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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 peoples 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 Gurrs 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 persons 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 Gurrs 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. Gurrs concern is with relative deprivation as a cause of aggression. Ted Gurrs 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 Gurrs 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, its 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

forces. It is not the only motivating factor behind political manifestation of religious violence, nor necessarily the most obvious, but it is virtually always there. Whenever we ask why people hate, or why they are willing to kill or die for a cause, the answer is invariably fear. Religious radicals are united by fear. Whether they are Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu or Buddhist, fear of being deprived of the role and status that they expect and want to achieve, is the common denominator. Some groups fear change, modernization and loss of influence, others fear that the young will abandon the churches, temples, mosques and synagogues for physical and material gratification. They especially fear education if it undermines the teachings of their religion. They fear a future they cant control, or even comprehend. So if relative deprivation can explain the phenomenon of religious extremism among the religious minorities, 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. 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.

Basic questions The paper addresses some basic questions. For instance, 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, war, and terrorism? Whether the role-played by religion in public life and in politics is proper? While focusing on South Asia, 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. ideology: A fundamental difference or a false dichotomy
Ian Pitchfords 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

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

The South Asian countries being discussed here except India and Sri Lanka have given special place to religion in their constitutions. 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. 1 of 1977, the Bangladeshi Constitution has lost its original secular character and has been highly Islamized. The process of Islamization of the constitution started during the rule of Ziaur Rahman with the insertion of Islamic words. But it was General Hussain Muhammad Ershad who completed this process by declaring Islam the state religion through the Eighth Amendment. Article 2A of the Constitution says, The state religion of the Republic is Islam, but other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony in the republic. With this insertion, one of the religions as practiced in this country has been placed above the others, and discrimination and religious harassment or persecution against other religious groups intensified.
The Sri Lankan political system approves Buddhism enjoying foremost place in their society through constitutional guarantee. Buddhism has a special place in Sri Lankan politics; officials pledge allegiance to Buddhist clerics after assuming power, and the military has incorporated Buddhist rituals into its ceremonies. Though still not part of the constitution, the proposed 19th Amendment to the Constitution would make Buddhism the official religion of Sri Lanka. Article 9.1 of the proposed amendment states that The Official Religion of the Republic is Buddhism. Other forms of religions and worship may be practiced in peace and harmony with Buddha Sasana.(9) The word secular was inserted into the Preamble of the Indian Constitution by the 42nd Amendment Act of 1976. It implies equality of all religions and religious tolerance. India therefore does not have an official state religion. In theory, every person has the right to preach, practice and propagate any religion they choose. The government must not favour or discriminate against any religion. It must treat all religions with equal respect. Those who support turning secular India into a Hindu state through constitutional amendments argue that Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism share with Hinduism the concept of dharma along with other key concepts, and the

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

Policy implementation

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

Politico-religious extremism in South Asia

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

systematic fashion against innocent people to achieve political purposes a practice which certainly fits textbook definitions of terrorism. At the same time, such violence has provoked a wave of reactive violence almost certainly by Indian Muslims. 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; 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, a strategy the national leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has committed itself to replicating across India. Similarly, 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. It is therefore very important to evaluate the impact of religious extremism on democracy. We have witnessed in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, how religious extremism has promoted majoritarian and illiberal conceptions of democracy that erode and weaken the political rights and civil liberties of religious minorities. In other words, it is crucial to grasp the important political role religion and its extremist variant actually plays in South Asia, particularly in democratic politics, and how it attracts political support and exerts political influence beyond core supporters and succeeds in shaping national politics throughout the subcontinent. On the one hand, religious fundamentalism excludes, virtually automatically, anything that relative to it appears liberal; on the other this same fundamentalism can display a propensity to include, in respect to considerations of the policies and praxis of social organization, all others that fall within its frame of reference or worldview. This holding together of an ideological exclusivism with an inclusivist polity, where it occurs, 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.(15) Another point is negative value application, which is a feature of fundamentalism. It occurs where otherness per se is negated and, as a necessary corollary, the superiority of the self is asserted. The other is often cast as satanic, or at least seriously and significantly labelled as a hostile opponent, and so regarded hostilely. However expressed or referenced, it will be clear that the fundamentalist is showing signs of deepening extremism in applying negative valuation to

otherness as such, together with a corresponding assertion of self-superiority vis--vis any other. As the shift from a merely hardline to an actively impositional fundamentalism takes place, we discover two critical factors at work: sanctioned imposition and legitimated violence. The former sees the very imposition of the fundamentalists views and polity as, in fact, sanctioned by a higher or greater authority, howsoever that is conceived. This leads naturally to the legitimization of extreme violence and so a platform of justification being established, at least in the mind of the impositional fundamentalist. Sanctioned imposition and legitimized violence are the two sides of the chief coin of justification in the currency of religious extremism. They form the feature of explicit justification, which is a mark of impositional fundamentalism and the fourth point in the profile of religious extremism.(16)

Ad hoc and organized intentional terrorism in South Asia On the one hand manifestations of contempt, as an expression of negative judgments and the negation of the other, often appear in various contemptible behaviours intimidation, coercion, violent and destructive actions directed at nonhuman symbolic targets: works of art, places of worship, and so on. Such behaviours may be ad hoc or temporary, simply manifesting an underlying contempt in a comparatively spontaneous fashion.(17) On the other hand, 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. For it is only so that the extremist ensures that the imposition, that has been duly sanctioned, can actually be brought about. South Asia is unique as it has both temporary, random, abrupt phases of violent expression as well as organized, intentional terrorist actions against certain groups or the state. 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, though badly affected by terrorism, the region has not been able to address the root causes that are responsible for mounting terrorist activities. Cosmetic steps to go against the militants after the terrorist act is committed already cannot solve the problem. 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.

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. As Prof. Adam Dolnik puts it: first, preradicalization period, a number of factors working on individuals pushing them to extreme behaviour; second, cognitive opening, 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; third is self-radicalization, and finally, the concept of Jihadization.(18) If militant theology is more often the consequence than cause of a militant orientation, 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, by resisting repression and gaining political power. One reason could be that in religious societies, favouring one group over other suppressing all other competing sects encourages furious, fanatical violence. Since the South Asian states have achieved independence, the tolerant religious nationalisms that helped spawn these nation-states have been fiercely challenged by extremist variants. Unlike their forebears, these variants have several distinguishing characteristics. First, they assume the religious identity of the majority as not merely one important aspect of the nations identity but as central and overriding. Second, they consider ethnic or religious identities different from those of the majority presumptively alien and disloyal and thus create a tiered conception of citizenship. Third, 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. Finally and perhaps most dangerously, religious extremism fosters intense rivalries with other South Asian nations that do not share their religious identity.

Modern India, the worlds largest democracy, had its share of violent and not so violent episodes of religious extremism along with religious nationalism. Caste continues to exert a profound influence both on individual lives and on regional and national politics. However, leaders like Mr. Ambedkar, who chose to convert to Buddhism to combat the stigma of untouchable, and others have challenged the status quo like the Bhakti poets and Buddhist sage

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

While Islamic madrassas are being targeted, 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. Though there are inherent differences, the aims of the RSS-run shakhas (training cells) and Saraswati shishu mandirs (kindergartens) are strikingly similar to, and no less dangerous than, 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, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi mobilized Hindu majoritarianism in India to suppress regional and separatist movements, including the extremist Sikh nationalism that sought to create a separate state. The policy of her government in dealing with the separatist movements culminated in a raid on the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar, in revenge for which her Sikh bodyguards assassinated her in 1984. The BJP did indeed make dramatic improvements in their representation in the Indian parliament, and came to power in a coalition government in 1998. The BJP's election manifesto was greatly influenced by the `Sangh Parivar', which had clearly subscribed to the acquisition of the nuclear weapon. As far back as the early fifties, the Jana Sangh, which was the forerunner of the present-day BJP, had also championed the cause of going nuclear.(25) The nuclear bomb was considered to be a visible symbol of power, strength and militarism and especially of a resurgent Hindu nationalism. The Indira Gandhi-led Congress government conducted the first nuclear test in 1974; it was within a stated policy of not going in for nuclear weaponisation .They were quite clear that they would propagate and promote global nuclear disarmament. Later, prime minister Rajiv Gandhi also proposed nuclear disarmament at the UN on 9 June 1988.(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. That led to Pakistans decision to go nuclear and conduct six tests at Chagai on 28 and 30 May 1998. The symbolic use of religion with the nuclear weapon is to use it for pride and national cohesion. Mark Tully, the BBC journalist, made a pertinent remark on religion in Indian politics, he said, 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. But during my travels around India searching for an answer to militant Hinduism, everyone I met felt religion should have a place in government. However, most politicians believe

this will only be possible if Indias age-old tradition of religious tolerance remains at the centre of its national ideology.(27) Indias political traditions are founded upon liberalism, democracy; and tolerance; but the growth of extremism in that nation threatens those foundations, and threatens to ignite not only internal violence but also conflict with other nations like Pakistan. There may be justifiable concerns about the possibility of Muslim extremists taking over in Pakistan, a country with nuclear weapons, but we should have similar concerns about India as well a country which is much larger, more powerful, and which possess more nuclear weapons than Pakistan.

