Coping with Terror (December 12, 2008)

IOS brings together intellectuals, journalist, jurist and social activist to deliberate on how to address the problem of terrorism in India.

New Delhi, December 4: Eminent journalist M.J. Akbar advised India's Muslims here today to look within and introspect why some Muslim youth had taken to terrorism. He was speaking at a select gathering of journalists, legal luminaries and social activists.

He said that Muslim terrorists should be punished under severe Quranic laws that treat the murder of a single person as the murder of entire humanity. He quoted the meaning of part of a Quranic verse that says "God does not love rioting and disorder."

He said Muslims should reach out to Hindus all over India right up to small towns and villages on which "a pall of fear has fallen". He wanted Muslims to "begin the process of healing".

Managing editor of Hindustan Times Samar Harlankar said that people looking at the Mumbai attack in a Hindu/Muslim format should keep it in mind that one-fourth of those killed were Muslims. It was an attack on India rather than on Hindus or Muslims. Even in the earlier train blast in Mumbai a lot of Muslims were killed.

"There is a lot of anger in middle class India over the developments. We must channelise this anger into creative channels", he added. Pankaj Pachauri of NDTV said the Mumbai attack's target was not Hindus or Muslims, but India itself. He said the vocal sections of India were concerned about their own class interests rather than the wellbeing of all Indians. None of these people was bothered when Raj Thackeray's MNS drove 26,000 people out of Mumbai. There was no middle-class outrage over riots.

He cautioned Indians against imitating America. "We hear assertions like there was no terror attack in the United States after 9/11, but in India there is no end to attacks". He said the Americans had paid the price of homeland security.

"We have been evading taxes while American tax payers are funding their homeland security whose annual budget is $ 69 billion, that is 70 percent of India's total annual budget", he said. Pachauri advised the rich classes to "pay up" if they want a security apparatus like that of the US.

Deepak Chaurasia of Star TV said that terrorists in Mumbai had breached four layers of security, which had given common people the feeling that it was the government's commandos and security forces which suffered defeat in confrontation with terrorists. He said the perception would change only after better handling of such situations became a reality.

Ranjit Deoraj, Asia-Pacific editor of Inter Press Service (IPS), observed that as the editor of IPS he got to handle copy written in Pakistan that showed "Pak journalists are uncomfortable with the situation obtaining there". Within Pakistan there were some vested interests that thrived on discord. Such elements should be identified, he added.

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan said that strong-arm tactics of the state did not increase security. Instead, they increased insecurity. "There is no greater security than in Israel, yet it is constantly plagued by insecurity. Security lies in addressing people's problems, not in acquiring guns".

Famous journalist Sayeed Naqvi said that the Mumbai attacks should be seen in the background of international power politics. However, he added that "good days are around the corner."

Veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar showed great concern over the fact that Hindus and Muslims had begun speaking differently. "They are not listening to each other." That, he said, was ominous for the country's wellbeing.

He asserted, "War with Pakistan is no option". Hindu and Muslims have to unite and India and Pakistan have to work out their differences peacefully. "An atmosphere of suspicion that is reminiscent of Partition days is building up. It must end", he said.

Roving editor of Nayi Duniya Bhasha Singh wondered as to why every time a terrorist attack occurs, Muslims are expected to apologise. "Did anybody ask the Hindus to apologise after the attacks on mosque?" She warned that India was getting sucked into American-British-Israeli security plans. She said it was not in India's interest to act as the surrogate of these powers.

Veteran journalist Nina Vyas lambasted the Indian middle class for its alleged double facedness. "Gujarat riots continued for a month, Meerut riots for 40 days. From Hashimpura and Maliana Muslim youths were lifted by PAC, massacred and thrown into the Hindon. Nobody was outraged," she said. The same denial of justice was evident in Babri Masjid case even after 16 years and the massacre of Christians in Orissa went unpunished. "Such behaviour of the state breeds terror", she argued.

Vyas said that the criminal justice system had failed the weak. Corruption had undermined security. "By giving a couple of thousand rupees to the people guarding the coasts of India criminals can smuggle in narcotics and weapons", she added.

Former MP and journalist Santosh Bhartiya predicted, "expect war or communal riots before January 26". He warned that the civil society must come together to stop it.

Journalist and Christian leader John Dayal asserted that Karnataka did not have any memory of Partition, but today it stood thoroughly communalised. "Sixty days of one-sided attacks on Christians in Orissa did not move the government to act". He said Partition memories were not always relevant as Nayar had said.

The discussion was organised by Institute of Objective Studies (IOS). The IOS Chairman Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam said that understanding the underlying factors of terrorism would help in combating it.

Urdu Sahara editor Aziz Burney observed that much of the terror we saw today was part of a larger sequence of events related to "RSS terror".

Mumbai lawyer Yusuf Muchchala suggested administrative reforms to cope with the problem. The meet was chaired by former Chief Justice of India, Justice A.M. Ahmadi.

(Also See: Chairman's welcome address)


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