At a time when the international community was focusing on the issue of a series of deadly ‘lone wolf’ attacks across the globe by the Islamic State, ignoring the rise of ‘White Nationalism’ against ‘Islamist invaders’, a white man, identified as Brenton Tarrant, in his late 20s carried out the deadliest attack ever witnessed in New Zealand. Tarrant killed 49 Muslim worshippers at two separate mosques – Al-Noor Mosque and Linwood Mosque – in Christchurch. New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirmed that 41 people were killed at Al-Noor Mosque while another seven were killed at Linwood Mosque. One person died at a hospital. 42 people, including a four-year-old child, were reported injured. Several others, including nine Indian citizens, are missing.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern admitted that “this can now only be described as a terrorist attack”. She also noted “it is clear; this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days”. New Zealand never before in its history had witnessed a terror attack of this scale. Indeed, as per reports, New Zealand’s terror threat level has been lifted to high for the first time in its history, following the attack.
Meanwhile, the lone attacker, Brenton Tarrant, an Australian citizen, in his 74-pages document titled The Great Replacement has disclosed that “New Zealand was not the original choice for attack” and he carried out the attack there because he believed that an incident in New Zealand would bring to attention the truth of the assault on our civilization that nowhere in the world was safe, the invaders were in all of our lands, even in the remotest areas of the world and that there was nowhere left to go that was safe and free from mass immigration.
In an attack similar to Christchurch, six people were killed and another 19 injured in a shooting incident at a mosque in Canadian city of Quebec’s Sainte-Foy neighbourhood on January 29, 2017. A French-Canadian student, Alexandre Bissonnette, was charged for the attack.
Bissonnette, like Tarrant, was ‘fighting’ for ‘White Nationalism’. According to an April 18, 2018, report, in a video of his police interrogation shown in court, Bissonnette is heard telling officers that his three-minute-long attack was set off by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s message of welcome to refugees in the wake of President Trump’s entry ban, which was issued two days before his attack at the Sainte-Foy mosque. The report also stated that Bissonnette spent hours in front of his computer screen reading about mass shooters and scouring the Twitter accounts of right-wing commentators, alt-right figures, conspiracy theorists and President Trump.
Bothe the attackers – Tarrant and Bissonnette – had no criminal history and were under no watch list.
Jonathan Metzl, a professor of sociology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University (US) and author of Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland, following the Christchurch attack rightly observed as saying, it’s a particular form of hate and hate crimes that blames immigrants and outsiders and people who look different. It’s impossible to see this crime and this mass murder just as a mass shooting. It took place in the context of the global spread of white nationalism.
At least 11 attacks (excluding the one at Christchurch) by white supremacists have been recorded over the past eight years across Europe and the US resulting in at least 124 fatalities. Though not all these attacks directly targeted immigrants they were intended to pressurise Governments to change immigration policies. The most prominent of these included the October 27, 2018, killing of at least 11 people in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US, by Robert Bowers; the killing of Labour Party Member of Parliament Jo Cox in Birstall, West Yorkshire, UK, on June 16, 2016; and the worst of these, the July 22, 2011, attack by Anders Behring Breivik, which resulted in the killing of 77 people.
Sadly, countries facing this problem feign ignorance of such developments across the globe, most prominently since the Syrian crisis and the resultant immigration of Muslims into western countries and rising Islamophobia. According to a September 11, 2018, report, the top countries by origin of asylum seekers in the EU since 2014 were Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, all countries with recent or ongoing conflicts. Between 2014 and 2017, a total of more than 919,000 Syrians applied for asylum in the EU.
Colin Clarke, an adjunct political scientist at the RAND Corporation and a senior research fellow at the Soufan Centre, observes
But while we pay a lot of attention to jihadist terrorism, we’ve been very slow and stubborn to realize that right-wing terrorism is very global, too.
The problem of the increasing threat of right wing nationalism has the potential to derail global peace and needs to be addressed with great urgency across the world.
