Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Security first, secularism ... later!

Saturday, 02 August, 2008 , 03:48 PM

I am no fan of bomb-happy Bush. The jury is still out on his much touted war on terror beyond America’s shores, specifically in Iraq and Afghanistan. Al-Quaida remains a potent force, morphing into some kind of an infectious idea from being just a clandestine organisation and O.B.Laden is still at large, though may be a bit shrunk owing to illness. But even those who love to hate Bush cannot deny him success in his war on terror within the US. He has led fromthe front in ensuring internal security and post 9/11 not a single Jihadi has walked into paradise by spilling blood on American soil.

This was not achieved through idle rhetoric but concrete and correct action. Within just nine months of the WTC twin towers touching ground zero, had risen an administrative monolith in the form of the Department of Homeland Security, a comprehensive apparatus to deal with terror at the local level, albeit, on a war footing. Declaring that ‘the President’s most important job is to protect and defend the American people’, Bush lays down the rationale behind the launch of the new department in June 2002: ‘The changing nature of the threats facing America requires a new government structure to protect against invisible enemies that can strike with a wide variety of weapons. Today no one single government agency has homeland security as its primary mission. In fact, responsibilities for homeland security are dispersed among more than 100 different government organisations. America needs a single, unified homeland security structure that will improve protection against today’s threats and be flexible enough to help meet the unknown threats of the future’. A visit to the the website would be quite instructive. Uncle Sam would certainly not mind ‘hits’ here!

Now to the nagging question: Can India act tough on terror if it is equipped with a US-like federal agency and an infallible legal structure? The nagging answer is ‘no’! America, just once bitten, has not fought shy of securing itself even to the point of paranoia at times. But India, bitten, bruised and battered by Islamist violence for decades, nay, centuries, is yet to even have one voice, let alone, forming one separate, federal agency to tackle terror. Here there’s abundant terror but no war on it; it’s cowardly retreat instead. POTA gets repealed, Sachars abound in their place and there’s many a slip between the terrorists neck and the official noose! But even more apalling is the callousness of the Centre. Listen to India’s Home Minister Shivraj Patil within hours of the Gujarat blasts: ‘ .. the Centre will do its best to help the States ... ’. As if Ahmedbad is in the Antartic! Wither law and its arms when the will is so extinct?

Such ‘willful’ default has been on two counts: Pakistan and local Muslims. First to our neighbour. Why is the peace process with Pak deemed so paramount by our rulers? It’s a mirage. Or if it was really there, then it is in pieces now. In any case, Pak has no regard for it as is evident from the CIA’s exposure of ISI’s hand behind the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul. Clearly the peace talks are a convenient cover and a red-herring for the continuing mischief in Kashmir and the rest of India. Instead, can’t India muster the courage to shelve that blood-soaked peace process and target PoK forthwith? That is the hotbed of Jihadi terror and India can never have peace as long as that area remains in Pak hands. In any case we claim it as our own. Now, if our country itself does not have conviction in its claims how can it expect favourable world opinion? The American war on terror could ensure internal security only because the battleground was shifted to the Jihadis’ own backyard, beyond continents and oceans. Here, PoK is just a stone’s throw across but we are fumbling. Clearly, the LoC is on our minds!

But the bigger battle lies within and it’s a battle of wits ... and votes too. Here, political secularism, as is evident from the most recent Amarnath yatra issue, has come to mean that nothing should be done to hurt Muslim sentiments which are deemed sacrosanct. But worse, national security too has been subjected to the Islamic veto! We all now know what would make Manmohan lose sleep. And a year back, Home Minister Patil had declared at an Islamic conference that madarasas have nothing to do with terrorism. He is entitled to his optimism, but what signal was his sweeping exoneration sending to the Intelligence and police officials down the line? Keep off the most obvious places in case of a terror strike? This when even in Pak and the Gulf many madarasas have come under severe scrutiny! Or cut to the week past to TN. While the police here need to be applauded for apprehending potential bombers, does it not seem strange that the culprits are unmasked within hours of the blasts in Gujarat? Clearly they were on the radar for long but remained free owing to misplaced secular sympathies. One dreads how many more there are, quite secure under that official umbrella. Maybe we will know after the next blast. And that could be anywhere. The official reaction to terror is invariably tentative and knee jerk. Once the debris settles and the blood of the victims dry up, it would be secular business as usual!

The public response to terror is no better. Soon after every bomb blast when the familiar ‘normalcy’ returns, the stock public refrain is: Do not tar an entire community! Of course, everyone knows such essential courtesies. But with the terror being religious in character and so prolific, are not blanket distrust and even ostracisation quite natural? Even many Muslim elders admit that there is an increasing radicalisation within their community and they themselves are powerless. So why not for a change shed our coy dishonesty and tell our Muslim friends and neighbours that we are worried and scared and would want to be careful? And also urge them to break the barrier of brotherhood when it comes to bad eggs in them? And then there is this familar charade of a charge: Babri was the trigger! That’s a typical jihadi recruitment gambit and is not for the consumption of us, victims. Hindu-Muslim tensions are historical and religious and run deeper than mere Ram-Babar tiffs. Also the Jihadis have spelt out their Islamic goals quite explicitly and would bomb us, idolators, anyway, Babri or no Babri. To continue to shoot ourselves in the foot in secular guilt is not just self-defeating but plain stupid!

There are very little checks and balances within the Muslim fold to rein in its extreme elements. That’s the chilling reality. Bush was under no illusions and could therefore ensure safety for his subjects. We should not just emulate but even excel him. For, our homeland faces graver threats. Secularism can always be resurrected later, but our corpses cannot be!

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