Viewers' Voice

What to do about terrorists?


Vasant G. Gandhi



We suffered another deliberate, deadly, devastating, destabilizing, and denigrating terrorists’ attack on our Mumbai (formerly called Bombay) soil.  Like past attacks, we rallied against the killers and denounced our government’s failure  – one more time – to protect us, and recorded the number of killed and injured in our ledger.

It shows in six years, from 2003 to 2008, terrorists killed more than 425 people alone in Mumbai.   The city was struck on August 25, 2003 in which 46 people died in blasts at two places, one of which was near the Gateway of India monument and not too far from the recent attack on Taj Mahal Hotel.  Then on July 11, 2006, 209 died in seven blasts on commuter trains.  Recently in more than 60-hour of killing spree, from November 26 - 29, 2008, so far 178 died in eight attacks at several places including two hotels, a railway station, a restaurant, a Jewish center, a cinema complex, and a hospital.

During the same six years period terrorists killed nearly 500 people elsewhere in India.  They carried out attacks in Ahmedabad, Banglore, Gandhinagar, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Imphal, Jaipur, Kanpur, Malegaon (twice), Modesa, capital New Delhi (three times), Panipat (on Samjhauta Express train), and Varanasi.

The ledger from the USA’s University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database shows that 12,539 people in India have died in terrorist-related attacks between 1970 and 2004.

They have struck so many times – at so many places, against so many lives, for so many years – we still ponder what to do.  We do not seem to have a strategy on how to deal with terrorism.  Put simply our nation has failed to fulfill, in part or full, a simple but challenging goal: provide safety and security for people living in our nation.

Help from West

Every time China, Pakistan, or foreign-grown terrorists attack us, our secretaries or ministers or prime ministers fly to Europe and America with briefcases full of papers to show evidences to their authorities and elected officials that India was attacked and provoked.  We argue our case and tell them we are victims.   In turn, they are going to welcome us, listen to us, condemn the acts, express the sympathy for lives lost, send us off with a statement or two in our favor, and ask our neighbors to stop the attacks as well as to work with us in investigating the attacks.  The West is not going to help us by ceasing aid to our killers or sending in their troops to fight alongside us against our murderers.  Our neighbors’ actions do not directly affect Europe or America.  Moreover, they are living far from our neighbors and see no need to make our neighbors their enemies when they do not have to.  They have done very little to help us, and are not going to help us other than offering their rhetoric unless of course they need us, or need any other nation for that matter, to fulfill their policymakers’ policy or dream or hypothesis.  We must stand on our feet, find ways to deal with our slaughterers, and not count on West for assistance.

Help from Pakistan

Just like the West, we must not count on Pakistan to help us in preventing future wars or acts of terrorism emanating from its land.  The reasons are simple, though very different from why we ought not to bank on West for help.  First, there is a state within a state in Pakistan. Its military and Inter-Services Intelligence often act together on their own and do not cooperate with elected representatives of people.  It has hardly seen or experienced democracy; its military dictators have ruled for most of 60 plus years of separation from India as an independent nation.  While there are moderates in Pakistan who want economically vibrant and democratically strong nation that is living peacefully with its neighbors just like the way people of the USA, Canada, and Mexico coexist peacefully, but their voices are drowned out and actions thwarted.   And without its moderates it is hard to negotiate with Pakistan.

Second, it is a failed state of young and poor. In Pakistan, according to its government report of 2005-06, 47 percent of people are illiterate and 48 percent of people are single – either never married or widowed or divorced.  It is a nation of young people – the median age is 20.5 years – who are substantially underemployed, unmarried, and uneducated.  Its economy – expected to grow at 2.9 percent according to The Economist – is not productive enough to absorb in job market the vast majority of young, single, uneducated, and restless.  Such people are vulnerable and can be enticed into doing anything including joining jihads.  It is one reason why terrorist camps are thriving and blooming in Pakistan.  And with terrorists and their recruiters are hard at work, it is hard to negotiate with Pakistan.    

Third, many Pakistanis hate Indians and do not trust them.  They just want to create problems for India and kill as many Indians and as often as they can.  And when Pakistanis are bent on destroying India, it is hard for India to negotiate with Pakistan.

