Op-Ed, Views & Reviews
Tremors of terrorism still vibrate on earth
Jack T. Chakhesang
[dropcap]Y[/dropcap]ears ago, when I was working as a journalist in New Delhi, a colleague introduced me to a fellow scribe in the Press Club. The formal introductions over, this new friend looked over at me intently and after inane discussion for a few minutes, eventually commented: “So, you hail from the land of “ataankvaad’! (terrorists)!”At that time (1984), Punjab was rife with the movement for Khalistan and terrorists of all hues had sprouted. The word “ataankvaad” or terrorist, was bandied about by every Tom, Dick and Harry of journalism. My reply: “Friend, there are no terrorists in Nagaland. We have only ‘ugravaad’ (undergrounds).”
Today the word “underground” in referring to our brethren belonging to the various rival factions has become obsolete. In recent years, the definition has improved to “national workers” which is as it should be. Unfortunately, some of these brothers and sisters who are supposed to be directly involved in the ongoing pursuit of Naga political aspirations tend to divert frequently from the real goal of sovereignty. A heavy dose of taxes on consumer items, kidnappings for ransom et al have now compelled the general public to voice their ire and protests. No wonder that someone described them as “national terrorists!” Whether this was fair or unfair or uncalled for depends on how you look at it.
WHAT IS TERRORISM?
Terror means very great fear or dread. It means alarm, awe, consternation, dismay, fright and informally it is funk, horror, panic, shock, trepidation, misgiving, anxiety, cowardice, cravenness, diffidence, doubt, faint-heartedness, foreboding, uneasiness and worry. It also describes something or someone which causes such fear. Colloquially it applies to a troublesome or mischievous person, especially a child. A time of, or Government rule terrorism is also a terror. The term derives from the 14th century Latin word “terrere” meaning to frighten.
Terrorism is defined as the systematic and organized use of violence and intimidation to force a Government or community or person(s) etc to act in a certain way or accept certain demands. The word was coined in the 18th Century from the original terror.
History is replete with cases of terror and terrorism.
ATTILA THE HUN (d. 453)
More perhaps than any other nation, the Huns have a history which is that of their greatest son. We know remarkably little about them before the arrival of Attila and very soon after his death they vanish from the pages of history/
No one really knows who they were despite conflicting theories. But it is generally accepted that they came from somewhere in Central Asia. So much for the problem of their coming. As for their going, they left their name behind them, to be applied by the Romans (whose Empire was founded in 753 B.C.) to every wave of savages which assailed them. We also sometimes use the word “Hun” when we wish to speak evil of our enemies.
Their greatest leader—if greatness be measured by power—was Attila, the “Scourge of God”, who reigned less than twenty years and was remembered, in terror, for a thousand. Initially peaceful, one of the Hun herdsmen, or so legend has it, who had lost his heifer across the marsh which spread across the horizon, and which had always seemed the western limit of the world, discovered way to fertile, rolling plains. A little later, the Huns waded over to this eastern Crimea and slaughtered the Goths who lived there.
From then on Hunnish legends, and what little history exists, deal entirely with conquest and slaughter. In 305 AD Attila launched his first big invasion of the Roman Empire, pouring westward over the River Danube. Simultaneously, there was a great attack on the Romans Eastern Empire. Monasteries were captured and the rivers of North Africa and the Middle-East were reddened with human blood. The Huns on their swift horses outstripped rumour.
Eventually, the Hun nation declined within a hundred years. But as a name symbolising ruthlessness, rapacity and skill at arms, it remains with that of its greatest leader.
By the way, when the late Margaret Thatcher was UK Prime Minister, she was well known for her forthright beliefs and a journalist labelled her “Attila the Hen.”
GENGHIS KHAN (1167-1227)
There have been conquerors galore throughout history, who have sprung from nothing. Napoleon, the moody little Corsican from an undistinguished family, went to hold half Europe to ransom. Mao Zedong, small-time teacher, became ruler of a vast population. Hitler had his day.
But one man stands alone. There has never been another like him. There can never be another, since that first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. If ever half the world is laid waste, it would be done impersonally, almost without human intervention. There will be a barren waste, a desert—no one left, to loot or rape or plunder.
But in the thirteenth century, and within the walls of a single city, Heart, now in Afghanistan, the Emperor Genghis Khan supervised the massacre, in one blood-filled week of vengeance, of 1.6 million (16 lakhs) people. And before these men, women and children were dead, many had suffered torture and mutilation of a kind which is almost impossible to imagine. Arms, legs, were hacked off, and the bleeding, screaming trunks were flung on to the road, to roll helplessly and die in agony. Children, a dozen or more at a time, were skewered like shish-kabab on lances, or burnt alive in great wailing heaps, while their mothers hideously mutilated, were forced to stand by and await their turn.
A man is product of his time, and the time was cruel. But Genghis Khan—“perfect warrior”, the name meant—was the most bloodthirsty man in history. Under his example and on his orders, men performed prodigies of sadism, unrepresentative of any time, even their own.
After subduing various Mongol tribes, Genghis Khan led an enormous army of horsemen and by sheer brute numbers burst through the Great Wall of China. Burning, killing, raping, the Mongol hordes penetrated to the sea, destroying much of an ancient civilization, one of the oldest and finest in the world. All the enemies of Genghis were beheaded and their heads were piled high as hillocks.
