By Aariz Imam
Since coming to office in 2014, terrorism has been the focus of Modi’s exhortations at every international forum. From multi party meet to bi party summit talks, UN plenaries and every other outing in between where he momentarily met world leaders on sidelines of events or addressed the gathering of diaspora community, the Prime Minister has left no podium during his foreign travel without voicing India’s concern on terror.
The terror plank in India’s international diplomacy has been remarkable for two very distinct characteristics. Not that Modi just pursued India’s case as a victim of terror and urged the global community to stand in solidarity, he reprimanded the world for its failure to define terrorism. He has gone to the extent of saying the world body like United Nations would loose significance if they don’t act urgently in defining terrorism. Flowing from this line was Modi’s angst at the world’s dual policy of viewing some terrorism as good and some as bad.
Barring a few odd instances this template in India’s stance on terror focused on defining terror and terrorists and doing away with categorization of good and bad was well established, up untill recent times where the political economy of terrorism appears to have started producing diminishing returns and lost currency from India’s perspective owing to changes in both domestic and international front.
On the domestic front it became tricky to pin terrorism as a big threat and India as a victim after abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir which was said to have reduced terror attacks in the valley, facts notwithstanding. A second term in office on the other hand had to be projected as having dealt strongly with terrorism and having taught the neighbour a strong lesson. Under the circumstances as it’s term progressed terrorism became a tricky subject for the Modi government.
On the other hand the over zealous approach to projecting India as a victim of terrorism while lobbying for international support ran the risk of cautioning investor sentiments.
Regardless, as calling out terrorism remained a permanent feature on India’s international agenda with varying intensity, it served a more immediate purpose back home. While Pakistan’s track record might have served as the raison d’etre for India’s predisposition internationally, it expedited the organic growth of his party that was contingent on quenching the thirst of his right wing support base. So everytime Modi made headlines with his speech on terrorism, Pakistan, Kashmir and ultimately the Indian Muslim was imagined back home who needed to be dealt with.
Every speech of Narendra Modi was presented as a strong condemnation of the enemy from the world stage, and was imagined as a symbol of India’s growing influence. It never mattered to assess how well it was received by the world leaders as would reflect in their actions. For Modi and India his speech was action.
Despite the strong canvassing by the Prime Minister Modi, the fact remains the world is as divided on terrorism as at the time he step in. The world is yet to adopt a definition of terrorism and a globally acceptable categorization, probably another reason why the reluctance in Modi establishment in pursuing the case with defining terrorism. Failure to bring the world to a consensus on a matter most urgent and long pursued from the top does not go well with the strong government and vishvaguru image dished to the support base.
However, while the world kept sitting on the matter, India went ahead crystallizing the definition of terrorism to include lone wolf as terrorists under its anti terror law. In the Delhi riots of 2020 for the first time people allegedly involved in communal violence were booked under terror charges. Though, it is needless to say that this acquired clarity of thought and sense of purpose of defining acts of terrorism and spotting terrorists is absolutely prejudiced.
Despite repeated court observations that possession of banned literature cannot be classified as an illegal act and become the premise for terror charges, the state has continued printing thousands of pages of chargesheet which talks about possession of banned literature. A legacy of Congress this trend has continued unabated under the Modi regime where scores of human rights activists, students and journalists have been put behind bars for this non-offense.
On the other hand you have the cases where open rallies and Dharma Sansads are organized where open calls for Muslim genocide is made, Ministers initiate slogans calling for gunning of Muslims, television news anchors are calling for final solution for Muslims inline with the Nazi call for the extermination of Jews, arms are being distributed and students and children are being trained to kill, without being slapped with terror charges.
There are other routine incidents of Ministers and leaders from the ruling establishment calling out as, terrorism, every act of dissent, be it on policy matters or otherwise. Most recently non other than the Prime Minister himself compared the opposition alliance with outfits banned under terror charges.
It is also to be understood that bogus they might be, the label of terrorism is always premised on one of these – aid, abetment, collusion, patronizing, provocation, admiration, inspiration and sympathy. It is in this context it is all the more important to appreciate Modi’s efforts, failed they might have been, at internationalizing terrorism and bringing a consensus on the definition of terrorism.
Zakir Naik vs Modi and Yogi
The need to define terrorism can be understood more in the context of the latest killing carried out inside a train by the on duty RPF security personnel. Based on a viral video doing rounds, the assassin is seen canvassing for Modi and Yogi standing infront of his victim’s body. A clear case of inspiration befitting state’s own parameters of enough a threshold to be called a terrorist. Similar such incidents have been reported earlier where the act of killing effected by lynch mobs was not limited to settling scores with the victim but to send across a larger message to the whole Muslim community. If it is not an act of terror, what is it ?
No headline has called it a terror attack. No media called it an attack carried out with a messianic interest to perpetuate the hegemony of a particular ideology, even when the terrorist threatened and sanctified the killing using specific names. Remember what happened to Zakir Naik after the Bangladesh terror attack. One of the terrorist was supposedly inspired by Zakir Naik as was evidenced by his Facebook post. Both India and Bangladesh went after Zakir Naik. Terror charges were farmed against him in India. RPF personnel did the same with Modi and Yogi on his lips. What should happen now ? Who is to blame ? And more importantly who will ask ? The Prime Minister indeed should be supported the next time he calls for defining terrorism on international stage.
Unfortunately it doesn’t settle with that. A holistic definition and unbiased application of mind by the law enforcement and justice machinery can only act as much in arresting radicalization that has seeped inside the psyche of the Indian society. We all talk about ‘nafrat ka bazaar’ but we fall short of accepting no bazaar exists in the absence of a buyer. It is very easy to put the blame on the political establishment and smartly sweep under the carpet society’s own evil ways. The fact is hate in India is demand driven. So long as there is a market there will be outlets catering to this need, probably one of the reasons the brands dishing out these attributes have no other choice but to continue excelling in their service delivery, aspiring for utmost customer fulfillment. But once again who will ask this politically incorrect question ?