Origins of Terrorism

Posted by Venu Payyanur     Category: Mahabharata and Management

 Throughout the history of mankind, societies have tried to balance between individual rights and the mighty coercive power of the State. There were many political unrest and associated deaths and destruction in India due to the compulsory acquisition of land for industrialization, building of dams, defence installations, new capital formation, etc. That includes issues we have seen at Singur for Tata small car factory, many SEZ programs and most talked about Sardar Sarovar Dam in Madhya Pradesh. Andrapradesh is planning to acquire 36000 acres of land for setting up a new capital at Amaravati and we will soon know the issues related to that. The effects of displacement spill over to generations in many ways, such as loss of traditional means of employment, change of environment, disrupted community life and relationships, marginalization, a profound psychological trauma and more.

Terrorism and political assassinations are not a 21st century phenomenon and has its roots to the puranic age (5000 years ago). There are many causes for such incidents and includes development induced displacement, religious and political differences and economic disparities within society. In the recent history we are familiar with political assassinations of leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi in India and Abraham Lincoln, JF Kennedy and many other Presidents of the United states. However how many of you are aware of the first political assassination that happened in India of a powerful King way back in 3000 BC? That is the story of Maharaja Parikshit who was assassinated by a displaced Naga insurgent, whose land has been acquired forcefully for  building a new capital city Indrprastha (current day New Delhi) by his grandfather , the great Arjuna.

On advice of elders Dhritarashtra decided to split the country between his children and Pandu’s children and as expected gave away less developed forest area to Yudhishthira to rule. First task was to build a suitable capital for the administration and residences of the King, ministers and other functionaries.  After extensive search, it was decided to build the new capital city called Indraprastha at the Khandava forest. The forest had many inhabitants but Naga tribes led by their King Takshaka was main. Arjuna, who was tasked to acquire the land by whatever means, took the help of his close friend Krishna to do the needful. They gave advance warning to the inhabitants to vacate the forest and decided to burn down all houses and other dwellings on a particular day. Tribal chief Takshaka approached their patron King Indra who promised all possible help. On the appointed day, Arjuna started burning the forest and defeated Indra and his forces who tried to stop the carnage. The worst was to come. Not only those who trapped in the fire died but Arjuna ensured none could escape from the forest and pushed everyone back to the fire by force, except few selected persons such as the famous architect Maya. Except for Takshaka, who was not at the forest and one of his sons, all his family members perished in the fire and the enmity with the royal family started with this event.

Since then Takshaka was planning his revenge. Arjuna was so powerful that no retaliatory action could be taken against him. Finally, he got that opportunity with his grandson Maharaja Parikshit as he was conducting the first ever “Saptaham” (7 day spiritual discourse) under the auspicious presence of Guru Sukamuni. On the last day of the discourse, while the Maharaja was preparing to break his fast, Takshaka entered the venue disguised as a Brahman and assassinated the King.

Janamejaya, the elder son of Maharaja Parikshit was installed as the next king and decided to take revenge on the killers of his father. He conducted a nationwide search, arrested all members of the Naga tribe, and started killing them by throwing them into a fire chamber. In comparison, the Nazi killing looks humane. The king threatened to continue the massacre until their chief Takshaka surrenders and undergoes the punishment. On hearing the large scale extermination of his tribe, Takshaka decided to surrender but the timely and tactical intervention by renowned scholar Astika put a stop to the most inhuman treatment even meted out to a community.

That was the beginning of terrorism but not necessarily the last. Whenever those in authority forcefully acquires land and do not compensate adequately for the victims to lead a peaceful life, such uprisings will occur again.

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