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Terror's fine print

By Rajvikram Singhdeo '06

(Printed with permission, TCU Daily Skiff.)

I am an international student at TCU who has been in the United States for a grand total of three weeks. This is my first trip to the United States, and my impressions of this country are quite different from those I had before coming here.

Like many others before me, I came not only to get an education, but because I wanted to come to a country where I can be who I am, be respected and be free. In my country, India, we faced the problem of terrorism long before the Sept. 11 crisis. Osama bin Laden has been responsible for terrorism in our country for the past 10 years. More than the lives that he has taken, it is the effect he has had on everyday life that is the most galling to me.

I grew up dreaming of the day when I could be like the person in cowboy movies wearing torn denims, listening to Bruce Springsteen bawling “Born in the USA” and driving across miles of freeway. I’ve found that this country has a lot more than torn denim and the Boss, but the day the U.S. government becomes like our government back home and imposes curfews and martial law and forces people to be afraid, terrorism has succeeded. The very essence of terrorism is to make us afraid of what we are. That is how I lived in India.

The Indian constitution is very similar to its American counterpart, yet the prevailing situation in our country is what will occur here should the curbs on civil liberties be imposed. For the past 20 years, our country has endured terrorist attacks from a variety of separatist movements—the Khalistanis in Punjab, the Bodos in Mizoram, the Harkat Ul Ansar and the Harkat Ul Mujahideen—all of whom are financed by the same sources who masterminded the Sept. 11 attack.

Two security laws have become infamous in India: the 1971 Maintenance of Internal Security Act, which allows the government to arrest individuals without charging them; and the 1985 Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act, which allows the government to tap telephones, censor mail and perform raids. Both were established to supposedly ensure quicker dispensation of justice, but they have been used in times of war as a tool of extortion and to target people who eventually turned out to be blameless—quite the case of “guilty until proven innocent.”

I have been here for a short time, and I don’t claim to know a lot, but I know this— the day that America, the last refuge of freedom, and its people are afraid to live their lives the way they always have, people like me will have no place of which to dream.

The way of life that I have experienced here is something I could never have experienced at home, and it’s passing under the curbs imposed by the Bush administration.

Rajvikram is a freshman international finance/marketing major from Calcutta. Contact him at