Arshi Saleem Hashmi Senior Research Analyst, Institute of Regional Studies, Islamabad Visiting Assistant Professor, National Defense University (NDU), Islamabad

Existing scenario
It is militant forms or expressions of religion and religious ideology, which, under the guise of fundamentalism, are arguably the point of connectivity between religion and religious terrorism. Contrary to what Hent De Vries(1) argues that there is no religion without violence of some sort and no violence without religion of some sort, religion itself is not the cause of conflict. In fact, problems arise when powerful vested interests associate religion with violence, as Mark Juergenmeyers argues that religious violence is a result of people’s tendency to see their life as a struggle between good and evil. The clash between the forces of darkness and light can be understood not as a sacred struggle but as a real fight, often political manoeuvring taking place on the earth. He claims that when there is an identity crisis, or problem of legitimacy, threat of defeat, a real world struggle can be conceived as a sacred war and enemies are demonized.(2) Another school of thought, that includes Daniel Pipes, Samuel Huntington, Bernard Lewis and Jessica Stern, sees only Islam and not other religions as inevitably violent. Daniel Pipes, for instance, claims that radical Islam is an ideology incompatible with secular society. Muslims want to force the secular world to submit to their principles. They are thus “a radical network of terrorists,” “terrorists in this world who can't stand the thought of peace,” “terrorism with a global reach,” “evildoers,” “a dangerous group of people,” “a bunch of cold-blooded killers,” and even “people without a country.”(3) But there can be surely many other explanations to understand why religion has become an essential “tool” in politics and its extremist manifestation. For instance, Ted Gurr’s model of relative deprivation, mobilization and grievances is very relevant in order to understand the intrusion of religion in politics and the phenomenon of extremism. (4)

No doubt that the Taliban-Deobandi axis represents the legacy of revivalism that had, in the latter part of the 19th century, swept the Muslim world with a wave of militant insurrections led by the fundamentalist ulema, but it has become a fashion to trace all acts of violent behaviour to Islamic community. There is so much rhetoric in this regard that other possible reasons for the rise of militancy in the region have been set aside. The international media has found a new excitement about the activities of the militant groups and linking them with the Muslim ideology, notwithstanding their geographical location. It is being envisioned as if the origin and manifestation of extremism and terrorism is only confined to Islam or at least to people who believe in the religion and call themselves Muslims. This impression is further reinforced by the Greater Middle Eastern authoritarian regimes, which after 9/11 got the opportunity to strengthen their dictatorial rule, by deliberately misinterpreting the unrest in their respective societies. According to this propaganda tool, the element of dissent and revolt is branded as an act of extremism. In societies like Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, religious terrorism became an expression of ethnic identity as well, when the non-religious expressions of the communities were denied democratic outlet. In Bangladesh and Nepal, it is solely ideological expression than ethnic, which shaped into political violence. Militant expression of religious extremism is a global issue but South Asia is the worst affected region. Religious extremism and its expression through terrorism is a non-state, international phenomenon and, therefore, needs to be dealt with at the state, regional, and international levels.

Conceptual framework: Collective radicalization and mobilization
It is often said that religious extremists are not the poorest of the poor. In fact all the big names in the list of the culprits in recent history turned out to be educated and relatively better off. This leads us to explain that those who are most deprived, most oppressed, most in need are not those who usually rebel violently. Of course there have been food riots and peasant uprisings, but most often revolutions and violence have occurred when conditions are better or have been improving, and among those who are not the most deprived. Explanations vary but generally focus on two propositions. First, deprivation is subjective, a function of a person’s perceptions, needs, and knowledge. To nail deprivation to an objective or absolute lack of something such as freedom, equality, or sustenance, is to ignore that definition of these shifts according to historical period, culture, society, position, and person.

The second proposition deals with these norms. It asserts that we take our presently perceived or expected positions, achievements, gratifications, or capabilities as a base of comparison against our wants or needs, or what we feel we ought to have. The gap between wants and ‘ought to’ or gratifications and capabilities is then our deprivation, or relative deprivation in the sense that it all depends on our base of comparison. The literature on these two principles and on relative deprivation is well organized in Gurr’s book,(5) which merits discussion. The idea of relative deprivation has been used either to measure fairness, inequality, or social justice, or to explain grievance, social hostility, or aggression. Gurr’s concern is with relative deprivation as a cause of aggression. Ted Gurr’s articulated models suggesting that the gap between expectations and achievements would contribute to the willingness of people to rebel; in particular, rebellion was fuelled by movements in this perceived deprivation. In our discussion here on religious extremism, the aggressive, violent phenomenon of extremism attests to Gurr’s theory that it is actually the gap between the expectation of a regime based on “true” faith and the reality of an “adulterated” regime that leads these self-proclaimed custodians to resort violence in the name of religion.(6) The basic thesis of this paper is based on two theories; one that grievance borne of deprivation (either economic or political) is an individual concern that manifests itself collectively. Quite often material and political deprivation is aggregated within specific groups with a homogenous cultural identity. For example, a religious or linguistic minority might suffer disproportionately in a given society, and this form of grieve can lead to unrest across the social lines that distinguish the minority group.(7) True, in most regions of the world where we find ethnic and religious movements at times violent are minorities rebelling against the system. South Asia, however, is unique in the sense that the religious revivalism in extreme form in all of its troubled areas was initiated by the religious majority. This brings us to the second part of the thesis, in order to understand the phenomenon of religious extremism in South Asia, we need to look at the element of Fear. When Winston Churchill warned, “we have nothing to fear, but fear itself,” it’s doubtful he realized the sweeping political accuracy of those inspiring words. The common thread that weaves violent political movements together is fear and it is true for violent religious movements as well. The fear of being deprived of something drives one to act aggressively. Fear of being left out is the factor that drives the movements against the prevalent

is the common denominator. Some groups fear change. or why they are willing to kill or die for a cause. nor necessarily the most obvious. Basic questions The paper addresses some basic questions. fear of being deprived of the status and achievement of the desired society can explain the rising religious extremism and militancy among the religious majority. Whenever we ask why people hate. Hindu or Buddhist. fear of being deprived of the role and status that they expect and want to achieve. the answer is invariably fear. For instance. but it is virtually always there. It is not the only motivating factor behind political manifestation of religious violence. So if relative deprivation can explain the phenomenon of religious extremism among the religious minorities. They fear a future they can’t control. mosques and synagogues for physical and material gratification. Jew. South Asian religious majorities are suffering from such fear that leads to tragic occurrences like the Gujarat pogrom perpetrated by the Hindu-majority extremists or Islamic militancy waging jihad against the “infidels” in Pakistan or Bangladesh or Sinhalese Buddhists resorting to violence against Tamil Hindus and Christians in Sri Lanka.forces. why does religion so often become a source of conflict in South Asia? How can doctrines that emphasize harmony and peace get so politicized that justifies rioting. temples. modernization and loss of influence. Religious radicals are united by fear. Whether they are Christian. or even comprehend. war. ideology: A fundamental difference or a false dichotomy Ian Pitchford’s separation of a) ideologically-driven groups and b) grievance-driven groups may be read to suggest a distinction between a) groups whose terrorism we unequivocally condemn . the study raises an important question: Does the religious confrontation in South Asian politics lead to regional instability? Role of religion in South Asian politics Grievance vs. and terrorism? Whether the role-played by religion in public life and in politics is proper? While focusing on South Asia. Muslim. others fear that the young will abandon the churches. They especially fear education if it undermines the teachings of their religion.

