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Tackling Terrorism: One Step at a Time

By: B Shantanu
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This is probably a less lucid post than most of what I write.In spite of that it has taken me a very long time to draft this.

Aafter hearing of the blasts in Ahmedabad, I asked myself.what would I have done? What should the Government do? What can we do.as concerned, anxious and angry citizens?

I decided not to write anything more about the attacks until I had some idea of the answers to this questions.This post is an attempt in that direction.It mainly deals with what the government should do/ or consider doing.I may decide to write a separate post on what each one of us, as proud "Bharatiyas", can do.

The suggestions are organised in different sections (in no particular order):

The Political Will
Effective Policing and Intelligence Coordination
The role of the "middle class"
The role of the Muslim community
The role of Pakistan
Better Legislation
The Ideological Challenge

The ideas I have mentioned below are not all mine - they rely heavily on work and thinking done by others, more experienced and better informed than me.What I have attempted is to bring these ideas together - in a coherent, mostly consistent, way. I will be grateful for any critiques.Please contribute freely with your ideas and suggestions.

Tackling Terrorism: One Step at a Time

The Political Will

Our biggest weakness in this war is the lack of political will.No amount of proposals, ideas and counter-terrorist measures will work unless there is a clear, unambiguous and determined consensus - across all parties - at all levels - that this is WAR and it has to be fought with the same intensity and sense of urgency.The time for patting ourselves on the back about the "Spirit of Mumbai" (or Bengaluru or Ahmedabad) is past.

Political Will means bringing pressure on Pakistan .or as Ashutosh memorably mentioned in his comment on this blog, "turning on the heat".It necessarily involves retaliation - something which NSA M K Narayanan hinted at a few weeks ago (after the attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul).It is time to follow-up on these statements.For more than a decade, we have been crying hoarse about terrorist camps and support infrastructure across the border.Well, THIS is the time to do something about it.

As Raja Ram mentioned in his comment following the Mumbai Blasts:

.The GOI has to present the evidence gathered publicly, set forth a clear demand for actions from governments - or agencies of governments - that may be involved with a clear time frame. This should be backed up with a clear promise of retributive action against the perpetrators with or without their support. International support for such should be channelised and developed.

.But this can happen only when the political class has the clarity of mind about dealing with terror in that manner. There are consequences to such actions that we must be ready to face. The political class, mind you is a creature of the people. The people should not only be ready to back them but demand such action from the political class and only then will they respond. Till that happens, concerned Indians can pull their hair and whack their heads - not much is going to come out of it. India will just have to take it in her stride yet again and fight on alone. There is no support for India in her war on terror. What is available is only meaningless platitudes.

The PM needs to get up and say, as did Tony Blair last June: ".This extremism can be defeated. But it will be defeated only by recognising that we have not created it; it cannot be negotiated with; pandering to its sense of grievance will only encourage it; and only by confronting it, the methods and the ideas, will we win."

The President, Chief Commander of the Armed Forces needs to declare: India will not negotiate with terrorists. And every political party - and their leaders in Parliament - need to unequivocally support this stance.otherwise there is little hope.


Effective Policing and Intelligence Coordination

Effective policing and follow-up prosecution are vital tools in this fight.Unfortunately so far "effective policing" in India (in the context of terrorist attacks) has come to mean a few arrests some days after the blasts, a possible ban on some organisations and almost complee lack of any follow-up after that.It is terribly sad that even after so many years, not one suspect has been convicted of any of these attacks - with the exception, of course, of Afzal Guru (which is another story in itself).

There has to be better policing, more effective evidence gathering and better prosecution otherwise you will continue to have questions raised on the government"s motives such as the recent observation of Justice Geeta Mittal on the government"s ban on SIMI:

"What precluded the government from stating the facts? You have to satisfy the tribunal about the sufficiency of the reason behind issuing a fresh notification (on the ban)," Justice Mittal said.

We urgently need a framework to coordinate actions at the national level.to share information, intelligence and evidence.to ensure coordinated rapid response to such attacks.and to ensure that the left hand knows what the right is doing.This is nothing new.It has been suggested by numerous commentators over the last several years.What it needs is just one thing - Political Will.which sort of takes us back to square one.

