Eyes closed, yet sleepless

At the height of the stock scam in 1992, FM Manmohan Singh declared that he ‘will not lose much sleep over it’. With terror topping the charts a decade and a half later, the sleeping habits of the former FM, now PM, have apparently changed drastically and diametrically. He does lose sleep, of late. But, not for the sake of terrorism’s victims or their families, he being secular. Rather, M. Singh’s insomnia has been wrought by the plight of the Indian families of the global suspects in custody in Australia for a botched terror attack in UK.

That the PM suffers from a deep sleep disorder is obvious from his delirious utterances flowing from such misplaced sympathies. A year or two back, he boasted that there is not a single al-Qaida recruit from among the 150 million Muslims in India. The economist in him seems to be still unaware that India is now a net exporter of terror, with foreign funds and know-how too flowing in in good measure. And al-Qaida has gone truly retail in India with several franchisees setting shop and a growing number of consumers from those 150 million for the lethal stuff that it purveys. Surely, this has not happened overnight. Strange indeed, that so many ‘sleeper cells’ have sprouted even while a sleepless PM was keeping vigil. Or was he looking the other way?

Sample this profound pearl of wisdom from the PM: ‘…terrorists have no religion’! Really? Let him try telling that to the Jihadis. They would be truly upset that the very purpose of their ‘holy war’ has been lost on this naive PM of India. Of course, theirs is a religious war and the jihadis themselves make no bones about it. Their websites and statements say it all quite explicitly. They honestly believe that non-Muslims have no right to exist, that their elimination entitles the faithful to a slot in paradise and that there can be no rest for them until the world becomes one big Islamic Caliphate. Such primal passions of faith drive all these terror outfits, from al-Qaida to LeT to JeM to whatever, unlike many other extremist groups propelled by territorial designs, class-conflicts or such other ‘mundane’ provocations. An ex-Jihadi writes in Newsweek: ‘Yesterday’s Islamists are today’s terrorists’! Yet, for our PM, those terrorists are irreligious beings. Or should we call them ‘secular terrorists’? In any case, the PM deserves a fatwa for saying that!

Contrast this with the approach of some other heads of State. The Australian PM for instance does not counter Islamic terror with secularism. In fact, terrorism is yet to take roots there. Yet, he has ticked off several intransigent Imams by warning them quite emphatically that if they play around with the dominant culture of Australia, which is Christianity, or its laws, they would be thrown out. Elsewhere, in Europe, fewer and fewer regimes are talking of secularism, tolerance, assimilation, multi-culturalism and melting pots in the context of militant Islam. True, some of the methods of the West may be questionable and even patently unfair, but the diagnosis is clear: What’s on parade is raw religious terror. No illusions on that count. Yet, our PM will see no evil. Yes, he may not be sleeping, but he sure is wearing blinkers.

Manmohan then calls up the PM of Britain and assures him of all cooperation in nailing the criminals. Gordon Brown must have gone pink laughing at this puerile promise! Pray, what’s India’s track record? The long arms of our law are yet to catch up with the perpetrators of some of the most heinous terror attacks during the last few years. And even when the law did take its course in the Afzal case, the noose has not made contact with the neck so far, thanks to ‘human’ rights perversions and a sinister strand of secularism. And Manmohan slept through all this. Helping Britain? Brown would prefer us to lay off, for our former masters know us better! But there was something else our PM said that must have made Brown go red.

And that takes us to the prime concern of our Prime Minister. He has advised his British peer not to brand or label any group/community as terrorists. M.Singh has even lectured to the nation at length on why labelling is bad and has quoted from his own experience as a Sikh. But, our sleep-starved Sardar seems to have forgotten that Indira Gandhi paid with her life only because she refused to ‘label’. Or why not ask, say, comrade Prakash Karat to have a Bajrang Dal activist as his bodyguard? Sure, labelling is a touchy and tricky topic. Tarring an entire group or a community for the acts of a misguided few is doubtless unfair and uncivil. It inflicts a wound that can never heal. And, not just Manmohan, but all sensible and sensitive people know that trusting their fellow citizens is the best bet for peace and harmony. No one would want to live in a state of permanant paranoia or perennial conflict. Yet, if despite this natural proclivity for peace, profiling of their compatriots is resorted to, it only shows how much fear and mistrust have infiltrated the people’s psyches.

Unsavoury though it is, labelling can be explained in the current context. First, the unceasing trail of Islamic terror has not just killed humans but also hopes. Second, moderate Muslims invariably remain on the sidelines while it is the face of the militant Muslims that one gets to see often. The latter willingly court and sport the ‘label’ in all religious zeal. And they have amply demonstrated their ‘capabilities’ too.The non-Muslim world, incidentally ‘labelled’ as Kafirs, perforce has to react only to to the Jihadis. And the reaction could only be suspicion and caution. More so, because the stereotype of a bearded mullah stalking Afghan caves with AK 47s is gone.

Today, there are educated, internet savvy techies enlisting themselves for Jihad. Even helpless Muslim elders here have started admitting that their youth are increasingly becoming susceptible to religious indoctrination.The affinity and attraction to a larger calling – brotherhood and faith – often transcends nationhood. National borders melt easily in the heat of Muslim rage. And with much of the Muslim world perennially on boil, blisters appear even in unconnected or inconceivable places. Why should there be a traffic hold up on Mount Road when Saddam was hanged in Baghdad? One can go on. Yes, labelling is bad. But if it can help weed out the ugly elements, can anyone, including the Muslims, object? Again, when universally some kind of profiling is done even for domestic helps and security staff, should terror suspects be exempt owing to their religion?

But instead of explaining the rationale the PM has spoiled the party by issuing a blanket exoneration. His dreamy averments only alienates the Muslims further, rules out the much needed introspection in them, feeds exclusivism and actually reinforces the image that the world has of them now. A suicidal self-goal. And worse is the signal that the PM is sending to the investigating agencies.What should they do after the inevitable next blast? For, if they look at the most natural suspects and cast their nets at the most probable areas, that would be deemed and damned as profiling! Crippled thus, should they henceforth ignore their own reliable intel inputs in favour of Manmohan’s instincts dulled though they are by drowsiness? And throw the people to the wolves?

For the PM, offending Muslim sentiments is taboo even if national security goes for a toss. Small wonder he is worried over labels. But the people are worrying for their lives and limbs. But both have to necessarily swallow the bitter pill … the truth about Islamic terror …. and still catch up with some sleep, if they can!

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Jawahar T R