Yesterday’s terror attacks in Kabul have left a lot of us deeply disturbed with the barbarity and perversion the terrorists showed by attacking a funeral and a maternity hospital killing mothers and new born babies. Terrorism has evolved in recent times and governments across the world are unfortunately ill-equipped and unprepared to deal with it. The loss of life is always tragic but what has shocked the world is the depravity and utter contempt for life the perpetrators of some of the recent terror attacks have shown. Such acts are the result of years of indoctrination in a sustained, targeted campaign, often online by groups like ISIS, and even the Lashkar e-Taiba (LeT) and Hizbul Mujahideen closer to home. In both India and Afghanistan’s case, the problem is of course compounded when a neighbouring country is aiding such sinister efforts. Often the attacks are more about sending a message than doing mass damage. The attackers have often waited for the Police/Armed Forces to arrive and made little or no effort to get away. This shows the kind of indoctrination which suicide bombers are given, remorseless with a lack of fear for one’s own life.
Such incidents pose a huge problem for any country’s administration. This is a new paradigm in terrorism where its much more personal and simpler for the attacker than ever before. How do you stop such attacks? The use of commercially sold firearms, cars, vans, ordinary knives, and meat cleavers, freely available is backed up by their crazed ideology. Intelligence and policing could have done little to prevent some of these attacks.
Terrorism is evolving fast but governments must evolve faster to learn how to deal with this problem. Traditional methods are only working to counter traditional terrorism but what of this recent change in methodology? Terrorism must be dealt with at all levels and unfortunately the societal level is one that is not being worked on enough. The situation in Kashmir is a prime example of the lack of genuine outreach and impact at the societal level. The bigger towns aside, South Kashmir is now facing the brunt of indoctrination from across the border. From coordinated attacks on the Indian armed forces right down to mass stone throwing incidents, are all a result of Pakistan’s influence and its deep state’s morbid obsession with Kashmir. The disturbing video of a violent mob attacking an army vehicle near the encounter site of Hizbul Mujahideen’s poster boy Riyaz Naikoo will haunt us for a long time.
The dilemmas faced when trying to prevent such attacks are complex to say the least. Individual, social, community and structural levels, all need to be worked on simultaneously. The socio-psychological approach to radicalisation highlights the importance of interrupting the indoctrination process as early as possible. The only way to do this is by supporting vulnerable individuals and disrupting recruitment to extremist groups. The latter can be dealt with by intelligence agencies, armed forces and the police but supporting vulnerable individuals is easier said than done. This is being carried out in a somewhat uncoordinated way in Kashmir but must be stepped up and made the top priority at the policy level. One could argue that such issues are the downside of multiculturalism but in my opinion they’re more the downside or partial multiculturalism where some sections of people are not able to fit in or feel that they lack the opportunity to. Difficulties in adapting to new and different social systems can make such vulnerable people easy prey for those who can influence them into committing heinous crimes against humanity.
The battle is long drawn and dealing with terrorism at a socio-physiological level is an extremely difficult and slow process, but it is the only way forward in ridding the world of the evil scourge of terrorism. Killing terrorists is only half the solution, making sure new ones are not made is the tougher part but with a consistent approach and genuine outreach, top down from the policy level, this too is possible.
(Rishi Suri is the editor at The Daily Milap, India's oldest and largest circulated Urdu newspaper and has formerly served as the media consultant to the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister).