Who then is a terrorist?
WORDS WITHIN BY FIRDOUS SYED
What is terrorism, and who is a terrorist? The discussion is going on; the phenomenon is yet to be fully defined. International institutions, more importantly United Nations is still to arrive at a consensus about the definition of terrorism. In United Nations debate continues about what qualifies as terrorism? The Ad Hoc Committee (AHC) on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism's report of June 30, 2009 reiterates that “some delegations pointed out the necessity to distinguish between acts of terrorism and the legitimate struggle of people in the exercise of their right to self-determination by people under foreign occupation and colonial or alien domination.” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaking to N Ram of Hindu as late as February 2009 said, “Since the early 1960s, member states have had 13 international conventions on different aspects of terrorism. Now they have been discussing the way to adopt a comprehensive convention against international terrorism. Unfortunately, we have not been able to reach there because of some technical — but it seems to be a very sensitive - issue on the definition of terrorism and the scope of terrorism.” Besides, credible human rights groups also want to bring focus on state terrorism. Apart from non-state actors; “A Government could be terrorist as well.”
States busy in controlling the lives of people care less for UN conventions and international laws. Without having a proper legal definition of the word ‘terrorism’, a new term ‘agitational terrorism’ has been added to the controversial list. This goes without saying: killing of innocent people, even in the name of any cause, is not part of freedom struggle. It is sheer terrorism. However, in the name of fighting terrorism states have found a long stick to browbeat the legitimate aspirations of the masses. Earlier, resistance was being labeled as terrorism; give dog a bad name and kill him. In order to suppress dissenting voice, it is sufficient to brand the person/group as a terrorist. This terrorist business was already stretched too far; there is a new tendency to call peaceful protests as ‘agitational terrorism’.
Dissent and peaceful protest is the essence of democracy. Such is the height of growing intolerance; the hallmark of democracy is now labeled as ‘agitational terrorism’. It is not only bizarre; it is worrisome and negates true spirit of democracy. If things are allowed to go unchecked, it can cause horrendous damage to the public good. Not only peaceful agitation against Amarnath land-grab is described as ‘terrorism’ but people protesting the most heinous crimes against women are called ‘agitational terrorism’. If asking justice for innocent women raped and murdered is ‘agitational terrorism’, where does the buck stops then? By this token of argument, RTC employees on strike are terrorists? Junior Doctors fighting against pay anomalies can be tried under terrorist act? Unemployed educated youth converging routinely at Press enclave are saboteurs? Instead of providing them the jobs, they can be made to stand before the firing squads? Therefore effectively solving the problem of unemployment!
Macabre terrorism business is still thriving. Merchants of death, so called non-state actors, for the sake of their existence have to continue with the wanton campaign of death and destruction; State agencies have also developed a vested interest and want to keep the pot boiling. Terrorism and counter terrorism, it’s all part of a conflict enterprise. For some time now, government of India wants to engineer a facade of peace in the valley. There is talk about withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and army going back to barracks; army has different ideas. It seems peace process is not army’s main priority. Whether there is militancy or not, army wants to remain engaged with internal security.
GOC Northern Command Lt Gen B S Jaswal’s statement has caused some concentration among a section of intelligentsia; politicians are trying to downplay the gravity of his remarks. But this statement has a deep impart, hence cannot be taken lightly. These are the comments of a senior army commander; one can safely assume that this reflects the thinking process of army’s top brass. In his maiden press conference as GOC Northern Command, General said many things like “Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is a shield for the soldiers” and militancy had come down… the army was in a position to tackle all crises”. These observations itself are contradictory in nature, if militancy has come down, where remains the need for extra ordinary laws like AFSPA. But his two other remarks need to be read in conjunction because they can have far reaching affect on Kashmir society. “Presence of security forces will continue till the threat of re-emergence of militants is totally eliminated,” and the ‘agitational terrorism’ was a cause for worry.”
For argument sake, inception of militant movement warranted huge deployment of army in the valley. Militancy is on its last throes, violence has receded significantly. Whence ground situation has changed remarkably, why army is still insistent about its presence in civilian domain? In a much improved situation, for all practical purposes army should have withdrawn, long back. First it wanted to fight militants, now it wants to tackle threat of its “re-emergence”?
Elimination of militancy is verifiable; this can be measured through kills and detentions. But how is it possible to verify the elimination of “threat of re-emergence of militants.” Active militancy is physical aspect; threat of re-emergence is psychological characteristic. Militant is to be killed, psychology has to be controlled by coercion or otherwise? For next fifty years situation can be violence free. But if army still believes that “threat of re-emergence persists” does that mean army will continue to remain engaged in anti insurgency operations or Psy-operations? And who will decide threat of re-emergence remains or has vanished? Changed ground scenario or army’s ‘threat perception’? Threat of “re-emergence” speaks of deep suspicion of army about Kashmiri masses. Though active phase of militancy is over, army holds the view that Kashmir will never reconcile with India. Militancy may not get revived; people in Kashmir will opt for peaceful agitation. Therefore the term ‘agitational terrorism’ comes into play. Not only security establishment but politicians in India also think that every agitation in Kashmir is rooted in freedom sentiment. Resistance is terrorism; army was required to quell the rebellion. Peaceful protest is agitational terrorism’, thus army is needed to suppress the masses. It sounds harsh but it is true, Majority of public opinion in Kashmir regards army’s presence an alibi to control the lives of the people here?
People in pro-freedom camp are highly critical of army’s role; this can be easily discounted as propaganda of anti India forces in Kashmir. But statements of pro India politicians cannot be summarily dismissed. What Dr Abdullah said the other day, though in different context, is quiet astonishing, “They want us to burn all the time so that they can remain our masters. I tell them that we are masters of our land. They cannot dictate terms to us. If they don’t want to come here then they can leave the valley. To hell with them,” Farooq Abdullah being son of Sheikh and he is a maverick also; people may take his utterances a bit casually. Same cannot be said about Mufti Muhammad Sayeed.
He is former home minister of India and weighs his words carefully. “On one hand, Prime Minister and home minister made some important announcements on Kashmir and also hinted at steps to be taken for restoration of peace in the state but on the other hand, a military general contradicted their statements and said that there will be no troop withdrawal from the state in near future”. Mufti’s statement between the lines implies that it is not political leadership in India, which decides the course of action in Kashmir; security establishment holds the carte blanche.
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Lastupdate on : Fri, 6 Nov 2009 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 6 Nov 2009 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 7 Nov 2009 00:00:00 IST
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