Development has always been our main agenda, for poverty is the biggest killer in our country. A fact realised by our leaders right since independence.
We have a very broad pyramid and there is pain at the big bottom. This pain is accentuated not just by poverty but a denial of basic civic amenities. As an example, in the year 2015, terrorists killed 181 civilians, while scarcities killed 3,228 farmers.
Now on top of poverty, if we also have hatred, then we are sitting on a pile of dynamites.
Most of the time this would sound like the beginning of something funny, “a man walks into a bar…” But sometimes it turns out to be a cruel tragic joke.
Not so long, a young highly indoctrinated man had walked into one of Mumbai’s most famous joint, Leo Pold and left a trail of blood behind.
Few days back, another man walked into another bar, on the other side of the planet, and opened random fire with his assault rifle. He was in the bar for about three hours shooting people in a violent display of hatred specifically homophobia. He was an American who killed fellow Americans, again whom he did not know personally.
The incident raised many questions, but at the core we reach to the question on what drives human beings into such frenzy that they go about hurting and eliminating fellow innocent human beings.
The first question is of course on the failure of the security apparatus in the US of A. Apparently Omar had blipped on the FBI radar couple of years back. He was duly investigated and given a clean chit, so far so good. But did he not again blip on the FBI radar when he went to buy the arms from a licensed dealer? A once upon a time terror suspect goes and buys multiple arms should have rang some bells.
The second question is the whole argument on gun control. Now this is something that can be used either ways. If only some of the victims also had arms on them, then they could have defended themselves. If Omar Mateen could arm himself, so also others could. It is an argument with no end to it, as we have seen Obama fail in all his attempts to enforce gun control.
Can we blame lack of gun control alone for the attack? Well it is true that in the absence of easy availability of guns, it would have been difficult for Omar to source his weapons. Difficult yes, impossible no!
We can keep making things difficult for these wannabe killers, and we have done so in the past few decades, but the violence has not declined. On the contrary things seem to get worse. A couple of decades back very few had even heard of assault rifles lest seen it or touched it. Today it is not difficult to get hold of an assault rifle, inspite of increased surveillance by the security agencies. Determined young men driven by hatred have figured out ways of unleashing destruction, inspite of our best efforts to check them.
Politically, and the tragic incident comes in the middle of a heated election fight between two unlikely candidates. On one hand a woman who has been part of the establishment and has conventional answers to these unconventional problems and on the other hand is an outsider who has absolutely unconventional answers. Neither of them seem to comprehend the turbulence underneath the calm surface. It is a war that civil society seems to have already lost.
In between his shooting spree, Omar found time to call 911 and inform them about his allegiance to ISIS. Authorities so far have not found any links between Omar and ISIS. No one from ISIS had contacted Omar. They did not provide him any logistic support. There was no communication between Omar and ISIS. Still Omar was implementing an idea which today is called ISIS, yesterday probably it went under the label of Al Qaeda, and tomorrow it would operate under another label, for ISIS is an embodiment of the idea of hatred.
ISIS leaders must have gotten a jolt when they were told that someone in Orlando has unleashed terror. They would have done their internal investigation and would have come to the same conclusion that Obama announced when he said there is no link between IS and Mateen. That must have cheered them like nothing. In terror terms Orlando is the worst attack in homeland second only to 9/11.
Now it appears that an organization like ISIS does not need to recruit people, it does not need to train them, it does not need to arm them, direct them to targets. The only thing they have to do is to keep spreading their idea. Internet, that beautiful technology innovation which was supposed to bring people closer, has turned out to be the most effective ally of terror. Their idea had won. Promptly they issued a curt statement, “the attack was carried out by an Islamic State fighter.”
Omar Mateen is a home grown terrorist, an American citizen. His father is an Afghan who had migrated into US, but not Mateen. He worked in the security system. He was self educated in the hatred business. He procured his own weapons, did his scoping out, and acted on his own. But where did the hatred come from?
In this case the hatred was directed against the LGBT community. There are many countries where the LGBT community is a soft target. Tomorrow someone else may have a grudge against some other group. And then some other group. There is simply no end to it.
In this case, Omar used an assault rifle that he had bought legally. Tomorrow someone might use another weapon, not necessarily a legal purchase. The weapon need not even be a firearm it can be as innocuous as a cyber attack on the target group, or something else that we cannot visualize, like no one had visualized the possibility of a civilian aircraft crashing into a commercial building until 9/11 happened. A deranged mind driven by hatred can actually turn out to be very creative in finding ways and means to carry out destruction.
As it is we know that there is no such thing as 100% security. How can Homeland security work in such a scenario, when there is so much hatred that young men are prepared to go out and eliminate weak defenceless groups of people?
The odds are stacked against Homeland security. Clinton as it appears would continue with Obama policies, and as we know, if we continue to do the same thing, we shall continue to get the same results. The other alternative, the man with the golden hair, wants to get rid of all the Muslims from America, is even worse, for he would directly play into the hands of ISIS. There are some hopes, some beacons amidst the crumble, like the Muslim gentleman who donated blood to the Orlando victims and appealed for peace.
What are the implications for the entire world? What does it mean for a nation like India, which has been at the receiving end of terror attacks? We have already witnessed one such incident in Mumbai where terrorists had opened fire on hotel guests killing hundreds. That was unleashed by intruders, but do we have the systems in place to prevent a repeat of Orlando.
Socially the country is on the cusp of either moving up to be a superpower thanks to NaMo’s leadership or imploding inwards due to the politics of hatred being practised by politicians, some of whom incidentally are part of NaMo team. We always had these few politicians for whom their personal glory is paramount over national interests, but the broader mainstream had always been wiser,ensured that few power hungry did not drive the national narrative.
Unity in Diversity has been our way of life. Development was our first line of defense. It was also our first line of offense on poverty, for lack of development is the biggest killer in our country. We have a very broad pyramid and there is big pain at the big bottom. This pain is accentuated not just by poverty but a denial of basic civic amenities. As an example, in the year 2015, terrorists killed 181 civilians, while scarcities killed 3,228 farmers.
Orlando has immense lessons for a diverse country like ours where people are used to hatred in some form or other. It is a warning. The answers are neither simple nor easy to implement. LGBT community is probably the softest target as Art 377 anyway makes it criminal, but then it is not the only soft target. In a diverse country like ours, there are many groups, sub-groups and sub-sub groups, drawn on different lines, each of which has strong opinions and counter opinions. These differences can be resolved through discussions or can be accepted as a fact of life in a mature manner, without pushing some young loner into a corner.
As some Chinese old man had philosophized, when faced with negative sentiments like sadness, anger, frustration, depression; women go shopping and men go killing. Most men (and women) in India anyway cannot go shopping as they are faced with survival challenges.
Hatred is like a short fuse on a pile of dynamites of poverty. The best we can do is to prevent the fuse from sparking off in the short term and work on eliminating these dynamites in the long term. As the well known economist had said, any way we are all dead in the long term.