Website authored by
Dr. Ram Puniyani
Issues in Secular Politics  •  Issues in Democracy and Fundamentalism  •  Secular Actions  •  Useful Links

Labeling Terrorists
07/12/2007
By Ram Puniyani

We should not fix labels like Muslims or non-Muslims…it won't help us in understanding the situation or dealing with it. A terrorist is a terrorist; he has no religion or community…As a Sikh, I understand the trauma (of being labeled)."   These words of Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, in the wake of Glasgow bombings (July 6, 2007) more than sum up the present perceptions about the acts of terrorism and also that these acts of terror have nothing to do with one's belonging to any nation or religion. Coincidentally currently in Pakistan the army is cracking down on the Lal Masjid, jihad of its leader, Maulana Abdul Aziz. The people involved in the Glasgow bombing are doctors, who happen to be of Indian origin and who also happen to be Muslims. This may reinforce the popular perception that all terrorists are Muslims. Currently some people do add to this and say that there is some thing inherent in Islam, which leads to acts of terror and which results in the terrorists coming up.

Dr. Singh reminds us of the travails of Sikh community in the wake of Indira Gandhi's assassination by her two Sikh bodyguards, who had links with Khalistani movement. Terrorism was rampant in Punjab and parts of north India at that point of time. Just imagine had Indian government taken the policy to label the Sikhs as terrorists and implemented the norm that henceforth no Sikhs will be allowed in Indian army or in positions of responsibility, what would have happened by now? There is a subtle hint in the air that the immigration checks and profiling of Muslims will have to be resorted to more intensely to control the acts of terror. What has terrorism to do with religion? One knows that the values of the religions teach us love, compassion and tolerance. One also knows that terrorists have come from all the religions though not due to religions. Be it the Irish Republican Army, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam, the Buddhist monks resorting to political violence in Sri Lank or Thailand or ULFA in North East one can easily make out that terrorists have come from all the religions.

Why do some people resort to these insane acts, which lead to the death of innocent civilians apart from other losses? Is it that they are born like that or is it due to political economic and social reasons that such acts are undertaken? In contemporary history various reasons have operated for the making of the psyche which not only kills others but is also willing to sacrifice one's own life while undertaking these cruel acts. Lets imagine the psychological build up of Dhanu, who acted as a live bomb to kill Rajiv Gandhi or Laila Khalid who resorted to terror to avenge the injustices perpetrated on the Palestinians once they were forced to leave Palestine with the formation of Israel.

Broadly one can put terrorists in two categories. The first category is of those who strongly feel a sense of injustice being done to them or their community and who also feel that there is no hope of getting justice. This psychology operates at personal, family or social level. It also assumes the shape of political outfit at times, like LTTE, ULFA, and IRA. One recalls the murder of Saunders undertaken in the aftermath of the killing of Lala Lajpat Rai, by the lathi blows of British police. Such acts by Indian revolutionaries fall in this category where the personal identity is merged with the identity of the nation or the whole community. The bomb blasts carried on in Mumbai in 1993 and than in 2002, both were preceded by the strong anti minority violence first in Mumbai and than in Gujarat. What happened to Muslim community in Mumbai or in Gujarat must have sown the seeds of this insanity amongst many a youth goes without saying. That must have created a fertile ground because of which many an educated well to do youth also might have volunteered to be part of these dastardly designs.

The second rough category is the one where the identity of religion is invoked to play one's political game. And this latter was consciously executed by US in the wake of Russian armies invading Afghanistan. In the bipolar World during the cold war era, the equation of power shifted and US policy makers wanted to undo the same for strategic reasons. It was the time when the defeat of US, US army, in Vietnam was fresh in the mind of US psyche and they did not want to send their own army to counterbalance the Russian move. The papers of CIA policies and other documents referred to by various scholarly studies reveal as to how US through CIA, in collaboration with ISI set up Madrassas in Pakistan to indoctrinate the Muslim youth to undertake jihad, i.e. kill the communist kafirs in Afghanistan. That's how Al Qaeda, today's most dreaded organization, came up. Osama bin Laden came to become the leader of Al Qaeda and this organization was given millions of dollars and tons of armaments including sophisticated stringer missiles to attack Russian armies occupying Afghanistan.

Having done their job, there was no exit as far as indoctrinated minds are concerned. The same Al Qaeda later turned its guns on World Trade Center . Its another matter that there are various interpretations of the same. Those in Lal Masjid are the left over of this Al Qaeda and associated outfits. During Zia ul Haq's regime when Pakistan was playing the game of US in West Asia, Lal Masjid was the major place for indoctrination program and was a conduit for sending Mujahidins to Afghanistan. It was being run by Maulan Abdullah, father of the present Maulan, who was close to Zia ul Haq.

Clock has tuned full circle. Today these Al Qaeda associates are not needed by Pakistani establishment so the whole game has changed its direction. It must be pointed out that the so called terrorists who are smashing the jeeps or aero planes are small fries in the bigger game which began with the lust of oil. The unfortunate part is that religion has been dragged into the murky world of greed by the imperialist powers and these small pawns in the big game not only bring bad name to their religion but also to the religious community to which they belong. They neither represent the moral values of that religion, neither are they the representative of that religious community. 

One can understand the anguish of Dr. Man Mohan Singh as during the decade of eighties most of the Sikhs were branded as terrorists and during the massive anti Sikh pogrom even the high and mighty Sikhs were insecure. One just hopes that the major powers of the World put an end to attacking one country after the other, Afghanistan, Iraq, and threatening Iran on permanent basis, stop the atrocities on the people of those countries, and the sectarian violence is stopped here in India, so that the likes of Dr. Mohammad Haneef and Dr. Sabeel Ahmad do their profession of saving lives rather than undertaking the things which take the lives of innocents.