There was another debate on the issue of "Saffron Terror" organised by Ms Barkha Dutt on NDTV under the "We The People" programme on the evening of September 5. I liked the format of the programme, which was different from the usual format of the "We the People" programmes on Sunday. The number of participants was less and the debate was well-focussed. It was more like a brain-storming on the subject than a no-holds barred debating contest.
I wanted to record the following observations with reference to some of the points made during the discussions. I have made these observations many times before in my books and articles and during my participation in seminars. Despite that, I thought it was worth repeating them since there seems to be a lot of inadequate knowledge and appreciation of them:
- First, during the 1980s, many Muslims from all over the world were motivated by the intelligence agencies of the US, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to go to Afghanistan and wage a jihad against the Soviet troops there. They could not succeed in motivating members of the Indian Muslim community outside Jammu & Kashmir to go to Afghanistan and join the anti-Soviet jihad.
- Second, a few Indian Muslims from outside J&K motivated by the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) of Pakistan did go to Pakistan for being trained in camps run by the JEI with funding by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The JEI and the ISI instructed them to wage a jihad against the government of India and to operate jointly with the Khalistanis. On their return to India, they failed to motivate the members of the Indian Muslim community to start a jihad. Their appeals for action were spurned by the Indian Muslim community in hinterland India.
- Third, according to the then President Najibullah of Afghanistan, many angry Kashmiris did go to Pakistan for training in the camps set up by the JEI. From there, they were taken to Afghanistan for gaining experience in waging a jihad. Some of these motivated Kashmiris became the initial hard core of the Hizbul Mujahideen and the J&K Liberation Front.
- Fourth, while the phenomenon of the radicalisation of some sections of the Indian Muslims had started in J&K even before the demolition of the Babri Masjid, this phenomenon started in the Muslim community outside J&K in hinterland India only after the demolition. The demolition of the masjid was the initial trigger for acts of terrorism by some indigenous Muslims belonging to organisations such as the Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and Al Ummah of Tamil Nadu. Many young Indian Muslims were also driven into the arms of Dawood Ibrahim. Thus, anger among some sections of young Indian Muslims in hinterland India over the Babri Masjid demolition played an important role in the emergence of jihadi terrorism in hinterland India. This was the main motivating anger during the 1990s. Many of the major acts of terrorism during this period such as the Mumbai blasts of March 1993, the Coimbatore blasts of February 1998 and other incidents such as explosions in trains were attributable to the anger caused by the Babri Masjid demolition.
- Fifth, after 9/11, not a single Indian Muslim living in India went to Afghanistan to join Al Qaeda's jihad against the Americans. However, some Indian Muslims based abroad did join Al Qaeda, but this was not due to their anger against the government of India, but due to their anger against the US for its invasion and occupation of Iraq. The jihad in Iraq against the Americans waged by Al Qaeda attracted a large number of foreign Muslims, but Indian Muslims kept away from Iraq's Al Qaeda.
- Sixth, post-2000, the anger among sections of Indian Muslim youth in hinterland India over the demolition of the Babri Masjid started subsiding, but a new cause of anger made its appearance. This was due to the perception that the Indian criminal justice system— the police, the lawyer community and the judiciary— was unfair to the Muslims. This new anger had two consequences. It led to some of these Muslims helping Pakistani/Bangladeshi organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM). At the same time it also led to the phenomenon of Indian Mujahideen.
- Seventh, all non-strategic terrorism is in some manner a case of reprisal terrorism. Hindu terrorism has no strategic objective. It is tactical terrorism. Pakistan-sponsored terrorism is strategic terrorism. Indigenous jihadi terrorism is partly tactical (reprisal) and partly strategic ( removal of anti-Muslim unfairness in the Indian society and bureaucracy). When the Indian Mujahideen talk of unfairness of the Indian criminal justice system against the Muslims, they have in mind the post-Babri Masjid riots in Mumbai, the non-implementation of the Sri Krishna Committee report, the Gujarat riots and the severe sentences awarded to the Muslims in the Mumbai Blasts--March 1993 case. Whereas the Abinav people look upon their terrorism as a reprisal against Muslims, the IM does not look upon itself as an anti-Hindu reprisal group. It sees itself as a group fighting to correct the anti-Muslim injustices in the Indian society and the government.
- Eighth, the phenomenon of some Hindus taking to anti-Muslim reprisal terrorism was the outcome of what is perceived by them as the soft policy of the government of India towards Pakistan and towards those members of the Indian Muslim community who were indulging in terrorism. The anger over the allegedly soft policy made its appearance not only among some Hindu religious elements, but also among sections of the security bureaucracy belonging to the Hindu religion. The two felt attracted to each other and joined hands in starting reprisal terrorism against soft targets in the Muslim community.
- Ninth, the emerging phenomenon of Hindu reprisal terrorism merits serious attention because of its negative implications for communal harmony and because of the emergence of a seeming alliance between some religious elements and some in the security bureaucracy. If we don't stop this, we may go the way of Pakistan.
- Tenth, counter-terrorism has two aspects—operational and psychological. The operational aspect relates to strengthening our preventive, investigative and intervention capabilities. The psychological aspect relates to prompt and effective action to identify and address causes for anger in any community. Equal attention should be paid to both these aspects.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies.