Don’t politicize the study of terrorism; go deeper. This is what the author argues in this perceptive piece.
Aakash Ganguly was student of JNU from 2012 -2014. At present, he works in Mumbai as a documentary filmmaker.
With the new regime JNU is always in news–and for bad reasons. The disruption of the democratic process of decision making, the arbitrary rules imposed by the oppressive administration, the reduction of the Academic Council into a fish market, and the continual agitation of students and teachers for regaining their lost freedom–it is sad to witness the steady fall of an iconic institution.
And the latest news is that the JNU administration has decided to introduce a course on ‘Islamic Terrorism’. Anyone familiar with the politics of curriculum knows that the dominant ideologies often play a role in defining the contents of knowledge, or deciding what is worth-teaching. As militant nationalism sanctified by a discourse of Hindutva envelops our political culture, it is difficult for academic institutions to escape its devastating effect. When the ‘nation’ defines itself by identifying its ‘enemies, and classifies them as ‘tyrant Muslims’, it is not surprising that the idea of ‘Islamic terrorism’ will find its takers. And even at JNU there will be professors willing to sanctify an idea of this kind. It is nice to be friendly with the ruling establishment!
None is saying that terrorism as the reality of contemporary life should not be studied. However, we should not forget two crucial facts.
First, at this time of vulgar majoritarianism, the minorities in India are experiencing the wound of all sorts of stigmatization and physical/psychic violence. An academic attempt to relate Islam to terrorism is possibly yet another weapon to humiliate and isolate a particular community.
Second, the uneven globalization ,as we know, has also generated stereotypes about ‘Islamic terror’; and the American violence in our times is often legitimated in the name of fighting ‘Islamic terrorism’. No wonder, at this juncture of history a course on ‘Islamic terrorism’ at JNU cannot be seen in isolation from this ugly politics.
Yes, terrorism does exist, and scholars must study it. However, without immense honesty, intellectual integrity and deep humanism it is difficult to engage with a theme of this kind. The ugly politics of Euro-American colonialism, the onslaught of neo-liberal global capitalism, the organized attack on plurality of religious/cultural symbols, the increasing anonymity in everyday life, and a sense of meaninglessness–there are multiple politico-economic, cultural and psychic reasons for terrorism and associated violence all over the world.
We need wisdom, not a politically motivated discourse on terrorism. We like to hope that there are still some saner voices in JNU who can tell the Vice-Chancellor.”Stop it. Enough is enough.”