Presented at National Seminar, 17 December 2005
Department of Psychology, B R Ambedkar College, Univ. of Delhi.
- Dr. R.P.Dwivedi
The question of terrorism is always debated as ‘legitimate’ and ‘illegitimate’. Many a time freedom fighters and revolutionaries are also termed as terrorists. Our literature, creative as well as factual, is full of such instances. In our history, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were declared as terrorists, during British Rule, and hanged for their struggle. Needless to say that there are many more examples for such people. History is a rather more modern area of study than literature. In our ancient and medieval literature there were many words for the people engaged in ‘illegitimate’ deeds e.g. demons, devils etc. Therefore ‘terrorism’ is a new concept/word, which essentially represents a ‘Human’ involvement in destructive and illegal activities, which is completely different from demons, and devils, which were equally equipped with supernatural powers like their counterparts Gods. So, terrorism is not just a mythological story but it really creating a big problem and challenge to our civilized society.
Right to protest and right of expression of ideas are the basic rights in any democracy. Terrorism is also a kind of protest-towards the establishments and the system from which a group of people, generally called terrorists or extremists, feel dissatisfaction and use means of violence. Thomas Perry Thornton proposed an often-cited definition in 1964, terrorism entails "a symbolic act designed to influence political behavior by extra normal means, entailing the use or threat of violence.” But, sometimes-violent protests too cannot be categorized as terrorism as in the case of Bhagat Singh and others.
Some scholars also see loss of identity as the reason behind the terror acts. Modern society transforms us into a multi-identity personality. We could born as a Hindu, Muslim or Buddhist (religious identity), Hindi, Urdu, Bengali or Tamil (linguistic identity ) speaking family, Brahmin, Vaishya or Kshatriya or Dalit (Jati identity) and Indian, Pakistani, Afghani (national-geographical identity). If a person focuses, adopts and emphasizes only one identity and forgets about the rests, it’s quite possible, that person will generate an inclination towards terrorism. For example, a person born in a Hindu family is also part of Tamil speaking group (Linguistic) as well as Dalit (Jati) and Indian (National). So people get some of their identities by birth, which are beyond their control, many other they achieve with their education, activities, jobs etc. If a person, for example Osama Bin Laden, forgets about his other identities and strongly sticks to only one, his religious identity i.e. Muslim and feels unsatisfied with the treatment towards it by America he will initiate terrorists activities against it killing innocent and common people. Osama Bin Laden is a Muslim but at the same time he is human being, a global citizen, an Afghan national too but he identifies himself as only and only as Muslim and forgets rest of his identities. Sole-identities or imbalanced identities gives birth to terrorism. Multiple identities make us a responsible and tolerant person and inspire us to walk along with the world-order.
One of the major reasons of the terrorist’s activities is to seek attention of common people through media for an special ‘cause’. In nineteenth century with the rise of media-newspapers, magazine, radio and TV- terrorist activities are widely covered and thus have a great impact on our social-psyche. Creative artist-film makers, writers, poets, painter and photographers-also find terrorism as an important social concern and depict it in their art. In literature complexity of terrorism is raised and sometimes-sympathetic views also appear. Many scholars like renowned Bengali author Mahashweta Devi and Arundhati Roy bring criticism from fellow writers for their sympathetic writing on terrorism. There are many more writers, word wide, who have such kind of opinion. They blame economic disparity and political hegemony among nations for international terrorism. Exploitation of natural resources for the benefit of small chunk is another major cause for terrorist activities in India. Surely, Naxalism, is a major part of our literary writings as well as cinema. Naxal movement, despite it strong ideological acceptance, has been termed as terror activity by the government machinery and pacifist institutions. Now there is a vibrant and hot debate about it in literary domain. In the last 150 years, there have been countless novels, stories, and thrillers in which terrorists play the villain. Their cleverness, secrecy, their tactics to shake the system and topple the government establishments and police forces, their irrational desire to kill innocent people across the world are finding space in creative writings and getting popularity among wide range of readers.
Some authors, particularly fiction writes and filmmakers have focused on the socio-economic and political conditions that give rise to terrorists as an organized group, others have focused on the cultural and religious institutions that terrorists claim to oppose. There are many writings, which try to identify social conditions and psychological roots of terrorism. some literature explains or criticizes, while others focus only on the experience of being a victim of terrorism.
Culture is an integral part of human existence. Cultural values shape our day-to-day life and give strength for our survival. Culture also provides us a distinctive identity and feeling of proudness. In almost all the cultures across the world self-sacrifice is a key value. whenever there is a danger on an identity and cultural-value system from an ‘outsider’ some people come forward to protect it and willingly sacrifice their lives and taking others. In Indian society religion plays a vital role in cultural activities. Religion is so strong that it has penetrated into our political system and influencing common people in all arena of their lives. Recently, religion based terrorism has is rising allover the world. A controversial term ‘Hindu Terrorism’ too can be heard in common discussions. Such type of terrorism emerges because of some people think that there is a threat to their religious beliefs and values from other cultures or religious communities. Terrorists conduct extremist activities and use violence as part of their duty without any regret. Killing others and challenging ‘authorities’ give them pleasure and feeling of strength. After 9/11 (2001, America) the world has become new battle ground for terrorist groups and pacifist agencies. Scholars also analyze it as capitalist point of view and raise issue of developed and underdeveloped nations. There is also a feeling of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to trigger extremist activities. In recent years Islam and Christianity are highly loaded with such feeling. In literature we can categorically identify these cultural tussles.
Needless to say that literature and culture, jointly, can show the path to overcome the problem of terrorism. Cultural tolerance must be taught to the society through literature. Non-violence, tolerance, apropkra, peaceful protest, faith in democratic values and respect for others should incorporated in literary writings and cultural activities. Many authors, poets, film makers, artists are doing a lot but still there is much more required to be done in this direction.