Skip to main content

Terror attacks: Difference in public reactions in India, those in Colombo, Christchurch

By Battini Rao*
Recently, on April 20 during Easter Sunday, more than 250 people were killed in a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in churches and hotels in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Local Islamic organisations Thawheed Jamath (NJT) and Jamathei Milathu Ibrahim (JMI) are held responsible for the attack. Islamic State has also claimed responsibility.
Sri Lanka has had a long history of majoritarian Buddhist and state violence against religious and ethnic minorities. During the civil war, the Tamil group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) too had attacked Muslims in its Eastern province. However, there have been no cases of inter-ethnic clashes between Muslims and Christians in the island nation.
Motivation for these attacks apparently came from what is seen as persecution of Muslims in other countries. Multi-religious and multi-ethnic countries of South Asia are especially in danger of being sucked into global terror spawned by imitations of the Islamic State and its virulent ideology.
Before Colombo, there was the Dhaka attack on a café in which 29 people were killed. Signs from Pakistan and Afghanistan are not propitious where IS inspired terror groups have deeper base. Like Sri Lanka, India too is not immune from this kind of terror.
A month earlier, on March 15, 50 worshippers were killed in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday prayers. The terrorist in this case was an Australian white supremacist driven by anti-immigrant sentiments and hatred against Muslims. He live streamed the mass killing on Facebook, which was watched by thousands worldwide.
Facebook claims to have blocked 1.5 million uploads of the livestreamed video within a day of the attack, however its copies, which were put up by other people,were available on many other social media sites. This scale of social media spread shows that the support for his action was not insignificant.
Attacks in Christchurch and Colombo show how terrorism in our times has acquired a global character.Governments respond to such attacks militarily. Such reactions completely miss the fact that the background to these attacks is political, and only a broad based democratic politics can snap the feedback loop of false victimhood on which such terrorism feeds.
Almost all the countries from Pakistan in the East to Libya in the West, in which Islam is the majority religion are mired in political crises. Western imperialism has a dominating military presence here. It is in cahoots with the most reactionary, monarchical and religious regimes like Saudi Arabia and Emirates.
In countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya it has destroyed existing state and civil society structures by military aggression. While the reasons of direct imperial intervention are well recognised, the other aspect of the crisis, the internal failure of these societies to respond in a democratic and secular way is little appreciated.
In the absence of such responses these societies are caught up in the self-destructive dead end of religious populism. Elected leaders like the Turkish president Erdogan, or Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan represent one strand of this populism. Other strands are formed by violent jihadi groups, with Islamic State being the most violent of these.
Democratic possibilities of the Arab Spring have been squashed by hard core military and monarchical regimes on the one side, and religious populism on the other. Hence it is no surprise that the kind of terrorism seen in Colombo does enjoy a legitimacy among a section of Muslim communities, and this legitimacy has a global spread.
A similar kind of global spread of anti-immigrant politics and hatred of Muslims is seen in white Christian countries, many of which are liberal democratic. This politics of hatred is justified for the sake of safeguarding the interests of native citizens from what are seen as predatory intentions of immigrants, and lies at the core of the successes of extreme right wing politics in countries like Hungary, Austria, Germany, France, and the US.
Neo-liberalism and economic crisis here have weakened old arrangements of political representation and caused widespread economic distress. Both of these developments have contributedsignificantly to the rise of the extreme right wing. Here though it should be noted that the New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern, and ordinary people of the country,  have responded in an honourable and wise manner to the terror attack in Christchurch.
Not only the New Zealand PM came out unequivocally against violence on Muslim citizens of her country, she also undertaken domestic legal reforms so that this kind of violence becomes difficult in future. Ordinary New Zealanders too came out in large numbers toreassure their Muslim neighbours.
The use of hijab as a symbol of their support has been rightly criticised by secularists and feminists, since it represents the hold of patriarchy on Muslim communities. However, it cannot be denied that the liberal sentiment of inclusive openness, which lies behind the public gestures of Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand Prime Minister, of New Zealand, and the people of the country, is essential for the success of democracy in any multi ethnic society.
This should be compared with public reaction to attacks on minorities in a country like India. Here, political parties involved in horrific killings during riots have reaped handsome electoral rewards in 1984, and 2002. Past five years have seen multiple cases of public lynching in the name of cow, and a party which openly targets minorities is ruling the country.
Terrorist attacks such as those in Colombo and Christchurch are driven by pure hatred and legitimise violence against innocent civilians. These sentiments are no different from those of Hindutva violence against minorities. They need to be countered by the democratic value of equal respect for the rights of every human being.
People should guard themselves against easy seductions of religious fundamentalism and extreme right wing. Only a consistent application of democratic and secular principles in public life can help humanity overcome the crisis it faces at present.
---
*Convenor, People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism. Contact: battini.rao@gmail.com