Regardless of what the specific causes of terrorism in one place or another may be.(al-Qaeda. since it is certainly not the case that everybody with a grievance launches into wholesale slaughter of civilians. including al-Qaeda. to the extent that those outside the established religion feel themselves excluded from or peripheral to a defining characteristic of national identity. it is the implementation of this right that unfortunately provides one community an edge over other and hence leads to exploitation and sometimes violence in the name of religion. When upper-class Hindus organize violence against “untouchables” who try to win equal political status they are expressing a grievance. and therefore all terrorist groups are ideological. and which undercuts national unity. insurgents in NorthEast India). Bangladesh has been suffering from fundamentalist Islam versus liberal Bengali nationalism and that has led to the election victories of the two mainstream political parties in the country. we need to pay more attention to the causes responsible for an ideology that endorses killing the innocent. of whatever degree of mildness or severity. We have noticed that the establishment of a religion also establishes an inevitable formal inequality which implies some risk of discrimination.(8) This is hardly trivial. We know about the extremists in Iran and Saudi Arabia and about the Taliban and al-Qaeda. necessarily based on perceptions of common heritage and aspirations. So whether somebody has a grievance is independent of our evaluation of its being just and genuine. . The question is if there is any terrorist group without a grievance? But most importantly. Not the one that we recognize as legitimate. Hindu extremists have been in Indian administration and Jewish extremists in Israeli administration and in both cases they’ve definitely got nuclear weapons already. say they have grievances. it must carry with it an ideology namely. The media and Western leaders speak often about this phenomenon in relation to Islam. that attacking innocent civilians is fair game (or else that there is no such thing as an innocent civilian). Buddhist extremists in Sri Lanka have prevented reconciliation with the Tamil minority for decades. But it is also the experience in all the other great faiths. Baluch in Pakistan. but a grievance all the same. Though the establishment of one religion as a country’s official religion is permitted under international standards for freedom of religion or belief and thus is not problematic. Taliban in Pakistan. since members of every terrorist group. RSS Hindu extremists and b) groups whose terrorism we “understand” (Hamas in the Middle East.

Article 2A of the Constitution says. and Sikhism share with Hinduism the concept of dharma along with other key concepts. Jainism.”(9) The word “secular” was inserted into the Preamble of the Indian Constitution by the 42nd Amendment Act of 1976. but other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony in the republic”. the proposed 19th Amendment to the Constitution would make Buddhism the official religion of Sri Lanka. It implies equality of all religions and religious tolerance. and the . A quick scan of these constitutions shows the importance of religion not only legally but politically as well Constitutional umbrella and the politics of the South Asian countries Through the Proclamation (Amendment) Order No. Though still not part of the constitution. and the military has incorporated Buddhist rituals into its ceremonies. “The state religion of the Republic is Islam. Article 9. The process of Islamization of the constitution started during the rule of Ziaur Rahman with the insertion of Islamic words. India therefore does not have an official state religion. practice and propagate any religion they choose. Those who support turning secular India into a Hindu state through constitutional amendments argue that Buddhism. With this insertion. It must treat all religions with equal respect. The Sri Lankan political system approves Buddhism enjoying “foremost place” in their society through constitutional guarantee. the Bangladeshi Constitution has lost its original secular character and has been highly Islamized.1 of the proposed amendment states that “The Official Religion of the Republic is Buddhism. one of the religions as practiced in this country has been placed above the others. every person has the right to preach. Other forms of religions and worship may be practiced in peace and harmony with Buddha Sasana. officials pledge allegiance to Buddhist clerics after assuming power. 1 of 1977. Buddhism has a special place in Sri Lankan politics. and discrimination and religious harassment or persecution against other religious groups intensified. In theory. But it was General Hussain Muhammad Ershad who completed this process by declaring Islam the state religion through the Eighth Amendment. The government must not favour or discriminate against any religion.The South Asian countries being discussed here except India and Sri Lanka have given special place to religion in their constitutions.

referred to as the Injunctions of Islam. Reference to Hindus in the last Nepali Constitution(12) shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Buddhist. It was widely reported that the Sharia (the system of Islamic laws) is not specifically mentioned. but no law may contradict the beliefs and provisions of Islam.(10) The word Hinduism retains this sense in some usages in the Indian Constitution of 1950. Moreover. despite the long history of Hinduism.242) provides that in the application of this clause to the personal law of any Muslim sect.(13) The 2004 Afghan Constitution describes Islam as the state religion. but in fact Hanafi jurisprudence is one of the six branches of Sharia. In this Part. Shamanist or other religions existing in Nepal over the course of many centuries. it is stated that no law shall be enacted which is repugnant to such Injunctions. A system of civil law is described. Followers of other religions are “free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites” within the limits of the law. And of course it would not solve the problem of a religion such as Islam. On the other hand. concessions are made to Shia jurisprudence in cases arising strictly between Shi’ites. There is no mention of freedom of conscience. able to coexist well with other religions. the expression “Quran and Sunnah” shall mean the Quran and Sunnah as interpreted by that sect. Such a provision might have the effect of extending protection to Nepal's other widely followed indigenous South Asian religions.four religions may be said to belong to the dharmic tradition. Buddhism. Hinduism is used in a narrower sense to distinguish it from the other religions of Indian origin. and references to Hindu religion and religious institutions shall be construed accordingly. or of more recent introductions such as Christianity. Article 227 of the Constitution of Pakistan. provides that all existing laws shall be brought in conformity with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah. and in fact apostasy is punishable by death in Islam . and Shamanism alike as inclusive rather than exclusive religions.(11) The constitution also provides that nothing in this Part shall affect the personal laws of non-Muslim citizens or their status as citizens. in practical politics. it might also easily evoke feelings of being subsumed in a kind of Hindu-centric hegemony. However. also present in Nepal for many centuries. Part IX. Further explanation (Art.

the ruling political leadership has been unfortunately suppressing those who dare oppose its theories of culture and civilization. religious identity. but in neither nation has conservative Islam exerted a definitive influence on governance. since 1997. India is technically a secular state. has raised concerns for all religious minorities in the region—Sikh. the issue may emerge again. Religious traditions are transformed by this increasingly small world. and Christian alike.Policy implementation The institutional provision of religion in the constitutions of almost all South Asian countries has made it a political force. South Asia’s dynamic religious presence is manifested throughout the world. Political use of religion has heightened religious antagonism and acrimony. Pakistan and Bangladesh have experimented to different degrees with the integration of Islamic legal structures into the running of the nation-state. new media. . Fundamentalist Hinduism. In the South Asian region. The speed and ferocity with which political leaders are diminishing the civil and political rights of their constituencies indicates that South Asia is in for a prolonged period of turmoil. especially after the destruction of the Babri Mosque at Ayodhya in 1991. recent years have witnessed a resurgence of religious militancy in South Asia. Change and continuity still characterize the development of religious traditions in South Asia as they have in the past. militant fundamentalism has emerged under the garb of religious extremism. as living cultures do. The Sikhs have battled for their own homeland. in the future. Not only that. and though a relative peace has returned to the Punjab. and altering social expectations. The political leaders as well as military rulers in South Asia have used religion for political legitimacy and integration. influenced by economic and political change. Muslim. The legal system in India has retained differing systems for Hindu and Muslim personal law (more than 10 per cent of the population of India is Muslim). slogans and symbols have often been used by political parties for political mobilization. Core religious beliefs and practices will continue to change. Pakistan and Bangladesh have Islam as state religion. since the South Asian diaspora is a vital and growing community. has made room for religious militancy and extremism. Sri Lanka and Bhutan are Buddhist and Nepal a Hindu state. More importantly.

(14) Religion’s role in the politics of South Asia and its radical manifestation increased many times after the anti-Soviet Afghan War. particularly in Kashmir. and strengthened the resolve and ferocity of Islamic militants in Kashmir. Though prevalent in other societies too. it is always risky. to provoke “reactive” religious violence. especially the Middle East. many of them in government. In particular. While this question is inevitable. The other is a question of “interpretation. the separatist movement inspired by extremist Sikh nationalism in the Indian Punjab and the Tamil separatist movement against Buddhist extremism in Sri Lanka grew more alarming at the same time. which fail to illuminate the extent to which movements of extremist religious nationalism in different parts of the subcontinent inspire and provoke each other. and the Chittagong Hills. based on a “single casestudy” approach. reactive or “retaliatory” effects are observable: Hindu-extremist attacks on Muslims in India have helped inspire Muslim-extremist attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh. Without this. Of crucial importance for understanding South Asian religious extremism’s impact on the politics is to understand the relationship between religious extremism and violence committed by non-state actors. In addition. Hindu. bolstering each other as well as other ethno-religious azadi/separatist insurgencies. Proper understanding of the phenomenon depends therefore on sustained and comparative discussion of all the politically important cases of religious extremism — Islamic. in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Northeast India. Buddhist — across South Asia’s major states. The Gujarat pogrom of 2002 shows both: extremist Hindu nationalists. terrorism. This encourages us both to be more open-minded and to expect to find complexities. Kashmir was not the only case. Much before the azadi movement in Kashmir was radicalized. used systematic violence in a .Politico-religious extremism in South Asia What are the sources of religious extremism? When we ask a question like this.” asking “how” we see things. because of its persistence and virulence. we mean at least two things. religious extremism tends to inspire religious violence and terrorism and also. and even terrorist movements. One is a question of “explanation. religious extremism in South Asia is unique. for the answer can be both simplistic and reductionist. we are in danger of having only a series of isolated national or sub-regional perspectives. The way Kashmir struggle became more of a religious struggle rather than a political/territorial dispute says a lot about the impact of religious extremism in one part of the region on the other part.” asking “why” it happens.