Genghis Khan, however, built up a successful military machine which laid waste so much of the known world, taking what it could carry in the way of riches and slaves, dragging it back to the Mongolian plain, destroying the rest.
Timur, not without plotting and intrigue, succeeded his father and was crowned king, or “Khan”, of the tribe, in 1309, when he was thirty-three. By this time, he had conquered a number of other small Mongol clans and was lord of a considerable territory. He had also been badly wounded in the foot by an arrow so that he became, in the Mongol language, Timur-i-leng, or “Timur-the-Lame.”
In a very few years’ time, when fame, notoriety, had spread westward, the European mispronunciations “Tamerlane” and “Tamburlane” would strike terror into the hearts of men.
His army, smaller than that of his predecessors—though it would soon be large—was better armed, better trained. It could travel fantastic distances non-stop on its little ponies. It was heavily armed with spears, lances, maces, scimitars both long bows and short; its soldiers wore finely meshed armour and pointed helmets. It was supported by spies who went ahead and reported on the enemy before contact was made. It had gunpowder. It was formidable force.
Timur decided to defeat the “Golden Horde” the most powerful Mongol group, take away their power, their gold, which he eventually did. Meanwhile, he invaded Persia (now Iraq) where the proud city of Isfahan fell and he decided to use it to terrorise the rest of his enemies, present and future. He massacred the inhabitants, piling seventy thousand of their heads into one hideous pyramid beside the city wall. From here he pushed his army down to the Persiam Gulf, on to Kabul and Kandahar, laying waste the country as he went. His armies also pushed westward into Europe, with Timur organizing and supporting as many as half a dozen different campaigns at the same time.
And so Timur’s progress, much of it mere senseless brutality, went on, rising to a bloody crescendo in the last half-dozen years of his life. When Baghdad revolted, he ordered that each of the ninety thousand Mongol soldiers who had helped quash the rebellion bring him one enemy head. These, too, he piled in a pyramid, before turning towards India, going down through the Khyber Pass, sacking the cities of Meerut and Multan on the way.
Once on the Indian plains, he was faced as Alexander had been in 326 B.C., with the new weapon of war—elephants; the master tactician and strategist lured the ruler of Delhi and his elephants out into the open where the little Mongol cavalrymen could manoeuvre. The Indians were easily overcome and Timur captured their elephants, taking them back in triumph to Samarkand, bearing the spoils of India, leaving behind them utter devastation.
India had been ruled for several hundred years by Muslims—followers of the same, Islamic, faith as Timur—but he destroyed this ruling house, massacring its Hindu and Hindu subjects indiscriminately, and made no effort to replace it with anything else. All he wanted from India was loot; as a territory it was too far away, too inaccessible, to add permanently to his dominions.
This reluctance on the part of Timur to consolidate so many of his conquests saved many kingdoms and cultures of Europe and Asia. After his victorios sweep across North India, he turned west again to attack the Turks (who as descendants of another Mongol chief, Osman, or “Ottomans”, had overrun Asia Minor), and also the Egyptians. He swept across their lands, capturing the Turkish capital of Brusa, sacking Damascus, inexplicably sparing Jerusalem. In the first year of the fifteenth century, Timur was standing with one foot in South-East Europe.
It was over a hundred years before a new ruling house established itself in India. Then, at the start of the sixteenth century another band of Central Asian Mongols, with blood of Timur, and of Genghis Khan, and of Kublai Khan, flowing in their veins, set up a great Indian empire, the Mongol, or “Mughal” Empire, whose greatest Emperor was Akbar the Great. (It may be here noted that there is a colony even now in Delhi called Mongolpuri).
THE MONGOL LEGACY
The deepest lake in the world—well over a mile, straight down, between its glassy surface and its pitch-dark, stony bottom—is in southern Siberia. It is 400 miles from the north end to the south, and at its widest point a fisherman would have to row fifty miles to get from one bank to the other. It abounds in freshwater fish of strange and exotic variety: delicacies to the human community which lives around its shores, as well as to the colonies of seals that inhabit the rocky northern fringes.
The Russians who control this part of the world call it Lake Baikal. It was here that Genghis Khan was born, here that he inherited a small kingdom age the age of thirteen, and from here he set out to conquer the world. There were many Mongol tribes such as Kipchaks, Karaits, Naimans, Uighurs and Kirghiz which were but a few abounding in the time of Genghis Khan. Others, hundreds of years before, speaking the same language, had fought a way westward, off their wide Mongolian plain, left their mark on Europe. These were Huns, Goths, Seljuks, Vandals.
The Mongols were short squat men, with narrowed eyes, living a nomad life and sleeping in tents of matted hair and rancid butter. They lived by hunting: when they killed an animal they devoured the whole thing, raw. They were horsemen, probably the finest the world has ever known, and their staple drink was mare’s milk. For festive occasions they drank it fermented often from the skull of an enemy.
In “A Brief Historical Account of Nagaland” the late Dr Alemchiba wrote that Nagas (who were comparably insignificant head-hunters) are descended from nine different races due to waves of migrations over hundreds of years. Among these races the Mongols were in the majority although they came not overland by horse but from across the sea (Pacific Ocean?) There have been elements of Negroid blood as also a strong element of the Caucasian. Thus we see tall and short Nagas, fair and dark, all kinds of shapes and sizes.
Fortunately, Christianity has stemmed the element of terrorism but not yet fully eradicated as worldwide as everyday news tell. Yet we live in more technologically advanced times and hopefully, our thought processes will continue to be more enlightened.