‘Achhe Din’ in danger of turning into a Reign of Fear and Terror

Poverty, unemployment, desperation and desire for revenge are primarily driving youth to join terror groups. Are we encouraging them by pushing them relentlessly to a corner?

Photo by Mujeeb Faruqui/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Mujeeb Faruqui/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Anil K Antony

The dark wings of terrorism are swiftly spreading, casting its shadow over the world as the paramount threat to safety and stability.

Suicide bombers struck two churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday, killing more than 40 worshippers and police officers in the deadliest assault the country suffered in over three years. The first week of April also saw a stolen truck crashing into pedestrians at the Swedish capital at Stockholm and the bombing of the St Petersburg Metro in Russia, both claiming multiple innocent lives.

Late March witnessed the United Kingdom facing its deadliest terrorist attack in 12 years, when a car lethally mowed down pedestrians and a police officer outside the British Parliament. The assailers of all these incidents were allegedly influenced by the Islamic State (IS) ideology.

India is perennially one of the hardest hit victims of terrorism. Despite a long history of insurgencies carried out by radical Maoist Communist groups or Naxals in few volatile pockets, home grown Islamic terrorism remained a trivial threat over the years compared to the menace of cross-border infiltration, despite the country being the home to the world’s second largest Muslim population. A large credit for this should be attributed to our pluralistic, tolerant and heterodox traditions steadily build over a long period of multiple millennia.

The times are, however, fast changing. A Question Hour this Parliamentary session saw the Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh telling the house that around 80 people suspected to be influenced by the IS ideology are currently held in the country.

The Finance Bill of 2017 saw the Government bringing in a few hasty amendments to make the Aaadhar number mandatory for the filing of Income Tax returns, and for the application of new Permanent Account Numbers (PAN) post the first of July, despite several past objections by the Supreme Court.

The Government also proposed amendments, bordering on draconian in the Income Tax act for conducting search and seizure. This led to a large section of the privacy campaigners and members of the civil society expressing grave concerns that these are early steps in the transformation of India into a police and surveillance state.

More than 30 % of Indians between the ages of 15 and 29 are neither in employment, nor in any training or education according to a recently released survey by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development

Poverty, Desperation and Revenge

According to a research conducted by International Alert, a London based peace-building group, poverty, desperation and the desire for revenge are the key factors pushing a large number of adolescent boys and young men to extremist groups like the ISIS, even more than ideological and religious motivation.

Only a conscious effort by the central government to ensure inclusive economic growth, equal employment opportunities and equitable participation in our civic and democratic processes could ensure that our disillusioned Indian youth do not go astray. Search and surveillance as the primary mode of defence in a country of 1.25 billion people would be an expensive endeavour akin to the cleaning of the Augean stables.

Unemployment among our young population has already reached alarming levels. More than 30% of Indians between the ages of 15 and 29 are neither in employment, nor in any training or education according to a recently released survey by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The ineptitude of the BJP-led government in controlling the growing economic inequalities and unemployment rates have resulted in their steady drift to the politics of sectarianism and saffron nationalism.

The BJP decision to not field a single Muslim candidate among over 400 in the UP elections was just another calculated step towards politically marginalising the community. The crackdown on slaughterhouses, one of the first decisions taken by the new Uttar Pradesh government could potentially render lakhs of people jobless, with a disproportionately large number of those affected belonging to the Muslim population. The increasing incidents of mob violence perpetrated by fringe right wing groups like the cow protection “Gau Rakshaks” concentrated in a few BJP-ruled states like Rajasthan, UP and Gujarat are further deteriorating our social trust and communal harmony.

The Modi Government effectively nipping in the bud any deviations from the “Sabka Saath” inclusive preambles set during the 2014 general election would be vital in avoiding the much spoken about “Achhe Din” turn into a reign of fear and terror. Demons once summoned are hard to be wished away.

Anil K Antony is the Executive Director of an Indo-American think tank in cyber security, intelligence and surveillance technology. He is also a Venture Architect and Social Entrepreneur. He tweets at @anilkantony

This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own.

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