religious extremist parties on gaining power use violence as a semi-official instrument of governance and political self-preservation — as Hindu nationalists in India effectively used communal violence to win elections in Gujarat in December 2002. Similarly.(15) Another point is “negative value application. The “other” is often cast as “satanic”. We have witnessed in India. On the one hand.” which is a feature of fundamentalism. where it occurs. It is therefore very important to evaluate the impact of religious extremism on democracy. In other words. on the other this same fundamentalism can display a propensity to include. the superiority of the self is asserted. anything that relative to it appears liberal. particularly in democratic politics. virtually automatically. This holding together of an ideological exclusivism with an inclusivist polity. However expressed or referenced. a strategy the national leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has committed itself to replicating across India. At the same time. or at least seriously and significantly labelled as a hostile opponent. comprises the contextual scope of fundamentalism which is a mark of hardline fundamentalism and gives the first point of a profile of religious extremism as such. in Pakistan the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA — or united action committee) used the slogan ‘Islam in danger’ in the 2002 general election in the backdrop of US attack on Afghanistan in 2001 and approves of the actions taken by the militants and the Taliban in the Tribal areas of Pakistan against the “infidels”. Pakistan. religious fundamentalism excludes. as a necessary corollary. how religious extremism has promoted majoritarian and illiberal conceptions of democracy that erode and weaken the political rights and civil liberties of religious minorities.systematic fashion against innocent people to achieve political purposes — a practice which certainly fits textbook definitions of terrorism. it will be clear that the fundamentalist is showing signs of deepening extremism in applying negative valuation to . It occurs where otherness per se is negated and. all others that fall within its frame of reference or worldview. in respect to considerations of the policies and praxis of social organization. and so regarded hostilely. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. such violence has provoked a wave of reactive violence — almost certainly by Indian Muslims. and how it attracts political support and exerts political influence beyond core supporters and succeeds in shaping national politics throughout the subcontinent. Most of the literature typically focuses on religious extremism. a phenomenon outside of government: What happens when the philosophy becomes a reality and tastes power. it is crucial to grasp the important political role religion and its extremist variant actually plays in South Asia.

places of worship. in fact. as an expression of negative judgments and the negation of the “other”. Sanctioned imposition and legitimized violence are the two sides of the chief coin of justification in the currency of religious extremism. As the shift from a merely “hardline” to an actively impositional fundamentalism takes place. together with a corresponding assertion of self-superiority vis-à-vis any “other”. though badly affected by terrorism. For it is only so that the extremist ensures that the imposition. at least in the mind of the impositional fundamentalist. . the region has not been able to address the root causes that are responsible for mounting terrorist activities. sanctioned by a higher or greater authority. South Asia is unique as it has both temporary.(16) Ad hoc and organized intentional terrorism in South Asia On the one hand manifestations of contempt. and so on. Cosmetic steps to go against the militants after the terrorist act is committed already cannot solve the problem. often appear in various contemptible behaviours – intimidation. They form the feature of explicit justification. we discover two critical factors at work: sanctioned imposition and legitimated violence. violent and destructive actions directed at nonhuman symbolic targets: works of art.“otherness” as such. howsoever that is conceived. that has been duly sanctioned. simply manifesting an underlying contempt in a comparatively spontaneous fashion.(17) On the other hand. coercion. random. which is a mark of impositional fundamentalism and the fourth point in the profile of religious extremism. abrupt phases of violent expression as well as organized. Since in South Asia we are still not so “civilized” to go for the root causes of the problem of religious extremism and its militant manifestations. can actually be brought about. These groups go underground when military action is taken by the governments and re-emerge when and as they feel the chance to exploit the grievances of the masses. Such behaviours may be ad hoc or temporary. there is certainly the phenomenon of intentionally organized terrorism where extremism knows no bounds: the terrorizing of a targeted populace is itself both the means and the end. The former sees the very imposition of the fundamentalist’s views and polity as. intentional terrorist actions against certain groups or the state. This leads naturally to the legitimization of extreme violence and so a platform of justification being established.

Adam Dolnik puts it: first. and finally. the concept of Jihadization. fanatical violence. the tolerant religious nationalisms that helped spawn these nation-states have been fiercely challenged by “extremist” variants. a situation where we are ready to take another look at what we believe and it completely changes our perspective triggered by thematic events that happen.Shift from extremist politics to militancy Individual motivations to group dynamics There can be many phases in the process when individual motivation transforms into group dynamics resulting in militancy in the society. However. the world’s largest democracy. and others have challenged the status quo like the Bhakti poets and Buddhist sage . they assume the religious identity of the majority as not merely one important aspect of the nation’s identity but as central and overriding. religious extremism fosters intense rivalries with other South Asian nations that do not share their religious identity. Third. India Modern India. preradicalization period. had its share of violent and not so violent episodes of religious extremism along with religious nationalism. One reason could be that in religious societies. Ambedkar. cognitive opening. Unlike their forebears. by resisting repression and gaining political power. these variants have several distinguishing characteristics. Second. third is self-radicalization. who chose to convert to Buddhism to combat the stigma of untouchable. they consider ethnic or religious identities different from those of the majority presumptively alien and disloyal and thus create a tiered conception of citizenship. the question arises what leads religious groups to militancy in the first place? Why religious groups choose violence to improve the lot of their institutions and constituents. extremist religious movements are often propagated by movements that believe that communal and even terrorist violence are “normal” and legitimate means of promoting their visions and of keeping religious and ethnic minorities in their (subordinate) place. second. favouring one group over other suppressing all other competing sects encourages furious. Since the South Asian states have achieved independence.(18) If militant theology is more often the consequence than cause of a militant orientation. leaders like Mr. As Prof. First. Finally and perhaps most dangerously. Caste continues to exert a profound influence both on individual lives and on regional and national politics. a number of factors working on individuals pushing them to extreme behaviour.

Islam is run on jehad. “We have allowed them to do their prayers and follow their religion.” Vajpayee had said in the latter part of his speech. claiming the prime minister was quoted out of context. rewritten history textbooks to exalt the glory of Hindu civilization at the expense of Muslim and Christian “foreign” invaders. and not just a Hindu state but an authoritarian and undemocratic state. and organized a pogrom (in Gujarat in 2002) that killed as many as 2. the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Deployed initially vis-à-vis a Sikh 'other' in the early 1980s. it has come to mean forcing their opinion through terror and fear. “Once Islam meant tolerance.” As the statement made its way through the media. The architects of RSS ideology did not hide their love for Hitler’s ideas of superiority of German nation. At a public rally in the state of Goa. The rise of a Hindu majoritarian politics since the 1980s in India must be placed squarely in the context of the many powerful regional challenges to central authority. As ideologies of secularism and socialism lost credibility. there was strife. Vajpayee was reported as saying that wherever there were Muslims in the world. But the message was clear.”(23) . and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — to emerge as major forces on the Indian political scene. The Indian Constitution explicitly rejects the communalist ideology of the BJP.centuries ago. if not explicit. religiously based majoritarianism to ward off regional threats.(21) passed legislation that would subject religious conversion to government regulation. truth and compassion — from what I see now. as demonstrated by the Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.(19) The state is partly responsible for the reinforcing of stereotypes coming from the same mindset. drawing criticism and making Indian diplomats squirm at international forums. believing that similar notion of Hindu supremacy should rule India.”(20) Having formed a stable governing coalition at the center in 1998. By so doing they paved the way for the more ideologically committed and organizationally cohesive forces of Hindutva —the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).000 Muslims. based on RSS’s philosophy under which the ideal state must be a Hindu state.(22) Stephen Cohen warns that “the Gujarat riots… had the perverse effect of strengthening Pakistan’s resolve to resist what it views as Hindu chauvinism. the Indian government sought to put a spin on it. the Congress regimes at the centre turned to an implicit. Hindu majoritarianism increasingly took on anti-Muslim overtones. they have used their unprecedented national power to make India an official nuclear power. “We were secular even in the early days when Muslims and Christians were not here. orchestrated the destruction of churches and killing of missionaries.