BJP’s poll pangs
As India is in the thick of parliamentary elections, and polling for 302 seats (out of total 543) has already been held, the ruling BJP finds itself on a fiercely challenging wicket. The social engineering by regional parties, in UP and Bihar in particular, and MumtaBannerji’s assertive position in West Bengal, is likely to upset the BJP’s calculations. BJP’s position in southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh Orissa too is reported to be fragile. Rahul Gandhi’s rise from ashes is another factor that is casting shadow on BJP’s electoral prospects. Mocked as “Pappu” for being a novice and inexperienced in politics by the Prime Minister NarendraModi and his party colleagues, Rahul Gandhi appears to have come of age. He is putting up a valiant fight against the BJP and in the recent past has defeated the ruling party in three crucial states—Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh—in assembly elections. The Congress president—heir of Nehru-Gandhian dynasty—has made a careful departure from the party’s rhetorical and symbolic commitment to secularism and minority rights. He is taking on the Prime Minister on the agenda set by the BJP itself. To establish his Hindu identity, Rahul Gandhi visited hundreds of Hindu temples in the past few months leaving little scope for the hard-line Hindu detractors to call him a “non-Hindu”. Rather than stand against BJP’s majoritarian and Islamophobic politics, Rahul Gandhi chose to fight the electoral battle on the terms set by the Hindu right. He stayed silent about the violence and hostility encountered by the Muslim citizens. He essentially agreed with the terms set by Hindu nationalists that to speak of equal citizenship and political rights for India’s 165 million Muslims is no longer acceptable in India. Rahul Gandhi regularly posted on Twitter but he avoids references to India’s Muslims.
This seems to have paid for the Congress president in this new Indian frame of politics where inclusiveness is no more a virtue. It has rattled the BJP and its leadership, and they are finding themselves on quite a sticky wicket. Though it is premature to draw any conclusion about the outcome of the elections but the desperation in the BJP camp is visible. It is for this fact that the BJP leadership is trying hard to renew and revive the communal polarization ahead of four other phases of polling. There are two main indicators of this BJP plan. Prime Minister NarendraModi is trying to invoke Pakistan and nuclear bomb in his poll campaign to attract voters to his side. The other day he warned Pakistan of nuclear bomb saying “our nuclear bomb is not for Diwali”. Addressing an election rally in Rajasthan, he said that India could no more be frightened or blackmailed by Islamabad’s threats and said its nuclear capabilities are not being kept for Diwali. “Every other day they used to say ‘we have nuclear button, we have nuclear button’. What do we have then? Have we kept it for Diwali?” he said. The other major indicator of BJP’s growing frustration is fielding of terror accused Pragya Singh Thakur as party nominee from Bhopal parliamentary seats. She is challenging the Congress strong man Digvijay Singh. Singh is the main accused in 2008 Malegaon blast case in which six people had died and around 100 others injured (all Muslims). The trial court had in October last year framed charges against Pragya and other accused under the UAPA and other sections of the Indian Penal Code for murder, criminal conspiracy and promoting enmity between religious groups. If convicted, the maximum punishment would be life imprisonment or death. Pragya and the others facing trial in the case are charged with “hatching a conspiracy” to “strike terror in the mind of the Muslim community, to create communal rift….” Currently she is out on bail on health grounds. It goes without saying that charges against her have not been proven yet but the moral and political propriety had it that she, for the seriousness of the charges, should not have been considered for such a place in the party. By owning and fielding her, BJP has played out a game of polarization of voters on religious lines.
Collapse of Afghanistan peace talks
The hope for end of the war in Afghanistan has suffered a major blow as the peace talks between Taliban and the Afghan government have collapsed. A key meeting of Taliban leaders and Afghanistan government officials was scheduled to take place in Qatar on April 19 but a last minute row over the large number of delegates Kabul wanted to send culminated in the fall down. Taliban leaders refused to accept the Afghan government delegation in such a large size. The peace talks have been postponed indefinitely. The talks have collapsed at a moment when bloodshed continues in the war torn country. On Saturday suicide attackers stormed the Ministry of Communications in the capital Kabul trapping thousands of people inside the building for hours while security forces battled the assailants. At least 10 people died in the fighting. The Islamic State group claimed credit for the attack, which came a day after U.S.-led peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan leaders broke down in Qatar, with no immediate plans to reschedule negotiations. Taliban indeed is the major power group in Afghanistan. It now controls or influences more than half of Afghanistan. The government writ has largely been squeezed to Kabul only. A recent United Nations tally revealed that around 4000 civilians were killed across Afghanistan last year. The United States, which is leading an effort to end the war, signaled its disappointment and urged both sides to return to the table, though organizers gave no hint about when the conference might be rescheduled.
