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Terror in the name of god

All through the history of mankind there have been more or less similar dare-devils who thought little of killing themselves while killing their enemies. Khushwant Singh writes.

india Updated: Oct 31, 2009 22:17 IST
Khushwant Singh

The recent spate of explosions in different cities of Pakistan — Peshawar, Kohat and Lahore —induced me to try and unravel the mental make-up of the young men who carry out missions that invariably cost them their lives.

All through the history of mankind there have been more or less similar dare-devils who thought little of killing themselves while killing their enemies. A few examples come readily to mind.

The Turks had the jannissaries, who, as the word means, were ever ready to lay down their lives for causes dear to their rulers. Jihadis at war against Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s kingdom had ghazis to lead them on fronts where hand-to-hand combats were frequent. Ranjit Singh pitched his nihangs against them.

The Japanese had their Kamikaze pilots who rammed their aircraft loaded with explosives into American battleships and sank them. The LTTE Tigers had men and women who carried out deadly attacks single-handed and, having accomplished them, swallowed capsules of cyanide to end their lives rather than be taken captive.

We know more about boys and girls employed by outfits like the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Tayyeba largely due to the detailed confession made by Ajmal Kasab, sole survivor of the attack on Mumbai last November.

He has spoken in detail of his childhood, schooling and what induced him to become a religious gangster. Three points are clear: one, that all members of these Islamic terrorist groups come from impoverished backgrounds. Two, they have little education besides cramming a few verses of the Quran. And three, they had little hope of making a decent living or a good marriage.

In short, their prospects of a happy life on earth seemed bleak indeed. With it they were instigated to fight infidels and promised rewards (sawab) for killing them. They readily lapped up what their semi-literate mullahs told them of life hereafter: instant martyrdom (shahadat) and flowing streams of vintage wines, lovely girls for pleasure. So they went on sprees of killing innocent people with a clear conscience.

Initially Pakistan’s dictators encouraged these militant groups and pitted them against the USSR’s occupation of Afghanistan. Having ousted the Communists from Afghanistan, they diverted the unemployed Talibans to infiltrate into Indian Kashmir. That continues to this day despite their failure to win the sympathies of Kashmiris.

The government of Pakistan would have continued to turn a blind eye to the growing menace of Islamic terrorism but for the pressure of the United States, without whose generous aid it could not survive. The pressure is on to bring instigators of the mayhem in Mumbai such as Hafiz Mohammed Saeed to justice.

The government has had to comply with the wishes of its benefactor and has been coerced to take on the very gangster its predecessors patronised. We Indians should not gloat over the predicament in which the Pakistan government finds itself but help it as best as we can to crush this growing menace to civilised living — more so since leaders of the Al-Qaeda have publicly announced that their next target will be India.

Dress Rehearsal

Seeing all the girlie pictures in the supplements of our national newspapers and watching news on TV channels, it occurred to me that a silent revolution is taking place in our styles of dressing.

Our men have, in any case, been wearing western style coats, and trousers since British times. Today children from nursery schools to colleges and babus in offices prefer to wear western style clothes instead of Indian traditional dresses. They will get into sherwanis and chooridars only at ceremonial occasions like marriages. Kurta and dhoti or shirt and pyjama are largely worn by the poor. And by politicians at election time to identify themselves with the masses.

More alarming is the trend among modern Indian ladies. Western style skirts are silently but surely replacing the sari, salwar-kameez and dupatta. Take another look at pictures of our Bollywood-style skirts. Even our ace beauty Aishwarya Rai Bachhan wears long evening skirts to display her figure. So do most mothers, including news-readers and comperes on TV channels. It looks as if in the very near future saris and salwar-kameez will largely be worn by behenji types in their homes. Sari manufacturers should be prepared for lean times to come.

In Vino Veritas

A guru was trying to convince his chela about giving up alcohol since it was not only injurious to health but was also destroying his family life. The chela then turned to a greater force in his defence.

Gin mein basi hai Janki/Rum mein basay hain Ram/Whiskey mein Vishnu Basey/Thharre mein Hanuman/Sab main hain Bhagwan Basey/Toh kisko Chhodoon Ram/Jai Patiala, Jai Shri Ram!

(Contributed by Kamlaji-Jagdish, Kanpur)

The views of the author are personal