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Tackling Terrorism: A Questionable response?

By: Saurav Basu
Jan-29-2009
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(Author is an independent researcher, and freelance contributor based in New Delhi, India)
 


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Terrorism in the name of one particular religion is haunting humanity today. Two months have elapsed since 26/11 and the masterminds behind the attack are still at large. Why the Indian government and security agencies have failed to safeguard the lives and properties of innocent Indians and when can we put a full stop to terror? The answer to this vexed question lies in answering those politically incorrect others which escape public discourse.

The principle question is whether we follow a "zero tolerance" policy against terrorism? After all, India"s terror death toll in the past five years is second only to Iraq. Yet, bizarrely terrorism does not seem to be an electoral issue in India as evident from the recent Delhi assembly elections which took place 2 weeks after the Mumbai terror attack. Shivraj Patil, the former defense minister barely a week before the ill fated attack was patting his own back for ingeniously restricting terror strikes to all the major cities of India! The Times of India frivolously suggested that there is a greater possibility to die of a lightning strike in India as against a terror attack. Comparing apples and oranges perhaps, for terror attacks take place predominantly in urban India as against lightning strikes in rural India! The English media and leftist social activists" days after 26/11 began a procession of publicly censuring all politicians (and Pakistan) instead of those exclusively in government proving the farcical nature of the act deployed to divert seething public sentiment and deny advantage to their enemy in the "communal" opposition ahead of the Assembly polls.

The second question posed is whether we remain absolutely unconditionally critical of terrorists? The answer is a frank no! Rather, India"s collective progressive consciousness is dominated by the Stockholm syndrome. So, we have the radical Christian writer and activist Arundhati Roy maliciously justifying the Mumbai attack as a consequence of Indian Army"s supposed deplorable human rights record in Kashmir.The far-left who are teeming everywhere being votaries of revolutionary terror are principally sympathetic to violence against the Hindu bourgeoisie. Several Indian Muslim communities subscribe to dangerous conspiracy theories of the Urdu press with some English patrons. So, 26/11 becomes a Hindu-Zionist conspiracy. A R Antulay, the minority affairs played to his galleries giving further fillip to these allegations leveled by the Islamic fundamentalists. Letters to the editor in "The Hindu" showed a clear communal divide, all Muslims supported Antulay and all non Muslims objected to this blatant political opportunism. One indeed wonders, what the level of deception would have been if a jihadi was not caught alive! Previously, M C Sharma, the man who lived and died for his country was abused and reviled by local Muslims as a fake encounter specialist, and the Batla House encounter rendered objectionable. Since then, these Muslims have found political voice both in the Samajwadi Party and Arjun Singh of the Congress. Islamic terror organizations like SIMI, extremists like NDF and separatists like PDP derive their continuous support both from Muslim masses and certain "secular" politicians.

The third question is whether we collectively condemn terrorism as the worst crime against humanity with a most dangerous ideological core? Instead, we find Islamic terrorism being uncritically compared to the obverse of communal riots with the simplistic premise that both supposedly feed on each other. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Communal riots often follow a period of building communal tensions yet post riots when tensions have eased, both communities go back to their own way of life. Of course, the root cause of communal conflict in a pluralistic society is the exclusivism of monotheistic faiths which accentuates social tensions by trying to impose their hegemonistic views, thinking and culture on the "others". But terrorists with totalitarian intentions of establishing a global Islamic caliphate or fluttering the banner of the red star across the world, irrespective of interruptions continue to cultivate the same ideological drive. Yet, no effort is made to comprehend the theology which drives Islamist terror. B Raman the security analyst has recently voiced his apprehensions that "Indian (terror) experts have not been able to quantify...the threat from sections of Indian youth outside J&K because of a fear in political circles that such an exercise for quantification might have an adverse effect on the Muslim vote in the forthcoming parliamentary elections." Similarly, there is no dearth of Naxalite sympathizers even in elite academic institutions who vituperate legitimate anti-Naxal groups like the Salwa Judum. Such moral vacuity on the part of our "progressives" is intolerable and unacceptable.

The question of government sincerity in tackling terror transcending the parochial dictates of electoral votebank considerations also arises. While it is true, that the UPA government under severe public criticism in a clear volte face had reluctantly beefed up the anti-terror laws but it still excludes all "confession statements" made to police officers, irrespective of their rank. Meanwhile, Mr Modi has raised a very pertinent question. He reminds us of the ironical position that Kasab"s confession before the police that the Indian government has attested in its "evidence" dossier to Pakistan are inadmissible in any Indian court of law ever since the repeal of POTA by the UPA under orders of Sonia Gandhi, presumably to appease both Muslims and the left. Fortunately, there is clinching evidence of Kasab"s involvement including real time camera footage of the terrorists in actions along with the eyewitness testimony of the lone surviving constable of the slain Mumbai ATS chief"s Hemant Karkare"s police team. Yet to expect law agencies to depend upon such "fortuitous" evidence under the most unfortunate circumstances only proves the inadequacy of extant anti-terror laws which expects hard-core jihadis and Islamic fundamentalists to confess their "honourable actions in God"s cause" before magistrates! The "secularist" objections to tough anti-terror laws are rather inane and have been conclusively dismissed in the past but I repeat them for the sake of reiteration. The first is the vain assumption that such laws don"t act as a deterrent against terror because some terror strikes did take place in spite of the presence of POTA. Since, the existence of no criminal law till date has managed to immunize society against crime , the opposition to tough anti-terror laws on this ground is clearly an anarchist suggestion which has no place in a democratic constitution. Also, provisions which allow pre-emptive arrest and detention of terror suspects can go a long way in preventing terror strikes. Finally, ever since 9/11 most democracies including US and UK have adopted anti-terror laws which contain far more stringent provisions than did POTA. The second argument against POTA type law is the cynical "secularist" moaning against misuse of it against Muslims and tribals suspected to be Naxals. However, these cynics are perfectly aware that every law is potentially exploitable by those with vested interests. Even a very uncontroversial IT act has been used to persecute ordinary internet users whose views were against the establishment. The same Congress Party virulently abused TADA against 20,000 Gujarat farmers in 1995 despite it never having been categorized as a problem state. The charge of misuse against Muslims is also unsubstantiated and rather politically motivated. Or else, what explains the annual death of more than 500 under-trials in police custody (> 90% of whom are non Muslims) and even the delayed trials of thousands of others arrested for the pettiest charges receiving no media attention. The objections against POTA indicate only the deep seated aversion to tackling Islamist terror. All in all, in the absence of a POTA like law the newly set up NIA will only function as a toothless tiger.

Finally, India expects international community to pressurize Pakistan into closing down its terror camps but as a Statesman editorial comments, "it is wishful-thinking to expect foreigners to fights India"s war against terror." David Miliband rationalizing the terror strike with the Kashmir dispute is a symptom of the larger pathology which has catalyzed UK into an active breeding ground of Islamist terror. The USA"s concern is primarily focused on the undesirable activity along the Pak/Afghan border. The fact of the matter is that America for decades has supported what they call the right to determination of the Kashmiri people excluding the Hindu Pandits of course!

The solution to terror then is not to evade but face the facts.


Saurav Basu

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