Fourth, in Soviet-Afghan war in 1980s, using Pakistan as agent, America supplied money, arms and ammunitions to jihadis fighting Soviets in Afghanistan.  American policymakers did not want the foothold of their enemies, former USSR, in South Asia.  So America’s enemy’s enemy – Afghanistan – became America’s friend.  Pakistani’s military as well as ISI, with America assisting as midwife, fathered, fed, clothed, trained, and armed Afghan jihadis to fight Soviets.  Once Soviets were gone from Afghanistan, Pakistan, now in possession of means and know-how from America, trained Kashmiris as well as Pakistanis to fight Indians.   Today, even if a few individuals in Pakistan’s military and ISI are willing to capture and punish terrorists, who are living on and operating from Pakistani soil and killing Indians, it is going to be hard for them to do so.  How can terrorists’ teachers ask terrorists to stop being terrorists and become saints?  How can now monsters become monsignors?  And when Pakistanis are training terrorists, it is hard to negotiate with Pakistan.

Help from our citizens

Most Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, and others live and coexist peacefully in India.  Yet there are indigenous groups – Musalaman mujahideens, Separatists in Kashmir and Manipur states, Maoists and its militant arm Naxalites, and Hindu fanatics – known to terrorize and kill innocent Indians.   How to address their concerns and turn them into non-violent groups is a challenge not only for the government but also for all peace loving citizens of India.  And when we are not united or not at peace among ourselves at home, it is hard to fight foreign-grown terrorists. 
If our citizens and corporations can help government in informing treacherous activities being planned by undesirables living in or outside our nation, we can save precious lives and properties and can continue to attract foreign tourists as well as foreign investors in large numbers.

Help from our government

Indian government can take many steps to minimize, if not completely prevent, the number of home- as well as foreign-grown terrorists’ strikes on our land.  First, it can enforce antiterrorism laws.  We used to have POTA – The Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act – until October 7, 2004 when UPA government repealed it.  Now a new law is just passed under which police can hold a suspect for up to 180 days without filing charges in court.  A new National Investigation Agency is being setup to investigate crimes like terrorism.   We also have Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which allows India’s army to arrest suspects and conduct searches without court orders (warrants).  Some states have their own laws to detain suspects without charges for questioning.

Second, the central government can help major cities and every state in republic set up, as part of police force, three types of squads: flying squad, terror squad, and cyber squad.  The flying squad should be trained to move quickly into action during an emergency.  It should be familiar with maps, major landmarks, and locations of many cities so that units can be deployed anywhere in a state during the crisis.  The terror squad should be trained to fight attackers, and the cyber squad should be trained to store and process data about organizations and individuals bent on killing our men, women, and children and damaging properties.  All three local squads should work with squads from other places.  They should also educate young, adult, and old on what to look for in and how to transmit information (to authorities) about suspicious individuals.  The government must realize that we are at war with terrorists and we should continuously train our citizens and corporations in combating terrorism.  It should also reward and praise citizens and corporations when they help in foiling a terrorist’s plot.

Third, if government comes to believe, as many experts do, that the terrorism is a symptom of grinding poverty, misery, hardship, and illiteracy then it should have rapid economic development.  The best way to develop economically fast is to get rid of unprofitable businesses in public sector, of unjust labor and tax and rent laws, of unproductive bureaucracy, of useless methods that are causing delays in solving court cases, of useless roadblocks facing entrepreneurs, and of socialism.

Fourth, the government ought to float an idea of peaceful and painless separation of Muslims and non-Muslims living in India - just like married brothers separating from parents.  It ought to form another Muslim country.  Then make an offer that Indian Muslims cannot afford to refuse.  Let the government buy properties and businesses owned by Indian Muslims.  Provide them free transportation and other help needed to move.  And pay 5 lakhs of Rupees per each man, woman, and child of Muslim faith to help them get settled in a new location.    If vast majority of Indian Muslims are not interested in this kind of deal then the idea is dead and we all must find ways to live in harmony.  Killings cannot be and should not be the way of living.

Finally, today terrorists use guns and grenades to kill us and tomorrow they may use biological and nuclear weapons.  As a sovereign nation our military should always have a plan ready to punish terrorists regardless of their location.  We deeply care about our country and should do whatever it takes to prevent slaughtering of our men, women, and children at the hands of terrorists.

Help from terrorists

Why are we seeking help from terrorists who are killing us in the first place?  Maybe they have their views to tell; and the more we talk the more we get to know each other and the more chances we have to find a common ground.  There are all sorts of terrorists.  I would classify them as Islamitants (Islamic militants who believe in imposing their form of Islam on people), Separatitants (separatist militants living in a sovereign nation who want to form a separate nation), Ethnitants (ethnic militants living in a sovereign nation who want to control where each ethnic people must live and work, for example Maharashtra state for Marathi only), and Relitants (religious militants who want to spread their form of religion).  They all have one thing in common: terrorize.  May terrorists help us find peaceful solutions.