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Home > India > News > Columnists > Arif Mohammed Khan

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Terrorism is no crime, it is an act of war

September 16, 2008

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Human beings are like limbs of one another, as they are created from the same essence.
When one limb is hurt the other limbs cannot be but in pain.
You who are indifferent to the suffering of others do not deserve to be called a man.

Sheikh Sadi, the great Iranian poet, had said this about those who are insensitive to human pain and misery, and I wonder what he would have said about those heartless brutes masquerading as men who by their own hands cause such heart-rending tragedy as we witnessed in Delhi [Images] on September 13.

India has been a victim of terrorism for the last more than two decades and has suffered more than any other country in terms of loss of precious human lives and property. The proxy war that we have been subjected to has already been discussed in such great details that now it has attained for many people a rote quality.

The people and Government of India know, rather the whole world knows who is sponsoring these terror attacks in India, who is organising the terror training camps and where these camps are located. Sadly we appear to have developed a sense of inurement to horror. After every attack we condemn terrorism and give routine expression to our resolve to fight terror and streamline our security establishment and then sit back and wait for another attack to repeat the same performance.

We are not the only country who has suffered at the hands of international terrorism, but we surely are the only country who has shown this stoic passivity in the face of such great provocation. Is it because we are inheritors of a great tradition called gambhirta (indifference to pain and pleasure) and therefore we should not get provoked easily, or is it because we are insensitive to the loss of ordinary people who become targets of such terror attacks? If not, then surely we have underestimated or ignored the gravity of the threat to an extent sufficient to have made the task of its perpetrators far easier.

Terrorism [Images] is no ordinary crime, in plain words it is warfare deliberately waged against civilians with the purpose of destroying their will to support either leaders or policies that agents of such violence find objectionable. This cross-border terrorism has now assumed more dangerous proportions with the aid and abetment of domestic elements.

Here I am not going to make any allegations against any country but would like to refer to some public writings and statements of Pakistani columnists and senior officials. This is what an Islamabad-based freelance journalist, Dr Farrukh Saleem, has said in one of his columns:

'For the past 40 years our uniformed decision-makers have been fed nothing but anti-India rations. Our civil society has been indoctrinated to equate Pakistan with Islam, India with Hindus, both being in tandem with 'Hindus being eternal enemies of Islam'. Our elementary and secondary school curriculum continues to be full of hate literature. My 9 -year-old son has a problem comprehending that an Indian can also be a Muslim.'

This was written some 25 years back, but the situation has only worsened thereafter. Ahmad Salim and A H Nayyar, in their 140-page report on 'The state of curriculum and textbooks in Pakistan', say 'the themes of jihad and shahadat (martyrdom), clearly distinguish the pre and post-1979 educational contents. There was no mention of these in the pre-Islamisation period curricula and textbooks, while the post-1979 curricula and textbooks openly eulogise jihad and shahadat and urge students to become mujahids (religious warriors) and martyrs.'

Now this is not about the books in a madrassa, but about the books that are prescribed in government schools for the children of five to 17 years of age.

On the other hand the chief of Inter Services Intelligence, while responding to a question at a seminar at Islamabad [Images] in 1999, publicly stated that 'Our aim is to weaken India from within and we can do it'. Only recently, some highly-placed officials of the US State Department have confirmed that the Pakistani army chief was aware of the ISI's plans to bomb the Indian embassy in Kabul in July.

These are not new revelations, merely a reference to show that the perpetrators of violence are not and cannot be treated as ordinary criminals; in fact they are foot soldiers of the mastermind operating from across the border. Terrorism is no ordinary crime, it is an act of war waged against India by targeting its civilian population. It is beyond the capacity of the local police or state governments to meet this threat adequately.

Once we acknowledge that terrorism is an act of war waged against India then it becomes the paramount duty of the central government to decide how long we will allow ourselves to bleed and how soon shall we put an end to this aggression.

We must also disabuse ourselves of the notion that all these terror problems have arisen as a result of the so-called unresolved Kashmir dispute. More than Kashmir, it was the creation of Bangladesh in 1971 and the surrender of more than 90,000 Pakistani soldiers that rankles the mind of the Pakistani military establishment. They hold us responsible for their dismemberment and humiliation and feel that but for India's intervention they could have ruthlessly suppressed the Bangladeshi disaffection and aspirations.

At the same time they are conscious of the result of three conventional wars and do not have the bile for another direct encounter. On the other hand, they can take satisfaction that by the stratagem of proxy wars in the guise of terrorism, they have been able to inflict greater damage on India. According to this strategy the action is directed at destroying India from within, which means using Indians to carry out the operations without risking their own blood and infrastructure.

We need not blame anybody but realise that our security is exclusively our own concern. Pakistan has every reason to behave the way they are behaving, but we have no explanation to justify our sloth and inertia. There are other countries who if attacked pursue the terrorist across continents, and we have failed to take care of the terror training camps at a stone's throw from our borders.

Enough is enough, we must make it clear that we shall not suffer any more spilling of blood on our streets and shall put nothing to chance in matters of national security.

Arif Mohammed Khan resigned as minister from Rajiv Gandhi's Council of Ministers in 1987 in protest after the government moved a bill in Parliament to overturn the Supreme Court verdict in the Shah Bano case. He has since remained a consistent voice of Muslim progressives


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