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|April 8, 2002||
Arun B Srivastava
This is banality, Mr Advani
Like so many Indians who love their country, I have been terribly sick of the utter ineffectiveness of Home Minister L K Advani in dealing with the situation -- increasingly so of late.
First, who can ever forget his hurricane rathyatra which contributed nothing to the building of this nation, already divided on caste and communal lines? As home minister Sri L K Advani's record has been disastrous, but for his loud rhetoric every time Pakistan-based terrorists struck, or when there were incidents of revenge killings of innocents in a communally surcharged atmosphere -- of which the human tragedy of Gujarat is a recent example.
Sounding like a soprano, he shouted hoarse when the Lashkar-e-Tayiba attacked the Red Fort. Period. It was followed by another attack on Srinagar airport; again he cried revenge and pro-activism. Soon a band of fidayeen (suicide attack squad) attacked the Jammu & Kashmir assembly, and he fumed at the lean and mean enemy across the border.
Ultimately, it was an attack on our very symbol of democracy and secularism -- Parliament. The Jaish-e-Mohammed, as evidence revealed, had all but capsized it. All these years Pakistan and its ISI had been building up a formidable 'destroy India machinery', supporting the terrorists and madrassas along the Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bangladesh borders. Innocent people fell easy prey to such attacks on the darkling plains of our country.
Illegal immigration from Bangladesh has all but changed the demography of the Northeast -- fed and incited by our enemy across the border on the poisonous dosage of the two-nation theory. We know it all. But for the American interference in Afghanistan -- the strategic depth of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism -- one wonders how many more innocent lives would have been lost in mainland India.
Perhaps it is high time Advani concentrated on the search-and-expulsion methodology for foreign nationals deeply entrenched in India, executed massive fencing and road construction work with security lights on the highly porous Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bangladesh borders apart from J&K, and reorganised internal security by building up matching counter intelligence and counter terrorist forces. He should seek the assistance of, say, supercop K P S Gill and former services chiefs among other professionals in the field to implement such schemes with speed, instead of visiting the USA with his entourage, which did not inspire confidence, too close on the heels of the visits of our prime minister, foreign minister et al.
The home minister is meant to first keep his home in order. Should he not be spending time in the Kashmir valley and the incendiary Northeast with his team of sleuths or ensure the framing of proper charges against the 20 terrorists requested from Pakistan? One also wonders at the wisdom of not taking time out for discussions and a solid action plan against terrorism when the foreign minister of Israel was with us?
Communal and Maoist tendencies have taken a heavy toll of lives in India and has infested the Indian subcontinent like never before. Advani should make his home entirely secure and insulate it from aggression from "without" and "within". It is sad that he has not inspired confidence in common citizens, without the fear of murder, kidnapping or terrorist attack from homebred criminals with the right connections in high places. What answer does he have for fake encounters by security forces in the wake of Chattisinghpora to kill innocent citizens for terrorists?
The minister ought to know that such deceptive state policies over the years have alienated the people of Kashmir. It is local people who can keep constant vigil on terrorist elements seeping on the sly in their sensitive areas of living, the way they did during the last conventional India-Pakistan wars in Punjab. I have seen the unfailing confidence of local people in the local air force commander there who first brought a suspicious character visiting their countryside to the commander for clearance when the aerial war was on. If people feel aggrieved, if development is not a priority, if they have lost confidence in inept governments and a fault-finding Opposition in a never-ending game of one-upmanship, no POTA is going to work against a desperate citizenry who may or may not give shelter to terrorists.
VIPs alone don't need Z security cover, so do ordinary people who are toiling to reconstruct their lives. Today's VIPs are replaceable, but not an unknown Indian life. To safeguard that precious life, nothing short of eternal vigilance would be the price Advaniji has to pay in which alone lies the security of India. Setting the 'home' right is half the task done of combating terrorism.
The BJP lost out in Uttar Pradesh for the lack of development over the years and not because of the delay in constructing a Ram temple on the disputed site in Ayodhya. The story of Kashmir would have been different had the home ministry with its blue-eyed bureaucrats positioned themselves in Srinagar to get head-on with the holistic development of the state, which would have won the confidence of people.
And why, at all, should the shankaracharyas emerge now to resolve the Ram Janambhoomi issue with the assistance of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board? It should have been a continuing strategy to have regular recorded meetings of religious leaders of different communities at panchayat, district, state and central levels, monitored by the home ministry.
At the end of the day, the question which crosses the minds of all well-informed and responsible citizens about their top leaders, including those from the Opposition vying for the limelight, is, indeed: "What conquest brings he home? What tributaries follow him to Rome?" The answer as of now is "none".
Wing Commander Arun B Srivastava is a retired officer of the Indian Air Force. A writer and a poet, his work has been published in India and abroad.
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