Are all terrorists really Muslims?

Published: April 4, 2015
The writer is the editor and translator of Why I write: Essays by Saadat Hasan Manto, published by Westland in 2014. His book, India, Low Trust Society, will be published by Random House

The writer is the editor and translator of Why I write: Essays by Saadat Hasan Manto, published by Westland in 2014. His book, India, Low Trust Society, will be published by Random House [email protected]

Are most terrorists in India Muslims? I had the chance to look at this following yet another avoidable incident this week. Nigeria’s ambassador to India has responded to a comment made by a Union minister. The comment was made by Giriraj Singh, who said: “If Rajiv Gandhi had married a Nigerian lady and not a white-skinned woman, would the Congress have accepted her leadership?” The remark revealed the casual racism that is so commonplace in India. Nigeria’s ambassador O B Okongor was upset enough to say: “I believe the prime minister will do right thing on this. I am not going to lodge a protest.” The prime minister ignored it once again as those who have observed his conduct on such things will have noticed, though the media was naturally outraged.
The website ran a commentary headlined “5 reasons why Giriraj Singh should shut up”. It included this statement of his from last year: “Isn’t it true that all people caught in terrorist activities belong to one community? I am not trying to blame any one particular community. Why are all so-called secular parties silent on this?”
Presumably he means Muslims. He is of course not right in assuming that all people caught for terrorism are Muslims, but are Muslims responsible for most of the terrorism in India? Let’s look at the data. The South Asian Terrorism Portal lists fatalities and incidents across India. Quite helpfully, it also does list them by conflict theatre.

In 2014, there were 976 deaths from terrorism (or extremism, whatever name one wants to use for it) in India. Of these, the most (465) came in the north-east. The second most (314) came from left-wing extremism, by a group of people called Maoists. Deaths in Jammu & Kashmir, assuming we want to attribute the whole lot to terrorism, stood at 193. Outside of these conflict theatres, extremism by Muslims groups claimed four lives.

In 2013, the figure was most for Maoists (421), the second most for the north-east (252) and Kashmir plus violence by Muslim extremist groups outside the state again third (206). In 2012, we had a similar situation: Maoists (367), followed by the north-east (326), followed by Kashmir (117). The total number of victims to terrorism perpetrated by Muslim extremist groups outside these three areas, across India, was one. In 2011, Maoist violence claimed 602, the north-east 246 and Kashmir plus violence by Muslim extremist groups outside the state stood at 225. This year, again the sequence is the same, though violence levels across India have dropped, as they have been doing for the past decade.

As is obvious, most terrorists in India are Hindus, the ones whom we have conveniently labelled ‘Maoist’ instead of ‘Hindu’. The second largest group of terrorists is the tribals, animists and perhaps, some Christians, of the north-east. Muslims are third. If one looks outside the separatism of Kashmir, their violence and terrorism levels are among the lowest in the world and they appear to be least susceptible to terrorism, not just by the standards of the world’s Muslims but also India’s Hindus.

So what explains Giriraj Singh’s statement, which I must confess one hears all the time in India? I cannot remember the number of times I have been informed by someone at a party that “all Muslims are not terrorists but why are all terrorists Muslims?” They’re not. Not even close. The reason is that ‘terrorism’ is today accepted only as that which is perpetrated by Muslims. And the reason for this is the narrative in the media, which has neatly conflated terrorism with Islam and Pakistan. News channels like Times Now run many more programmes firing middle class and Anglicised Indians up against ‘terrorism’ (i.e., violence perpetrated by Muslim extremist groups/Pakistan) than they run shows on the north-east and on Maoism, which claim a far greater number of lives as the figures show.

It is, of course, unfortunate that this should be the case, but we can explain away the common man using such arguments. For a Union minister to hold them as gospel is frightening and shows how wrong-headed the members of this government are.

