What is the future of terrorism? This depends on how we shape our connected but violently asymmetrical planetary future. If we look at the past of our future, nationalism has been the dominant framework to envision human lives from 19th century on. This national framework, fully and religiously consolidated after WW II, continues to shape our present and future. National became so pervasive and ingrained that it appeared as rational to the extent that both became substitutes for each other. In this vicious game of naked substitution, ethics was the greatest casualty. Integral to the “natural” pursuit and maximisation of “national interests” was the logic of othering. With the transformation of population into nationals such as “Dutch”, “French”, “British” and “American”, to name only a few, war, terror and violence were verily and mainly seen through the dehumanising lenses of national interests.
Clinging to “national interests”, terrorism experts suggest tightening “homeland security” as an antidote to terrorism. This suggestion is less likely to succeed because that from which emanates terror can’t be its antidote. We need to shape a humane world that abolishes the dehumanising logic of ruthless pursuits of “national interests”. In shaping this world, we ought to shun the dualism of nationalised reality – as presented by theorists of Realism and Neo-realism – and embrace the imagination and poetry like that of Sahir Ludhyanavi (d. 1980):
Blood, whether others’ or ours is the blood of Adam’s race, ultimately;
War, whether in East or West, is the murder of world peace, ultimately.
After 9/11, Salman Rushdie issued a priestly call for the Reformation of Islam to counter terrorism. Perhaps it is time to also initiate a Reformation of the West, which, as Judith Butler correctly points out, splits humanity into “destructible”, “ungrievable” lives on one hand and “preserving”, “grievable” lives on the other and fashions symbolic terror of multiple kinds
Gujarat CM Narendra Modi sets eyes on national role. His vibrant and Swarnim Gujarat has not much for Muslims. An inside story of another Gujarat, writes our senior colleague and IndianMuslimObserver.com Bureau Chief (Gujarat) Abdul Hafiz Lakhani
Ahmedabad: Do Muslims really have equal opportunities and infrastructure in Gujarat? Modi has won successive elections in Gujarat since 2002 even while his role in the riots was under probe by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team. How do Muslims negotiate their rights as citizens with a government that has refused to even acknowledge the extent of the pogrom?
Rakhial is a lower middle-class neighbourhood located 5 km north of Maninagar, Chief Minister Modi’s constituency in east Ahmedabad. Of the three large housing colonies located here — Sukhram Nagar, Shivanand Nagar and Sundaram Nagar — Muslims live in the third. Built as a mixed colony in the 1970s, it became a ghetto after the 2002 riots.National Highway 8 cuts through the settlement and Hindus and Muslims on either side of this refer to it as the “border”, a term common in several other Gujarat neighbourhoods where the two communities live cheek by jowl.Besides this road that cuts through the colonies, a sharp contrast of infrastructure separates the Hindu and Muslim neighbourhoods; a contrast most telling and disturbing in the condition of government primary schools for which the state provides land, buildings and funds for maintenance and facilities like libraries.A dilapidated structure with a tin roof broken at several places serves as the municipal primary school for 600 children in Muslim-dominated Sundaram Nagar. One part of this rundown building serves as a Gujarati medium school up to Class VII. At the other end, a tin-covered structure open on all sides is used as a classroom to teach Urdu to over 200 students in Classes I to IV.Less than 2 km away, in the same municipal ward of Rajpur, a three-storey building serves as a Gujarati medium school up to Class VII in Hindu-dominated Shivanand Nagar. Sukhram Nagar has a Hindi medium school up to Class VII that is a three-storey building with stone mosaic work depicting Hindu goddesses.“Those living here cannot afford to send their children to private schools and the government takes no responsibility to improve the school,” says Sheikh Ahesan, in his mid 20s, who started the Student Welfare and Education Trust in 2007.Ahesan and his friends have provided floor mats to kids in the Sundaram Nagar municipal school. “Anyone could stand a fair chance by studying and looking for work in the private sector. But how will these children reach there when they do not get to go to a half-decent primary school?” asks Sheikh Usmaan, a member of the trust.Muslim families living in Rakhiyal narrate countless struggles to get benefits such as educational loans. “For my MBA admission, I went with my uncle to ask Dena Bank for a Rs 1.25 lakh loan. They asked for collateral and discouraged me from applying. Then I got aid from a Muslim trust,” recounts Sheikh Shehzaad. The Central scheme he is referring to is one of the key proposals adopted after the publication of the 2005 Sachar Committee report that mandates banks to give educational loans up to Rs 4 lakh without any collateral to students from poor minority families.“The bank is asking for income tax returns and PAN card. Where will we get this from?” asks Ghori Firdaus, a homeopathy student, about her experience at the State Bank of India that moved its branch from Sundaram Nagar to the Hindu-dominated Odhav area across the road after 2002. It is to help students like Firdaus, whose father is an autorickshaw driver, that the scheme has flexible rules — the family’s income certificate and an affidavit certifying religion from the Collector’s office are suffice to qualify.