Pakistan Pakistans suffering because of religious extremism is no secret. In Pakistan, the problem is not just against other religious communities, for instance, 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. Religion is politicized and abused for the instigation of terrorism by two sets of actors in Pakistan. The two sets are somewhat inter-related but show certain differences regarding their objectives, areas of operation and targets of violence. First, there are sectarian groups belonging to the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam that resort to terrorist activities which are mostly, though not exclusively, directed against the people from the opposite sect. This schism on sectarian lines was the direct outcome of the process of Islamization of laws in Pakistan that was introduced, as noted above, by Gen Zia-ul-Haq in 197788; sectarian violence was very rare before that period. The Shias, feeling empowered after the 1979 Iranian revolution and embittered over Zias Islamization programme, created an organization called Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqah-eJaffria (movement for implementing the Shia law) and protested against Zias policies. 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.
Not only did Zia get personally apprehensive about Shia power in Pakistan, the Sunnis were also agitated at the time. They feared that people might seek conversion from the Sunni fiqh to Shiism in order to seek exemption from zakat (the annual tax of 2.5 per cent on the savings of Muslims collected for distribution among the poor) or from other, more rigid Sunni family laws.

The vigilante Sunnis therefore set up Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (army of the companions of the Prophet). The other set of religious extremists is of those who believe in a grand agenda, the movement or network of the residue of the Afghan war. Way beyond the Shia-Sunni conflict, this group believes in a constant war with the forces of evil (meaning, the West in general and the US in particular and all those who support these states, including Muslim states friendly to both) and the forces of virtue, i.e Al-Qaeda under Osama Bin Laden. This group is led by the residue of Afghan Jihad movement. With sure financial supply, the group vows to bring ideal Islamic system to the country. Mainstream Islamic political parties, though denying any link to the violent agenda of Al-Qaeda, 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. Extremist Islamic nationalism and an accompanying jihad culture infuse the countrys political, educational, and military institutions, partly as a result of a combination of Zias Afghan policy and his Islamization campaign. In the post-9/11 scenarios, Pakistans official policy has changed considerably. But domestically, we are still dealing with the problem of countering jihadi publications and banned terrorist groups who appear to operate under new names. The war against terror is but one sign that the country is suffering from the malaise of other peoples war and the frightening situation that arms religious extremism with modern-day high-tech weaponry is a scary thing to imagine. An interesting point to note in Pakistans case is that there is a distinction between old and new Islamists, the latter being the protagonists of political Islam who are seeking to transform politics through religion and religion through politics. The old Islamists are willing to co-exist in peace with secular politics. The new Islamists are not willing to consider such an option. The political strategy pursued by new Islamists in Pakistan is to seek to capture civil society institutions in order to eventually capture the state.

Sri Lanka Religious extremism is not restricted to Islam and Hinduism. In Sri Lanka, 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. Sri Lanka shows the potential long-term consequences of implementing an extremist religious

nationalism and then enforcing it through semi-official pogroms. It is estimated that 1,000(28) Tamil people were killed, tens of thousands of houses were destroyed, and a wave of Sri Lankan Tamils left for other countries. The riots occurred following a deadly ambush by the terrorist organization, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which killed 15 Sri Lanka army soldiers in July 1983.
There are several factors behind the persecution of the minorities, but they all relate to a growing Buddhist nationalist sentiment a folk belief that when the Buddha was on his deathbed, he asked for the island of Sri Lanka to be set aside to protect Buddhism. There is also what some observers describe as a siege mentality among the majority Sinhalese ethnic group. Although they are 74 per cent of the population, the Sinhalese have always felt insecure. This has resulted in decades-long ethnic tensions with the Tamils, and now the escalating religious conflict. Christianity is the only faith that cuts across ethnic lines in the country. According to Yogarajah, all Hindus are Tamil, all Buddhists are Sinhalese, and only Christians are found between both communities.(29) The final episode of the end of LTTE supremo Villupilai Prabhakaran , 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. The terrorists are now eliminated but the majority Shinhalese may become even more suspicious of the Tamils seeking to prevent any future movement. And the Tamils who even if they were not supportive of the LTTEs ways, 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.

Bangladesh Bangladesh tasted political role of religious groups soon after independence. Interestingly, Bangladesh originally had a strong secular foundation consisting of non-religious Bengali nationalism. Yet after 1975, strong opposition to secularism surfaced, and the state was made officially Islamic in the late 1970s.(30) In the course of the 1990s, Islamic extremism became all-encompassing. Attacks on religious minorities, especially Hindus, were on the upswing, partly in retaliation for Hinduextremist attacks on Muslims in India, which Bangladeshis observed with increasing alarm since the Ayodhya mosque demolition in 1992.(31) Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its coalition partners, which included two Islamic parties, saw a decisive victory in the October 2001, parliamentary elections. Bangladeshi politics had been