Comments

TRENDING

Economist-editor's allegations on Narmada defamatory, baseless: Medha Patkar

Counterview Desk  In a reply directly addressed to well-known economist, journalist and columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar’s two articles in the Times of India (republished here and here ), calling them defamatory and wondering whether they were borne out of “ignorance or a conspiracy through political alliance”, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Pakar has said that the Narmada Sardar Saravar Project and the people's movement by adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters and all the generations’ old communities from the river valley have suddenly come to be focused on, since the Gujarat elections are in the doorstep. She believes that while the “defamatory accusations with baseless conceptions such as ‘urban naxals’ are to be laughed at as the electoral strategic moves, one gets shocked to read the articles by a known old columnist like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar, published in a reputed daily like the Times of India." According to her, Aiyar’s two articl

Hindutva groups threat to peace, freedom: US diaspora groups tell FBI, other govt depts

By Our Representative  The Islamophobic and neo-Nazi ideology of Hindutva is a clear and present danger to peace and freedoms in the United States, a coalition of civil rights organizations told key officials of the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, the US Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at a recent event in Edison, New Jersey. At the event titled United Against Hate, activists from American Muslims for Democracy (AMD), Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) and Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) made detailed presentations on this ideology of Hindu supremacism that is committing mass persecution of India’s Muslims and Christians and is rearing its ugly head in New Jersey as well as across the US. Attending the event were David S Leonardis, Special Investigator from the New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety; Michael E Campion, Chief of the Civil Rights Division for the US Attorney General's Office; and Jonathan R Norbut of the U.S. Dep

Facing tough times, Rajasthan's Raika herders hold first-ever camel cheese festival

By Rosamma Thomas*  During the pandemic, the annual Pushkar camel fair in Rajasthan did not occur for fear of contagion; in 2022, it was called off again as lumpy skin disease affected cattle. At Sadri in Pali district, however, festivity continues – a two-day Camel Cheese Festival was held on November 23 and 24, 2022. Visitors spent time with the camel herds and their Raika, drank camel-milk tea with the herders and then returned to lunch at the Kumbhalgarh Camel Dairy, from where the Kumbhalgarh Fort is visible, to taste camel cheese. The Raika herders have been facing a tough time – camels are no longer used as much for transport or agriculture in Rajasthan. The animals have limited utility, but their milk is prized. Camel Charisma, the dairy at Kumbhalgarh, sends camel milk across the country to people who use it in therapy – for autistic children, improved blood sugar levels, or even to treat cancer. It is believed that the health benefits of the camel milk is because the animals

As polls approach, electorate 'failing to realise': Gujarat model is in a shambles

By DN Rath*  Gujarat assembly elections, scheduled to be held on 1 and 5 December 2022, is viewed by many as dress rehearsal for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. When the suffering people have been pointing towards redressal of some local issues like absence of cleanliness, sewage problem, shortage of water supply, troubles created by stray cattle, insufficiency of streetlights, etc., it is evident that they are not fully aware that assembly elections are being fought on ideological standpoints and policy decisions. Nor is there the realisation that the state is in a shambles and the much-trumpeted ‘Gujarat model’ of development has proved to be a hoax. Like other states, the people of Gujarat are also back-broken by steep rise in prices to the tune of 400% in last 20 years. It is not that the government cannot control the spurt in prices if it so wants. Apart from the fact that price rise is an inevitability in a capitalist economy, artificial shortage triggered by massive hoarding, b

Shedding Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan? New Modi-Shah love for Tamil Nadu 'ignores' Periyar

