Virtually every South Asian country is subject to one or another kind of organised violence or terror. Apart from the usual run of violence, the 73-year-old Sri Lankan foreign minister was gunned down the other day. On Wednesday, almost-simultaneous explosions of more than 100 small bombs shook Bangladesh. Two were killed and 125 wounded, most of whom are suffering from minor burns. According to officials, leaflets found at the scene of all the blasts in the name of an outlawed Islamic group, Jamatul Mujahideen Bangladesh, declared: “It is time to implement Islamic law in Bangladesh. There is no future with man-made law.”
In Bangladesh, several small militant groups advocating Islamic rule have sprouted. But numerous militant groups are operating in other South Asian countries—a small number of them, probably, across borders—for different clear or unclear motives, ranging from religion to revenge. For example, in Sri Lanka it is ethnic-political; in Nepal it is political; and in India, militants are seeking to achieve varied ends, including autonomy, or even secession. After each major attack, the government concerned renews its resolve to deal with the militants (often officially called terrorists) with an iron hand. But the militants strike again, and the cycle repeats itself.
Violence or terrorism should not be supported or promoted anywhere. But sole reliance on military might cannot root out terrorism, as so many examples in the region and elsewhere, including US president George Bush’s ‘war on terror,’ eloquently testify. Sheer military pursuit has not made the world safer. This is not to underestimate the importance of security measures, but to stress that these must be combined with genuine efforts to address the real causes of violence. The lack of this pursuit explains the failure of the global ‘war on terror.’ This applies to the government’s handling of the Maoists. Moreover, governments are not always in agreement on the definition of ‘terrorism,’ as, for example, one’s terrorists may be called freedom fighters by another. So because of these different perceptions and conflicting interests, the SAARC convention against terrorism has yet to be implemented, after so many years of its adoption.