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. The Awami League campaigned that a victory by the BNP and its Islamic-party partners would lead to the Talibanization of Bangladesh.(32)
The Islamic militants came to the limelight after the countrywide simultaneous bombings on 17 August 2005, in which the militants exploded about 459 bombs in capital Dhaka as well as in 63 out of the total 64 districts. Subsequent suicide bombings also proved their existence. Ja'amatul Mujahideen Bangladesh claimed responsibility for the bomb blasts,(33) Despite government measures (banning organization, monitoring funding and recruitment, legal and police measures) the problem of Muslim militancy has by no means been resolved. The rise of fundamentalism in Bangladesh is not just a side-effect of military politics. Enayetullah Khan, Editor of the Bangladesh weekly Holiday, says that a Muslim element has always been present; otherwise, East Pakistan could have merged with the predominantly Hindu Indian state of West Bengal, where the same language is spoken. Were having a bit of an identity crisis here, says Khan. Are we Bengalis first and Muslims second, or Muslims first and Bengalis second? This is the problem. And when Muslim identity becomes an Islamic identity we're in real trouble.(34)

Afghanistan Afghanistan is one country that has been both the victim as well as the perpetrator of all sorts of radicalization. Afghanistan is not new to the menace of terrorism; it has suffered and has been a center of militancy and religious extremism. At the start of the fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Pakistans military government supported Hizb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a pan-Islamist extremist, more because of his beliefs and policies than because of any actual achievements inside Afghanistan. Military types are likely to prefer a disciplined kind of religion that is not too concerned about civil liberties and electoral process. Kurt Lohbeck in Holy War, Unholy Victory reports the comment of a CIA officer that fanatics fight better.(35) Operatives went scouting around the Arab world and Africa recruiting zealots, who then flocked to Afghanistan. The CIA was responsible for the first trans-national
jihad in a thousand years; indeed, was responsible for transforming the idea of jihad into

the indiscriminate sowing of terror. The Islamic ideal of the Ummah, the one people of Islam transcending all differences of nationality and geography, has thus been given a terrifying new meaning.
The rise of radical Islam along both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border has its roots in three major factors.(36) The first is the disintegration of Afghan social structures at both the state and tribal levels, beginning in 1979 with revolts against the communist government and communist infighting and the subsequent Soviet invasion. The second is the increased sway of political Islam, due mostly to outside influences, including Salafist thought from the Middle East, and the more local Deobandi philosophy. The third is the radicalization of the Pashtuns, the dominant ethnic group along the border. These three converging factors have created the current instability on both sides of the border leading to total chaos and militancy. Following an Afghan wartime tradition, mullahs stepped forward to become military commanders during the war against the Soviets. Almost certainly, the length and intensity of the war, coupled with the destruction of the Afghan state, increased the role of the mullah in society. At the same time, as the war against the Soviets dragged on, the Afghan education system crumbled and largely ceased to exist; as a result, madrassas in Pakistan began to provide religionbased education to refugees.(37)

Growing vulnerability to extremism and terrorism

Alex Schmid, a leading international expert on terrorism, has explored the definition and context of terrorism in terms of five conceptual lenses, thus providing a multiperspective framework. These five lenses comprise crime, politics, warfare, communication and religious extremism.(38) Since we are focusing on religious extremism, it is important to note that though Schmid looked at terrorism through five different lenses, these are inter-related. Religious extremism does not occur in isolation, crime, political mobilization, civil war/chaos, propaganda all contribute towards making a society religiously intolerant leading to violent acts and terrorism.
South Asia specialist Akbar S. Ahmed states that while Islamists are an important source of political instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan, their impact is often overstated in the western

media. To the contrary, Ahmed argues, 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. In particular, Ahmed points to three problems that have contributed both to the rise in popularity of Islamist movements and overall instability in the region. They are:(39) 1. A general breakdown of law and order: Prof. 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. This has created a situation where not only is physical security of citizens uncertain in many places, but the inability of the central governments to effectively provide social services also has left the leadership of both countries with tenuous popular support. 2. A breakdown in inter-ethnic trust and dialogue: Noting that India-Pakistan relations are perhaps at a historic low point, Ahmed argues that even within mixed communities inter-ethnic and inter-religious respect and tolerance are at an all-time low. This has created an atmosphere where a sense of hopelessness has taken over, where Muslim-Hindu differences are viewed on both sides as intractable. 3. 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, many have turned to religion to regain a sense of control for coping with the difficulties of their everyday lives.

Contributing factors
1- Porous borders

The long history of each state offering sanctuary to the others opponents has built bitterness and mistrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan. 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. Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistans then military dictator Zia-ul-Haq promoted the jihad in Afghanistan, funded thousands of Islamic madrassas, armed domestic Islamist organizations, and in the process militarized and radicalized the border region. By supporting Islamist militias among the Pashtun, Pakistan government has tried to neutralize Baloch and Pashtun nationalism within its borders. In Nepal and India, Maoist and Communist organizations have developed strong ties with each other, and their influence is growing in bordering towns. Although the Maoist Movement played a major role in changing the course of history in Nepal, at the same time the separatist movement in Tarrai is also active with the same radical ideology. Apart from the radical Maoist movement in the region, Hindu extremist groups are as well making their space in Nepals bordering towns. The radicalization of the separatist movements not only makes the border disputes complex but also starts shifting inside the countries. Talibanization in Pakistan, Islamization in Bangladesh, Maoist and Naxalite nexus in India, 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. Small-scale armed clashes on the Pak-Afghan border have become a routine matter. Taliban and al-Qaeda presence on both sides of the border has made this area very important for the world. 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 South Asian states have been using the options of force and politics to resolve the disputes but the minority ethnic and religious movements, divided along the borders make it difficult for a state to resolve the issues single-handed, especially, when states have failed addressing their economic and social grievances. South Asian countries also lack confidence in each other, which makes it difficult to form any joint mechanism to counter common threats. Kashmir has been a source of permanent mistrust between India and Pakistan whereas Talibanization issue is keeping mutual suspicion alive between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