“We are able to pool small amounts among ourselves to help these students but some months, especially during admission time, we don’t know what to do because we cannot risk rejection by these banks,” says Shehzaad.A key finding of the Sachar Committee report was that drop-out rates are highest among Muslims. Their mean years of schooling are lower than SCs and STs at a little over three years. In 2008, the Centre started a scholarship scheme for minorities, to be shared in a 75:25 ratio between the Centre and state to encourage students from poor families to complete schooling.Since the scheme started, Gujarat has let the funds lapse by not sending any proposal to the Centre for giving these scholarships.At first, the state government found faults with the scheme saying this targets religious minorities and is discriminatory on “principles of equity and financial implications”.The Gujarat High Court settled this question when it recognised the Central scheme as constitutionally valid in March 2009. This April, contradicting its own stand in an affidavit filed in response to the PIL in the high court, the government cited a scholarship for minorities that has existed in the state since 1979. It said, since this scheme exists, there is no need for implementing the Central scheme.The state government added another argument in the affidavit. It said executing the Central scheme for a limited number of students — the Ministry of Minority Affairs (MMA) calculated 52,260 scholarships on the basis of population and income levels among Gujarat’s minorities — will cause “heartburn” among those minority students who do not enjoy the benefits.But who is stopping the state government from covering the remaining students using additional funds? MMA data shows that in 2010-11, a less developed state like Rajasthan disbursed more than double the year’s target of 60,109 scholarships. Bihar also disbursed more than double its target of 1,45,809 scholarships. Uttar Pradesh disbursed over 130 percent of a target of 3,37,109, and West Bengal — that has one of the highest proportion of Muslims — disbursed 400 percent of its target of 2,22,309. In all these instances, state governments have increased their allocation because of the high quantum of applications; the Centre has matched their funds bearing 75 percent of the total cost.
[Sanjiv Bhatt, the victimised police officer in Gujarat, says that he is hurling accusations against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of complicity in 2002 anti-Muslim riots in the state because he has ample evidence. He says that he was with the state intelligence in 2002 and is privy to a lot of information. Sanjiv Bhatt bares his heart out to our senior colleague and IMO Bureau Chief (Gujarat) Abdul Hafiz Lakhani in a freewheeling interview, in which he says he is a depository of many events that transpired in 2002 during anti-Muslim pogrom in the state. –Danish Ahmad Khan, Founder-Editor, IndianMuslimObserver.com]
Q: The country hardly knew Sanjiv Bhatt till recently. Suddenly you are everywhere, with several calling you a ‘Singham’. Do you give Chief Minister Narendra Modi credit for this?
A: I would not like to comment on this. These actions are those of a desperate man heading a desperate government; of an autocrat ill-advised by smart bureaucrats who say what he likes to hear. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have got me arrested on frivolous charges.
You have been raising one controversial issue after another.
Q: And your target has been Modi?
A: I have evidence of what I say. I was with the state intelligence in 2002 and am privy to a lot of information. I am a depository of many events that transpired in 2002. I have deposed before the SIT, before the SC amicus curiae and before the Nanavati Commission.
Q: Did you expect your arrest?
A: I was prepared for it. My entire family was prepared for it. We had detached ourselves from the consequences of this fight.
Q: So nothing worried you while you were being arrested?
A: Of course I was worried about my wife and my family. I did not know how my wife Shweta would take it. But she is much stronger mentally and emotionally. My daughter came down from Mumbai and my son was hurt in a fire during protests. All this did worry me.
Q: You said you have evidence in the Haren Pandya case, which you got from the accused when they were lodged in the Sabarmati jail. Was the Haren Pandya case, which is a sensitive issue for the state government, the trigger?
A: A whole lot of things. I was to meet a retired IPS officer and the meeting had been fixed for October 1 over the phone. I was picked up a day before the meeting. I believe the scheduled meeting was the trigger.
Q: Now that you are out, have you rescheduled the meeting?
A: Of course… (laughs).
Q: Of course You were the superintendent Sabarmati jail. And then you became a prisoner there…
A: I felt at home. I had done my bit as the superintendent. I am part of the soul of the jail. When I worked here, I could not sleep at night. I believed there was a lot to be done there.
Q: Was it tough to stay there? Were you treated well?
A: It was not tough at all. I ran, exercised and had home-made food. I read the book Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, which I had earlier read in 1987 when I was courting Shweta. It is her favourite book and she passed it on to me. I was treated as per norms. I demanded no special treatment and none was given. I want the state government to exhaust all the remedies they have for me.
Q: Where does your battle go from here?
A: It will follow the natural course. I will answer my call of duty. Nothing changes. It just adds to the purpose, to my resolve.