I said on a TV show after Giriraj’s comment that Modi deliberately chose such unhinged people because they said what he wanted to but couldn’t. He agreed with every word Giriraj said and that is why he was rewarded with a ministry. My comment greatly offended the BJP spokesman on the panel, who read out a list of cabinet ministers who were touched by sobriety, like Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley. But surely these people pick themselves in any BJP cabinet. They’ve been leaders at the centre before Modi. It is the new ministers, like Giriraj and Niranjan Jyoti (famous for referring to non-Hindus as bastards) whom Modi has brought in. And he has done so, as I said, because he agrees with what they say, even though it is manifestly and demonstrably bogus. 

Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2015.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • Ali
    Apr 5, 2015 - 1:40AM

    Most, actually overwhelming number of terrorists seem to be Muslims these days. I am a Muslim, embarrassing truth I don’t mind admitting. Let us be honest.Recommend

  • gopi thomas
    Apr 5, 2015 - 1:47AM

    Mr Patel is quite disingenuous when he hashes these statistics and claim that Islamic terrorism compared to other terrorist activities is 3rd or 4th in the list.

    He conveniently lumps Maoists as Hindu terrorists, and even implies the government deliberately chose the label Maoists. He implies the NE atrocities as terrorism committed by Christians/animalists etc etc.

    Maoists are not fighting for a ‘Hindu’ empire. NE christians are not fighting for a Christian nation..

    But the Islamic terrorists, just like their brotheren in other countries. are aging Jhadism for their Caliphate.

    It is a shame he sits in India and gives a pass to the Pakistani terrorism both on their soil and in India. , Recommend

  • prashanth
    Apr 5, 2015 - 3:58AM

    Author: The second largest group of terrorists is the tribals, animists and PERHAPS, some Christians, of the north-east.

    You got to be very cautious when you talk of Christians, don’t you. You can name all other groups without adjectives, but when it comes to Christians, you got to be very cautious. How many times did you look over your shoulders, before you “PERHAPS” named Christians?Recommend

  • Anjaan
    Apr 5, 2015 - 4:15AM

    The individuals that this author terms as Hindu terrorists, are actually average Joes, simply reacting to extreme provocations and threats in their own land … they do not go around with AK-47 s in their hands … !! … it is a question of survival of their future generations … their faith, culture and heritage … equating this with terrorism is travesty of truth … !! … if these individuals are terrorists in the eye of a Muslim author, then in the future he might call all the awaken Hindus of India terrorists … !!Recommend

  • Apr 5, 2015 - 6:29AM

    This is the same defensive mindset which is increasing the fear of Islam.

    Maoists are Hindus, but their cause is not Hindu, Religion is NOT their motivation. They are Ideological, Political and Economic in nature. To simply label them Hindus is disingenuous.

    Can you say the same thing about Islamic Terror?

    Hindus all over the world are peaceful. There are millions of Muslims in Pakistan, the same percentage or number of Muslims live in UK or France. How many Hindus are suspected of Terror within Pakistan itself? Compare this to the situation in France or UK.

    Do Pakistanis fear Hinduism, like the Western world and the non-Muslim world is fearing Islam?

    Indian Muslims should learn to walk the talk. Why are they claiming groups like LTTE and Maoists are Terrorists and equivalent to Al Qaeda and Taliban? Why mix up things which are not related? Is it fair to compare a killer to a Terrorist? Is there no distinction?