Later. which was the forerunner of the present-day BJP. most politicians believe . those madrassas all over Pakistan and Afghanistan which follow radicalism and spawned the Taliban.(24) Much before the BJP came into power and RSS stalwarts got a free hand to communalize history. However. The policy of her government in dealing with the separatist movements culminated in a raid on the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar. The symbolic use of religion with the nuclear weapon is to use it for pride and national cohesion. prime minister Rajiv Gandhi also proposed nuclear disarmament at the UN on 9 June 1988. everyone I met felt religion should have a place in government. which had clearly subscribed to the acquisition of the nuclear weapon. had also championed the cause of going nuclear. But during my travels around India searching for an answer to militant Hinduism.(25) The nuclear bomb was considered to be a visible symbol of power. made a pertinent remark on religion in Indian politics. he said. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi mobilized Hindu majoritarianism in India to suppress regional and separatist movements. Though there are inherent differences.They were quite clear that they would propagate and promote global nuclear disarmament. and came to power in a coalition government in 1998. it was within a stated policy of not going in for nuclear weaponisation . in revenge for which her Sikh bodyguards assassinated her in 1984.While Islamic madrassas are being targeted. the aims of the RSS-run shakhas (training cells) and Saraswati shishu mandirs (kindergartens) are strikingly similar to. Mark Tully. As far back as the early fifties. The BJP's election manifesto was greatly influenced by the `Sangh Parivar'. The BJP did indeed make dramatic improvements in their representation in the Indian parliament. strength and militarism and especially of a resurgent Hindu nationalism. That led to Pakistan’s decision to go nuclear and conduct six tests at Chagai on 28 and 30 May 1998. “Anyone who says religion is needed in Indian politics — where Hindus in Gujarat took bloody revenge for a Muslim attack on a train — might well be accused of criminal irresponsibility. the BBC journalist. the Jana Sangh. the Indian governments have maintained a disturbing silence on the role and functioning of the institutions run by Hindu fundamentalists such as the VHP and RSS. including the extremist Sikh nationalism that sought to create a separate state.(26) The BJP government in an attempt to realize its long-stated goal of making India a nuclear power conducted the five Pokhran tests on 11 and 13 May 1998. The Indira Gandhi-led Congress government conducted the first nuclear test in 1974. and no less dangerous than.

more powerful. though not exclusively. sectarian violence was very rare before that period. for instance.”(27) India’s political traditions are founded upon liberalism. violence against Ahmadis or Christians. but within the Muslim community hard-line religious groups differ with each other on interpretation based on various sects which often leads to worst forms of sectarian violence. There may be justifiable concerns about the possibility of Muslim extremists taking over in Pakistan. created an organization called Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqah-eJaffria (movement for implementing the Shia law) and protested against Zia’s policies. The two sets are somewhat inter-related but show certain differences regarding their objectives. but we should have similar concerns about India as well — a country which is much larger. and which possess more nuclear weapons than Pakistan. The Shias. Pakistan Pakistan’s suffering because of religious extremism is no secret. there are sectarian groups belonging to the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam that resort to terrorist activities which are mostly. and threatens to ignite not only internal violence but also conflict with other nations like Pakistan. the Sunnis were also agitated at the time. the problem is not just against other religious communities. and tolerance. . In Pakistan. by Gen Zia-ul-Haq in 1977–88. They feared that people might seek conversion from the Sunni fiqh to Shiism in order to seek exemption from zakat (the annual tax of 2.this will only be possible if India’s age-old tradition of religious tolerance remains at the centre of its national ideology. a country with nuclear weapons. as noted above. areas of operation and targets of violence. more rigid Sunni family laws.5 per cent on the savings of Muslims collected for distribution among the poor) or from other. First. democracy. Not only did Zia get personally apprehensive about Shia power in Pakistan. They were successful in securing rider clauses in the new ‘Islamized’ laws for themselves and in having the Shias in general exempted from certain aspects of those laws. This schism on sectarian lines was the direct outcome of the process of ‘Islamization’ of laws in Pakistan that was introduced. feeling empowered after the 1979 Iranian revolution and embittered over Zia’s ‘Islamization’ programme. Religion is politicized and abused for the instigation of terrorism by two sets of actors in Pakistan. but the growth of extremism in that nation threatens those foundations. directed against the people from the opposite sect.

though denying any link to the violent agenda of Al-Qaeda. But domestically.e Al-Qaeda under Osama Bin Laden. The “old” Islamists are willing to co-exist in peace with secular politics. Sri Lanka Religious extremism is not restricted to Islam and Hinduism. are sympathetic to its objective of puritanical Islamic system in the country and any violence that takes place is sanctioned as an effort to please God. In Sri Lanka. With sure financial supply. the deep rivalry between the majority Sinhalese Buddhist and minority Tamil Hindus has led the Tamils to wage a bloody separatist war that has left several thousands dead. this group believes in a constant war with the forces of evil (meaning. The political strategy pursued by new Islamists in Pakistan is to seek to capture civil society institutions in order to eventually capture the state. Pakistan’s official policy has changed considerably. In the post-9/11 scenarios. the group vows to bring “ideal” Islamic system to the country. The other set of religious extremists is of those who believe in a grand agenda. educational. Mainstream Islamic political parties. the latter being the protagonists of “political Islam” who are seeking to transform politics through religion and religion through politics. we are still dealing with the problem of countering jihadi publications and “banned” terrorist groups who appear to operate under new names. An interesting point to note in Pakistan’s case is that there is a distinction between “old” and “new” Islamists. Extremist Islamic nationalism and an accompanying “jihad culture” infuse the country’s political. Sri Lanka shows the potential long-term consequences of implementing an extremist religious . The war against terror is but one sign that the country is suffering from the malaise of “other people’s war” and the frightening situation that arms religious extremism with modern-day high-tech weaponry is a scary thing to imagine. the West in general and the US in particular and all those who support these states. the movement or network of the residue of the Afghan war. and military institutions. This group is led by the residue of Afghan Jihad movement.The vigilante Sunnis therefore set up Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (army of the companions of the Prophet). Way beyond the Shia-Sunni conflict. partly as a result of a combination of Zia’s Afghan policy and his ‘Islamization’ campaign. The new Islamists are not willing to consider such an option. including Muslim states friendly to both) and the forces of virtue. i.

on the one hand is good for the conflict-ridden nation but on the other it reinforces the hand of the majority against the minority. It is estimated that 1. Christianity is the only faith that cuts across ethnic lines in the country. and a wave of Sri Lankan Tamils left for other countries. The terrorists are now eliminated but the majority Shinhalese may become even more suspicious of the Tamils seeking to prevent any future movement. he asked for the island of Sri Lanka to be set aside to protect Buddhism. and the state was made officially Islamic in the late 1970s. but they all relate to a growing Buddhist nationalist sentiment — a folk belief that when the Buddha was on his deathbed. especially Hindus. There are several factors behind the persecution of the minorities. would always be under pressure because they belonged to a community whose significant percentage was either involved in the armed struggle or was part of the sympathizers. all Buddhists are Sinhalese. which included two Islamic parties.(30) In the course of the 1990s. And the Tamils who even if they were not supportive of the LTTE’s ways.nationalism and then enforcing it through semi-official pogroms. and now the escalating religious conflict.(29) The final episode of the end of LTTE supremo Villupilai Prabhakaran . which Bangladeshis observed with increasing alarm since the Ayodhya mosque demolition in 1992. Islamic extremism became all-encompassing. Bangladesh originally had a strong secular foundation consisting of non-religious Bengali nationalism.(31) Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its coalition partners. strong opposition to secularism surfaced. There is also what some observers describe as a “siege mentality” among the majority Sinhalese ethnic group. were on the upswing. and only Christians are found between both communities. Interestingly. the Sinhalese have always felt insecure. tens of thousands of houses were destroyed. This has resulted in decades-long ethnic tensions with the Tamils. parliamentary elections. all Hindus are Tamil. Attacks on religious minorities. Bangladeshi politics had been . The riots occurred following a deadly ambush by the terrorist organization. partly in retaliation for Hinduextremist attacks on Muslims in India.000(28) Tamil people were killed. According to Yogarajah. Yet after 1975. Bangladesh Bangladesh tasted political role of religious groups soon after independence. the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which killed 15 Sri Lanka army soldiers in July 1983. Although they are 74 per cent of the population. saw a decisive victory in the October 2001.

