Your call cannot be completed, because the subscriber has been bombed or kidnapped: this is a popular mobile phone message in Baghdad, according to Time magazine. The black humour notwithstanding, it is indeed a telling reality-check of the situation obtaining in that cursed city, which many believe, is hell on earth. But the events of the past ten days seem to send out the chilling message that the entire globe has suddenly become one big Baghdad!
Two bloody wars involving certified terrorist outfits (LTTE and Hezbollah), a thwarted plot to blow up planes mid-air over the Atlantic, the ensuing security alerts world over, our own I-Day fete under unprecedented security cover et al are all landmarks in the history of terror. Not that terror started only yesterday, but the current reign is a complete and comprehensive upgradation over all the earlier versions, a culmination of the search by evil minds for a perfect formula to keep the world on leash.
Really, no big terror event actually happened last week, yet the entire world came to a standstill, paralysed more by fear than by any strike.
Yes, the plots may have failed, but the terrorists seem to have succeeded in their gory scheme of terrorising the masses. Welcome to the new age of terror, call it Terror Yuga, if you wish. In this yuga, bombs speak louder than reason, RDX to innocuous liquids are legal tender, trust neither your neighbour nor your fellow passenger is the leitmotif, killing in the name of religion to pacify a blood-thirsty god is proper prayer and it is fear, not the Almighty, that is omnipresent!
No doubt, the foiling of the spectacular Trans-Atlantic terror plot was a major breakthrough. That nothing untoward happened during the I-Day celebrations in Chennai was actually the headline news, rather than the celebrations themselves or the PM's usual address that hardly anyone other than the PIB officials must have tuned into. Yet, from the US to Britain to Israel to India, the police authorities, security experts and counter terrorism specialists are not exactly gloating over all these "successes".
On the contrary, there seems to be a chilling consensus amidst all of them that the world has been just lucky. Next time, whenever it is, could be dangerously different. The overwhelming assessment is that the security systems and procedures of the present are totally ill equipped to check the kind of terror trends that are emerging. A safe world, by anyone's current reckoning, is now a distant dream, perhaps as distant as the new planets.
All measures are ad hoc, at best for the day or the day after. A new plot or bid, failed or successful, could alter the security prescriptions. From being pro-active and preventive, security is now a reaction! And that would still fall woefully short of the terrorists' perversions, innovative evil geniuses and motivated to boot, that they are. From solid explosives, to powdery RDX, it is now liquids, making even innocuous water bottles, milk cans and shampoo sachets look sinister.
So, what next? A mere stare by a jihadi would probably ignite a plane mid air!
But security and terrorism are only the cutting edges of the two crossed swords. The real problem appears to be rooted in religion primarily and to much lesser extent, in social, commercial and territorial issues, as is being commonly projected in the media.
For instance, the US, Britain and Israel appear to have come around to the conclusion that even if territorial issues like Palestine is solved, the jihadis would find some other pretext to target them. Nor is the familiar argument of the economic backwardness or social ostracisation of Muslims in the West as an agent provocateur for terrorism deemed valid now.
Most of those arrested for the plot were well bred, educated and quite well off. And they were all British citizens! Clearly, they were answering a higher calling. And according to surveys done amidst British Muslims, more and more of them are heeding that divine calling, the worst manifestation of which is jihad, to the exclusion of national identities. To quote a Time report: "Over 81 per cent of British Muslims surveyed said they thought of themselves as Muslims first and citizens of their native country second".
And matching such Islamic radicalism to the last drop of blood is George Bush's "war on terror", which analysts now say, is a clever cloak for his own religious zeal. Bush has never minced words about his "crusade against Islamic fascists", throwing political correctness or secular coyness to the winds, at the whiff of a terror strike. A number of stories are now doing the rounds over Bush's own motivation. A devout, born again Christian, he is said to be keenly awaiting the arrival of the apocalypse and would actually do his best to usher it so that the believed second coming of Jesus happens fast.
Indeed, this frightening clash between the uncivilised has endangered the world no end and made terrorism as much a household issue as a power failure or an errant kid.
For us Indians, all this would seem like a sensational film script, unreal but worth a watch. But, India as a "target" country, is deemed no different from the UK, US or Israel, with similar trends prevailing here too. Kashmir, Babri, Gujarat, etc may even be solved, but still the bombs would not stop ticking, for sure.
Terror is the future flavour and it looks divinely addictive to the perpetrators here too, as with their brethren beyond our borders. The West, despite concluding that terrorism cannot be curtailed forever, is at least not saying quits, gearing up on all fronts.
But in soft India, with terror becoming a norm, you can bet the nation will only turn numb.
TR Jawahar is based in Chennai and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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