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As terror comes to Dhaka

  By Vijay Darda | 06-07-2016

Terror attacks across national capitals are becoming increasingly frequent. So, whether it is Paris or Brussels, Istanbul or Kabul or for that matter Baghdad or Peshawar all remain vulnerable to such violence. We may evolve a cliche that terror has no religion or that these acts of violence have nothing to do with the tenets of the faith the perpetrators of these attacks evoke, the undeniable fact is that the concept of jihad is inalienable from the killings that are committed by these persons. Indeed, without this element these killings would not be distinguishable from the crime of murder that keeps taking place everywhere around us.

The jihadi justification for killing, howsoever convoluted or distorted it may sound lends this war an ideological colour. It is often associated with some grievance or some form of protest. Hence the idea that the war on terror has to be fought not just at the policing or security level, but also in the minds of the terrorists. By this yardstick the attack in Dhaka last week, that saw 20 hostages brutally slaughtered because they were foreigners or could not recite the verses from Quran defies description. By all accounts, the terrorists were university educated and were from well-off families. In the process of the siege they laid at the upmarket restaurant in the diplomatic enclave, they had no demands to make from the authorities. Given their comparatively well-off status in the Bangladeshi society they could not have been protesting against any grievance.

If this is one end of the spectrum at the other side we find that there are conflicting claims about the organisational structure behind these terrorists. The ISIS- Islamic State of Iraq and Syria- has claimed the responsibility for this attack, whereas the Bangladeshi government right from the prime minister Sheikh Hasina down to the security officials have been asserting that there is no ISIS presence in their country and this attack is the handiwork of home grown terrorists. In deed they have gone a step further and charged that the powerful Pakistani spy agency ISI is behind these attacks as ‘it wants to show that Bangladesh is a failed state’. For the sake of propaganda this seems quite plausible as Pakistan faces the similar charge and could be eager to show that its ideological cousin that separated in 1971 is no different from it. To buttress its argument, Bangladesh has suggested a link between the banned Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen and the ISI.

In this context, it has to be added that Bangladesh has been facing the problem of attacks on minorities and secular activists with several killings in the recent past. But the authorities have been tough and they have claimed that they want to punish ‘each and every killer’. In the crackdown that has followed after these targeted murders, some 8,000 militants have been arrested. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina has been resolute in this respect and has not yielded to the fundamentalist sentiment in the country.

But the debate of home grown versus the ISIS bred militant should not detain us longer. The first thing is that in the Dhaka attack the authorities were able to nab one of the terrorists alive and further investigations would reveal the necessary details. But the more important part of this problem is the terror narrative that is unfolding in the world, that renders every place unsafe for the modern citizen. By attacking airports, high profile restaurants or the metro stations, the terrorists whether home grown or linked to the ISIS or any other outfit are actually targeting the modern day global citizens. They are the men and women who are bringing down barriers and making the world more interconnected and vibrant place. It is their free spirit that poses a challenge to the jihadi mindset.

For those who are looking at root causes and multiple syndromes providing the motivations for the jihadis such a reductionist analysis may not offer much purchase. It is of course important to properly analyse the jihadi mindset. But the world now has to structure its defences around the possible targets. Trying to insulate the entire world from terror attacks through pragmatic technology related solutions may not be feasible, but given the state of art, it should be possible to implement low cost solutions that raise the deterrent at vulnerable places. Besides, the mechanisms to fight the terrorists once the attack is launched have to improve. There are lessons to be imbibed from every incident, and if the world is slow to learn these, then the cost has to be borne by the people.

It is now emerging that terror is not a single country’s problem. Gone are the days when the impact of a terror incident would remain restricted to the place where it happens. Now any terror attack has echoes across the globe. Other incidents have illustrated the multi-national character of the victims, but last week’s attack in Dhaka brought out this facet with greater emphasis as the victims were Italians, Japanese and a teenage Indian girl- Tarushi Jain- who studied in the US. The implication is very clear. All the countries have to pool their resources together to fight this battle. It is neither Dhaka’s battle nor Delhi’s war alone. Unless all are together everyone will suffer at some stage or the other. In this context, it was heartening to note that in December last, 34 Islamic countries joined an anti-terror coalition led by Saudi Arabia to combat terrorism and ensure peace and security. The coalition has plans to set-up a joint operations centre in Riyadh to coordinate and support military operations to fight terrorism and to develop the necessary programmes and mechanisms for supporting these efforts. Indicating the divide in the Islamic world none of the Shia Muslim-dominated countries, including Iran, have joined the anti-terror alliance.

But make no mistake, the terrorists are united in their goals. It is their targets that are divided, and the terrorists are adept at exploiting these divisions for their diverse causes.

Before I conclude…

This is a paradox. Accepting the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission, the central government announced a 15 per cent pay hike for nearly one crore employees and pensioners. The annual burden is expected to be of the order of ` one lakh crore. Quite a hefty one for the tax payers, that implies all citizens since everyone pays at least some indirect tax. But then the employees are not happy. The rise is too little for them, and there are other anomalies. It is possible to see the rationale of their arguments. However, spare a thought for the crores of workers in the unorganised sector- all salaried like the government employees but who are out of the pale of the pay commission. For a true welfare state, the government must ensure some even handedness among the government employees and those in the unorganised sector. The inequity between the two should be narrowed, if not obliterated.


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As terror comes to Dhaka


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