Every once in a while, imbued with the spirit of Larry King, my mother calls me up to ask me why I smoke. Each time I tell her that I smoke to relieve the ‘incredible amount of stress’ that my job demands. I do not tell her that I smoke when I’m depressed, I smoke when I’m happy, I smoke when I’m alone, I smoke when I have company. If my mother was, say, the editor of the opinion section of a newspaper, I am sure she would have commissioned experts to write about why her son smokes. Luckily for me, she isn’t the editor of any newspapers’ opinion section.
But it turns out that there are real editors of opinion sections across the world who, over the last week, have commissioned worthies to comment on the Mumbai terror attacks. Some of these worthies, I discover, have written in the foreign press about why Mumbai was attacked. One of the reasons cropping up faster than a bumper GM crop is ‘Kashmir’. The point being made is that Mumbai/India had it coming from the jihadis because of the way New Delhi has been treating Kashmiris over the years.
In the article, ‘Fresh blood from an old wound’, Pankaj Mishra — resident John the Baptist for Indian authors wanting to be baptised in the deep and lapping waters of British and American publishing — suggested that US President-elect Barack Obama “could point out the obvious to Indian leaders: they have paid a huge price for their intransigence over Kashmir...”. In his pitch perfect syntax, he adds, “Indeed, the outrage in Mumbai is the latest and clearest sign that the price of India’s uncompromising stance on Kashmir has become too high, imperiling its economy as well as its security.” So there you go. Now we know how to stop the ‘unstoppable’.
‘Finding Reasons’ could certainly have been a Walt Disney movie. When a journalist for the Marathi journal, Hindu Rashtra, fired three shots into the body of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on January 30, 1948, and scuppered Gandhi’s first trip to Pakistan scheduled for February 8-9, 1948, he had his reasons for killing the man. Nathuram Godse perceived that Gandhi was, what in contemporary jargon would be called a ‘Muslim appeaser’. So, in a way, Mahatma Gandhi was asking for it.
Terrorism is not a quality of violence, it is a form of violence. Show me a perpetrator of violence who doesn’t have a just cause in his head and I will show you an oped writer who’s lost for words. If one needs to understand the reason why terrorists killed 200-odd people in Mumbai last week, surely, we should also understand why Hitler had a particular dislike for the Jewish community, why perfectly normal lumpens decided to destroy a medieval mosque in Uttar Pradesh, why Pol Pot was what he was. Once you understand that there can be violence that stems from victimhood, gee, we almost can forget that victims of terror exist at all!
This is not to say that security forces have been only skipping and jumping in Kashmir all these years. And certainly Kashmir, Gujarat 2002, the condition of Muslims in general in post-independent India, India’s growing chumminess to America, the need to make a living by becoming a member of an ideological club and more are cited as reasons not only by terrorists but also by those who want to ‘understand’ them.
But if you’re looking for a cause for acts of ideological violence, join-the-dots theories will always be there for the picking. As for where I stand in the ‘Let’s now understand the roots of this terrorism’ game, I’ll just ladle out what Albert Camus said about his position on the violent Algerian resistance against the French colonial State’: “I must condemn a terrorist that works blindly in the streets of Algiers and one day might strike at my mother and my family. I believe in justice, but I will defend my mother before justice.”
Perhaps it’s time I cut down on my smoking.