It always makes my heart swell with pride when we are called a big Muslim population nation-a fact that many of us sometimes seem to forget. We are the third biggest Muslim nation in the world, far ahead of Iraq or Iran or Afghanistan or Malaysia or Bangladesh or Saudi Arabia.
But it is also a fact that scares many. They are the ones who project the infirmities of a few Muslims on to a whole community. A population that is inherently Indian. That is what makes India India, and that is what made India.
Talk about terrorism and the modus operandi is simple. The ones who have the larger picture in mind, the ones who are devious and could have any one amongst several objectives in mind: weaken India's economy, slow down India's rise to big power status, get India's democracy to falter, make its people fight one another, direct its realignment to certain powers.
Terrorists do not believe in the ideology of religions: they believe in selfish motives, professional or political. And they tap into age-old latent fears.
Those who act out terror - call them the instruments - happen to be shown the small picture. And that picture fits religion into a hallucinatory jigsaw solved for them. They are people with wants, desires, anger, sadness, strengths and weaknesses. Like you and like me. And the handlers tackle each one of these sentiments to their advantage.
Make them desire the greatness of certain elements of their faith, make them want to be famous, notorious, well known. Make them angry against the other as there is always a sample of crime against a community that can be magnified to make it appear universal, make them sad at instances of loss that their community has suffered, tap the strength of their youth and their skills, and make up for their weaknesses by giving them power - weapons, money, training, confidence and a group to belong to. And then show them a direction. Now repeat this heady mix over and over again. Till it becomes a way of life for them. And then make them live the life. Make them doers. And they do - over and over again. And they have done it again. In Mumbai.
They are to blame. For sure. For they did not have the rationale to be wiser, to see through the haze that was created around them. Punish them hard. But don't stop at that. That is where we as a nation have faltered, time and again. Not tracking back far enough to where it all begins. To the power centres whose operatives live in opulence, plan big and smart.
They are the ones who breed terror. And they put a whole gulf of buffer between themselves and the terror instruments in widening arcs that are highly sophisticated, educated, suave, selfish and dishonest close to the power centres themselves and gradually lose sophistication and increase in extremism and base feelings towards the periphery. The terrorists that we see are at the periphery. The real terrorists are far removed and will always remain powerful and smug till we figure out how to get at them. Get to them.
The logic of terror in India is simple. Carry out a terror strike with suitably prepared Muslim terrorists. The names will jump out sooner or later. The government will be called weak. Opposition political groups will demand stronger laws. Those laws will lead to arrests, roundups, detentions and torture by an untrained section of the law enforcers. Again mostly of Muslims. This will again prove the original premise that the state, that India, is against the Muslims. A few disgruntled youth will again be ready to be recruited to carry forward the agenda of teaching the state , India - a lesson. Once again there will be reprisals and the cycle shall repeat itself. Over and over, till India begins to erode, wear out, die.
There will be instances when the bigger innocent population will be caught up in the crossfire. And when they shall try to make sense of it, try and come to terms with their loss and grief, the recruiters will be ready with their brand of explanations. And the recruiters will recruit to all sorts of groups. Muslim fundamentalist, Hindu fundamentalist and mushrooming new entities. The power centres will drive the Mercs and live in the world's finest, while the instruments will put on the backpacks and wear Versace emblazoned T Shirts and gun down innocents.
While terror in Mumbai was underway 'The Economist' commented: Its assailants, still holed up in the city, would like nothing better than to provoke a backlash against Muslim inhabitants-which in turn would help to radicalise India's vast Muslim minority. Long after India's commandos have killed or captured the last of the terrorists that is how they would still hope to win.
Let's break the cycle. Let's get smarter.