There is a small hillock in the plot on which my house stands. A few years ago, the place was plagued with unsightly plants that grew without any regard to popular sense of symmetry and elegance. Therefore, I decided to change the landscape and called for help. The mess was replaced with pliable vegetation that made the place look chic. Wow! We can now live in alluring surroundings, I thought.
A few days later, I sighted some vegetation that I wasn’t sure about. Had I discussed this with the landscaper, I mused. I called him to come and have a look. My landscaper told me: Managing a landscape is an ongoing job. Weeds come free.
Al-Qaeda the free weed
There is nothing new in the recent announcement about launch of Al-Qaeda’s India unit. Has this war not been going on for last few decades? Perhaps centuries if we recall partition of India? May be even millennia if we recall the Mughal invasion? The announcement therefore, has little value in heralding a war. When have wars ever been fought after formal announcements?
There could be a few reasons for announcing opening of a ‘branch office’ in and declaring a war on India now. During recent years, Al-Qaeda has been marginalised and it has been losing ground to ISIS, an Al-Qaeda offshoot whose deeds are more macabre, presence more sinister, and ideology more bigoted. It could be a political compulsion for Al-Qaeda to re-establish its credentials as the guardian of Jihadi cause. I think the question – Why India – is irrelevant. The question from a terrorist’s perspective would be exactly the opposite – Why not India? At this juncture, when India is poised to be finally released from decades of mismanagement and there is a ray of hope that the landscape will finally turn picturesque, will weeds be far behind? Moreover, South Asia houses almost one-fourth of humanity. Which short-sighted ‘enterprise’ will ignore the talent here?
Even though wars do not come announced, an announcement shouldn’t be ignored as mere sabre‑rattling. Al-Qaeda has proved to be an obnoxious deadly weed during its existence so far. Even though India has been under siege from separatist voices of all hues for long and dealing with those is almost a part of our daily rigmarole, it wouldn’t be out of order to step up intelligence efforts.
Al-Qaeda rose to infamy after the twin tower 9/11 incident in New York in 2001. However, this civilisational weed first came into existence in late 1980s. Since then it has caused considerable havoc to the tranquil garden of civilisation.
The intractability in handling a weed is that clearing the whole landscape is not a viable option. American drone strikes targeted at terrorists have their limitations because precise targeting of terrorists dispersed among civilian population is technically improbable. The strikes have coerced people, even those who normally do not sympathise with terrorist agenda, to side with Al-Qaeda. This creates a recursive phenomenon of spawning terrorism apprentices.
Listen to the weeds
The skirmish between those who prefer to keep their gardens looking chic, and parasitic weeds gnawing at the landscaper’s effort is as old as humanity. Empirical evidence supports that the states when landscape is perfectly picturesque and when humanity is at peace with itself are never stable.
It would be relevant to recall the following shloka from Gita:
यदा यदा ही धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत।
अभ्युत्थ्ससनमधर्मस्य तदात्मानं सृजाम्यहम्।।
The purport of the shloka as I understand is that whenever the path of dharma (righteous practise based on accord between free souls) is transgressed, I (the epitome of righteousness) manifest myself.
There are three takeaways from the shloka. First, transgression of dharma is a frequently occurring phenomenon. Second, humanity needs to arrive at a consensus of dharma. And third,when the need arises, the righteous need to assert themselves.
The first takeaway corroborates the ephemeral nature of peace. At the risk of appearing to be an eternal pessimist, I would like to suggest that we should forget about a world where everlasting peace is established. The third takeaway suggests that the need for asserting righteousness should be the last resort. The irony of our times is that assertion is the only option that we all remember.
The second takeaway – need for evolving a consensus on dharma — is where most of our work should be. I am only repeating the idea that Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of from the Red Fort on Independence Day. As I mentioned in my comment on the Prime Minister’s speech the world comprises of Swayambhu (sovereign) individuals and they need to negotiate with each other to reclaim common spaces where they can manifest themselves. Without exception, it is when a minority of Swayambhus perceive to be cornered into residual spaces that they turn into civilisational weeds.
Any landscaping expert will confirm that weeds require certain soil and environmental conditions to be present. It is a no-brainer that weeds have to be deracinated when they are already manifested. However, if we leave it at that then we might be ignoring the lessons that their presence might have.
I would like to propose that extremist ideologies that frequently deploy monstrous violence as their way of assertion have few subscribers. They use religious identities to masquerade as things larger than they actually are. This is a devious ploy that humanity shouldn’t fall prey to. If we do fall prey to their tactics, then we will only end up alienating a bigger section of our population and provide extremists with a breeding ground for their recruits. We must arrest the weeds before they become endemic.
At the same time, we must march on with our slogan of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas and heed the wisdom inherent in the Bhagwad Gita.