By Sandeep Pandey*   The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) or the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) have long argued for ‘Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan’, which into recent years has translated into a crisper English expression: ‘One Nation-One Religion-One Language’. Given this backdrop, it is curious that the BJP government has organised the Kashi Tamil Sangamam in Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s constituency. Why did the BJP and RSS feel the need for such an event? All Narendra Modi events are highly publicised and have multiple political objectives. It is never an innocuous religious/cultural event as it may appear from the face of it. Afterall, RSS calls itself a cultural organisation, but has never ceased to surprise us with its political designs. Tamil Nadu has a long history of opposing imposition of Hindi by Union governments. Periyar EV Ramasamy had opposed the idea of compulsory teaching in Hindi as far back as in 1937. The 1960s witnessed violent protests against Hindi in which a number

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

GM mustard not swadeshi, it's a patent of MNC Bayer, GoI 'misleading' SC: Modi told

Counterview Desk  In a representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as many as 42 farmers’ organisations though their representatives , backed by senior scientists and experts, have said that the Government of India (GoI) should stop misleading the Supreme Court “with untrue and incorrect” statements on GM mustard. Insisting that India does not need unsafe GM mustard, in their representation, they urged the Supreme Court to order immediate uprooting of GM mustard crop in various locations. The representation comes even as a penal of experts, coming down heavily on the GoI for refusing to see how in less than a week’s time the pollen from GM mustard will “start contaminating” non-GM mustard fields with transgenes, including male sterility and herbicide tolerant traits. Alleging that the GoI is actively misleading the Supreme Court with untrue and incorrect statements on GM mustard, Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-Free India said, “We can list at least five areas where Gov

BJP poll gimmick? Bilkis Bano rape case 'pardon' vs Rajiv assassins' release

By Sandeep Pandey*  Supreme Court has released six convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. This was bound to happen as earlier AG Perarivalan was released in the same case, setting a precedent. Even though four of them are Sri Lankans but a popular Tamil sentiment favoured the release of these convicts which is why Tamil political parties supported this and resolutions were passed by different governments in Tamil Nadu to his effect.  Rajiv Gandhi paid the price of sending Indian Peace Keeping Force to Sri Lanka where it got entangled with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and eventually the whole operation ended up is a fiasco.  However, most importantly Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi and probably Rahul too do not have any objections to the release of these convicts. In fact, Sonia Gandhi played an important role in getting the death sentence of the only lady among the convicts Nalini commuted to life term through the Tamil Nadu Governor. Priyanka visited Nalini in Vellore Jail and

Never-ending saga of sin tax: What if murder is taxed at Rs 1 crore, rape at Rs 5 crore?

By Moses Raj GS, Sangeetha Thomas*  What should have ended by June 30, 2022 as a 5 year experiment has resurfaced. The government has extended the levy of GST compensation cess by another 4 years till March 31, 2026. This cess, dubbed as the sin tax imposed on sin(ful) goods, is double the highest slab on indirect taxes. But only a few pay for it and the majority benefit, unendingly. The year 2017 is a landmark year for indirect taxes. With the grand idea of ‘One Nation, One Tax’ as a fiscal slogan subsuming all State based taxes such as octroi /entry tax, Value Added Tax (VAT), sales tax, taxes on lottery, betting and gambling, luxury tax, purchase tax, entertainment tax, property tax, professional tax and central sales tax into a single framework of Goods and Services Tax (GST) changed the contours of revenue collection. Complicating it further, India, with each State having its own size and revenue problems, has the most complex and highly centralised indirect tax structure in the w

Demand to withdraw 'anti-environment, anti-adivasi' forest conservation rules 2022

By Gopinath Majhi*  The Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, a coalition of adivasis and forest dwellers’ organisations, has sent a memorandum to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) raising serious concerns over Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, notified by the Centre on June 29.  Contending that recent amendments and a host of executive orders/guidelines issued by the ministry undermine and dilute the FRA and threaten the rights of adivasis and forest dwellers, CSD demands that the 2022 FC Rules should be rescinded forthwith. Demanding withdrawal of such anti-people and anti-environment rules CSD Odisha organised a protest Dharana in front of State Assembly today on 25th November 2022 and submitted memorandums to the Hon’ble Governor of Odisha, Chief Secretary and Commissioner-cum-Secretary, ST & SC Development Department for conveying our concerns against the FC Rules 2022 to the Central Government for its withdrawal. The memorandums w