Twenty one months was all it had been since mankind had ushered in the new millennium. On the eleventh morrow of the ninth month of Caesar’s calendar that year, the world awoke to one of the rudest shocks history had ever chronicled. For the first time in decades, terrorism announced its presence not as a mere hindrance to peace and tranquillity on the planet, but as a formidable threat to the very existence of human life. What was most appalling was not the scale of genocide – history is replete with instances where entire populations have been decimated – but the fact that one of the most well planned operations to be reported was carried out by a group of people hitherto scoffed at and referred to as a cowardly clan of perverted minds.
11th September 2001 would soon become a day, the mention of which would evoke poignant memories in the minds of not only the near and dear ones of the 2,823 killed but also the many millions who watched, in stunned silence, the sinister conspiracy unfold on video footages in news channels. Aghast and dismayed, the world took a while to recover from the shockwaves that emanated from their epicentre at New York City. The world trade centre was an architectural gem designed by Minoru Yamasaki, a star in the firmament of skyscrapers that embellished lower Manhattan. Yet, all that remained of its erstwhile grandeur were a few square metres of rubble.
For yet another time, (after the challenger disaster in 1986), the American public heard the voice from the White House waver. As George W Bush went through the trauma of having to address his people on the morrow of such a tragedy, imagination drives me to think he’d have wished for once that Al Gore had won the elections.
Unsurprisingly, the response and the repercussions that ensued were unprecedented in terms of impact and magnitude. The US, and with it more than three quarters of the world declared a ‘War on Terror’. But all Bush’s good work to assuage the feelings of his embittered people was soon undone, when the nation’s most scandalous espionage came to light. Ruefully, the seasoned statesman realized that the end never justifies the means.
With so much said and done, wouldn’t it be worth evaluating how successful we’ve been at curbing terrorism, or even containing its growth? A mere 26 days after the horrific tragedy, the US army began bombing Afghanistan killing nearly 3600 civilians. Many thousands of lives have been claimed in similar operations across the globe. Security measures were enhanced and new methods like racial profiling came into practice. Of course, implementing such schemes meant courting controversy; the Shah Rukh Khan incident and Dr. Haneef’s unjustified detention, just a couple among countless that drew most flak. While the former passed of as a moment of comic bathos, the latter was an event that elicited a huge outcry from the Indian community. But all that hasn’t stopped terrorism, which seems to be on an alarmingly inexorable trail.
So, dear reader, do I intend to lay out a few facts and figures to try and prove terrorism is here to stay? Certainly not. On the contrary, through this article, I wish to view the topic from a different perspective. And it shall be my humble endeavour to change the angle from which you perceive this predicament the world finds itself in.
SO, are terrorists a bunch of sadists? Is their bloodlust innate? Are all of them born schizophrenics? Popular misconceptions that need to be set right. In the Bollywood movie Kurbaan (well nothing about the ‘longest smooch’ in Bollywood history here), there is but one truly moving and naturally enacted scene. Kirron Kher narrates the heartrending story of how the Afghanistan bombings transformed the protagonist from a peace loving human being into a bloodthirsty terrorist. We are perhaps unaware of or are conveniently oblivious to the fact that a million such tragic tales lie buried deep down in Kabul’s underground bunkers and terrorist hideouts world over. Amid the whizzing bullets and bomblasts, they play on like a melancholic strain.
Acts of cruelty committed against any community register as deep wounds in the minds of its members. Isn’t it only natural then, for these long suppressed feelings to be woken up from their slumber, by a little instigation? The purported atrocities unleashed on terrorists, like at Guantanamo and Abu Gharib further exacerbate the situation and incite many more. We find ourselves caught in the horns of a dilemma ; if such punishments actually aid the growth of terrorism, how else can we deter its perpetrators? For men who value their lives far less than the Kalashnikovs they sling around, the so-called ‘war on terror’ is far from an intimidating prospect.
I fear I may have obfuscated you on my approach to the topic. So, am I trying to justify these abhorrent acts? It would be asinine to do so. Victims of these tragedies and their loved ones do need our solidarity. Yet, do all terrorists deserve our angst and hatred? Do we direct our emotions and reactions in the right direction? Let us remember, ostracizing such factions only worsens the problems. Their actions are no doubt abominable, yet do we ever try to see the causes behind them? Shouldn’t we try to find a solution to the problems that create terrorists before trying to put an end to terrorism? We must condemn the crime and not the criminal, the evil and not the wrongdoer. My words can easily be misconstrued here. I definitely do not mean such anti-social elements deserve no punishment. However we must judge wisely and punish nobly.
The enormity of the conundrum still throws me into quandary, its complexity perplexes me – the threat terrorism poses to humanity at large does perturb me. Yet, let us fight on with indomitable determination to eradicate this malice from the face of the planet.
I am not base enough to hope I can transform the way the world looks at terrorism. Yet, if the musings I have just articulated have done so much as to change your attitude towards the issue by even the slightest of margins, there can be nothing more gratifying for this unworthy mortal. So saying, may I sign off, dear reader.