Deconstructing Terrorist Violence – Faith as a Mask : Ram Puniyani

BOOK - Deconstructing Terrorist Violence

Sage Publications (I) Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi; Year:2015; Pages:180; Price:Rs.650

Reviewed By : Brig. Suresh C. Sharma (retd.)


The media in the USA coined the phrase “Islamic terror” after the 9/11 tragedy and the same phrase was adopted by the media and the public to describe terror attacks that occurred from 2004 to 2012.  

Religion of Terror?

The author explains the difference between terrorism and communal riots.  In communal riots, two communities are pitted against each other while terror acts are planned and executed by small groups working in secrecy and are due to political, social, economic and socio-ethnic reasons. Religion is used as a cover for political gains. Major terror acts experienced by India between 2001 and 2008 have been listed to show that the sectarian groups are having a field day in spreading hate. Due to a feeling of insecurity, large sections of people feel that Muslim terrorists are a threat to national security while Muslims suffer from a feeling of injustice.

The USA declared war on terror to combat terror acts. The author postulates that this is a process to take political and military control of various regions in the world. USA’s investigations reveal that the attack had been carried out by the Taliban whose leader Osama Bin Laden thanked Allah for its success and called for more attacks. President George Bush called the war on terror a crusade and called upon the Afghanistan Government to hand over Osama and other leaders of the Taliban. The Afghanistan Government declined to do so and the USA launched a bombing campaign followed by help to the Tajeks in Northern Afghanistan.

The author blames the USA for the earlier attack on Iraq on the pretext of destroying the weapons of mass destruction. The author comments that since this action took hardly ten days to launch, it must have been planned much earlier. It is not so since all defence forces keep contingency plans for various possibilities.

Colonialism and Economic Exploitation

The industrial revolution resulted in reducing the authority of the clergy. Advances in science led to challenges to the deeply held beliefs of religion. Need for markets due to industrial revolution led the European powers to establish colonies. It is not fair to blame the European powers or the USA for seeking colonies since conquests by military were the order of the day. The countries of the Middle East had established large empires through the sword. Turkey had knocked at the gates of Vienna and the Moors had conquered Spain. They should be the last people to complain of military attacks.

Attack by Russia in Afghanistan had invoked strong action by the USA. It made full use of terror groups. Pakistan had joined in the support to jihadis and Saudi Arabia gave funds generously. Taliban grew to be a viable force and it reacted against the USA. It is an established fact that the USA supported terror groups in Afghanistan but it is not fair to blame them for encouraging terrorism in other regions, as the author suggests. Nor can we accuse the USA for violating international law in the operation to kill Osama since terror groups had themselves acted against international laws.

The book also contains a brief history of growth and precepts of Islam. Attempt has been made to describe it as a medium of peace and submission. Islam spread with the help of the sword. We cannot forget that libraries were burnt down and the defeated king had to surrender their princesses to the victor. The book describes that the subjects who converted to Islam had to pay lower taxes. Another way of expressing it is that those who did not convert had to pay exorbitant taxes. It was called Zajia in India.

Terror in India

The author missed an important point that the books may call for peace but we need to take note of the religion as practised on the streets. Just as the phrase “Islamic terror is wrong”, the book has rejected the phrase ‘Hindu terror’ coined by former Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde. RSS has been unnecessarily branded as a terrorist organization. Just because two individuals who were members of RSS have been suspected of terror acts, the organization cannot be termed so. There are allegations of terror acts against one serving and one retired army officer. Can the army be called a terror organization for that reason? The mention of terror training camps run by RSS and BJP lacks evidence. These would have been located and dismantled with penalty at least in the states governed by Congress and other non-BJP parties.

The author questions the investigation report of the terror attack on the Taj Intercontinental on 26 November 2008 and suggests that police officer Hemant Karkare was killed by Hindu terrorists. It is a farfetched idea. The demand for the immediate hanging of Ajmal Kasab was justified and it is a travesty of justice that a few self-styled public spirited citizens appealed in support of a mercy petition. It is this capital punishment of Kasab that prompted such persons to initiate a case for abolition of death penalty, as has been done in some countries. That plea has vanished after the punishment was carried out and we should not be surprised if it is raised again to save the next terrorist accused.

India had framed its Constitution on the lines of the British parliamentary system. The government would do well to note that in the UK, no mercy petition has been accepted by the Crown against the Court judgement. We should follow the same tradition. We should do away with the provision of mercy petitions.

The author has rightly commented that the so-called secular parties follow communal politics. Secularism means a barrier between the state and religion. The major secular political parties have interpreted it to mean favours to the minority, i.e. to the Muslims. Former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh had publicly declared that the minorities have priority claim over national resources. That is a complete negation of secularism and is likely to create reaction amongst the majority community to follow a communal policy.

The book does not mention about the massacre of Muslims in Bhagalpur and UP or of the mishandling of Sikh unrest and anti-Sikh riots in 1984. There is an effort to restrict criticism to BJP governed states.


Brig. Suresh C. Sharma (retd.) is advisor to the telecom industry and a freelance writer. E-mail:


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