Friday, October 3, 2008

Terror Terror everywhere....

The Nanavati-Mehta Commission's report on the Godhra incident was released on the 25 of September. The report disputes the U.C Banerjee Committee's version of the incidents on the 27th of February 2002 and declares the incident to be the culmination of a "conspiracy", the intention of which was to "create terror and destabilize the administration." The report also exonerates Narendra Modi and his cohorts of any any wrong doing during the riots that followed and makes the even more fantastic claim that the Godhra incident and the riots that followed were not necessarily connected.

While the second and third conclusions have, with ample justification, provoked great outrage from most of the sane-minded populace, I would like to focus on the first point. Rather the sub-point of the first point. The part about "create terror" and all that.

(Let us for a second ignore the larger and most important issue of whether it was the Muslims of Godhra who set fire to the train and assume for merely "argumentative" purposes that the act was committed by them.)

Rarely in the recent past has terrorism and its manifold possibilities evoked such a powerful response in India. Even so, the Commission's charge that the Muslims of Godhra actually intended to create terror and destabilize the government is almost inconceivably stupid. The very thought that the extremist government of a state that is 89% Hindu(and very aggressively so) would be in any sense destabilized by a conspiracy by Muslims to burn Hindus(kar sevaks that too) alive in their own locality is to say the least, preposterous.

Come now, you would say, isn't it obvious that terror is nothing but violence inflicted mindlessly to instill fear and undermine the confidence of the people in their legitimately elected governments. By that standard, Godhra was definitely an attack of terror.

The above mentioned definition of terror is one that is gaining increasing acceptance. It is to be expected, for we live in a society where the impression of being under siege is cultivated with great ardor. As a society and a country we find it difficult to understand such bursts of violence. Therefor we attribute it to conspiracies and term the violence 'mindless'. The underlying assumption here is that conspiring and inflicting mindless violence are not traits that belong to our society, that we are victims. So we distance these traits and their perpetrators from our midst. As time passes and things grow more chaotic, the list of groups that fall under the umbrella of terror will increase. The communists, social democrats, trade unionists and all.

In the troubled times ahead, the biggest question will not be whether we will root out terror but what we will turn into in the process of rooting out terror. Will we keep in mind the fact that terrorism is not a disease but a weapon? Will we try to reason that the violence inflicted is never a mindless act but a strategy in a war being fought by sections of our own society against other sections? Will we restrain ourselves from linking every conflict, every issue with the "war against terror" ?

These questions linger on silent and unobtrusive, yet they will perhaps be the ones which determine the nature of the society we shall inhabit. After all how do you think Big Brother came to power?


Pratik Sinha said...

Hi Prasanth,

Very well written post.

You might want to read Antara Sen's article about the same issue - "terrorism".

Also you can read more about the Godhra Incident here.

The above post is linked to two documents, one commenting on the actual Nanavati Commission Report and the other being a scientific report on the train burning incident in Godhra.


Prasanth said...


Welcome aboard.
Thanks a lot for the links especially the the ones at nsm :). The database is particularly useful at a time when the bombardment with innumerable facts leaves people doubtful on where to turn for information

Anonymous said...

Drat! Thanks to Wordpress the spoilsport, I don't get to be the first one to comment. Fantastic post. Coincidentally, on Friday we were talking about the issue to a friend, who's just become a father, and happens to be Muslim and living in Gujarat. It's become a thorny issue - defining terrorism. When does terrorism become revolution? Who decides? All debate on the issue does seem to be getting rather polarised doesnt it? What we're hearing is very individual stances rather than any concerted, dispassionate attempt to understand.

Prasanth said...


I completely agree with you on the nature of the debate. While the larger issues that are very fundamental to the survival of our democracy go ignored, the smaller ones like the need for a new terror specific law or a new agency to combat terror are touted as solutions.

What would be needed is a couple of symbolic gestures by those in authority and (although I hate this term) some kind of national debate on the issue. Sad part is: We don't have a capable forum for that yet!

PS. It is important to note that while the large sections of the "liberal" "sophisticated" English media have been most vocal in demanding a tougher law on terror, it's the much-maligned Lalu Yadavs and the Ram Vilas Paswans that have been in the forefront of resisting this demand. Of course these are for electoral purposes. But is this context--so what???