Prax on Nita"s blog mentioned how the police force has been thoroughly and systematically demoralised and de-motivated:

Mumbai police"s sharpshooter squad and their khabri network or the humanint part has been dismantled with its officers and most officers are dragged to court - The ATS is a joke and the biggest cops was allegedly a benami builder - cid posts are punishment postings and politicians call on shots on which fav cop will become a dcp - now what should one expect?

Most cops only know eating tobacco and doing bandobast or nakabandi - and threatening decent civilians - while having a good rapport with the areas history sheaters - lest any one of them becomes a politician!

And it is important - no, critical - that the police are allowed to do their job without political interference breathing down their collars. If more Muslims are detained for questioning than Hindus, there should not be a dharna against "human rights abuse by police" or police high-handedness. If more Muslims are questioned, it is not because someone is out to get them, but because the odds are heavily stacked in favour of the terrorist being a disgruntled/angry/fanatic Muslim than a Parsi.


The role of the "middle-class"

The middle-class (that includes me) has a role to play too.and I don"t mean writing occasional articles (such as this) on blogs, newspapers or letters to the editor. We - each one of us - need to understand what we are up against and realise that some hard (and harsh steps) will be necessary.This would certainly involve increased surveillance and a possible intrusion on civic liberties.But such measures are essential in times of war. and make no mistake, this IS war.

Reality Check mentioned on his blog: "(Terrorism) to become a central election issue".and the only way it will happen is when the middle class that "has been compacted to irrelevance makes itself relevant again.

Offstumped called for a National Satyagraha against Terrorism and 3 specific ideas:
1. Make Terror victims the face of this War on Terror by creating a platform that brings all terror victims together and their cry for justice.
2. Shame the Congress Leadership with unrelenting bombardment. Flood them with phone calls, snail mail and email
3. Turnout the Vote Campaign to motivate every middle class household with a direct stake in the new economoy to turnout and vote in large numbers in favor of a sustained War on Terror.

Ramesh suggested making our displeasure known via an open letter. I am sure there are a lot of other ideas out there.The main thing is that something needs to be done.beyond merely cursing the powers that be.

And then there is the task of dispelling the myths and shaping public discourse.(including challenging euphemisms such as "militants") A good example is the current prevailing myth of anti-minorityism. Neo-experts claim that Muslim backwardness and poverty drives them to extremism. This is simply not true. and is it not a bit rich to talk about anti-minorityism (against Muslims) after what happened in Amarnath.


The role of the Muslim community

This is a taboo subject in Indian media and in any sensible discussion on how to tackle terrorism. It is the equivalent of the "Elephant in the Room". Over the last few days, I read numerous articles and Op-Ed pieces on what the government"s response to terror should be. I don"t recall anyone suggesting that the Muslim community must have a role to play in this too.Whether we like it or not (and whether we are willing to openly say this or not), ALL these attacks have been carried out by jihadis in the name of "Islam" and "Allah". How can we be blind to this? And how can we easily dismiss them as some misguided youth? Misguided they certainly are.but not in their own minds.and this is where Muslim community leaders and Maulvis need to show their leadership and clarity of thought.There is a need to unequivocally condemn terrorism - and that does not mean issuing fatwas. Deoband needs to go beyond this.

Don"t forget that all these "sleeper cells" that are mysteriously activated do need to "sleep" somewhere.and they need to eat.and they need support to carry off what they do.Who is behind them? Who offers them shelter? Who offers them support, logistics, lines of communication? Do we really believe that this happens in isolation? in a vacuum?

It does not.There is a need to say this .and for the community to respond to this.How else can/will they avoid being suspected merely because of their religion?

As Firoz Bakht Ahmed wrote in the The Pioneer "Terrorists don"t deserve mercy"

The Students Islamic Movement of India, Shahi Imam Bukhari, fanatics in Coimbatore and Maharashtra, the calls for jihad and the distribution of inflammatory posters have enraged middle class Hindus. Minor issues, like a few Muslim leaders opposing the singing of the Vande Mataram on national occasions, adds fuel to fire. The situation gets aggravated because moderate and secular Muslims, who are in a majority, do not get involved in their community"s civic affairs.

Time and again, Muslim leaders and intellectuals have failed in this.Instead of putting out lame statements requesting not to give a "communal" colour to the tragedy, they must face the truth.The tragedy IS communal. It does not need any more colour. The only way to remove that tag is to be unequivocal and clear about certain issues. As Salim Mansur said in "We Muslims Have Work To Do:

This sense of isolation, of being misrepresented and misunderstood, will inevitably deepen as the full story unfolds of the arrests of 17 Toronto-area Muslims on terrorism charges.