Efforts to end the Afghan conflict have accelerated since the appointment of U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in September last year, who has since been shuttling across the region to revive Afghan peace talks. He has held several meetings with the Taliban leaders at their political office in the Gulf country of Qatar. American President Donald Trump’s letter, in recent past, to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan seeking Islamabad’s support in establishing peace in Afghanistan too has helped in reviving the peace efforts in the decades old war torn country. Trump had earlier tried to terrorize and pressurize Pakistan through intimidating measures, and in the process stopped all the military aid the country was supposed to get as its share for being a partner in America’s war on terrorism. Trump directly accused Pakistan of harbouring and sponsoring the terrorists, and wanted Pakistan to fight the America’s war in Afghanistan. Trump issued threat and warnings to Pakistan with the intention that like in the past it would succumb to such pressure. But as it saw Taliban capturing more and more areas, Trump stopped all military and economic aid to Pakistan to make Islamabad more pliable. America even threatened Pakistan of military action if it did not comply to the US orders. But the rise of Imran Khan to power saw a new and confident Pakistan refusing to toe the American line. American officials have now admitted that the Taliban control more than 60 per cent of the territory in Afghanistan. Hence, the Trump administration has finally come to the conclusion that there is no other option but to talk to the Taliban. The U-Turn by Donald Trump is a huge indicator that no country, howsoever powerful it could be is invincible. In the new scenario, America’s interests in peace in Afghanistan are growing as the US wanted complete withdrawal of its forces from the country. There is no other alternative to peace. Irrespective of what America or other interested powers want, peace should restore in Afghanistan in the interests of its people. More than anyone else, it is the people of Afghanistan who need peace. It is imperative on all stakeholders to restore peace talks without any delay so that peace returns to the war-torn country.
Easter Sunday shock
On Sunday Sri Lanka was rocked by a series of deadly blasts that killed more than 200 people and injured around 500 more. At least eight bombs ripped through three Churches and two high-end hotels in the capital Colombo causing widespread casualties. Seen as one of the worst terror acts in the island nation, the bombing were struck at a time when large number of Christian devotees had gathered in Churches to celebrate Easter. The day is celebrated by Christian across the world as a mark of reincarnation of Jesus Christ three days after his crucification. In a country of 22 million people, Christians form around 10 percent of the population. The scale and savagery of the attacks that clearly targeted Christians have left Sri Lankans devastated and confused. The country has a long history of disenfranchisement among minority Tamil groups, who are largely Hindu, at the hands of the Sinhalese Buddhists led to a civil war in the 1980s. The Tamil Tigers, an armed insurgent group that identified itself as secular, launched deadly attacks, including some of the earliest use of suicide bombings as a tactic of insurgency. The group was active in northeastern Sri Lanka, in areas such as Jaffna. The LTTE was a highly motivated insurgent group which is the first separatist militant group in south Asia to introduce suicide bombings as a means of its campaign. Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was also killed by this group by human bombing. In response, the Sri Lankan Army carried out brutal campaigns, largely focused on the Tamil stronghold in the northeast. The civil war ended in 2009 after a large-scale operation by the army that defeated the Tamil Tigers and killed its leader—Velupillai Prabhakaran. There is no exact casualty toll, but the United Nations has suggested that as many as 40,000 civilians were killed in the last stage of the war alone.
No group has claimed responsibility for the latest devastating attack. The police said they believed the bombings were the work of one group but declined to identify it. At least 35 of the victims were foreigners, including several Americans. For years, as Sri Lanka has climbed away from war, it has been building a robust tourism industry. The bombings were the deadliest attack on Christians in South Asia in recent memory and punctuated a rising trend of religious-based violence in the region. In recent years, there have been clashes between the majority Sinhalese Buddhist community and minority Muslims, and in March last year the government imposed a 12-day state of emergency to quell anti-Muslim riots. Christian groups have also complained of increased harassment from hard-line Buddhist groups. Buddhists form around 70 percent of the country’s overall population. Sri Lanka is known for its tremendous natural beauty, which attracts millions of tourists every year. The country gained independence from British rule in 1948 as the dominion of Ceylon, and became the Republic of Sri Lanka in 1972. Its people have long borne a burden of violence. It is yet to be seen who are behind the Sunday bombings and how it does fit in the country’s turbulent history. Much to the credit of the Sri Lankan government, the island nation did not react in panic. Though the authorities had to impose curfew as precautionary measure but the overall situation is reported peaceful. But few would dispute with the fact the rise of Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism has resulted in sectarian divides that is growing menacingly, and the country has experienced new waves of violence. A rise in intolerance has been attributed in part to the postwar triumphalism of some Sinhalese majority politicians. The Sri Lankan government needs to look into the Sunday bombing from all angles.
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