November 07, 2005

Religion is behaviour

Religion is behaviour

Sandhya Jain

Former President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan said “religion is behaviour and not mere belief.” By this yardstick, those committing violence in the name of Islam are not, as the US State Department and our own leaders claim, “misguided” believers. Terrorists planning and committing atrocities in the name of Islam, particularly when backed by another country, are using violence for politico-religious ends. They are true jihadis and it would be irresponsible to pretend they are romantic misguided youth who can be brought into the national mainstream by redressing imaginary grievances.

Till date, the so-called “un-Islamic” terrorist activity sponsored by Pakistan, which successive Indian Governments fear to call a terrorist State, has seen more than 50,000 people killed since 1994. For more than half a century, despite a consistent display of Islamic intolerance towards secular democratic India, successive US regimes have mollycoddled Pakistan in pursuit of their own agendas. This by itself should caution South Block about the price India may have to pay for American friendship if this is not accompanied by cold-blooded calculations in the national interest, on each and every issue of Indo-US collaboration.

Our true friends are those who pursue their national interests in harmony with our needs. After the return of terror to the capital last Saturday, which saw 65 dead and around 210 wounded in three synchronized bomb blasts, the Voice of Russia radio said India-Pakistan ties could not be normalized without an end to cross-border terrorism (2 November 2005). Advising Islamabad to cooperate in combatting the scourge of terrorism, the Kremlin emphasized that Pakistan had a responsibility to ensure that all terrorism directed against India from its soil ended as soon as possible.

The very same day, the White House ritually condemned the “heinous terrorist attacks,” but kept up American pressure to keep the so-called peace process going. “We encourage dialogue between India and Pakistan,” a spokesman said, adding “everybody has a responsibility to do their part to crack down on terrorism. And we can all do more in that regard.” It would be interesting to know what Washington thinks its own responsibility is in this regard. It occupies a sovereign country in pursuit of imaginary weapons of mass destruction, but disputes New Delhi’s legitimate right (and responsibility) to act against terror by hitting out at terrorist camps across the border.

For beleaguered Indians, there is little hope on the anvil. Though the pre-Diwali targetting of festival shoppers was aimed at the Hindu community, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi inanely asserted that terrorism is a “global phenomenon,” whatever that means. And ignoring the premeditated violence in Mau on Bharat Milap, and the heightened infiltration after the earthquake in Occupied Kashmir, which saw terrorists slitting the throats of six Hindus within twenty-four hours of the natural disaster, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s response to the Delhi atrocities was to abolish the LoC by opening five new crossing points in Jammu & Kashmir. Even Moscow, struggling to cope with Islamic fundamentalism in its own territory, warned New Delhi to ensure outfits based in Pakistan do not use the new opportunities for fresh attacks against India.

When public outrage against the extent of the tragedy became known, with whole families wiped out or minor children orphaned, and nearly two dozen persons charred beyond recognition (DNA testing has been ordered to identify the remains), Dr. Manmohan Singh mildly told President Musharraf that there were indications that the culprits had foreign links. This is a mere formality, and underscores the fact that the UPA regime is both powerless and politically unwilling to confront the terror stage-managed from across the border. Indeed, the ruling Congress party owes the nation an explanation why the Government opened five new points on the border to provide aid to the victims of the 8 October earthquake in PoK even after it was known that the open border was being used to kill and maim innocent Hindus, both in Kashmir and other parts of India (New Delhi).

Police and intelligence agencies quickly established that the little-known Islamic Inquilab Mahaz (Front for Islamic Uprising) which claimed responsibility for the Delhi blasts was a front for the Pak-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has links with Al Qaeda, which is recognized as a terrorist organization by India and the United States. It is not without relevance that the attacks took place on a day when a New Delhi court was scheduled to sentence six convicted Pakistani members of LeT and their Indian associates for involvement in a terrorist attack at Red Fort.

Officials believe the bombings were intended to repudiate Indian claims that the PoK earthquake had destroyed several training camps. Both the timing and nature of the blasts (such as the preference for RDX) suggest the Lashkar hand, according to Vikram Sood, former head of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

The Bharatiya Janata Party has called for a review of the “soft border” policy. Indeed, the Government should call an all-party meeting to formulate a national consensus for zero-tolerance of terrorist atrocities towards the Indian people. It bears noting, as strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellaney has pointed out, that no American civilian has been killed by terrorists on US soil after 9/11, because it went after terrorists then holed up in Afghanistan. India, by contrast, has suffered its worst terrorist attacks in the same period, most notably the assaults on Parliament, the Kashmir legislature, the Red Fort, three major Hindu temples and several military camps.

To this I may add that while American citizens like Daniel Pearl had their throats slit while in terrorist custody, in India innocent civilians have had their throats slit by terrorists who simply walked across the border, committed their evil deeds, and walked back with impunity. India needs to understand that terrorism is not a law-and-order problem requiring more policemen or better intelligence methods to preempt or catch culprits. Trans-border terrorism is a low cost activity that can be perpetrated infinitely unless the victim-country imposes costs by going after the terrorist networks on their home ground.

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