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7/11 & after: Understanding terror
Dr Satya Pal Singh
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August 11, 2006
The 7/11 serial suburban train blasts in Mumbai have again brought into focus the serious implications of unchecked terrorism.

However, the anger and anguish of the people; the stirrings of intellectuals and the the heightened activity of security forces usually get subdued within a few 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 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 [Images] and other parts of the country almost every day. 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.

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 hydra-headed monster of terrorism? These are some of the questions I would like to address in this article.

The genesis: The root of terrorism lies in hatred and intolerance. The extreme manifestation of hate reflects in violence and acts of terrorism. And hate, like love, begets and stays in the mind.

'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 only is revealed and divine. It is our bounden duty to spread it around. Reward is almost instantaneous for martyrs. The paradise (Jannat) and its inmates are waiting for us with their beauties and bounties.' This is the kind of religious rhetoric being used to brainwash Muslim 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 organisations allegedly claiming adherence to Islam.

The terror networks: 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 sympathise 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 [Images], 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.

Big cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Indore, 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.

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 [Images], 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.

Because of the revolution in computer and communications technology, the terrorist organisations 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.

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 most 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 [Images].

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.

There is also a myth 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.

There is also another 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.

No religious or social community can embrace or afford to be a terrorist outfit. The terrorists are a miniscule minority. The administration and more importantly the community has to isolate and starve them of all direct or indirect material, manpower or mental help.

Motive of the terrorists: What hen is the motive of the terrorists? If we look into the minds of some terrorist organisations operating in India and other parts of the globe we will find that some protagonists of terrorism (Laskhar-e-Tayiba, Al Qaeda [Images] etc) believe that Islam is the purest religion in the world.

They believe that there is a religious commandment to unite all Muslims under the umbrella of Ummah to transcend national borders and establish Shariah or Muslim rule. The International Islamic Front established in February 1998 by bin Laden expressed its motto as 'To unite Muslims, liberate them from non-believers and aggressively expand Islamic faith.'

Al Qaeda says: 'The manual should be used to train all the Muslim brothers for jihad against India and Hindus. Islamic governments have never and will never be established through peaceful solutions and cooperative councils. They are established as they always have been by pen and gun, by sword and bullet, by tongue and teeth... These young men realised 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.'

'All the civilisations must clash until Islam is accepted everywhere. Kashmir is nothing more than a gateway to India. Let India bleed by a thousand cuts,' says Lashkar-e-Tayiba chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed.

The Students Islamic Movement of India, SIMI, manual states its aim as 'To achieve Allah's pleasure through the reconstruction of human life according to the principles given by Allah and his messenger Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam.'

'I will invite students and youths to follow Islam and will try to organise them,' goes the oath of allegiance for SIMI members. 'As I promise that I will work for the liberation of humanity and the establishment of an Islamic system in my country. I will spend my time, resources and capacity in this cause and won't spare my life if need be... My prayer and my sacrifices and my life and death are all for Allah... I have been instructed to do so and I am among those who surrender. May Allah help me to keep these promises.'

The Asian Age newspaper (August 19, 2001) published a letter recovered from a fidayeen in an encounter with security forces deployed for the Amarnath Yatra. The letter reads 'We are fidayeen. I am a fidayeen and in the name of Allah we will continue to kill and be killed till such time we destroy India and we overcome India.'

This is the radical ideology which is creating terrorists.

Dr Satya [Images] Pal Singh is the Inspector General of Police, Navi Mumbai. He was earlier Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime), Mumbai City, and has dealt extensively with the underworld, terrorism and other serious types of crime. He has written about three dozen articles on extremism, terrorism, economic crimes etc in national and foreign journals.

Next: How can we stem terror?

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