2-Governance issues
One of the weaknesses of democracy in South Asian countries is that their differing needs, interests, and aspirations are ignored. Almost every state in the region is multilingual, multiethnic, multireligious, and multicultural. Yet these diversities within our borders are not addressed at any level of governance, and so identity politics is increasingly a cause of conflict in the region. The post-colonial states failed to perform their fundamental functions of the state, i.e. ensuring justice, social development, rule of law and order and security and safety of the individuals, human freedoms and constitutional values and institutions. In addition, social and economic forces also play a vital role in radicalizing South Asian countries. When people are not treated in the same way at social level and they dont have opportunities equal to that of the elite classes, they are forced to think either it is their fate, or it is the existing system that is responsible for their deprivation. When they revolt against the system they are declared radicals by the elites.

3- 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. Extremists and extremism are about fundamental structural change in all spheres of societal life, including political relations, economic relations and social hierarchies. In South Asian context, we find both demand for new ideas or structural changes rejecting the old order like the popular uprising against the monarch in Nepal, or calling for the old order that represented an ideal model of an Islamic state, like Islamist radicalism in Pakistan and Bangladesh or Hindutva radicalism in India. It popularizes their ideologies and questions the legitimacy and relevance of existing ideologies. Extremism whether Islamist/Hindu or Socialist, creates a myth about change in constructive terms. Exploiting the basic grievances of the masses, 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. Governments failure is that, instead of paying attention to a social approach to solve the problem, it just waits until the problem becomes uncontrollable and instead of right policy decisions, military approach is often used to deal with the problem.

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, it is not that they support extremism and militancy; most of the time, they do not have any option. There is nothing offered to them by the leaders that could convince them that if they do not support the extremist/religious groups, their problems would be solved by the state. Speeches alone cannot solve the problem.

4- Political and economic discontent The deteriorating economic conditions, 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. As mentioned above, 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, now after the withdrawal of state patronage, has become ineffective as they have found other means to sustain. 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. Political deprivation is yet another factor. Out of four provinces, Balochistan has been struggling for political rights in addition to redressal of economic discontent. Similarly, lack of political infrastructure in the Tribal areas paved the way for different religious groups to establish their emirates. These emirates are well-resourced and well-equipped with modern weapons, hence no dearth of people joining them and challenging the state. 5- Politico-religious mobilization Desire to promote specific political goals, financial, spiritual and emotional incentives by locals as well as outsiders, Individuals feeling humiliated for variety of reasons to join these groups.
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. There are sectarian/majoritarian specific brands of religious groups espousing, for instance, ShiaSunni conflict, Deobandi-Bralevi conflict in Pakistan, caste conflict and Hindu/Muslim/Christian

riots in India, Sinhala Buddhist/Tamil Hindu problem in Sri Lanka and monarch/Maoist clash in Nepal. The other set of religious extremists comprises those who believe in a grand agenda, the movement or network of the residue of the Afghan war. Way beyond the Shia-Sunni conflict, 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, including Muslim states friendly to them) and the forces of virtue, i.e. al-Qaeda under Osama Bin Laden. The residue of the Afghan Jihad movement leads this group. 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 which became penetrated by prominent individuals from al-Qaedas global jihadi network. 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), the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, and the Charitable Foundations of al-Haramain. All three are suspected by various global intelligence organizations to be funding terroirsm.(40) From the CIAs interrogation of an al-Qaeda operative, it was learned that al-Haramain, for example, was used as a conduit for funding al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia. It would be incorrect to view these charities as purely non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or private charities. University of Chicago political scientist Robert Papes study of suicide bombers, 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; he said: Men do not become tyrants in order to avoid exposure to cold. The central role of communal humiliation in inspiring terrorism is the key finding of the study. According to Pape, two factors have linked Tamil, Palestinian, Chechen, and al-Qaeda suicide bombers. First, 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, in the eyes of bin Laden and his allies). Second, 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. 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. Ultimately, both foreign occupation and domestic autocracy are political problems that must find political, not economic, solutions. The campaign against jihadism and the campaign against global poverty are both justified. But they are not the same war.(42)

Is there a way forward?

