Summary: This is a follow-up to “Some people just want to see the world burn” (16 January 2009). At the end are links to posts discussing solutions.
“9 Is Not 11 (And November Isn’t September)“, Arundhati Roy, Outlook India, 22 December 2008 — Hat tip to Tom Englehardt’s TomDispatch. I strongly recommend reading this powerful essay in full, a valuable perspective on our world. It’s not about India, or specific religions. This is the dark side of humanity, a battle that has to be fought each generation. Sometimes the battle goes poorly.
Here is a bulletin from the front, a warning for those who think everybody in wars thinks about “sides”, “causes”, and “winning.” Most do, but not everyone.
“One TV channel (India TV) broadcast a phone conversation with one of the attackers, who called himself ‘Imran Babar’. … He didn’t seem to want to change the world. He just seemed to want to take it down with him.”
Here is a brief excerpt.
Terrorism and the need for context
There is a fierce, unforgiving fault line that runs through the contemporary discourse on terrorism. On one side (let’s call it Side A) are those who see terrorism, especially ‘Islamist’ terrorism, as a hateful, insane scourge that spins on its own axis, in its own orbit and has nothing to do with the world around it, nothing to do with history, geography or economics.
Therefore, Side A says, to try and place it in a political context, or even try to understand it, amounts to justifying it and is a crime in itself. Side B believes that though nothing can ever excuse or justify terrorism, it exists in a particular time, place and political context, and to refuse to see that will only aggravate the problem and put more and more people in harm’s way. Which is a crime in itself.
The sayings of Hafiz Saeed, who founded the Lashkar-e-Toiba (Army of the Pure) in 1990 and who belongs to the hardline Salafi tradition of Islam, certainly bolster the case of Side A. Hafiz Saeed approves of suicide bombing, hates Jews, Shias and Democracy, and believes that jehad should be waged until Islam, his Islam, rules the world. Among the things he has said are:
“There cannot be any peace while India remains intact. Cut them, cut them so much that they kneel before you and ask for mercy.”
“India has shown us this path. We would like to give India a tit-for-tat response and reciprocate in the same way by killing the Hindus, just like it is killing the Muslims in Kashmir.”
But where would Side A accommodate the sayings of Babu Bajrangi of Ahmedabad, India, who sees himself as a democrat, not a terrorist? He was one of the major lynchpins of the 2002 Gujarat genocide and has said (on camera):
“We didn’t spare a single Muslim shop, we set everything on fire…we hacked, burned, set on fire…we believe in setting them on fire because these bastards don’t want to be cremated, they’re afraid of it…. I have just one last wish…let me be sentenced to death…. I don’t care if I’m hanged…just give me two days before my hanging and I will go and have a field day in Juhapura where seven or eight lakhs of these people stay…. I will finish them off…let a few more of them die…at least 25 thousand to 50 thousand should die.”
And where, in Side A’s scheme of things, would we place the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh bible, We, or Our Nationhood Definedby M.S. Golwalkar ‘Guruji’, who became head of the RSS in 1944. It says:
“Ever since that evil day, when Moslems first landed in Hindustan, right up to the present moment, the Hindu Nation has been gallantly fighting on to take on these despoilers. The Race Spirit has been awakening.”
“To keep up the purity of its race and culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races—the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here…a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.”
Of course, Muslims are not the only people in the gun sights of the Hindu Right. Dalits have been consistently targeted. Recently in Kandhamal in Orissa, Christians were the target of two-and-a-half months of violence which left more than 40 dead. Forty thousand people have been driven from their homes, half of whom now live in refugee camps.
All these years, Hafiz Saeed has lived the life of a respectable man in Lahore as the head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which many believe is a front organisation for the Lashkar-e-Toiba. He continued to recruit young boys for his own bigoted jehad with his twisted, fiery sermons. On December 11, the UN imposed sanctions on the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and the Pakistani government succumbed to international pressure, putting Hafiz Saeed under house arrest.
Babu Bajrangi, however, is out on bail and continues to live the life of a respectable man in Gujarat. A couple of years after the genocide, he left the VHP to join the Shiv Sena. Narendra Modi, Bajrangi’s former mentor, is still the chief minister of Gujarat.
- So the man who presided over the Gujarat genocide was re-elected twice, and is deeply respected by India’s biggest corporate houses, Reliance and Tata.
- Suhel Seth, a TV impresario and corporate spokesperson, has recently said, “Modi is God.”
- The policemen who supervised and sometimes even assisted the rampaging Hindu mobs in Gujarat have been rewarded and promoted.
The RSS has 45,000 branches, its own range of charities and seven million volunteers preaching its doctrine of hate across India. They include Narendra Modi, but also former prime minister A.B. Vajpayee, current Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani, and a host of other senior politicians, bureaucrats and police and intelligence officers.
