Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Laden: ‘Lord’ Of Jihadists Gone, Not ‘Jehad’

Updated: May 21, 2011 12:09 pm

Last week, I wrote in this column about a great soul—Sathya Sai Baba—who had devoted his entire life to the cause of peace to and welfare of humankind. And this week, I am writing about a (in)human, who scripted several new chapters on the terror history of the world. Osama bin Laden, a staunch proponent of Islamic terrorism in the guise of ‘jehad’, became a synonym of Islamic terrorism as he took that nomenclature to new dimensions by inflicting many a cut on the sole superpower of the world, the USA, besides other countries, including India. And his advocacy of ‘jehad’ indoctrinated thousands of impressionable young minds. In this backdrop, it cannot be gainsaid that despite the chief perpetrator of the 9/11 attack meeting his own ignominious end, the fear spawned by his vision of death and violence is not so easy to dispel, especially in India. For, despite bin Laden’s death, during a raid by elite commandoes of US Navy Seal, the al-Qaeda network that Laden has left behind is far different from the one after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. After all, his heir-apparent, Ayman al-Zawahri, is a harsh, divisive figure, who, while lacking the charisma and mystique that bin Laden used to wear up his arm, holds together al-Qaeda’s various factions well enough. No surprise, if there is one thing that al-Qaeda has proved, it is adapt to adversity. Its foot soldiers learned to stay off their cell phones to avoid wiretaps. Its technical wizards cooked up state-of-the-art encryption software that stumped even American code-breakers. And what is more, by the time of his death, bin Laden was not delivering operational or tactical orders to the numerous al Qaeda affiliates across the world or the rising crop of inspired individuals. Thus, the world is nowhere near containment of ‘jehadi’ terrorism—genetic mutation of a grave and fast-growing malady of Islamic radicalism. The malignancy manifests in propagation of pernicious ideology of hate, revenge and violence, diabolical acts of terror, treating all conflicts with non-Muslims worthy of ‘jehad’ and branding liberal Islamic regimes, organisations and individuals as unIslamic. Flawed diagnosis of critical ingredients of the phenomenon, its networks—both real and virtual—and the areas and societies where it thrives and strikes often get lost in the din of spectacular acts of violence. From this perspective, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India have a special import—both academic and empirical; the first three where the virus multiplied most prolifically and the last where it struck most lethally.

                On terrorist front, India is thus living in an unenviable neighbourhood. Islamic terrorism in India is essentially of an imported variety. The manpower, weapons, finances, ideological motivation and plans that go in terrorist actions largely have their origin in its neighbourhood. The killing of bin Laden, however, should serve as an eye-opener for India which is pursuing Dawood Ibrahim and other culprits responsible for attacks in India such as those on Parliament, Red Fort, the 26/11, etc. Although India is not as powerful as the US, it should exert pressure on Pakistan into giving up the wanted terrorists. Failing this, it will again be at the receiving end of the reaction triggered by Osama’s killing, while the US and Europe continue to keep their war on terror far from their soil. But Indian response to terrorism has been a delicate one like that of a soft state which, at times, invites snide comments like—a democracy that has room even for violence—particularly under the Congress-led government at the centre. The trouble with our Prime Minister and Home Minister is that they are pen-pushers, taking hours to draft letters in refined English, which even the Britishers have forgotten. They can prepare wonderful drafts, as Nehru used to do, while addressing his ambassadors. But there the whole thing ends. Nehru could have written a wonderful note on how to defend our northern borders from the Chinese. But the Chinese, like the Americans, do not read notes. John Kennedy might not write even a short sentence correctly. But Americans read guns and missiles, and they know how to differentiate a phoney world you read about in the books from the real world. This is why America is a powerful country with armies in almost every corner of the world, and that is also why we are not. Our politicians’ world is confined only to dusty files and now, to the inanities on the TV channels. So the question arises: When will India learn to get angry about terrorist attacks? When will we do what America has done—hunt down terrorists in their rabbit holes across the border and make them pay for their acts? The most wanted man in America was tracked down and killed. The US adopted the spot-and-shoot policy, whereas we Indians, who caught Ajmal Kasab, are still arguing in courts, spending a lot of money on him and wasting our valuable time. The US got back at the al-Qaeda leader after 10 years. But we caught Ajmal Kasab, the lone-surviving terrorist of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, in the act, but continue to keep him alive. Look at the US—it killed Osama in a swift action and buried him immediatly in the sea and delivered justice for the victims of 9/11. It is high time our political leadership learnt a lesson from the Yankees and shed the stance of being a soft state.

Deepak Kumar Rath

Deepak Kumar Rath

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