Monday, September 12, 2011

Power & Politics / The Sunday Standard Magazine/September 11, 2011

The politics of terror cripples the nation

After successfully terrorising India’s financial capital, Mumbai, a couple of months ago, on Wednesday, it was the turn of New Delhi, India’s seat of power, to face the bloody wrath of terrorists. Emboldened by the inefficiency of Indian security agencies to track and nab them in advance, well-nurtured and well-protected enemies of the nation are now targeting even the institutions of justice. It was the second attack on Delhi High Court in less than three months. Cocking a snook at our intelligence system, terrorists had earlier targeted Jama Masjid, Red Fort and Parliament House.

It is evident that when it comes to New Delhi, their aim is not just ratcheting up the body count but also to maim and paralyse all the country’s symbols of healthy democracy and secularism. The judiciary, the legislature, ho
tels of international repute and places of worship have been chosen as targets to demolish India’s resolve to become a global super power. Predictably, all political parties made the correct noises; the Prime Minister, the home minister and chief ministers made yet another vow to defeat these evil forces in the future. By calling terrorists cowards, our leaders think they have done their duty. By warning each other in advance about another possible attack, they think they have done a great national service. But at the end of the day, dead bodies and crippled human beings are seeking answers to the same question: ‘Why are we being killed?’ But this legitimate question is only answered with more questions.

It is obvious that both our political system and the chatterati have failed to
read the ominous message behind the killing of innocent people, month after month. We haven’t been able to identify or detect the perpetrators of any of the terror attacks—small or big—which took place in Maharashtra, Delhi and elsewhere during the past one year. There was a brief spell of two years when Home Minister P Chidambaram was able to drive fear into the mind of the terrorists. For over 26 months, none of them could strike at will. Chidambaram’s no-nonsense but low-key handling of the situation had forced various terror groups to retreat into their shells.

But for the past 18 months, political convenie
nce has replaced strong administration. Even terror has been categorised into various colours—red, green, saffron and what not. Even before any of the investigative agencies finish writing their first report, opinion-makers start wielding their brushes to give a colour of their choice to the act of terror. Before any expert agency discloses the source of terror, candle-carrying peaceniks begin to advise the nation to not blame Pakistan or any of its nefarious agencies. The message, ‘India Divided on Terror,’ has derailed both our action and mission.

For the past one year, both the UPA and the BJP have been waging a battle against each other on the colour of terror. While the UPA leadership and some of its prominent leaders have chosen the discovery of few cases of saffron terror as a means to blunt the BJP’s monopoly over the terror cause, the latter has charged its opponents with minority appeasement. Even the laws enacted by a previous political establishment to deal with terrorism are either reversed or replaced with other laws by the next government on the pretext that the earlier laws targeted a particular community. If that wasn’t enough, the course of investigations took exactly the opposite direction to include people from another community to ensure objectivity.

Even the implementation of judicial verdicts has been stalled on the basis of the nametags of the persons involved. It is not just a matter of bureaucratic red tape that not a single person has been hanged during the past decade for his or her acts of terror, even after the Supreme Court has given its final verdict. While terrorists take only 10 seconds to kill hundreds of people, our system takes more than 10 years to decide whether to hang them or not. Only in India, chief ministers, Union ministers and top political leaders can openly plead for granting mercy to those who have mercilessly killed a prime minister and hundreds of poor and innocent people. For the past seven years, none of the parties have transcended their political motives and discussed the ways and means to tackle the terror menace. There has never been a consensus on a stringent law to enable the police to carry out preventive detention. Our prosecution agencies are neither badly equipped nor under-staffed; they are only hamstrung by weak laws, as compared to the ones in other countries. In the name of human rights, the right to life of unarmed people has been happily compromised. Competitive politics has not only vertically split the establishment but it has also united the nation’s enemies.

Even after a decade of uninterrupted mercenary mayhem, our well-heeled political class is wary of discussing laws and other steps to contain the terror scourge. Nowhere in the world has terrorism become a tool in the hands of the political establishment to kill each other. India is perhaps the only holy exception.

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