    Maoists are Hindus, but unlike Islamic Terror, their cause is not Religion.Recommend

  • ajeet
    Apr 5, 2015 - 9:25AM

    The Maoists and others are our boys, but the Islamic extremists have loyalty towards other countries.Recommend

  • ask
    Apr 5, 2015 - 12:31PM

    @ajeet: “Maoists are our boys”? Since when Chaiman Mao became a non foreigner Hindu Icon of India?Recommend

  • rama
    Apr 5, 2015 - 1:19PM

    These Maoists terrorist are not trying to install hindu caliphate, they are trying to install the communist regime and their is not religious sentiment in their fight against India. Get this fact correct. No religious hindu leader or neighbouring country fanatics talks in favour of them when govt take action against the mindless terror mongersRecommend

  • Parvez
    Apr 5, 2015 - 1:42PM

    I think you are correctly ringing the alarm bell……..during his election campaign Modi decided to ‘ ride the tiger ‘ ( it was good for getting votes ) now he’s scratching his head as to how to get off…..won’t be easy.Recommend

  • antanu
    Apr 5, 2015 - 2:50PM

    No —you are not a Muslim which is obvious. Second thing, read the article again and try to fathom its point of view.It takes guts and courage to accept the truth which Aakar has but you dont otherwise you would not have hidden your true face behind a fake name. Recommend

  • Lost
    Apr 5, 2015 - 3:19PM

    The world has gone a lot beyond ‘are all terrorists Muslim’ question, in recent times its being insinuated that all Muslims are terrorists, never thought I’d love to see such gross generalizations in such advanced societies Recommend

  • Lost
    Apr 5, 2015 - 3:23PM

    Wow ajeet that sounded like terrocracy, terrorism by you, On you, for you… You mean they’re loyal to your country and do terrorism by the way, you know like a side job Recommend

  • Mast Kalandar
    Apr 5, 2015 - 4:33PM

    @antanu – it doesnt require an iota of guts to be a scumbag propagandist…these run-of-the-mill one-article a week pseudo journos are literally on the verge of annahilation, and are literally living on crumb thrown by their masters who are gradually getting extinct by the day!Recommend

  • Pakka Indian
    Apr 5, 2015 - 6:13PM

    @gopi thomas:
    What do you expect from this author who has, over the years, compiled an entire dictionary of hate-India (more specifically, hate-Hindu) rhetoric. Facts can be easily twisted: and the author is given the license by this paper to do so. The author, incidentally, writes such pieces only for the Pakistani media (aka The Express Tribune) because, apparently, it makes the brainwashed Pakistani readers and the establishment feel good that there not just Islamic terrorists but also Hindu “terrorists” (have you ever heard of a Hindu “terrorist” ever attacking anyone in the West or anywhere else in the world but in a Pakistani’s fantasy??!). While I would defend every writer’s right to criticize others, I would be careful about such propagandists who, in the name of “independent journalism”, indulge in rants and diatribes against a particular faith. Recommend

  • Gopi Chund
    Apr 5, 2015 - 10:00PM

    Seems like a platoon of trolls from across the border have come to attack some sane argument. Recommend

  • Apr 6, 2015 - 3:41AM

    looks like you are growing a second tail on your foreheadRecommend

  • IndianDude
    Apr 6, 2015 - 8:48AM

    “No —you are not a Muslim which is obvious…”

    This is coming from a person who has been trying to pass himself off as an Indian, even in the ‘virtual’ world of posting anonymous comments, let alone in the ‘physical’ world of europe and North Americas. However, you being a Pakistani and muslim, we understand your predicament. Recommend

  • Apr 6, 2015 - 10:14AM

    You are a fake. hiding behind a Muslim NameRecommend

  • Haider
    Apr 6, 2015 - 1:22PM

    Terrorism of today is a wrong number of PK suggests many in Hinduism.. Evil shouldn’t be related to religon.What is wrong is wrong be the person of any religon.
    Person who killed Gandhi was he Muslim or Gujrat attacks were done by muslimsRecommend

  • yo2da2
    Apr 7, 2015 - 1:59AM

    @Somnath Bachan: It would be reasonable to expect that your reply actually makes sense and is a rational reply to what Parvez actually said. Are you disagreeing with his comment? Or don ‘t you understand his metaphor – a reasonable one in the eyes of non-Hindutva folks, including most Hindus? The first step for anyone to be taken seriously is well-reasoned counter-arguments. No? Peace with honor!Recommend

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