Friday, November 28, 2008

Terrorism Mumbai

As we face the challenge of terrorism in Mumbai I wish to reflect on the vicious cycle of retribution and revenge that has resulted in the present conflagration. It is well said that that those who forget the lessons of History are condemned to repeat it. At the time of the division of the nation India chose to be a secular democracy where we gave freedom to all to follow the religion of their choice without infringing on any other persons rights and subject to the laws of the land. Our founding fathers and Gandhi in particular conducted a freedom movement where they worked to have a social reconstructive program me to prepare the nation and its people for freedom. Our constitution has asked the leaders to make a uniform civil code for the people of India based on the best values of all religions. While a Hindu reform bill was passed after a decade of resistance by right wing orthodox parties our first PM was unable or unwilling to push for a similar reform bill for the minority religions mainly for fear of alienating the Muslims. The Muslims of this country at the time of partition were either refugees reduced to penury by circumstances or locals who had no choice but to remain behind. A very small number remained by choice. Gandhi's assassination by persons who preached the ideology of a Hindu state resulted in greater Muslim insecurity. In spite of the best efforts of Nehru the Muslim leadership passed into the hands of the fundamentalists. Over the years the leadership of our country deteriorated and the visionaries were replaced by puny men who made politics their business and winning elections by dividing the people become a norm rather than an occasional aberration. One side appeased the minorities and kept them undeveloped while the other made the majority feel they were victims in their own land. Any division, caste, community, language, religion was handy as long as it gave votes and power. Since the last three decades the cycle of violence in the name of religion has seen a series of events which have been an action and reaction by one community against another. A Masjid destruction was followed by riots was followed by bomb blasts in 1992. Later came series of bomb blasts, attack on Indian Parliament, blast outside temples and mosques and Godhra followed by the Gujarat carnage followed by terror. Coupled with Kashmir issue of militant strikes and expulsions of the pundits vs the human right violations of the army the cycle of retribution and violence seems to be never ending. All religions preach human values and essentially are means for humans to realize the divine within themselves. The core and essence are the same but the man made rituals and practices have resulted in differences which lead one to believe that a particular religion is superior to another. The exclusive ideology leads to an attitude of hatred instead of a positive tolerance.

It is all to easy to say after every terrorist strike that we need to flush them out of their holes as though they were some rats who cannot think for themselves. Terrorists are motivated misguided youth who have been created by circumstances and indoctrination. Nobody is born evil and the natural inclination of all human beings is love and compassion for all. The Mahatma said "An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind". While this is literally true, today we all have become blind to the fact that we are all responsible for this mindless violence. Our greedy materialistic life style, living on debt and our selfishness is all directly responsible for this cycle of terror. At this moment there will be a cry for retribution and a war like situation with the hawks calling for an attack on our neighbours. The US did that and it created a generation of terrorists. Muslims world over feel victimized and much as we deny it the same feeling occurs in India. Every time innocent youth are rounded up and the whole community is branded as terrorist we are actively creating terrorists. The right wing leadership in the garb of taking bold action against terrorism has repeatedly target ted the innocents and made the whole Muslim community feel unwanted and second class citizens in their own country. Now they are trying to do the same to Catholics in Orissa and Karnataka.

In this debate the issues of vigilance, intelligence gathering, a well motivated and well paid trained police force take a back seat. When will we see through the game that our politicians play? Both sides are equally responsible for this state of affairs. As I see the problem, it needs to be tackled on three fronts. An immediate strengthening of the security and an accountability of the intelligence gathering wings of the nation is required. We need to be a tough but fair democratic state. The people need to voluntarily accept curbs on their freedoms in the interest of safety. The second thing is a complete rejection of politicians indulging in divisive competitive vote-bank politics. The third front is a rejection of a life-style based on mindless accumulation of wealth without caring for people around us. We have and are going on paying the price for our failure on all the above three fronts. Our attitude of indiscipline, and we are like that only has made us a soft state. A failure to see through the nefarious designs of our politicians and a blind aping of western modern life-style are all directly responsible for terrorism in Mumbai today.

At this hour even as our security forces are fighting to save innocent lives, we all need to offer a collective prayer and resolve that we mumbaikars will show our cliched spirit and go back to work and defeat the terrorists designs. But this should not be out of sheer helplessness and lack of choice. We need to pressurize our governments and leaders to give top priority to our security but at the same time create an atmosphere of communal harmony and peace and last but not the least realize that the heartless pursuit of wealth at any cost is also a violent act which will perpetuate the cycle of terror.

Dr. Vispi Jokhi