“They are not concerned about innocent people dying but are more concerned about innocents getting caught,” lamented Modi recently. Yes, Mr. Modi, that’s the priority and it’s certainly not misplaced. Innocents caught and punished howsoever mildly can only lead to more innocents getting killed. Perhaps, the saffron hues blind Mr. Modi to the unmistakable connection between the two. When innocents get killed, it’s sad, but when innocents are punished it’s not only far sadder but also casts a shadow on state’s ability to administer justice. This is not about catching hold of just anybody, but only those who are guilty. Simply going about grabbing people and sticking the cane down their throat irrespective of their innocence could only worsen the situation and supply further justification for terrorist acts. The innocents are like rocks and if your unjust sword tries to slice them, it could only blunt itself in the process with no gain worth the name. Therefore, your solution, Mr. Modi, is part of the problem.
Mr. Modi also said that he did not believe in sending out messages to the terrorists, and added, “Main eent ka jawaab patthar se deta hoon.” Well, we saw the ‘eent’ (Godhra), we saw your ‘patthar’ (Gujarat pogrom, 2002), and now we have the ‘mountain’ (blasts all over the country and Indian Mujahideen) to deal with. So, with your stone being answered with a mountain, you have no other option but to answer back with a bigger mountain, and eventually someone would pick this whole earth and thrown it on the other. Right? That should solve the problem. No killers, no victim; all dead in one go.
Stronger terror laws that Modi calls for is certainly not the solution, but it does make sense from his political perspective. Stronger terror laws can only mean more power to the state and watered down civil safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention. It’s a tool of oppression in the hands of the state, which Modi would certainly want, given his glorious track record of humanitarian support to the minority community in Gujarat. He needs more muscle to oppress further, and if his wish is granted, we could just brace up for the worse.
So far as terrorism is concerned, Mr. Modi’s demand for stronger anti-terror laws has nothing to do with it. Anti-terror laws would promptly translate into anti-Muslim laws, particularly in Gujarat.
Force is not the solution here because it goes into the very roots of terrorism. The seeds of terrorism germinate in the conducive environment of state sponsored violence and its apathy, and the saplings and trees of terrorism continue to draw nutrition from it. So, the more force the state uses, the more luxurious the growth of terrorism would be. Thus, force is counterproductive.
However, this is not to say that no force is required. Terrorism operates on two levels – criminal and political. The criminal side of terrorism has to be taken care of by force, just like any other crime is dealt with. No more and no less. And that’s an important rider there. Its political side must necessarily be dealt with politically. We just cannot deal with terrorism the American way for various reasons. This is not to say that the American way was right or expeditious. But let’s assume it was. Even then it cannot be the Indian way simply because with Americans they are the outsides; with us, they are our own part. And no matter what we would not treat them as ‘others’. They are necessarily ‘us’, even if they are terrorists. I am not talking of the imported variety here but only about those who are our own children. These are the people who have played in the same backyard as the rest of us. Whatever divides us is essentially political and absolutely undesirable.
Yes, they have turned upon us in the way they should never have. Find why and address it. That would settle the political side of terrorism, which is the root of it. So, deal with the crime side quickly, effectively and in accordance with the law. No excesses. Address the political aspects long term. That’s the only way out. The fight will take our long term commitment, and will not be easy. But we have to fight it and losing is not an option.
First published on my WordPress Blog on September 22, 2008.