What Separates Umar Khalid’s Attackers from Other Islamist Terrorists?

Inquilab Zindabad” (Long live revolution), “Vande Mataram” (I praise thee, Mother), “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”(Victory to Mother India) these are the slogans raised by two young men in a video to justify their attempt to murder former JNU student Umar Khalid on August 13 at Constitution Club of India in Delhi. Don’t you get a deja vu feeling? Isn’t it similar to members of Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, ISIS chanting “Allah-u-Akbar” (Allah is great) as they prepare to kill people?

In a video that has since gone viral the two men, who identified themselves as Darvesh Shahpur and Naveen Dalal Mandothi, have claimed responsibility for the attack on Umar Khalid. Global terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda, LTTE, Provisional Irish Republic Army always use this method – carry out an attack and then claim credit through mass media platforms like radio or television. Earlier, Shambhu Lal Regar had uploaded a video of him killing a daily wage labourer, claiming himself to be a defender of religion. Videos of Muslim men being lynched have also become common in the recent past.

The question that begs to be asked is why these men attacked Khalid. They allege that although they “respect” the law of the land, they still feel that laws are insufficient to deal with “traitors” like the “JNU gang.” Their intention was to clear the ‘motherland’ of this ‘Afzal sympathiser’ and potential terrorist.

Now, switch your attention to the terrorist organisations operating in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia and other countries. Organisations like ISIS and Boko Haram are not fighting any foreign mercenary. They want to cleanse true ‘Islam’ from the ‘munafiq’ (hypocrites). They think that even though someone claims to follow Islam they cannot be trusted until and unless their interpretation of Islam is proven similar to these terrorists’. In order to ‘purify’ and ‘resurrect’ ‘true Islam’ they silence disagreements by killing alternative voices.

In our country ‘nationalism’ and ‘India’ are being employed in the same way that these organisations use ‘Islam’. India was always a country that tolerated competing ideas of nationalism and nationhood, these ideas continued to flourish post independence. Jawaharlal Nehru, though himself a socialist secular, included Shyama Prasad Mukherjee in his cabinet, who founded the Bharatiya Jan Sangh and believed in a Hindu nation. Similarly, he also included communist thinkers like Noorul Hasan and Humayun Kabir.

The idea of India is the idea of a pluralistic nation. Where people can believe in different religions and ideologies while being governed under a common law and constitution.

In the Middle East, north Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan Sunni/Wahabi terrorist groups target Shia Muslims because they consider them traitors to Islam. Shias are categorised as ‘wajib-ul-qatl’ (people who should be killed). No matter how devoutly they practice Islam, for these terrorist organisations Shias remain traitorous dangers.

Trying to forcibly turn our country into a non-pluralistic state with violence and killing constitutes terrorism.

Khalid’s purported attackers have tried to equate religion with nation, and are unwilling to accept any interpretation of Hinduism that differs from their own. What else can explain the recent attack on Swami Agnivesh, an Arya Samaj leader. Arya Samaj, founded by Swami Dayanand Saraswati, championed the cause of cow protection. Slogans of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ were chanted while carrying out these attacks because these men believe that their version of ‘Bharat Mata’ is truer than any other.

It’s unlikely that these men would have found the courage to do this if they didn’t feel emboldened by the rising pro-Hindutva rhetoric engulfing our country. Several Indians now truly believe that they’re acting justly and in their nation’s interest when they undertake such violence. And then they shoot such videos, documenting their actions to attract more sympathisers.

If unchecked, India will truly face a crisis of homegrown terrorism.

Saquib Salim is pursuing a master’s in history at Jawaharlal Nehru University. He holds a B.Tech from Aligarh Muslim University. Find him on Twitter @SaquibSalim and Instagram @saquib.salim

Featured image credit: Youtube screengrab