The rise of fundamentalism in Bangladesh is not just a side-effect of military politics. Pakistan’s military government supported Hizb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.divided into those arguing that this large Muslim country might become a target of Western and Indian pressure and those who believe in secular ideas in order to be part of the post-9/11 world. Unholy Victory reports the comment of a CIA officer that “fanatics fight better. Enayetullah Khan. it has suffered and has been a center of militancy and religious extremism. more because of his beliefs and policies than because of any actual achievements inside Afghanistan.”(35) Operatives went scouting around the Arab world and Africa recruiting zealots.(33) Despite government measures (banning organization. Afghanistan is not new to the menace of terrorism. who then flocked to Afghanistan. a pan-Islamist extremist. otherwise. was responsible for transforming the idea of jihad into . “Are we Bengalis first and Muslims second. indeed. Kurt Lohbeck in Holy War. And when Muslim identity becomes an Islamic identity we're in real trouble.”(32) The Islamic militants came to the limelight after the countrywide simultaneous bombings on 17 August 2005. or Muslims first and Bengalis second? This is the problem. The Awami League campaigned that a victory by the BNP and its Islamic-party partners would lead to the Talibanization of Bangladesh. Ja'amatul Mujahideen Bangladesh claimed responsibility for the bomb blasts.”(34) Afghanistan Afghanistan is one country that has been both the victim as well as the perpetrator of all sorts of radicalization. legal and police measures) the problem of Muslim militancy has by no means been resolved. says that a Muslim element has always been present. where the same language is spoken. “We’re having a bit of an identity crisis here. At the start of the fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Editor of the Bangladesh weekly Holiday. The CIA was responsible for the first trans-national jihad in a thousand years. East Pakistan could have merged with the predominantly Hindu Indian state of West Bengal. in which the militants exploded about 459 bombs in capital Dhaka as well as in 63 out of the total 64 districts.” says Khan. monitoring funding and recruitment. Subsequent suicide bombings also proved their existence. Military types are likely to prefer a disciplined kind of religion that is not too concerned about civil liberties and electoral process.

South Asia specialist Akbar S. propaganda all contribute towards making a society religiously intolerant leading to violent acts and terrorism. mullahs stepped forward to become military commanders during the war against the Soviets.(38) Since we are focusing on religious extremism. beginning in 1979 with revolts against the communist government and communist infighting and the subsequent Soviet invasion. politics. increased the role of the mullah in society. the one people of Islam transcending all differences of nationality and geography. it is important to note that though Schmid looked at terrorism through five different lenses. The third is the radicalization of the Pashtuns. as a result. has thus been given a terrifying new meaning. the length and intensity of the war. These five lenses comprise crime. has explored the definition and context of terrorism in terms of “five conceptual lenses”. These three converging factors have created the current instability on both sides of the border leading to total chaos and militancy. warfare.the indiscriminate sowing of terror. thus providing a multiperspective framework. as the war against the Soviets dragged on. their impact is often overstated in the western . madrassas in Pakistan began to provide religionbased education to refugees. The Islamic ideal of the Ummah. and the more local Deobandi philosophy. coupled with the destruction of the Afghan state.(37) Growing vulnerability to extremism and terrorism Alex Schmid. crime. Following an Afghan wartime tradition. including Salafist thought from the Middle East. At the same time.(36) The first is the disintegration of Afghan social structures at both the state and tribal levels. these are inter-related. communication and religious extremism. the Afghan education system crumbled and largely ceased to exist. the dominant ethnic group along the border. a leading international expert on terrorism. Almost certainly. Ahmed states that while Islamists are an important source of political instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan. political mobilization. civil war/chaos. due mostly to outside influences. The rise of radical Islam along both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border has its roots in three major factors. The second is the increased sway of political Islam. Religious extremism does not occur in isolation.

Ahmed argues that even within mixed communities inter-ethnic and inter-religious respect and tolerance are at an all-time low. the ability of religious extremists to find such a wide audience in both Afghanistan and Pakistan is in fact a symptom of much deeper and complex problems within South Asia. but the inability of the central governments to effectively provide social services also has left the leadership of both countries with tenuous popular support. They are:(39) 1. In particular. many have turned to religion to regain a sense of control for coping with the difficulties of their everyday lives. This has created a situation where not only is physical security of citizens uncertain in many places. Ahmed points to three problems that have contributed both to the rise in popularity of Islamist movements and overall instability in the region. Ahmed states that both Afghanistan and Pakistan are suffering from similar and deeply rooted breakdowns in the ability of the state to maintain law and order. To the contrary. where Muslim-Hindu differences are viewed on both sides as intractable. A breakdown in the sense of control average people feel they have over their lives: Building upon his previous points. Ahmed suggests that the growth in mutual distrust and the uncertain physical security in Afghanistan and Pakistan have left many feeling that they have no control over their lives. With rampant mistrust between different religious and ethnic groups. 3. . This has created an atmosphere where a sense of hopelessness has taken over. A general breakdown of law and order: Ahmed argues. 2. A breakdown in inter-ethnic trust and dialogue: Noting that India-Pakistan relations are perhaps at a historic low point.

Hindu extremist groups are as well making their space in Nepal’s bordering towns. . Maoist and Naxalite nexus in India. Talibanization in Pakistan. Small-scale armed clashes on the Pak-Afghan border have become a routine matter. Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. at the same time the separatist movement in Tarrai is also active with the same radical ideology. Hindu radicalism in Nepal and the sectarian and separatist threat in Iran cannot be countered without proper internal strategies. joint resolute mechanisms and inter-state cooperation. Pakistan government has tried to neutralize Baloch and Pashtun nationalism within its borders. South Asian countries also lack confidence in each other. Although the Maoist Movement played a major role in changing the course of history in Nepal. The South Asian states have been using the options of “force” and “politics” to resolve the disputes but the minority ethnic and religious movements. and in the process “militarized and radicalized” the border region. The complex influx of Taliban has also its impact on bilateral relationships of both states and the Durand Line is becoming an issue of concern. The radicalization of the separatist movements not only makes the border disputes complex but also starts shifting inside the countries. Islamization in Bangladesh. armed domestic Islamist organizations. Kashmir has been a source of permanent mistrust between India and Pakistan whereas Talibanization issue is keeping mutual suspicion alive between Pakistan and Afghanistan.Contributing factors 1. Pakistan’s then military dictator Zia-ul-Haq promoted the jihad in Afghanistan. Taliban and al-Qaeda presence on both sides of the border has made this area very important for the world. In Nepal and India. when states have failed addressing their economic and social grievances.Porous borders The long history of each state offering sanctuary to the other’s opponents has built bitterness and mistrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan. divided along the borders make it difficult for a state to resolve the issues single-handed. which makes it difficult to form any joint mechanism to counter common threats. Apart from the radical Maoist movement in the region. funded thousands of Islamic madrassas. and their influence is growing in bordering towns. Afghanistan sheltered Baloch nationalists in the 1970s while Pakistan extended refuge and training to the mujahideen in the 1980s and then later supported the Afghani Taliban. Maoist and Communist organizations have developed strong ties with each other. By supporting Islamist militias among the Pashtun. especially.

like Islamist radicalism in Pakistan and Bangladesh or Hindutva radicalism in India. interests. including political relations. Extremists and extremism are about fundamental structural change in all spheres of societal life. The post-colonial states failed to perform their fundamental functions of the state. they are forced to think either it is their fate. economic relations and social hierarchies. Exploiting the basic grievances of the masses. creates a myth about change in constructive terms. When people are not treated in the same way at social level and they don’t have opportunities equal to that of the elite classes. we find both demand for new ideas or structural changes rejecting the old order like the popular uprising against the monarch in Nepal. rule of law and order and security and safety of the individuals. In addition. social and economic forces also play a vital role in radicalizing South Asian countries.e. multireligious. instead of paying attention to a social approach to solve the problem. and so identity politics is increasingly a cause of conflict in the region. Yet these diversities within our borders are not addressed at any level of governance. it just waits until the problem becomes uncontrollable and instead of right policy decisions. . extremist ideology tries to gain ground by influencing the minds of people looking for spiritual solace to avoid the effects of economic frustration and political instability.2-Governance issues One of the weaknesses of democracy in South Asian countries is that their differing needs. It popularizes their ideologies and questions the legitimacy and relevance of existing ideologies. Extremism whether Islamist/Hindu or Socialist. and multicultural. or calling for the old order that represented an ideal model of an Islamic state. When they revolt against the system they are declared “radicals” by the elites. or it is the existing system that is responsible for their deprivation.Inept political and social approach Extremism primarily rejects existing means of political participation and finds existing social economic and political institutions inadequate to address the problems facing the society in general and some of its sections in particular. and aspirations are ignored. social development. human freedoms and constitutional values and institutions. ensuring justice. military approach is often used to deal with the problem. i. 3. Almost every state in the region is multilingual. Government’s failure is that. multiethnic. In South Asian context.

