantity of explosives. The intelligence and security agencies as well as the citizens have to take on the collaborators, supporters, contributors, sympathizers who fund, recruit, train and shelter terrorists. Police and related agencies have to be extra careful, vigilant, impartial, fair and just in picking up or apprehending the alleged terrorists. Arrests of wrong or innocent persons under political or public pressure and to produce quick results have always been proved counter productive. However, no one should directly or indirectly defend them in the name of community or creed. It is a virus worse than the HIV.
Fourthly, the intelligence and security agencies as well as dealers and users of ingredients which can be used for explosives have to tighten their grip on the movement of explosives, arms and ammunition, satellite phones, foreign SIMs, GPS systems etc. Effective check on the movement of these facilitators is of utmost importance.
Forensic experts should play a major role in the evaluation of intelligence regarding the new modus operandi in forgeries, travel documents, motor driving licenses, ration cards, use of weapons and explosives and remote control and detection techniques.
If we want peace, harmony and progress, we have to inculcate peace and security consciousness amongst our countrymen. Alertness must become our religion. Our initiative of launching Mission Mrityunjaya (victory over death) – an anti-terror students Front in Nagpur and Pune have become quite popular and spreading to more and more educational institutions. This movement among the students is generating adequate consciousness about the dangers of radical ideology and acts of terrorism. It is impacting the young minds with positive ideas of communal harmony, patriotism and unitedly stand against the evil designs of the merchants of hate and violence.
As our former President APJ Abdul Kalam had advised, India needs a national campaign for the eradication of terrorism, for which the entire government machinery needs to be geared up. As a special measure taken by France government in 1986, there is a need to bring in a legislation to ensure that every government department has a counterterrorism wing to understand its philosophy and danger. They have to wholeheartedly support the intelligence and security agencies in this regard.
We must also repose more faith in the police machinery, mainly by amending Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act which renders the police unreliable in courts of law. We have to equip the police and other constituents of CJS (Criminal Justice System) with sound legal and administrative supportive logistics. After 26/11 attack, the Govt. of India has considered the adequate amendments in the UAPA 1967 (amended version 2004)
The publicity and information department in government establishments has to be revisited, strengthened and made more professional and accountable.
Our schools, colleges, universities and institutions, our social clubs, our platforms of art, craft and culture, our films, television and media have to put their heads together to create and sustain a campaign against any kind of extremist or terrorist ideology or act.
If we want harmony, peace and progress we have to work wholeheartedly for it. We have to invest first before reaping rich dividends later. Cosmetic efforts, ceremonial lectures on communal harmony, half-hearted measures and half-baked police reforms are destined to defeat.