Monday, August 25, 2008

Interview: Shivraj Patil/India Today, September 01, 2008

'Delhi government is sitting on Afzal’s mercy petition'

With Kashmir on the boil and internal security in a shambles, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil is the man in the hot seat. Weak laws and weaker intelligence networks are compounded by a lack of will to combat terror. And as terrorists strike at will in places far and wide, everyone is blaming Patil for the mess that his ministry itself is in. He spoke to me for a special interview on Headlines Today. Excerpts:

Q. When do you expect a solution to the Amarnath problem?
A. Well. You are asking for a timeframe and when the matters are related to the emotions of the people, we should try to solve them as quickly as possible. But it becomes very difficult to give a timeframe. I think we will be able to solve this matter in a very short time.
Q. They are hoisting the Pakistani flag in Kashmir. Both sides are getting emotional, attacking each other. You have been trying to bring them together. Where's the hitch?
A. The hitch is in the emotions. It is in the philosophy that some people adopt. The hitch is in thinking that by dividing and by defaming others, we can become more powerful and more effective. The hitch is there.
Q. You mean the divisive tendency of political parties?
A. Not only political parties, but whosoever thinks like that. There can be others too who do not attach importance to the fact that we should not say or show such things that will divide the country.
Q. Didn't the governments at the local and central levels fail to anticipate events?
A. I am not sitting in judgment. It is for the people to judge.
Q. The UPA lost power because of this one problem. So many people have died, so there has to be someone who is the villain of the show.
A. The UPA lost the government in order to see that emotions were not affected and unity was not disturbed. You should appreciate that.
Q. Ghulam Nabi Azad allotted the forest land and then withdrew it. You lost power because your own supporters withdrew support.
A. I am not going to blame my supporters or my opponents or those who are neither supporters nor opponents.
Q. But as home minister, you must be concerned. You must be trying to find a midway.
A. Yes, that is true. Understanding the other side's point of view and getting ready to give something and take something is really very important. That is exactly what we are trying to do. And we have been saying that we would like to accept a formula that is acceptable to both the sides, the people living in Kashmir and the people in Jammu.
Q. Parties should be condemning the Pakistani flag being hoisted in Srinagar.
A. By condemning, you get the pleasure of having abused somebody but you don't solve the problem. I am not in the process of condemning others; I am in the process of understanding others. And trying to solve the problem in whatever fashion it is possible or whatever means is possible.
Q. L.K. Advani has sent you a letter suggesting some way out.
A. Advani is the Leader of the Opposition and has been in the government too. We don't take his letter lightly and will examine it and reply. And also discuss this matter with him and try to see how this problem can be solved.
Q. You led an all-party delegation to the state and spent two days there. Do you think there is a possibility of bringing the two sides together?
A. I think nothing is impossible. You may examine the agitations that were started in the neighboring states, maybe Rajasthan, Mumbai, UP, Bihar. Agitations do take place and we shall have to solve the problems, but we cannot say this is the timeframe, do it quickly. That is not the way. We shall have to take everybody on board, everybody to agree to the formula, everybody to agree to the agreement.
Q. The attempted march across the LoC is a dangerous phenomenon.