Individuals feeling humiliated for variety of reasons to join these groups. Balochistan has been struggling for political rights in addition to redressal of economic discontent. There is nothing offered to them by the leaders that could convince them that if they do not support the extremist/religious groups. Similarly. ShiaSunni conflict.Political and economic discontent The deteriorating economic conditions. Political deprivation is yet another factor. financial. has become ineffective as they have found other means to sustain. Deobandi-Bralevi conflict in Pakistan. As mentioned above. Speeches alone cannot solve the problem. unemployment and lack of freedom of expression in society are all pertinent factors responsible for growing numbers of the radicals despite the withdrawal of state patronage. lack of political infrastructure in the Tribal areas paved the way for different religious groups to establish their “emirates”. Unless the state comes up with some financial attraction to the young and the frustrated they would continue to fill in the ranks of the jihadi organizations independent of the state. their problems would be solved by the state. caste conflict and Hindu/Muslim/Christian . since the religious groups have become so independent and all powerful financially that the monetary tool that was once controlled by the state and which had made such groups dependent. spiritual and emotional incentives by locals as well as outsiders. it is not that they support extremism and militancy. hence no dearth of people joining them and challenging the state.There is no permanent social or political approach in place in all the South Asian countries to deal with the root causes of extremism and militancy and to assess how the political vacuum is often filled by extremist ideology. People in South Asia are looking for right kind of solutions. These “emirates’ are well-resourced and well-equipped with modern weapons. they do not have any option. The root causes of identity mobilization are related to the underlying characteristics of politics in a weak state and its susceptibility to the intrusion of outside forces into its body politic. 4. There are sectarian/majoritarian specific brands of religious groups espousing. Out of four provinces. 5. most of the time.Politico-religious mobilization Desire to promote specific political goals. for instance. now after the withdrawal of state patronage.

al-Qaeda under Osama Bin Laden. this group believes in a constant war between the forces of evil (the US and other states of the West and all those who support these states. Palestinian. two factors have linked Tamil. including Muslim states friendly to them) and the forces of virtue. they are members of communities that feel humiliated by genuine or perceived occupation (like the perceived occupation of the sacred territory of Saudi Arabia by virtue of the presence of US bases. The campaign against jihadism and the campaign against global poverty are both justified. he said: “Men do not become tyrants in order to avoid exposure to cold. The three most prominent of these charities were the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO — an offshoot of the Rabita Aalam al Islami or Islamic World League). All three are suspected by various global intelligence organizations to be funding terroirsm. the movement or network of the residue of the Afghan war. i. for example. But they are not the same war. it was learned that al-Haramain. Ultimately. Chechen.riots in India. was used as a conduit for funding al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia. Way beyond the Shia-Sunni conflict.(42) . both foreign occupation and domestic autocracy are political problems that must find political. in the eyes of bin Laden and his allies). First. Second. Dying to Win(41) is based on what Aristotle stated long ago believing that ambition was a more powerful incentive to sedition and revolution than deprivation. solutions. University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape’s study of suicide bombers. It would be incorrect to view these charities as purely non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or private charities. Sinhala Buddhist/Tamil Hindu problem in Sri Lanka and monarch/Maoist clash in Nepal. and the Charitable Foundations of al-Haramain. The residue of the Afghan Jihad movement leads this group. The other set of religious extremists comprises those who believe in a grand agenda. suicide bombers seek to change the policies of democratic occupying powers like Israel and the United States by influencing their public opinion — in a sense making the occupying power suffer the same level of humiliation they have felt.” The central role of communal humiliation in inspiring terrorism is the key finding of the study.e. According to Pape. but which became penetrated by prominent individuals from al-Qaeda’s global jihadi network.(40) From the CIA’s interrogation of an al-Qaeda operative. not economic. and al-Qaeda suicide bombers. the World Assembly of Muslim Youth. It would be a mistake to treat prosperity as a universal solvent that can deprive jihadists like bin Laden of allies and sympathizers in populations that feel humiliated by foreign domination or frozen out of politics. Saudi Arabia erected a number of large global charities in the 1960s and 1970s whose original purpose may have been to spread Wahhabi Islam.

But the reality on ground tells us the story of violence and extremism in the name of religion in both India and Sri Lanka. a close and comparative look at South Asia’s different contexts reveals that except for Pakistan. religious extremism flourishes. which call for pluralism. for example — in isolation from the other manifestations of religious extremism that have swept over the politics of all the other South Asian countries — Buddhist nationalism in Sri Lanka and forms of Islamic nationalism in Pakistan and Bangladesh as well as Afghanistan. In practice. however. In other words. we have seen that democracy has facilitated religious extremism — BJP rule in India and MMA rule in NWFP and Balochistan through votes in the 2002 elections. would never appear to be the source of militancy and extremism. (one wonders what explanation is given for religious extremism in the largest democracy in the world –India!). Terrorism is a particular form of violent activity and not simply a natural corollary of any religion. For example. The lack of a subcontinental and comparative perspective has yielded neglect in the literature of the extent to which religious extremism has — either directly or indirectly — fostered dangerous hostility and confrontation between South Asia’s major states. Ironically. One can argue that religious extremism undermines democracy. There is a great need to understand that religious philosophy and political violence may not necessarily have a link in theory. Similarly. It is often said in the West that due to lack of a true democratic system. Hinduism or Buddhism. there seems to be strong connection between the doctrine and the politics in contemporary religio-political situation in South Asia. This reinforced the stereotyping of Islam. which has been under military rule for more than 32 years of its over 60 . it is very important to note the difference between characterizing Islamic extremists and to focus on terrorism as a phenomenon in its own right.Is there a way forward? Religious extremism is unique in South Asia because it cannot be understood in isolation and independently. Terrorists often seek legitimacy through particular religious idioms but the label “Islamic terrorists” was often used to suggest that it was a phenomenon that required no elaboration. Interestingly. one simply cannot understand religious extremism in one part of South Asia — Hindu extremism in India.

there is a huge percentage of moderate urban civil society in . the country saw the rise of a strong Islamic nationalism almost as soon as the nation began to enjoy independence but little democratic self-government. It is true that military governments depended on religious parties for legitimacy from the masses. So what has exclusively been a conservative group of Islamic fundamentalists got into mass-based politics (for example in the 1985 party-less elections) as a consequence of democratic openings though short-term and politically weak. In the initial period after independence. It may be the other way round: democracy can and has actually brought the religious nationalist with extremist agenda to power. however. Despite severe limitations in understanding. long periods of authoritarian rule helped these scattered religious groups to claim political power under the shadow of the military dictatorship. politics was largely a matter of elite bargaining. mass electoral democracy has actually facilitated the rise of religious extremism in South Asia. Changing international situation provided a golden opportunity to the Islamic extremists to attract the masses in Pakistan and Afghanistan. and during the same time. Later. yet alarming observable fact in South Asia is that democracy may not always bring the “moderates” in power. Unfortunately. and mass participation was severely constrained or narrowly channelled through the dominance of a single political party. analyzing and defining modernity and progressiveness. In Sri Lanka.years history. An interesting. religious parties could not play any significant political role and the country tended to be most secular when it has been most elitist and restrictive. This raises of course the question of Pakistan. transition to democracy in Pakistan after long military rules brought religious parties with confrontational agenda against the West to power. deliberate social engineering initiative is needed. Sinhalese Buddhist often mobilized the poor and rural Sinhalese Buddhists of Sri Lanka and made them a political force to be reckoned with. Religious parties availed the opportunity by filling in the vacuum between the restricted political clout and the masses. for a short period after independence and in India for about 30 years after independence. which was of course part of Pakistan as East Pakistan until 1971. And in Bangladesh. This is what makes religious extremism in South Asia a unique phenomenon as compared to other regions. In order to uphold the ideal of a modern progressive state. Hindu extremists targeted the Hindu vote among Indians who were already quite disillusioned by not being part of the Congress politics which had become elitist and restricted. and to tackle the politics of medieval religiosity in a post-colonial Muslim-majority state like Bangladesh and Pakistan or a Hindu-majority India or Buddhist “ extremism” in Sri Lanka.

