Jaipur blasts: a man who survived mourns his father. Authorities fear the death toll may rise as many injured are in a critical condition
WITH the Indian mujahideen claiming responsibility for the bomb blasts in Jaipur, the three main countries of South Asia have acquired the distinction of having their own Islamic militant organisations. In Bangladesh, they operate under the name of Harkat-ul-Jihadul Islamiya (HUJI). In Pakistan Lashkar-e-Toiba is one among the many. This will at least obviate the necessity of playing the blame game that militants coming from across the border indulge in sabotage.
The three countries must realise that bomb blasts are meant to destabilise them. What happened at Jaipur was also meant to derail the talks at Islamabad on the eve of Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s arrival in Pakistan. The two countries should put their heads together to find a solution.. This may mean a joint South Asian team, an Asian version of the Interpol, for the purpose of identifying terrorist organisations and combating them.
But this does not seem to be happening as yet because one country uses anti feelings against another to build up support. For example, India is still an ‘enemy’ both in Pakistan and in Bangladesh. In the same way, the two countries are seen as the source of terrorism taking place in India. Since the establishments in all three countries have come to believe that their posture of hostility evokes mass support, they continue to have a stance which puts the onus on their neighbour.
What they do not seem to visualise is that terrorism has made people insecure. They want harsher laws. This is the time when liberty faces the greatest challenge and human rights the danger of violation. Bomb blasts or other kinds of violence are an expression of what the fundamentalists have in mind. In reality, they want to spread the cult of violence and foment communal riots. This kind of thinking has given birth to political formations which exploit the situation for their own ends.
Since governance is weakening in all three countries, there is always an effort to make peace with fundamentalists. For example, the agreement which the government in Pakistan has made with the militants along the Afghan border, including the Swat Valley, is like buying peace. These militants belong to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban who have a particular agenda: a theocratic order in the NWFP and Afghanistan.
In India when the government seeks peace with the hostile Nagas and the ULFA, it is following the same line. In Maharashtra, the Congress-led government has made peace with the Shiv Sena by not moving against its chief Bal Thackrey, indicted by the Sri Krishna report for Mumbai riots in 1992. There can be no rapprochement with people who want to have their way through violence. This is no more an ethical argument; it is a necessity to establish the rule of law.
While confronting these problems, governments in the three countries have to build a polity where religion is separated from politics. Even in India, which is a secular state, the government has not been able to ban communalism because some political parties covertly pursue a religious agenda. The country has seen evidence of it in the demolition of Babri masjid, the Mumbai bomb blasts and the Gujarat carnage.
The BJP, the Shiv Sena and the latter’s virulent form of campaigning against north Indians are responsible for Islamic fundamentalism in India.. First terrorists came from across the border in the name of jihad. Now they have developed a group within the country. Not long ago, the Indian Muslims refused to heed the cause of jihad in Afghanistan. They didn’t even care to support the Kashmiri militants appealing in the name of Islam. Since then it is apparent that some desperate elements have taken to the dictum of tit-for-tat, little realising that their act of violence would provoke much bigger violence from those who are in a preponderant majority.
It is true that the administration is contaminated. It is equally true that the police tend to be one sided. But it is also true that those who have taken to bomb blasts or other violent methods are on the destructive path. Communalism cannot be tackled by communalism. What happened in Jaipur, Ajmer or elsewhere shows desperation, but not foresight. The BJP government in Rajasthan is far from secular, but how does the killing of innocents, both Hindus and Muslims, help? Now the common man would be still more hard put to make a living because this is the state that has been attracting tens of thousands of foreign tourists.
And if one were to translate the Jaipur tragedy in the context of the entire country, it is the Muslims who will be the worst sufferers. The Hindutva adherents will gain the most. Between now and the Lok Sabha elections, there are only 11 months remaining. The bomb blasts may consolidate the Hindu vote on the side of a pro-Hindu party. No liberal in the country would like that scenario.
A fatwa against terrorism has come from Deoband, historically one of the global centres of Islamic theological discussion. But the books and teaching contents at this centre have undergone little change and do not fit in with the slogan raised for the battle against jihadis. Scholars are still going their own way and even the meetings held by a group of Deobandis show that they are reluctant to change their archaic and parochial thinking.
The new generation of Muslims wants to compete in the world of information technology and economic challenges. True, Deoband cannot be progressive overnight and participate in affairs that are far removed from theology. But they can at least help members of the Muslim community to shed conservatism and those outdated dogmas in which most of them are stuck. Terrorism is not only anti religious, but also anti Muslim because Muslims are the biggest losers whenever such an atmosphere spreads in the country.
Pakistan does not help in any way when it encourages infiltrators, however small their number, to penetrate into India. The Samba incident in Jammu is a case in point. It has linked instances of terrorism with the ISI. Once again the pro-Hindu groups benefit and the process of conciliation between the two countries weakens. People in all the three countries still have not overcome their mutual suspicion and mistrust. They continue to be buffeted by the winds of religious propaganda and fall prey to the appeal of chauvinists who want them to pick up arms and implement an agenda of hatred and revenge.
The governments and political leaders are too shackled by their parochial agenda. Civil societies in the three countries must assert themselves. The intelligentsia should come together and devise ways of how to fight against parties stoking fires of parochialism. Inaction on this front can be suicidal.