The 9/11 attacks made President George W Bush announce his country’s determination to pursue its anti-terrorism policy all over the world.
This ‘globalisation’ by the US impacted not only the strategic policies of various states engaged in the fight against terror, but the rise of terrorism has also given birth to a thinking process that associates Muslims with violence.
India is a major country engaged in a war against ‘terrorism’, which has become the central agenda of the 21st century. Hence the question arises, especially in the context of a complex multi-religious country like India: ‘Who is a terrorist?’
While the central government or the states have always taken the correct position that the culprits will be caught after proper ‘investigation’, a large section of Indian society, and even a section of the print and audio visual media, do not show the same restraint. Pakistan’s state policy of exporting terrorism has contributed to the large extent to this.
It cannot be denied that jihadist Islamic groups based in Pakistan often make anti-Indian statements, which provide a source of justification for a section of Indian society to pronounce judgements against Indian Muslims.
Further, there is no denying the fact that the rapid and ongoing process of communalisation of Indian society has contributed to the climate of mistrust. Religion-based politics in a multi-religious country like India has historically ‘divided’ society on a ‘religious basis’ and such a milieu — targeting religious communities for their real/fictitious acts of omission and commission — becomes a fact of political culture and discourse of ‘religious majority versus religious minority’.
The spark behind ‘religious terrorism’ is in the ideology that makes people act against ‘other religions’, an ideology based on a one-sided and biased interpretation of the meaning of religion, conveyed to the youth by priests and politicians.
Second, if a chief minister says, “I am a Hindu nationalist because I am a born Hindu. I am patriotic ...”, any discerning mind can understand that such patriotism divides nationalists around religions.
There is no denying the fact that Muslims in India have become a ‘suspect’ in every act of terrorism. A telling example of ‘Muslim are terrorists’ is provided by the National Investigation Agency, involved in finding who is behind the bomb blasts in Bodh Gaya.
When the investigation process was underway, an NIA official on July 18 said, “Going by the modus operandi, the nature of explosive and eye witness … it is now almost certain that the Indian Mujahideen or a local outfit owing allegiance to it carried out the multiple blasts”.
If this can be the position of the NIA, it is not unreasonable to expect a ‘hurt and concerned’ community to reject every police encounter — whether at Batla House in Delhi or the one involving Ishrat Jahan in Gujarat — as fake. All hell broke loose when the minister for minority affairs, K Rahman Khan, “asked the government to constitute a task force and review terror cases against Muslims youth languishing in jails across the country”.
It is apt to compare the mistrust between the African-Americans and Whites in the US to Hindu and Muslims in India because they (the African-Americans and Muslims) are always an object of the ‘politics of targeting’.
Barack Obama in his speech on the death of Trayvon Martin, an African-American, said, “That includes me and I don’t want to exaggerate this, but these sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida”.
Indian Muslims must be super-human if they are not conditioned by their daily experience of facing discrimination and getting targeted as terrorists.
CP Bhambhri is a former professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
The views expressed by the author are personal