Q: Do you feel victimised by the state government?
A: I am not victimised by any one. The government did what it wanted, and I am doing what I have to do to get justice. It is not a fight against the government, rather it’s my own struggle to get justice and bring the truth out.
Q: What about spying on your family when you were in jail?
A: You know it better than me, as everyone has seen the way the police department acted against me and my family. I am ashamed to be a Gujarat cadre IPS officer and I deeply regret that I have to lead such a police department.
Q: How was your experience inside the jail as an inmate?
A: I was treated well inside the jail and I didn’t have any trouble at all. I maintained my routine of jogging and running in the morning.
Q: Are you aware of the government’s plans to reopen your old cases?
A: I am a police officer, and we are never afraid of cases. It’s been 24 years in the force, so I am fully prepared.
Q: What about K D Panth’s affidavit case?
A: The truth will come out if an independent agency investigates the case.
Q: What are your future plans?
A I don’t have any future plans. It’s an ongoing battle for truth, and I am prepared to face it up front.
Chapter 4, which Neumann devotes to show his thesis of religiously inspired terrorism, is titled “From Marx to Mohammed? Religion and Terrorism”. The crisp juxtaposition of Muhammad and Terrorism in the title is revealing. Does not Neumann’s text establish a chain of equivalence between Islam, Muhammad, terrorism, jihad, jihadists (the latter two inundate his text)? Contrast this with his description of Timothy McVeigh: “an American right-wing extremist” (p. 2). No mention of his religion. Likewise, when he discusses Army of God and its attacks on abortion clinics in the US there is no mention of Christian terrorism (pp. 103-05, 116). To render religiously inspired terrorism synonymous with Islamist terrorism – Neumann’s case studies and examples are all derived from “jihadist terrorism” – he offers the following justification:
“It is not prejudice, therefore, that has determined the choice of the subject [Islamist terrorism] but, rather, a careful reflection of how the phenomenon of religiously inspired terrorism is currently being expressed.” (p. 106)
At times, denial inadvertently may confirm what is being denied. For instance, how does one read the clarification that the war on terror is not against Islam? Why was this clarification needed, in the first place? As for Neumann’s “careful reflection”, one may be excused to perhaps read it as “beautiful deflection” from other forms of religiously inspired terrorism such as LRA’s and the million it killed. In Jihad vs. McWorld, Benjamin Barber used jihad as shorthand for “atavistic politics” in general, yet “its evocative power ultimately rests in Islam” – the locus of the “essential jihad” (Roxanne Euben “Killing (For) Politics”, p. 6).
Likewise, for Neumann, Islamist terrorism, rather than being an example of religiously inspired terrorism, becomes the phenomenon itself: specificity of Islamist terrorism is presented in such a way that it becomes generality writ large whereby both get indistinguishable. This move to assign to Islam all that is religious, rather religion itself, is remarkable. From Christian discourses which regarded that “Islam was not a religion” and called Prophet Muhammad Arab Lucifer and charlatan, Islam has now been rendered as shorthand for all that is religious and hence the signifier of religiously inspired new terrorism. Such is the context that unveils contemporary debate on secularism and religion, including perhaps Neumann’s, to cite Gil Anidjar, as “fundamentally related to anti-Islam”.
War on terror has not only ‘legitimised’ the killing of millions, but has also silenced a fair discussion about them.
More than, say, Christian or Jewish fundamentalism, the rise of political Islam and the emergence ofIslamist terrorism have defined the current age. Those who claim to act in the name of Islam have killed more people in the last two decades than any other branch of religiously inspired terrorism (p. 105; italics added).
“This… point takes on specific meanings under contemporary conditions of war: the shared conditions of precariousness leads not to reciprocal recognition, but to a specific exploitation of targeted population, of lives that are not quite lives, cast as ‘destructible’ and ‘ungrievable’… Consequently, when such lives are lost they are not grievable, since, in the twisted logic that rationalises their death, the loss of such population is deemed necessary to protect the lives of the ‘living’.” (p. 31)
Seldom do mainstream media and terrorism experts discuss these heinous crimes of killings. Rather there is an eerie silence about the loss of this humanity and its bare sufferings. It is almost a policy for media in Australia whose troops are on a “mission” in Afghanistan to rarely report about killings of civilians by Western military. In contrast, news of an Australian soldier injured or killed is notably telecast with a change in newsreader’s voice to solemnity. Importantly, opposition and ruling parties become one to grieve the loss of the “nation” and praise dead soldier’s “mission” that remains as vague as unbelievable.
Is a definite hierarchy of human lives at work here? There is. WOT has created two kinds of lives – lives worth preserving and lives which can be readily dispensed with. Judith Butler puts it differently: lives which necessitate grieving and those which are perceived as less than living and hence unworthy of any memorialisation and grief in death.