Khalid Mujahid: War on terror continues to terrorize

By Saeed Naqvi, IANS,

Good luck to the UPA as it attempts to put a positive spin on its nine years in power. But let me insert here a word of caution about the manner in which its war on terror is causing the world’s second largest Muslim population to be dangerously alienated from the state.

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I was in Lucknow when the custodial death of Khalid Mujahid caused deathly silence in my family which, sadly, has also begun to lose faith.

Those in New Delhi blinded by the approaching state and national elections must look a little beyond and rein in a situation which, if not controlled, will unleash unspeakable instability.

The war on terror has already trapped Pakistan in a situation from which it cannot easily exit. If it sustains the war on terror, it falls prey to the law of unintended consequences.

Every attack causes the ranks of the militants to swell. Every peace overture causes them to regroup and consolidate. There is no reliable gauge to measure the inclination of the Pakistan Army and the Americans in given circumstances.

In the Indian context, the war on terror does worse: it tends to divide the world’s largest minority from the rest.

If it were to be a tidy separation of the Muslims from the rest and the rest were a solid bloc of sorts, you have the outlines of a Hindu state. This outcome may be to the liking of people with a certain ideological bent. But any fool can tell you that is not the way the cookie is crumbling, given the country’s linguistic ethnic and caste divisions. But something even more dangerous is happening.

Witness the behaviour of lawyers in places like Faizabad or Lucknow: they are openly with the police as it wantonly picks up “terrorists”, who will never ever be convicted. Indeed, who will never be tried even.

Some lawyers, who in this case happen to be Muslims, are physically threatened if they attempt to take up a “terrorist” case for trial. A terrorist, once picked up, is not entitled to a trial?

The District Bar Association of Faizabad condemned a protest march against Mujahid’s death in custody. Bar association membership of Shakeelur Rehman, Nadeem Ahmad and Saleem Ahmad, lawyers sympathetic to Mujahid, were cancelled. And the great constitutional democracy watches these shadows of fascism lengthen over the Republic without as much as a murmur?

How did we arrive at a situation where the “war on terror” is being waged by an unbridled machinery? Convictions are in inverse proportion to the sound and fury of the war being waged.

Enough has been written on communal conflict in India since independence. Electoral politics has continuously stirred up this already simmering bowl. The war on terror has been catastrophic. It has been like a huge boulder tossed into a giant cauldron bubbling over.

A quick look at how it all happened.

Soon after 9/11, the US enlisted Pakistan as the frontline state in its war on terror. This hit New Delhi where it hurts.

India had been a victim of cross border terrorism at least since 1989, when the spare jehadi energy, after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, boomeranged on Kashmir.

By October 2001, the Taliban had been ousted from Kabul. To qualify for membership of the major league in the global war on terror, New Delhi had to wait for its parliament to be attacked Dec 13, 2001.

This was no longer mere cross border terrorism. Here was global jehad (it was alleged) striking at the very heart of India. A moot question was not asked: who would profit from the outrage?

Look at the complexity. Two nuclear armed, instinctively adversarial neighbours, participating in the US led war on global terror are simultaneously, training their guns on each other for a fight to the finish.

Does the scenario make logical sense? How could two neighbours, led by a superpower, break out into mutual hostilities abandoning the so-called just war? So, the post parliament attack eye-ball to eye-ball posture was just that – a posture.

Joining the global war on terror had two other consequences. Major intelligence agencies headquartered in Washington, Jerusalem, London or Riyadh rushed in to share and control information in India, for instance. Doesn’t the situation automatically curtail autonomy of action?

Also, by its very nature, the war on terror is an interminable war. Participating nations cannot blow the whistle and announce victory. In other words, the machinery put in place to fight this war has to be kept in drill by being required to fight phantom enemies too.

Can a country already riven into castes, languages, religions afford to be trapped in a war which will keep its people doubly divided in perpetuity? As it is, caste and communal sub divisions have become a nasty and inevitable accompaniment to electoral democracy.

How do we pull ourselves back from the precipice? For a poison running so deep, let us take a long historical view.

Communal conflict, aggravated after 1857, received a huge boost during the partition of 1947. Electoral democracy, in quest of vote banks, has subsequently proceeded hollow out the much profaned word, secularism. The war on terror, the way it has been fought, has globally multiplied the terror cells. In India, this war excavates along communal fault lines. It has created a potential for communal conflict without end.

(Saeed Naqvi is a senior political commentator. He can be reached on [email protected])