Like many following the Mumbai terror attacks I went through a range of emotions.
Initially shocked, I was unable to concentrate on work the morning of the attacks. Since I called family and friends the night of the first attacks, I was relatively calm but felt the pain immensely.
Photos from Vinu brought out the anger. Stereotypically, I associate “terrorist” with uneducated, mindless, calculating, heartless misfits. The image of young 20+ year olds with AK-47’s and magazines of bullets brings out deep anger at our state.
The usual questions came to mind: 1) Why is this happening? or Why are they doing this? 2) How can we stop this or What can be done to solve this?
Why is this happening?
1. The growing gap between the poor (mostly minority communities) and rich is one major cause of this. There are homegrown terrorist organizations in India. I dont think anyone would dispute this, actually. Muslims are a minority in India. So are Christians and myraid other “castes”. Hindus are the majoriy. They all have either their “terrorist outfits” or “Naxalites”.
We have to find more inclusive growth. This is not an easy problem to solve. In fact I cannot think of a single country including the US and China, that has solve this problem. Somehow they dont have as many homegrown terrorists. Why? I dont for a moment think its because of homogeneity.
2. The injustices and supression: It exists in many places, but is more pronounced in India. In report after report, its obvious the minorities have fewer opportunites, make less money and are a poorer lot. Yes, they have “freedom of religion” and inalienable rights but at the end of the day its the majority that calls the shots.
3. Unresolved conflict. Kashmir is a problem, we know, but somehow want it to go away – not the state mind you, just the “problem” of Kashmir. There’s no easy solution to it obviously, else we I am sure we’d have tried it. But if it means sacrificing something to gain peace, we should explore that option. Trouble is I dont think anyone is convinced peace will reign without both sides being completely satisfied with the outcome – which is similar to the Israel / Palestine problem.
What can be done to start to solve this problem?
1. Acknowledge why this is happening. I’m not sure over 50% of Indians even agree that these are the cause of the problems. Most still prefer to blame Pakistan. I dont claim they are innocent, but they are not listed in the top 3 are they?
2. Shore up defences. India has over 1.2 Million policemen and over 1 million paramilitary personnel. Its the largest force in the world. But that number is dwarfed by the size of the population. I dont think adding more people is the answer. The willingness to use the masses to help and the aid of new technology is the need of the hour. I believe you can use the size of the population to an advantage.
3. Create opportunities to help clear the mistrust. India had a terrible Sikh terrorism problem, which no longer exists or is largely subdued. So how did that go away? A combination of ruthless handling of the insurgency and an inclusive approach towards the economic benefit to Punjab.
I am still searching for answers.