New Zealand’ statesmanship is in a complete contrast of India’s response on Pulwama that not only failed to unite the country, but also deflected the issue to political podiums
The Indian subcontinent is a wounded region that has been subjected to dangerous contextualising of terror that is ultimately tantamount to “justification of terrorism.” The adage, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” has been used and abused by both terror groups and roguish states, whose stated policy distinguishes between “good” and “bad” terrorists. Repeated warnings to desist from such categorisation — as the same inevitably backfires — is personified by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s routine posting of the figure of 75,000 Pakistani casualties and an economic cost of $123 billion to the state, owing to its ostensible fight against terrorism.
Obviously, the Pakistani state has not come clean on its own track record of duplicitousness and insincerity on terror, with the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s prophetic warning that “snakes in the backyard would not just bite the neighbours.” The tact of selectively legitimising and deliberately contextualising some terror organisations as “freedom fighters” or “defenders of the faith” comes with accompanying risks of these morphing and mutating into Frankenstein monsters and turning upon its progenitors. The fact is that Pakistan is witnessing a breakdown in its social structures, economic health and political future by pandering to regressive “contexts” to justify its interferences across the Durand Line in the Afghan region, across the Line of Control in India as also across its Iranian border.
An unwarranted and insensitive contextualising of a terror act was recently made by an Australian Senator, Fraser Anning, following the horrific massacre of at least 50 lives at Christchurch in New Zealand, which literally resulted with an egg on his face. The Senator had incredulously stated, “The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration programme, which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to the country in the first place.” While his statement was squarely lambasted by the political leadership in specific and society in general, in both his native Australia and New Zealand — the age-old practice of “contextualising” terror, that further divides and polarises societies, was in full display. In stark contrast was the deft statesmanship, empathy and sensitivity shown by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in handling the post-attack narrative by unambiguously designating the incident as a “terrorist attack”, resulting in a more corrective and reformative step as opposed to the vacuous “contextualising”, as was done by the Australian Senator.
In India, too, expected apologists of terror across the border and some within, lend immediate “context” and “credence” to any terror attack by willy-nilly justifying the same on the pretext of the need to “introspect why it happened?” Terrorism is a multi-dimensional phenomenon that breeds and survives on popular legitimacy of its actions among the aggrieved communities and the other stakeholders — this psychosocial “oxygen” is the key determinant for its sustenance. It is this spirit of unequivocal delegitimization that was invoked by Ardern when she spoke about the terrorist in a deliberately nameless way by stating, “He may have sought notoriety but we in New Zealand will give him nothing. Not even his name.”
This handling was very different from the terror attack in Pulwama in India, where spotlight on the “perpetrator” was ensured by the cynical political manipulation of the same, a 24-hour media blitzkrieg covering the sublime-to-the-ridiculous theories and the unashamed “sharing” of true and manufactured content on the social media.
Somehow, under the garb of various “contexts”, the Pulwama terror act did not unite the entirety of populace for its sheer brutality and inhumanity but deflected the issue into unnecessary divides of political positions, pro-and-anti-nationalism and ended up polarising the masses even more.
A similar frenzy was instrumental in elevating Burhan Wani into a cult-like phenomenon with a complex process of cognitive accommodation, claims-and-counterclaims and societal assimilations.
It is important to recognise that the maximum “context- setting” of terrorism is done by foreign powers who have vested interest in the disruption of normalcy, national politicians with a hovering electoral calculator and finally the TRP-driven media (mainstream and social) that ignites popular passions to ensure that the requisite ‘fuel’ for terror justifications persists.
China’s patent realpolitik approach in defending Pakistan, and by that extent, JeM chief Masood Azhar on the floor of the United Nations, is a classic case of a foreign power affording a context of “technicality” in vetoing the symbolic step that could have named and shamed Islamabad, which brazenly chooses to side with those who use violence in the name of faith.
Even fringe support, applause or “context” is sufficient for the terror industry — it is imperative that no platform for contextualising of terror is allowed in the aftermath of any terror attack. Speaking about Pakistan’s support for terrorism, UN Secretary-General António Guterres had specifically said that “no political reason…no cause, no grievance” could justify it. Former US President George Bush in his address to the joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001, had famously exhorted on the double-speak on terrorism, “Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” This nudge had led to some temporary course-correction in Islamabad — with Pakistan purportedly joining the global “war on terror” — but the subsequent reversal to its patent contextual support to the terror industry led to its coming under the international scanner — take for example the ongoing Financial Action Task Force (FATF) proceedings — and reached its pinnacle of opprobrium when Osama bin Laden was “taken out” from the military garrison town of Abbottabad.
Similarly, Pakistan refuses to abandon its basic instinct of contextualising and interfering in the affairs of its neighbours, much to the chagrin of Kabul, Tehran and Delhi. Proverbial chickens are coming home to roost as the Pakistani establishment now plays the “martyr card” on terrorism after years of contextual support based on a flawed interpretation of history, co-religionist and “freedom struggle” as it expectedly backfired, giving an invaluable lesson to all apologists of terror-contextualising.
(The writer is a well-known columnist and an author)
Writer: Prafull Goradia
Courtesy: The Pioneer