The Other Face of Terrorism


Orissa, India - At 10:30 a.m. on September 18, I joined the millions to observe two minutes of silence for those who lost their lives in the assault on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I was with Laxmi, Raibari and Suranam in Jhodia Sahi village in the Kashipur district of Orissa. Laxmi’s husband was among 20 tribals who had recently died of starvation.

Dismantling the Public Distribution System that provided food subsidies for the poor was at the core of the World Bank’s Structural Adjustment Program for India. Now money is spent to store 60 million tons of grain while people starve. The food security of the nation is collapsing.

While observing two minutes silence in the midst of tribal families who are victims of starvation, I could not help but think of economic policies that push people into poverty and starvation as a form of terrorism.
Kashipur was gifted with natural abundance. Starvation does not belong here. It is a result of a brutal state ever present to snatch the resources of the tribals for industry and private corporations, but totally absent in providing welfare and security to the dispossessed tribals.

In 1983, we stopped the ecological terrorism of the mining industry in the Doon Valley. The Supreme Court closed the mines and ruled that commerce that threatens life must be stopped. But our ecological victories of the 1980s were undone with the environmental deregulation that accompanied globalization.

Now the giant mining companies are eyeing the bauxite in the majestic hills of Kashipur. The aluminum will go to make Coca-Cola cans and fighter planes. The aluminum companies want the homelands of the tribals but the tribals refuse to leave. This forced apportion of resources also is a form of terrorism - corporate terrorism.

The 50 million tribals flooded out of their homes by dams over the past four decades were victims of terrorism.

The WTO was named the “World Terrorist Organization” by citizens in Seattle because its rules deny millions the right to life and livelihood.

For the 30,000 people who died in the Orissa Supercyclone because of climate change caused by fossil fuel pollution, President Bush is an ecological terrorist because he refused to sign the Kyoto protocol.

Terrorism will not be stopped by militarized minds that create insecurity and fear. The “war against terrorism” will create a vicious cycle of violence: It will not create peace and security. Terrorism can only be stopped by cultures of peace, democracy and people’s security.

It is wrong to define the conflict as a war between “civilization and barbarism”: It is a war between two forms of terrorism that are mirror images. Both sides can only conceive of monocultures that must erase diversity, the very precondition for peace. They share the dominant culture of violence. Both sides are clones of each other and their victims are innocent people everywhere.

The tribals in Jhodia Sahi lit a lamp for me at the village shrine - a small stone. These tribal shrines are insignificant when measured in physical terms against the twin towers of the World Trade Center but they are spiritually deeply significant. They embody a generous cosmology of peace - with the earth, between people, within people. This is the culture of peace that we need to reclaim.

The world repeatedly watched the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, but the destruction of millions of sacred shrines and homes and farms by forces of injustice, greed and globalization goes unnoticed.

As we remember the victims of Black Tuesday, let us strengthen our solidarity with the millions of invisible victims of other forms of terrorism that are threatening the very possibility of our future on this planet.

Vandana Shiva is the director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy [A-60 Hauz Khas, New Delhi 110 016]. A longer version of this article first appeared in Z Magazine [].

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