Could terrorism spiral into a civil war?
India has many and enormous social, political and economic problems. Among these, certainly, is the relative poverty and backwardness of the Muslim community, the causes of which are many and complex, but that include at least a measure of discrimination.
These are compounded by political mischief, including efforts to electorally exploit communal polarisation and cultivate communal vote banks — both of the majority and minority community.
From time to time, this pernicious politics has exploded in communal riots and other patterns of violence, but India has strong and inherent defences against any possibility of civil war.
These are, nevertheless, serious challenges for the nation on other grounds, and need to be urgently addressed; but it is not here that we will discover the ‘root causes’ of jihadi terrorism.
The roots of the jihad lie in Pakistan, and in its relentless strategy, sustained over decades, to penetrate every concentration of Muslims in the country with the subversive — and, for the overwhelming majority of Indian Muslims, culturally offensive — ideology of extremist Islamism.
Kashmir has been the most dramatic success of this strategy, where more than 40 years of systematic subversion transformed a heritage of Sufi and Rishi Islam into an extremist jihadi perversion, which exploited the spaces generated by political incompetence and opportunism.
Despite the history of its direct intervention in J&K, Pakistan today finds it impossible to sustain the movement on indigenous support; it is Pakistanis who now constitute the belligerent mainstay of the ‘Kashmiri’ terror.
The geographically dispersed Islamist terrorist attacks across India are only the more visible evidence of a war of attrition by Pakistani state agencies and their jihadi surrogates. Dozens of terrorist and subversive ‘modules’ are detected and disrupted each year before they can translate their violent intent into action.
It is crucial, however, that despite occasional and inevitable ‘successes’, this relentless strategy — which has targeted virtually every concentration of Muslim populations in India — has overwhelmingly failed to secure a base within the Indian community, beyond a minuscule radical fringe; most such modules are now increasingly manned or led by Pakistanis and Bangladeshis.
The Pakistani strategy, nevertheless, exploits faultlines and vulnerabilities within India. The greatest bulwark the Indian nation could seek against such mischief already exists: it is our Constitution.
It is, in fact, only to the extent that we dilute or stray from a transparent and non-discriminatory constitutional order in our practices — and this has been an increasing trend over the decades — that we grow more vulnerable.
Even after the most extreme deviations, such as the Delhi or Gujarat riots and the enormity of state collusion in those cases, the anger of India’s minorities was eventually assuaged and moderated by the inherent justice of the Indian constitutional order — though not of Indian society and politics. This order must be continuously strengthened.
Egyptian reformer, Tarek Heggy, notes: “The most important point is that the Muslim community in India is the only Muslim community (in the world) which lives in a genuine national democracy... India has proven that when Muslims (like any other human beings) exist in a public climate that allows them full participation in political life, they do not turn to underground activities... and they do not leave (their country) to blow up a plane, a train or a bus full of innocent civilians...”
In the economic sphere, again, it is non-discriminatory development and equal opportunities for all communities that offer the best course of action.
Special concessions and reservations have done more harm than good to their target populations, becoming alibis for neglect and discrimination in other spheres. India’s minorities must be made equal — and not privileged or under-privileged — partners in our many economic enterprises.