Pseudo-Secularism

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.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Don’t give terrorists benefit of doubt


Excepting during the Khalistan uprising in the eighties ultimately doused by K.P.S.Gill and his brave police force, our country’s approach to terrorism has all along been tepid and timid. It is this tepid and timid response that has now made our terrorism illness a chronic one that will slowly but surely atrophy and debilitate every muscle and sinew of our nation.

At every stage of our every “encounter” with a terrorist act, our collective national response has been reactive rather than active, defensive rather than offensive. Public statements are issued, action is promised. Period. Nothing else really happens.

At the base of it all is the shameful fact that we choose to be confused by terrorism. We are not sure whether to treat it as a law and order problem or as an act of war against the nation. Our elite journalists of the print and TV/radio world are not even sure as to whether to describe those who indulge in an act of terror as “militants” or “terrorists”. Reams of newspaper reports are testimony to this confusion. And there are politicians who are, or choose to be, equally confused in this simple matter.

Yes, it is a simple matter because the English dictionary will tell you that a militant is one who confronts, face to face, not one who wears a mask; and this militant does not wield an AK 47 or detonates a bomb with remote control mechanism.

One reason given for describing a terrorist as a militant is that “terrorism” is as yet undefined. Even the United Nations, it is said, has not been able to come to a consensus on the meaning or definition of that word.

Damn the United Nations, I say. We have had the phrase “terrorism act” well defined in one of our Constitutional documents right from 1985. That was when the President of India issued, under Article 370 of our national Constitution, the Constitutional Order 122 dated June 4, 1985. Called “The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order”, it empowered Parliament to enact any law to prevent “terrorist acts” and went on to define “terrorist act” as “any act or thing by using bombs, dynamite or other explosive substances or inflammable substances or firearms or other lethal weapons or poisons or noxious gases or other chemicals or any other substances (whether biological or otherwise) of a hazardous nature.”

With the above Constitutional definition of a “terrorist act” and, by corollary, of its perpetrator as a “terrorist”, Arundhati Roy can be described as a militant who is not a terrorist but even the wordsmith Arundhati cannot describe the attackers of our Parliament in December 2001 as “militants.”

First get your concepts right; the right action will follow — provided you love your country more than your political party or your own advancement in political circles.

Tragically, that hasn’t happened in our country so far and is unlikely to ever happen till, heaven forbid, a colossal and unbelievable act of terror paralyses the entire country into a daze.

Just recall some events of recent years. The UPA government that came in 2004 quickly repealed the Prevention of Terrorist Act (POTA) which the Vajpayee-led NDA government had introduced after the ghastly attack in December 2001. It was not withdrawn because of its stringent features but because it was allegedly misused against the minorities (read Muslims). The basic fact was that the Congress, which heads the UPA government, wanted to appease and win over the Muslims with one more lollipop.

Amusingly enough, any call by the BJP for the re-introduction of POTA or some such tough law, is counterattacked by the Congress. “Did your POTA prevent the attack on the Akshardham Temple?” they ask. Forgotten in this child-like question is that it was POTA that secured the conviction of Afzal Guru. Forgotten is that the acceptance of a confession to the police as evidence (considered a draconian legal provision) was what led to the conviction under TADA of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins.

In several other areas as well, our governments have failed to act in ways so crucial to minimise, if not totally stop, the reign of terror that now occurs so frequently that from a tragedy it has become a joke for the cynic.

Take the policing of our urban areas which are the focal points of terrorism. Lieut General Sinha recently disclosed that in the last sixty years after Independence the number of police stations in the country has increased by a laughable 15 per cent over the figure of 12,000 that existed then. In contrast, he says, our population has increased four times in that same period even as policing has become so much more complex than before. Further, whatever police force available is overworked by any standard, apart from being manipulated and exploited by their political bosses. That is why, at least Mumbai’s policemen, and policewomen, look so unfit, almost obese, and so blank.

Ditto with our Intelligence force. Marginal increase but assignments include assessment of likely performance of the ruling party in the coming elections. And why the National Security Advisor should have been involved so much in the Indo-US nuclear deal as he actually was is a mystery.

Then there’s the human rights industry and our politicians’ concern for it much beyond national interest. There’s also the vote banks of Muslims to cater to. And there’s that impractical concern for “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” even in matters of terrorism. If cockroaches had votes and rats had a religion, our politicians would enact a law prohibiting killing of those two living species as well. Imagine the People’s Democratic Party of Jammu & Kashmir granting pensions from government to families of slain terrorists. Imagine, the Prime Minister himself disclosing his sleepless night over the plight of the mother of an Indian Muslim held in police custody in a foreign country on suspicion of being involved in the bomb blast at Glasgow but not over the plight of mothers of thousands of his innocent countrymen killed in terrorist violence. Imagine two Cabinet Ministers oppose the ban on SIMI, which is so deeply involved in terrorist activities. Imagine one Cabinet Minister wanting all illegal migrants from Bangladesh to be given full citizenship rights, when it is well-known that many among them have links with terrorists. Imagine another Cabinet Minister approving of a University Vice Chancellor’s decision to deploy funds provided by the Government to be utilised for the legal defence of two of his University students accused of involvement in terrorist violence.

Contrast all of this typically indolent-cum-idealistic-cum-selfish Indian attitude to the stark realism and patriotism of the USA when 9/11 occurred in 2001. One thing that nation did shortly after that dastardly day was the enactment by the USA Congress of what’s come to be known as the USA Patriot Act. That nomenclature is really an acronym, and the full name of that legislation is “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001”. If a name can arouse emotions, that one certainly does. And however draconian that law has been, it has prevented the recurrence of 9/11.

Unless our country shows a similar commitment to engage in a literal war against terror, we shall continue to let Afzal Guru remain away from the hangman’s noose till as long as long as our people want to be ruled by the Congress and its allies.

(The writer can be contacted at Flat 202 Dosti Erica,Dosti Acres Complex, Antop Hill, Wadala(E), Mumbai-400 037.)

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