At a panel discussion organised under ‘Stories of Strength’ by The Indian Express at the Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts on Friday, the panelists spoke extensively on how the 26/11 terror attack was an eye opener, the role of social media in radicalising people in private chat rooms as well as the new definitions of nationalism, pluralism and otherism. ‘Stories of Strength’ is a series of accounts by survivors and families affected by the terror attack of 2008 and their stories of overcoming anger and grief after the incident.
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“Down the line, we have improved. We are better equipped for such situations. The event (of 26/11) was surely an eye opener and we have improved on a number of norms. Firstly, we have a special force which will only deal with such situations if any arise. Several such steps have been taken at both central as well as state levels,” said Atul Chandra Kulkarni, additional director general, CID, Pune, when asked whether Indians are safer now and what has improved over the decade since then.
Kulkarni also spoke about how social media chat rooms have fuelled the process of radicalisation and how they have undertaken the process of deradicalisation with a team of specialists, including psychologists. “There have been instances wherein a person, in the comfort of their own rooms, have a dialogue with an unknown individual in the chat rooms for over 16 to 17 hours a day. In a matter of, say, 45 days, the person is radicalised. We have also come across cases wherein within a span of two to three months, these radicalised individuals have already taken part in missions,” he added.
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“If the purpose of the changes in the policies is to make us feel secure, I think it is the end of one question. But when we talk about surgical strikes, it was cathartic for the broader Indian public. India has been constrained in its response to Pakistan. So, the surgical strikes was a cathartic response…which upheld the emotions of people. But on strategic issues, Pakistan’s ability to harm India has not changed much,” said Dr Vaidyanathan Gundlupet, assistant professor, international relations, Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts. He said terrorism is more of a political problem than a military one.
Adding to that, Dr Shrikant Paranjpe, author and head of department (retd.), defence and strategic studies, University of Pune, said these existing radical ideas need to be addressed with a counter idea. There is a need for understanding, especially among the youth, that apart from their world view, there are other viewpoints and perspectives that they need to understand and acknowledge, he said. He said the entire definition of nationalism and secularism has been altered. “We should not use the word secular, but instead call it pluralism. Imagine a state wherein the Supreme Court asks you to stand for the national anthem to justify nationalism. The flag is symbolic, dialogue is the core,” he said.
Oishika Neogi, student, Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, said youths were divided. She said that due to radical mindsets among several young individuals, there is a sense of ‘other’. These can be based on various aspects, ranging from cultural to political spheres, she said.
“There are tools to protect… when it comes to content…We have a team of at least 40,000 people who work round-the-clock to address harmful content, sharing sources, trolls and hateful comments etc,” said Shelley Thakral, head of policy programs (India, South Asia and Central Asia), Facebook.