Hello President sir,
Let me first mention that it is an absolute honour getting to answer your question. Thank you for this timely put forward question of yours concerning one of the gravest issues mankind has ever faced i.e. terrorism.
Coming to your question, I think this is the question you have asked yourself many a times while the execution of the prime convict of the terrorist attack on our parliament rested on a single nod or “nay” of yours. I know the decision isn’t entirely yours but, as publicized by media—your stand in Afzal’s case does matter.
Before I put forward my answer, I would like to analyze, from whatever I have seen, read and pondered over; the root-cause(s) of terrorism.
Terrorism has different facets, different levels of severity and different circumstantial causes. But in my view, it has common roots which start growing with mistrust, grow to the limits of distrust and end up bringing the involved communities/ individuals into disrepute.
Two communities which have different interests (take any two fast developing countries for example) have a certain air of competition and mistrust between each other. A few occurrences of miscommunication, lack of communication or vile acts of a few people who do not belong anywhere spark the feelings of enmity and complete loss of trust. This is where the targets i.e. both the opposing parties are “softening up” themselves for the heinous crimes of terrorism.
When we directly or indirectly segregate ourselves from others, we plant a negative thought in their minds. And the thought reads- “indifference.” Yes, we start off as being “indifferent” to each others’ woes. Actually, as humans, we are somehow destined to connect and be affected by each other. “Indifference” is tougher to achieve than to mention.
In an attempt to remain indifferent to your neighbour’s woes, you actually end up hating his success(es) which I believe is the first step in the direction of inhumanity and terror.
There is another way terrorism can branch out of its roots. The other way is called “insecurity”. Difference of interests among two communities which are both even on all grounds is not as dangerous a situation as is the difference between those two communities among which one is dominant over the other. The smaller and weaker community is weak in totality but the same cannot be said about the members of the weaker community. A human is never born weak. When they sense that the bigger tree is sucking away all the nutrition from the earth, they feel insecure (ironically, a trait of the meek) and resort to terrorism.
Sometimes, it is just the human within us that gets the best of us. The “mob mentality” it is! Most of the times the wrong-doers are a few but they are the loudest and hence the most apparent. We form “generalizations” (here comes another of the roots of terrorism i.e. quick generalizations) based on those few loud members of a community which leads to misinformation and hence, miscommunication.
Now, that I have made clear what I think is the cause of terrorism as a whole; let me put forward my humble answer to you. I hope you like it.
I have never been a big fan of the capital punishment per se. As I have already suggested that the roots of terror are very deep rooted—so much so, that if you completely shift your perspective to match that of a member of the community which is said to be churning out terrorists, you can somewhat justify your means. This is the reason you have to kill the cause and not the people. The easiest method to do it, the way I see it, is by the help of communication. What starts off with miscommunication can possibly be uprooted by communication.
To bring it down to Layman’s terms: When an Indian chats with a German, a French, an Afghan, an Iraqi or a Pakistani; they do not sound like they are any different from him. We all love good music, we all love our family and we all follow the same fundamental philosophies of life. There might be differences of interest superficially but, as humans we all just bleed red. This fact needs to be spread and shared with everyone and the only way to do it is communication and media. Movies have been a bridge between India and other countries for decades.
Here are some fruits of my thought process-
1.Promote Secularism through textbooks.
I am thankful to all those chapters in the textbooks I had growing up which had pictures and stories of a Hindu and a Muslim celebrating each other’s festivals with joy and goodwill. A tender mind in childhood can be moulded in any desired way. Let us sculpt a transparent mind with room for respect towards every human culture and religion and no room for envy and hatred. Let’s make communalism a no issue.
2.Worldwide Television and Radio.
How about this—all the nations of the world join hands with UN (or create an organization of their own) to put to air a few satellite Television and Radio channels which cover features, news, music, cultural sketches and special stories from all over the globe(?) Every nation gets an equal opportunity to display all the good things it has to offer and share with rest of the world. This would promote mutual understanding and perpetual dissolution of hostility or lack of respect towards each other. The beauty pageants, a few TV channels are doing just that. But, I think we need to do it more often, on a grander scale and with better communicability.
By better communicability I mean that the material should either be dubbed or be staged in local languages (with some added local flavour). I guess, there can be better ways to share cultures. This was the best I could think of. I’ll wait for the time when we will have more performers of “worldwide” fame and a better and bigger audience of every form of art. Terrorism will die screaming under all this.
3- A Fearless Stand.
As people, I think it is our responsibility to get our views registered. Getting noticed is not in our hands but raising voices is. When you think something wrong is going on, you have to do something about it. As a journalist, you have to let is be known to people; as a blogger, you have to blog about it, as a Newspaper reader, you have to e-mail the editor about it… some way or the other, we all have to stand firm and express our viewpoint. You have to learn this from the enemy. They are always fewer than us, but they get their violent thoughts known to the world. Why can’t we fight back with the same weapon?