Finding a South Asian ground against terror
Syed Fattahul Alim
AS the first half of the first decade of the twenty-first century is drawing to a close, natural and manmade disasters have, as it were, joined hands to pile on the agony of South Asia with more deaths and destruction. Terrorists of different varieties have been choosing one city after another to pour their hatred on the populace of the subcontinent. Dhaka, Delhi, Islamabad -- you name it, the terrorists with their deadly weapons are lurking in the shadow to pounce upon the unsuspecting shoppers buying gifts for their friends and relatives in the busy marketplaces, people enjoying themselves on social, religious or cultural occasions, or devotees saying their prayer in their religious shrines. They are all possible targets of the faceless terrorists.
In the wake of the devastating earthquake in Pakistan, especially in the part of Kashmir administered by it, the wailing over the dead is still resounding around the whole place. But even such human tragedy in one part of the subcontinent could hardly soften the hearts of the terrorists, for they struck at the very heart of the Indian capital with a vengeance. So far, the number of deaths counted has crossed the figure 60 and the number of wounded more than 200. The victims are common people -- men, women and children. They were very happy and peaceful people at least at the moment they were shopping at the Paharganj market and the Sarojini Nagar market in Delhi. But the terrorists did not care to look at who their targets were. The violence-mongers even attacked a bus carrying passengers with powerful explosives at the Govindpuri neighbourhood. All these places were situated in and around Delhi, the administrative heart of the world's second most populous nation. But why is this aimless killing of innocent human beings? The victims were randomly selected by the terrorists. The crowds targeted at the two marketplaces consisted of both Hindus and Muslims. The Hindus were in a festive mood as they were celebrating their religio-cultural festival Dipavali or Diwali. And the Muslims, too, were shopping there because their biggest religious festival Eidul Fitr is round the corner. Even though the composition of the victims is yet to be ascertained on the basis of their faiths, there cannot be any doubt that the dead and the wounded had no communal colour. So one cannot also say that the terrorists were out to drive a wedge between the two largest religious communities of the country -- the Hindus and the Muslims. What was then the aim of the perpetrators of the carnage? Just to create panic or something that defies common sense?
Even though it is not immediately clear at the moment what the real objective of the terrorists behind the Delhi blasts was, the evidences so far gathered point growingly to the desperation of the terrorists at the wind of positive change that has been, of late, blowing over South Asia. The two archrivals of the subcontinent -- India and Pakistan -- have been warming to each other more and more. After the disastrous earthquake in Pakistan, India has gone all out to help its western neighbour in this time of distress. The devastation of natural origin has brought the two former enemies closer and forced them to forget their past bitterness over Kashmir for the time being. The enormity of human tragedy in the wake of the natural calamity notwithstanding, the catastrophe, in a strange twist of fate, had also its redeeming features. But that was too much for the hate-mongers to stomach. So they decided to act to reverse the trend of time and restore the gloom of the past all over South Asia.
However, the way the present leadership in Delhi faced the situation after the blasts was admirable. Unlike in the past when the governments, in both India and Pakistan, were wont to point their accusing fingers at each other after such incidents of violence, the present leadership remained calm and collected in the face of the crisis. The police of Delhi requested the milling crowds to return home and not to panic and spread rumour. The prime minister of India urged the people to remain calm and not allow the terrorists to get away with their design. The perpetrators of the outrage, who thrive on the darker side of the human psyche -- fear, hatred and mistrust in the minds of the people -- were certainly not happy about such a turn of events.
Meanwhile, all other countries of South Asia, the leaders of North Americas, Europe, Australia, China and many other countries of the world have already expressed their deep resentments over the ghastly incident and sympathised with the victims of the tragedy. The incident has again proved that terrorism knows no borders. Whatever the name of the group -- though a previously unknown religious militant outfit calling itself 'Islamic Inquilabi Jihad' is learnt to have claimed responsibility for the blasts -- it cannot also be bracketed with any religious or ethnic community of the subcontinent or any other part of the globe. So, whoever the terrorists are, they have not up till now been able to reap any benefit from the blood that spilled in the marketplaces and elsewhere in Delhi.
The past history of the Indian subcontinent is itself a glaring example of how such crises triggered by terrorists had led to widespread anarchy, riots and madness among the populace. The leadership in many cases had proved to be the Job's comforter in such situations. The failure of the leadership to rise to the occasion during the past crises of similar nature has been to a large measure responsible for further escalation of tension and violence all over the South Asia. But one can clearly discern a change in the behaviour of the leadership, the Indian leadership to be more specific, this time. This is certainly a welcome change.
Bangladesh, too, is going through a similar crisis since long. Violence-mongers have been targeting public gatherings, religious occasions and even the holy shrines of religious saints to train their weapon of terror on the peaceful people. Until recently, the perpetrators of the outrages remained nameless and faceless. But, of late, they have come out in the open and been claiming responsibility for their heinous acts. The people of Bangladesh have always shown their courage and equanimity in the face of such challenges thrown by the terrorists. Regrettably though, the country and its people, except on rare occasions, had hardly ever won plaudits from abroad for their courage. On the contrary, they received all the blame for harbouring the terrorists. But now the Delhi blasts have again proved that terrorism knows no political border. The country and people hosting such outrages, like anywhere, are mere victims of circumstances when the terrorists strike.
So it is time all the countries of south Asia, their people and governments stop blaming one another in the event of any such man-made calamities and close rank behind one cause -- the fight against terror.