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, December 24, 2008

Is Congress serious?

Terror talk easier than fighting terror

Obliquely the UPA has admitted that terror talk could be politically rewarding, especially when it is time for general elections. Only on politically expedient terms can the UPA's latest tough talk on terror be explained. For, it was soft-pedalling for too long. Is it really sincere?

It is welcome that the UPA has at last woken up to the fact that a more effective legal framework aided by a more sophisticated investigative mechanism is needed to insulate the country against the possibility of future terror attacks. Better late than never. The Congress Party which heads the coalition has for the last four and a half years been telling the country that the existing laws are good enough to fight terror. It used to attack the main opposition which was in the forefront pleading to put in place exceptionally innovative acts on the lines of POTA and streamlining the security forces on the lines the US and UK did after 9/11 World Trade Center attack.

These special laws and effective combing and intelligence apparatus proved effective in these countries. But the UPA continued to be in denial even as the nation paid heavily and suffered irreparable losses all these years.

The new law being envisaged is akin to the MCOCA of Maharashtra. It is not much different from the POTA passed by the NDA, which the UPA made a campaign issue in the 2004 Lok Sabha poll and repealed after it assumed office. The new Bill passed in the Lok Sabha on December 17 proposed to make certain major amendments in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. They are increasing the period of detention from 90 to 180 days, denying bail to the accused without the consent of the prosecution, shifting the burden of proof of innocence on those who are charged with committing acts of terrorism and expanding the scope of what defines terrorism. These may ultimately prove to be insufficient in taming terror considering the level of transnational reach and sustenance the terrorists have come to command.

How is it different from the laws in the US and UK? In the existing laws in US and UK confessions made before the police officer are admissible in court. This was so in the POTA. This provision is not there in the new UPA amendment. Similarly, in US maximum an accused can be detained without bail is two days for its citizens and indefinite for foreigners. In UK this is 28 days for citizens and indefinite for foreign nationals. Laws in UK and US allow phone and internet tapping to collect evidence. This is allowed only with prior permission of court in the new Bill.

The UPA has to run against time to put the new measures in place before its five-year term gets completed in the next five months. This is a task and a risk, which the UPA would soon find not worth taking, if it has already not made up its resolve to this end. The UPA terror talk sounds poll talk simply because its intentions are not above reproach. Even as the UAPA Bill was being debated in the Lok Sabha senior Congress Minister for Minority Affairs Abdul Rahman Antulay stunned the nation with his obnoxious remarks on the Mumbai terror attack on November 26, alluding to a Malegaon blast inquiry link. He shocked the members of his own party as he went on repeating almost verbatim the stuff that appeared in the Pakistani newspapers, GEO television debates and on jehadi websites after the Mumbai carnage. He was supported also by other controversial characters in the UPA cabinet like Ramvilas Paswan. The Minister of State for External Affairs, Muslim Leaguer E. Ahmed had earlier courted criticism for his selective omission of the attack on Jewish Outreach in Mumbai in his report to the UN Security Council. A ruling outfit that boasts of such closet jehadis in its administrative artery cannot be expected to be sincere in fighting terror to the finish. Enacting the law is only the first step. Political will is more crucial. Can the UPA muster that will?

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