A. This is a disturbing phenomenon and I do think that if some people are doing this probably they do not understand the implication. But at the same time, a majority of the people living in J&K do not appreciate it.
Q. But there is a feeling that somebody is encouraging them from across the border.
A. Again it is a blame game. A person who is in the government should not start talking loosely. We are trying to avoid this. We have people who are examining things and expressing their views because if I say something or the other, tomorrow you will ask how I could make that statement. I am not going to do that kind of a thing.
Q. The use of the land row as an emotional issue should not be allowed.
A. If emotions are aroused, we should see that they are calmed. And then we will ask them to consider this issue in a manner that is helpful to both sides, to everybody.
Q. When the land was allotted, there was an agitation in the Valley. You came under pressure and cancelled the allotment. The people in Jammu got an impression that by agitating a concession could be extracted.
A. Do not say that we are doing it under pressure or we are doing it because we are favouring somebody or opposing somebody. We are doing it to see that peace and tranquility is maintained. You should not forget that in Mizoram, during Rajiv Gandhi's time, the Congress was in power.
The chief minister of the Congress party was asked to resign and the reigns of the government were given to those who were agitating. And today you will find that Mizoram is one of the most peaceful states in the country, and that's because of that kind of an understanding. You would not say that we succumbed to pressure there and what we did was wrong. It was not wrong.
Q. There was no firing then. Like Nagaland happened. Rajiv Gandhi did so many things.
A. That kind of approach did help. That means the approach that tries to take everybody's views into considerations helps. That's exactly what we are trying to do.
Q.. In the Amarnath case, do you agree that there is a need for accommodation and sacrifice to find a resolution?
A. I agree there is a need for accommodation. It is necessary to understand each others point of view and evolve a formula that satisfies the demands of both the sides to a great extent. That kind of give and take and understanding is required. And this is exactly what we are trying to do in order to create an understanding between the people holding different views.
Q. But what's happening is that nobody is listening, both in Jammu and in Kashmir.
A. Maybe. You might have seen what happens in other states when you deal with such things patiently. You have seen agitations taking place in different parts of the country. For how many days or months do these agitations continue? In recent times, you must have seen agitations in the neighborhood of Delhi. So you don't have to rush and do things in a manner that creates more problems than solve them.
Q. Pakistan has been trying to divide Jammu & Kashmir. One of your alliance partners, Mehbooba Mufti, is threatening to walk across the border.
A. Wise people always try to understand each other.
Q. Do you think that Pakistan is responsible for the trouble?
A. You are all the time asking me to blame this man or that man.
Q. I am not asking you, the whole country believes so.
A. You believe whatever you think is proper. Don't ask me, a member of the government, to say certain things.
Q. What plans do you have to control terrorism?
A. We are a county of 112 crore. The police-population ratio is adverse and we have to correct it. Our police are trained to control mob, traffic, to investigate, but not to fight a battle against terrorists. We have to train them for that. Then you need to give them the equipment they require. In other countries, it is the defence forces that are fighting against terrorism.
Q. Are existing laws enough to handle terrorism?
A. The existing provisions are enough to help the police discharge their duty. If there is something that has to be done to change it slightly, there shall be no difficulty.
Q. But the state governments of Andhra (ruled by the Congress), Uttar Pradesh (ruled by the BSP) and some BJP states have asked for certain laws. Don't you think they should be given permission?
A. The existing laws are enough to control terrorist activities and protect human rights. In a country like ours, there are two things to see: one that terrorist or criminal activities are controlled, and the other that innocent people are not put in difficulty and their human rights are protected. There was a time when everybody was talking about human rights. Now everybody has forgotten about human rights and is talking about this thing (terrorism). We should be striking a balance between the two.
Q. In the name of human rights, POTA was withdrawn. But TADA was also misused by previous governments.
A. The same people who opposed TADA and demanded its withdrawal brought in POTA. So why then did they oppose TADA in the first place?
Q. They opposed TADA because they felt it was being misused.
A. Exactly. The same thing happened to the other.
Q. So basically, you are saying that the existing laws are enough. Therefore, the laws asked for by the states shall not be passed.
A. I am not saying that. But until any intelligent person convinces me that this has to be done, I will not.
Q. So far you are not convinced.
A. I am not.
Q. Let me come to Afzal Guru now. The Supreme Court has upheld his death penalty, but his mercy petition is pending with you.
A. It's not pending with me, it's pending with the state government.
Q. The Delhi government?
A. Yes. I am not the boss of the elected Government of Delhi. We are waiting for their reply.
Q. What is the procedure?
A. When the final judgment is given by SC, pronouncing that the person will be hanged, if anybody files a petition to the President, the petition is sent to the home ministry. The ministry sends the petition to the state government. The state government takes a view and sends it back to the home ministry, which sends its views to the President. Then the President takes a view on it.
Q. So in this case, the state government is taking its own time.
A. Yes
Q. What about Naxalism? In the first Seedhi Baat you told me that the threat to India is from economic extremism.
A. The most affected state in the country today is Chhattisgarh. Chhattisgarh is not governed by the party to which I belong, but I do not blame the state government or the chief minister. We have given nearly 15,000 men to Chhattisgarh, we have given 35,000 men and officers to the Naxal-affected states. We have given helicopters and armed vehicles.
Q. These are not used effectively?
A. We have given them, and they shall have to use it. You have to understand that these economic issues are not solved by using the gun. You have to find economic solutions. If there are social issues, then we need social solutions. So social, economic, police and policy-related solutions have to go together. And we cannot ask the state to do it.
Q. You are talking about Chhattisgarh?
A. I am not talking only about Chhattisgarh. I am talking about all the states. The Andhra Pradesh government brought down Naxalite activities by 71 per cent. I am not taking the credit for that. The credit goes to the state. We have been helping them. And those who are just blaming us are not taking into consideration all these factors, the Constitutional position, the kind of help given to them, the kind of money given to them, the kind of policies we have made.
Q. Would you say that Naxalites and terrorists are getting together to create problems?
A. Yes of course, terrorism is a kind of philosophy propounded by some persons who feel that democracy does not help, the economic system does not help, the social system does not help and things have to be changed not by the ballot box but by the bullet. That is a philosophy with which we and the majority of the people do not agree. Out of 112 crore people, 99 per cent are peace-loving.
Q. There is an impression that there is no proper co-ordination between the Centre and state intelligence agencies.
A. You have to understand that we have RAW for external intelligence, IB for domestic and the CID and the special branches in the states. If state intelligence is weak, there is little we can do except to ask them to improve it. Of course, we are giving them funds to modernise.
Q. The states need to upgrade their intelligence.
A. Not only that, they shall have to provide more funds in their budget.
Q: Is there a need for one centralised agency for intelligence purposes?
A. Yes, we have proposed that but the states are not agreeing. Even if I have to send two policemen to a state, I can't do it without their permission. It will definitely help the states act in better coordination.
Q. If there was one agency, you would have been able to tackle things more effectively.
A. I am not of that view. But it will definitely help the governments solve their problem because a man was living in one state, acting in another and hiding in a third state.
Q. The arrests in Ahmedabad blasts have been a major breakthrough.
A. I am not taking credit for this; they have done it. Police from several states acted jointly to arrest the suspects.
Q: Don't you think the Ahmedabad model is the way ahead?
A. I have not criticized the model. But you are trying to get some kudos for them. If you'll be happy I'll give you. I told you that in Malegaon they have done it, in Mumbai they have done it, in Banaras they have done it. If you want I can give you a list of cases where they have done it. And chargesheets have been filed and the people who have been arrested are not arrested in their states. Somebody has been arrested on the border of Bangladesh and Nepal. They have done well. We are happy that they have succeeded.
Q. What is the way forward to tackling terrorism?
A. The way forward is doing economic justice, and then being all the time vigilant that terrorism does not take advantage and then preparing our forces to cope up with them using modern weapons and modern technology.

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