are challenging the Western model of the secular state in South Asia. rooted in indigenous religious and cultural traditions. (43) Finally.(44) Also. particularly between Hindu India and Muslim Bangladesh and to a lesser extent Hindu India and Buddhist Sri Lanka. religious extremism is often considered as merely periodic interruption of the normal course of South Asian politics and national political development. Because there is no satisfactory compromise between the religious vision of the nation state and that of liberal democracy. To combat religious extremism — as opposed to extremist violence — with the powers of the state is to invite conflict if that extremism represents a widespread unmet demand for some set of services. To label religious extremism as the product of ignorance. coercion. Religious extremism has undermined democracy in the region by promoting a majoritarian theory and practice of “illiberal democracy” that in the words of Fareed Zakaria marginalizes and disenfranchise religious and ethnic minorities. there could be any number of far-reaching political consequences of intrusion of religious extremism into politics in South Asia. It is important to note that due to their shared history as a single political unit under the British rule. rather than a deep- . no less obstructive of a peaceful international order than the old. the South Asian states depend on ideologies that enable their people to identify with their own countries. or psychopathology is to foster misunderstanding. An analysis of the relationship of religious movements to political developments demonstrates how new forms of ideological bonds. religious extremism fosters religiously defined conceptions of national identity that politically unify and mobilize peoples and serve as benchmark of governmental legitimacy. To support “good” religion while repressing “bad” religion is to invite violence. the prospects for regional peace and stability are severely affected by further intensifying the longstanding hostility between India and Pakistan and by laying the basis for new rivalries defined on ethno-religious lines. For instance.South Asia which has the intellectual quality. Unfortunately. organizational ability and experience of social activism and is the only visible social force that can fight the religious orthodoxy and could play an effective role in establishing a modern state. South Asian nations have sometimes inflicted their religious politics in an extremist manner on other South Asian nations in an attempt to validate their political identity. a new kind of cold war may develop.

Collective Approach to Deal with Extremism Until now the South Asian countries have been dealing with the menace of extremism individually. The way forward is to realize the fact that given the nature of our geography. The time. While some acknowledged its existence and came up with anti-terrorism laws and initiatives. The mindset that once existed about a particular interpretation of religion in their respective countries has found its manifestation in the form of terrorism. The . i. Separating the enemy as Pakistani terrorist or Indian terrorist or Bangladeshi. Then between India and Bangladesh the border problem. resources and energy and media attention wasted on this exercise would only benefit the terrorists and help them achieve their objectives. Religious extremism has become a transnational phenomenon and in South Asia it is affecting all the states equally. Pakistan-Afghanistan conflict over the Durand Line. India-Pakistan conflict particularly the Kashmir dispute. exposing and trying the “terrorists” in each other’s country just to teach a lesson to other. Religious extremism by its very nature is assumed to operate at the margins of society rather than on the center-stage of national political life but this leads to politically crucial and growing alliance between religious extremism and political nationalism throughout South Asia. India-China territorial dispute etc. and Sri Lanka’s recent experience with a harsh and brutal war with the LTTE that led to the death of its supremo Villupilai Prabhakaran. we have reached the stage where neither individual policies to deal with the problem nor denying its existence would work. we would continue to engage in declaring . Joint Mechanism: Is it Practical? The idea of Pakistan. Pakistan-Iran disagreement over Balochistan vulnerability. Sri Lankan terrorist would not work. Nepal’s unstable government. Iran.e. the South Asian States need to let go of their trust deficit and devise a comprehensive strategy by identifying the enemy as one who in the guise of their respective religions is creating havoc in the region. The basic ingredient of the “regional approach” is to look beyond the national boundaries. others opted for a policy of denial. If we do not recognize this. Unfortunately. the same “demerits” can work in favour of joining hands to eliminate this menace from the region. In such a situation the idea of joint mechanism to combat terrorism appears as wishful thinking. Afghanistan along with the US and China jointly managing the conflict has both merits and demerits. However. India. One of the major hurdles is the trust deficit between the countries of the region.rooted feature of the region’s national political cultures.

India being the biggest country in the region needs to strike the right balance vis-a-vis its neighbours. The crisis in Pakistan’s frontier region not only accentuates the crisis across the border in Afghanistan but also drives the extremist threat to other states of the region. the spillover effect of the war on terror. have been internationalized to garner favourable support. makes both the public as well as the civil-military administration wary of American intentions. Moreover.abovementioned political/territorial disputes have prompted the South Asian states to wage proxy wars in each other’s country. in spite of reservations. and a history of troubled alliance relations. It is not just about the FATA region which is out of government control in Pakistan. the new overtures have been greatly welcomed. They have also diverted them from focusing on developmental issues in their countries and bringing about economic change. the border areas between India and Bangladesh have been used for cross-border movement of a huge number of people. once again. Should India place its boots on the ground? To what extent can India continue to expand its diplomatic and economic profile in Afghanistan without an appropriate security apparatus in place? The emerging political and military situation makes it imperative for India to evolve a clear policy. and then lobbying hard to get India excluded from the proposed regional approach to solve the problems affecting the two neighbours. these neglected areas became a safe haven for terrorists in the region. to establish a meaningful presence in the region and realize some of its larger interest. if India does not want to be party . Indian National Security Adviser MK Narayanan’s statement that the US would be barking up the wrong tree. then it is imperative to mention that nearly all peace overtures in the region have been successful only through third-party facilitation. whenever it suits the parties concerned. However. Ironically. If only the regional states stop waging proxy wars against each other. successfully de-linked Kashmir from the larger picture. even as intractable as Kashmir. especially US President Barack Obama’s stance regarding the need to tackle Kashmir as it is the most important issue in South Asia. most of the problems related to terrorism and militancy would be solved. Owing to this lack of economic and developmental approach.(45) As for Pakistan. There is a serious need to deal with the concerns Pakistan has about India’s role in the crisis. It is highly unfortunate that the security managers in New Delhi. issues.(46) If the idea was to prevent internationalizing the Kashmir issue and opening doors to third-party intervention. serves no purpose.

to any US-backed regional framework. be it Hinduism or Islam or Buddhism or other religions. the US has removed the hurdle in its way to have an administration that would guarantee safeguarding the US interests as well as providing economic opportunities to India and Iran. right policies could prevent its militant manifestation.”(48) It is essential to know the distinction between the religious orthodoxy that we need to fight and the finer moral values of religion that needs to be assimilated in South Asia. The US move to engage Iran and India in managing the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal belt has sparked some controversy in Pakistan. however. it also shows that by engaging the Indians and Iranians. In present circumstance when its own survival is at stake due to the growing power of the extremists in certain areas. but even Indian-Pakistani tensions in Kashmir as well. This strategy might also work in preventing India and Iran and Pakistan from fighting proxy wars in Afghanistan. the US has prevented any indirect.(47) The political instability in Afghanistan over the past two decades has had a significant impact on the region's overall stability — affecting not only the politics of neighbouring Iran and Pakistan. India and Iran have huge economic projects in Afghanistan that demands security and stability. then seeking Holbrooke’s attention to discuss alleged Pakistan-sponsored terrorism is not appropriate. The idea of a “religion free” South Asia would never be materialized given the nature of the societies in the region. Pakistan is still struggling with the idea of giving up its long-lost goal of having a friendly government in Kabul. their followers would continue to look at the world through their own religious lenses. It is therefore important to have cooperation rather than confrontation on the part of the policy-makers to ensure possibility of a happy synthesis in which “essential elements of democracy will be conveyed in the vessels of new religious states. behind-the-scenes actions of the two countries in Afghanistan as was the case in the past. Accommodative policy based on peaceful coexistence is the only option left with Pakistan. but on the other hand. . the best bet would be to become a part of the collective effort to combat extremism and terrorism and then enjoy the benefit of economic prosperity by focusing on mutual economic interests rather than continuing with the policy of confrontation. Aiming at getting the South Asians to change their lenses would be impractical strategy. By letting the two countries to invest in Afghanistan. Religion would continue to be a political force.

