To know terror and overcome it by whatever means
Jack T. Chakhesang
[dropcap]O[/dropcap]NE might wonder why so much on world terrorism is being published by newspapers, magazines and other periodicals. And how does it impact on the lifestyle of Nagas in general? The fact is that international terrorism affects us directly or indirectly and our people should know more about it for this is the kind of war where the enemy is truly elusive and we come to know of his presence only after destruction has been wrought and he has already left the scene.What is terrorism? It is the systematic use of terror or unpredictable violence against governments, publics, institutions or individuals to attain primarily a political objective, and by extension, an economic one. Terrorism has been used by political organisations with both rightist and leftist objectives, by nationalistic and ethnic groups, by revolutionaries, and by the secret armies and police of the governments themselves.
Terrorism has been practised throughout history and throughout the world. The ancient Greek historian, Xenophon, (431-350 BC) wrote of the effectiveness of psychological warfare against enemy populations. Roman emperors such as Tiberius (reigned 14-37 AD and when Jesus was alive)) and Caligula (reigned 37-41 AD) used banishment, expropriation of property, and execution as means to discourage opposition to their rule.
The Spanish Inquisition in the early years of the 16th century, used arbitrary arrest, torture, and execution to combat the rising tide of religious unorthodoxy and to punish what it viewed as religious heresy.
The use of terrorist methods was openly advocated by Robespierre as a means of encouraging revolutionary virtue during the French Revolution, leading to the period of his political domination described as the “Reign of Terror” (1793-94).
After the American civil war (1861-65) defiant Southerners formed a terrorist organisation called the Ku Klux Klan to intimidate supporters of the American Reconstruction.
In the latter half of the nineteenth century, terrorism was adopted by adherents of anarchism in Western Europe, Russia and the United States. They believed that the best way to effect revolutionary and political change was to assassinate persons in positions of power. Between 1865 till date, a number of kings, Presidents, Prime Ministers, and other government officials and prominent persons have been killed by anarchists’ guns or bombs.
The 20th century witnessed great changes in the use and practice of terrorism which became the hallmark of a number of political movements stretching from the extreme right to the extreme left of the political spectrum. Technological advances such as automatic weapons and compact, electronically (and remotely) detonated explosives gave terrorists a new mobility and lethality. (This of late has been countered by drones used by US forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan).
Terrorism was adopted as virtually a state policy, although an unacknowledged one, by such totalitarian regimes as Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler, the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin, and the People’s Republic of China under Mao Zedong—to cite a few. In these states, arrest, imprisonment, torture, and execution were applied without legal guidance or restraints to create a climate of fear and to encourage adherence to the national ideology and the declared economic, social, and political goals of the state.
Terrorism has most commonly become identified, however, with individuals or groups attempting to destabilize, or overthrow, existing political institutions. Terrorism has been used by one or both sides in anti-colonial conflicts—(Ireland and the United Kingdom, Algeria and France, Vietnam and France/United States, etc), in disputes between different national groups over a disputed homeland (Palestinians and Israel), in conflicts between different religious denominations (Catholics and Protestants on Northern Ireland), and in internal conflicts between revolutionary forces and established governments (Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Iran, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Argentina).
Terrorism’s public impact has been greatly magnified by the use of modern communications media. Any act of violence is certain to attract television coverage, which brings the event directly into millions of homes and exposes viewers to the terrorists’ demands, grievances or political goals.
The victims of modern terrorism are frequently innocent civilians who are picked at random or who merely happen into terrorist situations. Many groups of terrorists hark back to the anarchists of the 19th century in their isolation from the political mainstream and the unrealistic nature of their goals. Lacking a base of popular support, extremists substitute violent acts for legitimate political activities. Such acts include assassinations. kidnappings, skyjackings, hijackings, bombings and extortions.
The Baader Meinhoff gang of the then West Germany, the Japanese Red Army, Italy’s Red brigades, the Puerto Rican FALN, al Fatah and other Palestinian organisations, Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) of Peru and France’s Direct Action were among the most prominent terrorist groups in the later 20th century. However, most of them have fizzled out while smaller ones have appeared slyly on the horizon.