Religious extremism is unique in South Asia because it cannot be understood in isolation and independently. In other words, one simply cannot understand religious extremism in one part of South Asia Hindu extremism in India, 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. 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 Asias major states. There is a great need to understand that religious philosophy and political violence may not necessarily have a link in theory. In practice, however, there seems to be strong connection between the doctrine and the politics in contemporary religio-political situation in South Asia. For example, Hinduism or Buddhism, which call for pluralism, would never appear to be the source of militancy and extremism. But the reality on ground tells us the story of violence and extremism in the name of religion in both India and Sri Lanka. Similarly, it is very important to note the difference between characterizing Islamic extremists and to focus on terrorism as a phenomenon in its own right. Terrorism is a particular form of violent activity and not simply a natural corollary of any religion. 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. This reinforced the stereotyping of Islam. It is often said in the West that due to lack of a true democratic system, religious extremism flourishes, (one wonders what explanation is given for religious extremism in the largest democracy in the world India!). One can argue that religious extremism undermines democracy. Ironically, 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. Interestingly, a close and comparative look at South Asias different contexts reveals that except for Pakistan, which has been under military rule for more than 32 years of its over 60

years history, mass electoral democracy has actually facilitated the rise of religious extremism in South Asia. In Sri Lanka, for a short period after independence and in India for about 30 years after independence, politics was largely a matter of elite bargaining, and mass participation was severely constrained or narrowly channelled through the dominance of a single political party. Religious parties availed the opportunity by filling in the vacuum between the restricted political clout and the masses. Changing international situation provided a golden opportunity to the Islamic extremists to attract the masses in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and during the same time, 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. Sinhalese Buddhist often mobilized the poor and rural Sinhalese Buddhists of Sri Lanka and made them a political force to be reckoned with. And in Bangladesh, which was of course part of Pakistan as East Pakistan until 1971, 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. This raises of course the question of Pakistan. It is true that military governments depended on religious parties for legitimacy from the masses. In the initial period after independence, 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. Later, however, long periods of authoritarian rule helped these scattered religious groups to claim political power under the shadow of the military dictatorship. 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. Unfortunately, transition to democracy in Pakistan after long military rules brought religious parties with confrontational agenda against the West to power. This is what makes religious extremism in South Asia a unique phenomenon as compared to other regions. An interesting, yet alarming observable fact in South Asia is that democracy may not always bring the moderates in power. It may be the other way round: democracy can and has actually brought the religious nationalist with extremist agenda to power. In order to uphold the ideal of a modern progressive state, 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, deliberate social engineering initiative is needed. Despite severe limitations in understanding, analyzing and defining modernity and progressiveness, there is a huge percentage of moderate urban civil society in

South Asia which has the intellectual quality, 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. It is important to note that due to their shared history as a single political unit under the British rule, the South Asian states depend on ideologies that enable their people to identify with their own countries. 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. An analysis of the relationship of religious movements to political developments demonstrates how new forms of ideological bonds, rooted in indigenous religious and cultural traditions, are challenging the Western model of the secular state in South Asia. Because there is no satisfactory compromise between the religious vision of the nation state and that of liberal democracy, a new kind of cold war may develop, no less obstructive of a peaceful international order than the old. To label religious extremism as the product of ignorance, coercion, or psychopathology is to foster misunderstanding. 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 support good religion while repressing bad religion is to invite violence. (43) Finally, there could be any number of far-reaching political consequences of intrusion of religious extremism into politics in South Asia. For instance, religious extremism fosters religiously defined conceptions of national identity that politically unify and mobilize peoples and serve as benchmark of governmental legitimacy. 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.(44) Also, 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, particularly between Hindu India and Muslim Bangladesh and to a lesser extent Hindu India and Buddhist Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, religious extremism is often considered as merely periodic interruption of the normal course of South Asian politics and national political development, rather than a deep-

rooted feature of the regions national political cultures. 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.

Collective Approach to Deal with Extremism

Until now the South Asian countries have been dealing with the menace of extremism individually. While some acknowledged its existence and came up with anti-terrorism laws and initiatives, others opted for a policy of denial. Unfortunately, we have reached the stage where neither individual policies to deal with the problem nor denying its existence would work. Religious extremism has become a transnational phenomenon and in South Asia it is affecting all the states equally. 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 way forward is to realize the fact that given the nature of our geography, 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. Separating the enemy as Pakistani terrorist or Indian terrorist or Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan terrorist would not work. The basic ingredient of the regional approach is to look beyond the national boundaries. If we do not recognize this, we would continue to engage in declaring , exposing and trying the terrorists in each others country just to teach a lesson to other. The time, resources and energy and media attention wasted on this exercise would only benefit the terrorists and help them achieve their objectives.

Joint Mechanism: Is it Practical?