Issue. DC: United States Institute of Peace Press. Interdisciplines.” in Scott Atran. . if not certain. however. Mark Juergensmeyer. 8. Hent De Vries.”. “The war against Islamic militants”. 6 July 2003. the primary source of the human capacity for violence appears to be the frustration-aggression mechanism. 2000). CA: University of California Press. Washington. a project of CNRS. 5. Why Men Rebel. The frustration-aggression mechanism is in this sense analogous to the law of gravity: men who are frustrated have an innate disposition to do violence to its source in proportion to the intensity of their frustrations. to occur.interdisciplines. aggression is quite likely. irrespective of its instrumentalities. Ted Gurr. 7 October 2002. 6. Frustration does not necessarily lead to violence. 4.10. “A fundamental difference. Vol.. Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. (Berkeley. (Princeton. and violence for some men is motivated by expectations of gain. People Vs States: Minorities at Risk in the New Century (Washington. available at <http://www. Genesis and Future of Suicide Terrorism.NOTES AND REFERENCES 1. To conclude that the relationship is not relevant to individual or collective violence is akin to the assertion that the law of gravitation is irrelevant to the theory of flight because not everything that goes up falls back to earth in accord with the basic gravitational principle. Ibid. (Johns Hopkins University Press. explains: “In summary. Daniel Pipes. 2001). Ian Pitchford.36-37. pp. NJ: Princeton University Press. Paris. 3. p.58. 2002). for example. 37. 2000.>. Ted Gurr. Human Events. If frustrations are sufficiently prolonged or sharply felt. Gurr. Religion and Violence. The anger induced by frustration.. ibid. 1970). is a motivating force that disposes men to aggression. 7.

” said Commission Chair Michael Cromartie. 1-3. 10. Research Programmes and Senior Research Fellow at Centre for Transnational Crime Prevention (CTCP) at the University of Wollongong. Auckland. Australia. 18.pdf>. “Passage of this amendment would jeopardize the rights of all Sri Lankan citizens as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This has created a lot of problems for people belonging to minority sects interpreting the holy Quran according to their sect. Himalayan Research Bulletin. 15. Ibid. 19 July 2008. Nos.html>.net. available at <waikato. “Terrorism is a Product of Strategic Choices and Psychological Forces. Queenstown. The status of the Nepali constitution is currently uncertain. 1991. 11. “Religious Fundamentalism and Extremism: A Paradigm Analysis.” SOF conference. CA: University of California Press. with no permanent constitution. Adam Dolnik. is presently governed by an interim constitution that came into effect 15 January 2007. 12.wellington. Douglas Pratt. Religious Nationalism: Hindus and Muslims in India ( New Zealand. 13. <http://encarta.” New Zealand Association for the Study of Religions-Biennial Conference.pdf>. Douglas Pratt. The same amendment was proposed last year and found to be unconstitutional by Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court.” Prof. XI.9.researchgateway. See Peter van der Veer. Director. “Contemporary Christian Extremism: Fundamentalism. It replaces previous constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990. 16. 14. Extreme Religion and the Threat of Terror. . available at <sof. 1994). 6-8 June 2007. Of particular concern are other articles in the amendment that would violate the internationally guaranteed rights of minority religious groups.

19. Ibid.” <www. 1-3 November 2002. 1998). 27.state.. Ravi Nair. Geneva. . Arundhati Roy. New Delhi. Admiral L.htm >.htm>. reports/ rc/sa/nov2002/SAS_ramdas. Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal. Ghanshyam Shah.stm>. paper presented at Pugwash Workshop on South Asian Security.satp. Mark Tully. 3133273.Speaking at a session on “What do we know about why do people become terrorists?” organized by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) on 15 January 2009.. Ramdas. Political Economy (London: Routledge. available at <http://www. “Religious Radicalism and State Policies of Democratic Governance and Human Rights. 118-141. “Hindu nation: What role for religion?” BBC>. 20. 28 April 2002. < <http://www. Paul Brass and Achin Vanaik (Hyderabad. “Impact of Religious Extremism on Security of South Asia”.pdf>.pugwash. 24. 2002) 11 August 2003. 22. 23. Reconversion and the State: Recent Events in the Dangs. pp. 21. “Conversion. 25. Switzerland. India: Emerging Power (Delhi: Oxford University Stephen P. 26.” in Competing Nationalisms in South Asia. Cohen./ReligiousRadicalism/ PagesfromReligiousRadicalismandSecurityinSouthAsiach15. x. 28. 2002). Modern South Asia: History. India: Orient Longman. available at <http://news.227. “Democracy: Who Is She When She’s at Home?” Outlook (Weekly).

35. 39. Benedict Rogers. Forum on Crime and Society. pp. A History of Pakistan and its Origins (London: Anthem Press. pp. ed.witherspoonsociety. Institute of Peace. a%20.>. Johns Hopkins University. “Is religious extremism on the rise in Bangladesh?” Jane's Intelligence Review. <http://www. 4(1-2): 49-69 -2004. 37. Bolonga Centre Journal of International Affairs. 36. Spring 2008. Akbar S. "Democracy in Bangladesh: Illusion or Reality. Howard B.. Ahmed’s comments at “Religious Extremism and Governance in South Asia: Internal and External Pressures" — a Current Issues Briefing held at the U. Norway. Schaffer." Contemporary South Asia 4.. May 2002.” <www. 38. Special Volume 11. “Democracy in Bangladesh…” ibid. “Back and Forth in Bangladesh”. Alex Schmid. University of Tromso. Gene TeSelle. Journal of Democracy 13. no.” 19th European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies (ECMSAS-) Center for Peace Studies. 34. 2 (July 1995).lankaliberty. “Thinking about Religious Extremism”. 31. Tromso. SAIS. p-78.1 (2002) 76-83. 2002). Mohammad Salehin. “Rise of Islamic Militancy in Bangladesh: Examining the Connections Between Poor Governance and Islamic Militancy.. “Statistics on Terrorism: The Challenge of Measuring Trends in Global Terrorism". Murshid. 30.193-215. Tazeen M. 1 October 2001.S. . 15 May 2003. Christophe Jaffrelot. 33. Murshid.htm>. “Christian Solidarity Worldwide-UK Report. Robert “Religious Extremism and Militancy in the Pashtun Areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan”.59-60. 32.29.

available at <http://www. (Berkeley.” Special issue of Public Choice on the Political Economy of Terrorism. winter. 45. Laurence Iannaccone & Eli Berman.Ipcs.ustreas.php?articleno=2817>. 48. 44. New Cold War: Religious Nationalism Confronts Secular State. 46. 43. Salma Malik. “Pakistan.” Democracy Journal. Foreign Affairs. 2007. Available at SSRN: <http://ssrn. 42. See Fareed Zakaria. 2002).org/article_details. “A Matter of Pride: Why we can’t buy off the next Osama bin>. .40. available at <http://www. the bad and the deadly. W11663. “Religious Extremism: the good. IPCS Article # 2817. the bad and the deadly”.org/ publications_special_details. Mark Juergensmeyer. edited by Charles Rowley. Peter Bergen and Michael Lind. Afghanistan and the Holbrooke visit: Reviewing the messy inheritance. September 2005 National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) USA Working Paper No.htm> accessed on 2 April 2008. Iannaccone and Berman “Religious Extremism: The good. New Delhi India. Ibid. available at <http://www. CA: University of California Press. Raghav press/releases/js1895. Ibid. Issue #3. 41.” IPCS Special Report # 69. “India and Afghanistan: Charting the Future.ipcs.php?recNo=242&pT=4>. 47. November/December 1997. “The Rise of Illiberal Democracy”.

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