And if that’s not enough to complicate our picture of secular democracy, we should place on record that there are plenty of Muslim organisations within India preaching their own narrow bigotry.
So, on balance, if I had to choose between Side A and Side B, I’d pick Side B. We need context. Always.
When we say ‘Nothing can justify terrorism”, what most of us mean is that nothing can justify the taking of human life. We say this because we respect life, because we think it’s precious. So what are we to make of those who care nothing for life, not even their own?
The truth is that we have no idea what to make of them, because we can sense that even before they’ve died, they’ve journeyed to another world where we cannot reach them.
One TV channel (India TV) broadcast a phone conversation with one of the attackers, who called himself ‘Imran Babar’. I cannot vouch for the veracity of the conversation, but the things he talked about were the things contained in the ‘terror e-mails’ that were sent out before several other bomb attacks in India. Things we don’t want to talk about any more: the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, the genocidal slaughter of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, the brutal repression in Kashmir.
- “You’re surrounded,” the anchor told him. “You are definitely going to die. Why don’t you surrender?”
- “We die every day,” he replied in a strange, mechanical way. “It’s better to live one day as a lion and then die this way.”
He didn’t seem to want to change the world. He just seemed to want to take it down with him.
If the men were indeed members of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, why didn’t it matter to them that a large number of their victims were Muslim, or that their action was likely to result in a severe backlash against the Muslim community in India whose rights they claim to be fighting for? Terrorism is a heartless ideology, and like most ideologies that have their eye on the Big Picture, individuals don’t figure in its calculations except as collateral damage.
It has always been a part of — and often even the aimof — terrorist strategy to exacerbate a bad situation in order to expose hidden fault lines. The blood of ‘martyrs’ irrigates terrorism. Hindu terrorists need dead Hindus, Communist terrorists need dead proletarians, Islamist terrorists need dead Muslims. The dead become the demonstration, the proof of victimhood, which is central to the project.
A single act of terrorism is not in itself meant to achieve military victory; at best it is meant to be a catalyst that triggers something else, something much larger than itself, a tectonic shift, a realignment. The act itself is theatre, spectacle and symbolism, and today, the stage on which it pirouettes and performs its acts of bestiality is Live TV. Even as the Mumbai terrorists were being condemned by TV anchors, the effectiveness of their action was magnified a thousand-fold by TV broadcasts.
Through the endless hours of analysis and the endless op-ed essays, in India at least there has been very little mention of the elephants in the room: Kashmir, Gujarat and the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
- Instead, we had retired diplomats and strategic experts debate the pros and cons of a war against Pakistan.
- We had the rich threatening not to pay their taxes unless their security was guaranteed (is it alright for the poor to remain unprotected?).
- We had people suggest that the government step down and each state in India be handed over to a separate corporation.
- We had the death of former prime minister V.P. Singh, the hero of Dalits and lower castes and villain of upper-caste Hindus, pass without a mention.
We had Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum Cityand co-writer of the Bollywood film Mission Kashmir, give us his version of George Bush’s famous ‘Why They Hate Us’ speech. His analysis of why “religious bigots, both Hindu and Muslim”, hate Mumbai: “Perhaps because Mumbai stands for lucre, profane dreams and an indiscriminate openness.”
His prescription: “The best answer to the terrorists is to dream bigger, make even more money, and visit Mumbai more than ever.”
Didn’t George Bush ask Americans to go out and shop after 9/11? Ah yes. 9/11, the day we can’t seem to get away from.
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For more information from the FM site
To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar. Of esp interest these days:
Posts on the FM site about Fourth Generation Warfare:
I have developed a simple typology to show the relationship of the many works on modern warfare, to show the relationships among the various theories about modern warfare. This has evolved into a first cut at a solution to 4GW.
- A solution to 4GW — the introduction
- How to get the study of 4GW in gear
- Arrows in the Eagle’s claw — solutions to 4GW
- Arrows in the Eagle’s claw — 4GW analysts
- Visionaries point the way to success in the age of 4GW
- 4GW: A solution of the first kind – Robots!
- 4GW: A solution of the second kind
- 4GW: A solution of the third kind – Vandergriff is one of the few implementing real solutions.
- Theories about 4GW are not yet like the Laws of Thermodynamics
Also valuable is the The Counterinsurgency Library— a vast listing of online articles about COIN.
Other posts on the FM site about India and Pakistan:
- Is Pakistan’s Musharraf like the Shah of Iran? (if so, bad news for us), 8 November 2007
- Terrorism in India, a roster of incidents, 16 May 2008
- NPR tells us more about America’s newest war, in Pakistan, 14 September 2008
- Pakistan warns America about their borders, and their sovereignty, 14 September 2008
- Weekend reading about … foreign affairs, 19 October 2008
- To good a story to die: eliminate legitimate grievances to eliminate terrorism, 9 December 2008
- About the 4GW between India and Pakistan, 6 January 2009