The idea of Pakistan, India, Iran, Afghanistan along with the US and China jointly managing the conflict has both merits and demerits. One of the major hurdles is the trust deficit between the countries of the region, i.e. India-Pakistan conflict particularly the Kashmir dispute, Pakistan-Afghanistan conflict over the Durand Line, Pakistan-Iran disagreement over Balochistan vulnerability, India-China territorial dispute etc. Then between India and Bangladesh the border problem, Nepals unstable government, and Sri Lankas recent experience with a harsh and brutal war with the LTTE that led to the death of its supremo Villupilai Prabhakaran. In such a situation the idea of joint mechanism to combat terrorism appears as wishful thinking. However, the same demerits can work in favour of joining hands to eliminate this menace from the region. The

abovementioned political/territorial disputes have prompted the South Asian states to wage proxy wars in each others country. They have also diverted them from focusing on developmental issues in their countries and bringing about economic change. Owing to this lack of economic and developmental approach, these neglected areas became a safe haven for terrorists in the region. It is not just about the FATA region which is out of government control in Pakistan; the border areas between India and Bangladesh have been used for cross-border movement of a huge number of people. If only the regional states stop waging proxy wars against each other, most of the problems related to terrorism and militancy would be solved. India being the biggest country in the region needs to strike the right balance vis-a-vis its neighbours. The crisis in Pakistans frontier region not only accentuates the crisis across the border in Afghanistan but also drives the extremist threat to other states of the region. There is a serious need to deal with the concerns Pakistan has about Indias role in the crisis. 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, to establish a meaningful presence in the region and realize some of its larger interest.(45) As for Pakistan, the spillover effect of the war on terror, and a history of troubled alliance relations, makes both the public as well as the civil-military administration wary of American intentions. However, in spite of reservations, the new overtures have been greatly welcomed, especially US President Barack Obamas stance regarding the need to tackle Kashmir as it is the most important issue in South Asia. It is highly unfortunate that the security managers in New Delhi, once again, successfully de-linked Kashmir from the larger picture. Indian National Security Adviser MK Narayanans statement that the US would be barking up the wrong tree, and then lobbying hard to get India excluded from the proposed regional approach to solve the problems affecting the two neighbours, serves no purpose.(46) If the idea was to prevent internationalizing the Kashmir issue and opening doors to third-party intervention, then it is imperative to mention that nearly all peace overtures in the region have been successful only through third-party facilitation. Ironically, whenever it suits the parties concerned, issues, even as intractable as Kashmir, have been internationalized to garner favourable support. Moreover, if India does not want to be party

to any US-backed regional framework, then seeking Holbrookes attention to discuss alleged Pakistan-sponsored terrorism is not appropriate.(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, but even Indian-Pakistani tensions in Kashmir as well. The US move to engage Iran and India in managing the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and Pakistans tribal belt has sparked some controversy in Pakistan; but on the other hand, it also shows that by engaging the Indians and Iranians, the US has prevented any indirect, behind-the-scenes actions of the two countries in Afghanistan as was the case in the past. This strategy might also work in preventing India and Iran and Pakistan from fighting proxy wars in Afghanistan. India and Iran have huge economic projects in Afghanistan that demands security and stability. By letting the two countries to invest in Afghanistan, 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. Pakistan is still struggling with the idea of giving up its long-lost goal of having a friendly government in Kabul. In present circumstance when its own survival is at stake due to the growing power of the extremists in certain areas, 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. Accommodative policy based on peaceful coexistence is the only option left with Pakistan. The idea of a religion free South Asia would never be materialized given the nature of the societies in the region, be it Hinduism or Islam or Buddhism or other religions, their followers would continue to look at the world through their own religious lenses. Aiming at getting the South Asians to change their lenses would be impractical strategy. Religion would continue to be a political force; however, right policies could prevent its militant manifestation. 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.(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.


1. 2.

Hent De Vries, Religion and Violence, (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002). Mark Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence, (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2001).


Daniel Pipes, The war against Islamic militants, Human Events, Washington, 7 October 2002, Vol.58, Issue. 37; p.10.

4. 5. 6.

Ted Gurr, Why Men Rebel, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1970). Ibid. Gurr, for example, explains: In summary, the primary source of the human capacity for violence appears to be the frustration-aggression mechanism. Frustration does not necessarily lead to violence, and violence for some men is motivated by expectations of gain. The anger induced by frustration, however, is a motivating force that disposes men to aggression, irrespective of its instrumentalities. If frustrations are sufficiently prolonged or sharply felt, aggression is quite likely, if not certain, to occur. 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. 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..., ibid, pp.36-37.


Ted Gurr, 2000, People Vs States: Minorities at Risk in the New Century (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2000).


Ian Pitchford, A fundamental difference, in Scott Atran, Genesis and Future of Suicide Terrorism, 6 July 2003, Interdisciplines, a project of CNRS, Paris, available at <>.


Of particular concern are other articles in the amendment that would violate the internationally guaranteed rights of minority religious groups. The same amendment was proposed last year and found to be unconstitutional by Sri Lankas Supreme Court. 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, said Commission Chair Michael Cromartie.

10. 11.

<>. This has created a lot of problems for people belonging to minority sects interpreting the holy Quran according to their sect.