But whose fault is this? Let us, Muslims, be brutally honest..

We preach tolerance yet we are intolerant. We demand inclusion, yet we practise exclusion of gender, of minorities, of those with whom we disagree.

We repeat endlessly that Islam is a religion of peace, yet too many of us display conduct contrary to what we profess.

We keep assuring ourselves and others that Muslims who violate Islam are a minuscule minority, yet we fail to hold this minority accountable in public.

For more on how there was major local involvement and logistical support for the attacks in Bengaluru and Ahmedabad, read this and this.


The role of Pakistan

The Islamabad connection to the blasts in Ahmedabad and Benagaluru has surfaced even before the ashes of the unfortunate victims have cooled down. This rediff story quotes an IB official and mentions not only the two suspects who are believed to have a hand in these attacks but also mentions where they live! Not that this is NEWS to any serious observer of terrorism over the last few years.

Time and again, Indian officials and even the government have mentioned Pakistan"s name in connection with terrorist attacks in India and abroad (e.g. in the attack in Kabul). Yet we continue to maintain "cordial" relations with this prickly neighbour.Is it too much to expect at least some retaliatory measures? At the very least, should we not orchestrate international pressure on Pakisan to cooperate with us in hunting down terrorist suspects and criminals such as Dawood Ibrahim?

I will not say more on this particular aspect but for those who are keen to delve deeper, I would suggest the discussion forums on Bharat-Rakshak as an excellent place to begin.


Better Legislation

I will not dwell here on the merits or demerits of POTA.Others far more knowledgeable than me, have discussed this subject widely. I believe there is widespread agreement that the present provisions are inadequate to deal with the scale of the problem we face today.

There is also need for secondary legislation, such as the one suggested by S.Sundararaman on Offstumped"s blog:

.What we need is a law to deal with terrorism, whereby all those who knew of the plot and who remained silent like sabeel of glasgow bombing and those who actively support the terrorist operation should be stripped of citizenship and citizenship rights. consequently their residence, employment etc., should be subject to constant surveillance. They would not be eligible for any government benefits. All their assets shall stand confiscated. They can be given option to choose any other country to emigrate and their passport on emigration should be cancelled.


The Ideological Challenge

Finally, the ideological battle must be fought.At the root of all these attacks is the chilling ideology of Islamism and the fanatic agenda of Islamists who are bent on imposing their version of Islam on the whole world and get it rid of all Kaffirs and infidels.I have talked about this issue on my blog on numerous occassions. e.g. see Will the Darul Uloom now declare war on "Islamism"? and How do you distinguish between an Islamist and a Muslim?.

Sadly, the mainstream media prefers to ignore this aspect and pretends it is not a problem at all.Unfortunately a large section of (otherwise politically astute) commentators and observers share this view too.

I think unless this ideology is challenged headlong in an open and public debate, we will continue to believe that terrorists are merely some misguided youth and their acts are merely "reaction" to some real or imagined grievances. Tellingly, almost none of the press reports mentioned this last sentence from the email sent to media outlets just before the blasts: "We the terrorists of India - the Indian Mujahideen - the militia of Islam whose each and every Mujahid belongs to this very soil of India, have returned to execute the compulsion of Allah"

The important - and this is critical - thing is not to direct our anger against Indian Muslims.Although the community does share some responsibility for what has happened, if we start painting the whole population as suspect, that would not just be wrong but plain dumb stupid. As Vishwakarma said in a comment on "Bharat-Rakshak":

Focus shouldn"t be on screwing misguided Indian muslims. Thats what ISI wants us to do. ISI"s new strategy is to transfer this terrorism war onto out territory, so hindu"s take up fight against muslims within India.

Focus should be to hit the ISI on its home-ground and that is, Pakistan.

Lets not loose focus. Hit the terrorist "in their home". Fight with them "on their land". Thats what our strategy should be.

I need not say anything more.

B Shantanu

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References & Notes:

Related Posts:

The nonsense about the "spirit of Mumbai".

Four Years, Two Attacks, One Story

Anger, tears and despair

Blasts? What Blasts??Yeh to hota hi rahta hai

Another day, another blast - "Kuch nayee baat batao yaar"

Jihad in Jaipur: The Unfolding Drama

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