Now the world has still to fully sort out the destruction and its legacy wrought by Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda. India had managed to sort out terrorism in the Punjab but her problem now is with militants who are aided and abetted by Pakistan in cross-border terrorism which still has enough adherents within India itself. It also has to deal with insurgent groups struggling for sovereignty, statehood or whatever within its wide democratic spectrum.
In a few days, it will be the twelfth anniversary of the 9/11 destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York in 2001. The then President of USA George W. Bush had declared that fighting terrorism would be “the focus of my presidency.” He is already recorded as the first world leader to declare the first war of the 21st century.
However, the American reaction to 9/11 was not the usual Western gunslinger type of immediate retaliation. President Bush was wisely advised to first garner the support of various allies including the Muslim nations before any assault in Afghanistan or Pakistan where Osama bin Laden, the master mind behind the carnage, was supposed to be hiding.
Thus it was after a month that US troops began to move into Afghanistan. Bombing some al Qaeda strongholds while air-dropping food packages to remote Afghan villages set the curious style for further international conflicts.
Pakistan was compelled to toe the US line because of serious economic problems. But Pakistan is still abetting international terrorists in Kashmir and there are reasons to believe that al Qaeda cadres have participated in cross-border terrorism in India. Whenever Osama bin Laden talked of Jehad (holy war) he included Kashmir and the US in the same sentence.
George then turned his guns on Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein who had the distinction of being invaded by both the father and son who were Presidents of the USA.
Islam, which means “Peace”, a truly great religion that spawned great civilizations. However, it had a strain that was fundamentalist in nature and believed in the extreme laws. History has proved several times that when an empire was under Muslim rule, the minorities did extremely well in all spheres and the best that was in Islamic culture came to the fore and flourished. However, when Muslims came under the rule of any other power, it was then that the Islamist fundamentalism erupted.
Fanaticism has not been restricted to Islam alone. The Spanish Inquisition was a prime example of Christian fundamentalism. Both religions, spring from Hebraic roots and propagated the belief that for an everlasting life of glory in the hereafter, man had to undergo much deprivations and sacrifices on earth. If anyone tried to overstep the bounds of this belief, then it was felt necessary to ensure that he be purified, by force if necessary. The stake used to burn heretics was meant to purify them and what were a few minutes of extreme pain on earth if salvation awaited him forever? It is in this sense one has to understand that whatever the Taliban had been in Afghanistan, they were fanatically religious.
Meanwhile, after the killing of Osama bin Laden, the Taliban are now dispersed all over the world, to Sudan, and other parts of Africa, Middle-East, Europe, Pakistan even Kashmir and Bangladesh. Reports say that they are also returning to Afghanistan although they are more entrenched in the neighbouring hills of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province.
It would not be entirely wrong to say that some al Qaeda people are also active in the North-East region with a few of them in Nagaland and Manipur also.
We in Nagaland in particular and the North-East in general have to live with a different kind of terrorism which so far can be contained because our aims and objectives are the preservation of our ethnic identity and cultural heritage and not blowing up monuments like the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York.
However, it is unfortunate that of late, not only the Naga National groups who sometimes mistakenly think that they are the only ones fighting for Naga sovereignty and that the rest of us are to pay for what they call taxes, but also government institutions have started indulging in what might be called taxes through national terrorism whether overground or underground.
It is equally unfortunate that fear of the gun culture still prevails not necessarily from the fear of any terrorist because we are physically strong and brave. Our general fear stems from the tragedy that we are yet to exercise our moral courage fully in our dealings with various local issues.
The common men and women who comprise the majority certainly do not like it. Be wise enough to know that the once the common man rises, revolutions have been known to take place and change the course of human history.
Nevertheless, Nagas are optimistic by nature because they understand that a coward dies a thousand times, whereas we live and die only once in a life time. Better a few moments of glorious bravery than an eternity of ignominy.
And, as Franklin D. Roosevelt told the American people during the Great Depression, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”