The status of the Nepali constitution is currently uncertain. Nepal, with no permanent constitution, is presently governed by an interim constitution that came into effect 15 January 2007. It replaces previous constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990.

13. 14.

Himalayan Research Bulletin, Vol. XI, Nos. 1-3. 1991. See Peter van der Veer, Religious Nationalism: Hindus and Muslims in India (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994).


Douglas Pratt, Contemporary Christian Extremism: Fundamentalism, Extreme Religion and the Threat of Terror, SOF conference, Auckland, New Zealand, 19 July 2008, available at <>.

16. 17.

Ibid. Douglas Pratt, Religious Fundamentalism and Extremism: A Paradigm Analysis, New Zealand Association for the Study of Religions-Biennial Conference, Queenstown, 6-8 June 2007, available at

<>. 18. Terrorism is a Product of Strategic Choices and Psychological Forces, Prof. Adam Dolnik, Director, Research Programmes and Senior Research Fellow at Centre for Transnational Crime Prevention (CTCP) at the University of Wollongong, Australia.

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. 19. Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal, Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy (London: Routledge, 1998), p.227. 20. Ravi Nair, Religious Radicalism and State Policies of Democratic Governance and Human Rights, < PagesfromReligiousRadicalismandSecurityinSouthAsiach15.pdf>. 21. Ghanshyam Shah, Conversion, Reconversion and the State: Recent Events in the Dangs, in Competing Nationalisms in South Asia, eds. Paul Brass and Achin Vanaik (Hyderabad, India: Orient Longman, 2002), pp. 118-141. 22. 23. 24. <>. Stephen P. Cohen, India: Emerging Power (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2002) p. x. Arundhati Roy, Democracy: Who Is She When Shes at Home? Outlook (Weekly), New Delhi, 28 April 2002. 25. Admiral L. Ramdas, Impact of Religious Extremism on Security of South Asia, paper presented at Pugwash Workshop on South Asian Security, Geneva, Switzerland, 1-3 November 2002, available at < reports/

rc/sa/nov2002/SAS_ramdas.htm>. 26. 27. Ibid. Mark Tully, Hindu nation: What role for religion? BBC News, 11 August 2003, available at < 3133273.stm>. 28. < >.








< a%20...>. 30. Tazeen M. Murshid, "Democracy in Bangladesh: Illusion or Reality," Contemporary South Asia 4, no. 2 (July 1995), pp.193-215; Christophe Jaffrelot, ed., A History of Pakistan and its Origins (London: Anthem Press, 2002), pp.59-60. 31. 32. Murshid, Democracy in Bangladesh ibid. Howard B. Schaffer, Back and Forth in Bangladesh, Journal of Democracy 13.1 (2002) 76-83, p-78. 33. Mohammad Salehin, Rise of Islamic Militancy in Bangladesh: Examining the Connections Between Poor Governance and Islamic Militancy, 19th European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies (ECMSAS-) Center for Peace Studies, University of Tromso, Tromso, Norway. 34. Is religious extremism on the rise in Bangladesh? Jane's Intelligence Review, May 2002. 35. Gene TeSelle, Thinking about Religious Extremism, 1 October 2001,

<>. 36. Robert Kemp, Religious Extremism and Militancy in the Pashtun Areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, Bolonga Centre Journal of International Affairs, Special Volume 11, Spring 2008, SAIS, Johns Hopkins University. 37. 38. Ibid. Alex Schmid, Statistics on Terrorism: The Challenge of Measuring Trends in Global Terrorism"; Forum on Crime and Society; 4(1-2): 49-69 -2004. 39. Akbar S. Ahmeds comments at Religious Extremism and Governance in South Asia: Internal and External Pressures" a Current Issues Briefing held at the U.S. Institute of Peace, 15 May 2003.


Laurence Iannaccone & Eli Berman, Religious Extremism: the good, the bad and the deadly, Special issue of Public Choice on the Political Economy of Terrorism, edited by Charles Rowley, available at < press/releases/js1895.htm> accessed on 2 April 2008.


Peter Bergen and Michael Lind, A Matter of Pride: Why we cant buy off the next Osama bin Laden, Democracy Journal, Issue #3, winter, 2007.

42. 43.

Ibid. Iannaccone and Berman Religious Extremism: The good, the bad and the deadly, September 2005 National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) USA Working Paper No. W11663. Available at SSRN: <>.


See Fareed Zakaria, The Rise of Illiberal Democracy, Foreign Affairs. November/December 1997.


Raghav Sharma, India and Afghanistan: Charting the Future, IPCS Special Report # 69, New Delhi India, available at <

publications_special_details.php?recNo=242&pT=4>. 46. Salma Malik, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Holbrooke visit: Reviewing the messy inheritance, IPCS Article # 2817, available at

<>. 47. 48. Ibid. Mark Juergensmeyer, New Cold War: Religious Nationalism Confronts Secular State, (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002).