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The Rediff Interview/Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah
'Terrorism and riots are not interlinked'
July 28, 2008
Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's [Images] government is completely shaken up by the serial blasts in Ahmedabad [Images] but, not surprisingly, in 24 hours it has regained its balance and ready to attack political opponents.
In the first Cabinet meeting after the bomb blasts, Modi showed the resolve to take on his political opponents. His government is likely to respond to the situation differently than state governments elsewhere.
Since the issue of security was Modi's main political plank in the last two elections, his government is likely to go on overdrive and do damage control. Modi's confidant and state Home Minister, Amit Shah, spoke exclusively to Managing Editor Sheela Bhatt and claimed that his government will not spare any effort to solve the case.
How do you explain the serial bomb blasts in Ahmedabad?
Between 2005 and 2008 this is the 12th such terror act in India. These blasts are of a similar pattern. Obviously, when dozen blasts go off in different parts of India of a similar pattern, there is reason to believe that one terrorist organisation is operating behind them.
The making of bombs, the modus operandi and the selection of locations to attack is similar. Since the Jaipur [Images] blasts, the Gujarat police was alert and working on it. Terrorists have proved to be a little clever. We cannot escape that fact. We have prevented them from doing such acts of terror in the last six years. This time they have been successful. The last 11 acts of terrorism within India have remained undetected, but I surely believe that the serial blasts in Ahmedabad will not remain undetected. That is our first resolve. Second, we must have the legal provision to limit the debate on terrorism by non-government organisations.
What are you referring to?
I am talking about police action and the methodology of police. The police's zero tolerance policy against terrorism should not be viewed from the premise of human rights. The police's zero tolerance against terrorism itself is a human right. Ultimately, the police is acting to protect innocent people's human rights. The nation will have to think about the human rights issue differently. Otherwise, to gain popularity -- in the absence of understanding and sometimes deliberately -- NGOs are helping the motives of terrorists.
This has to be distinguished by the media, intellectuals and experts of law. This fight has to be fought. As far as Gujarat is concerned, we are going to inspect our setup once again -- we will review it professionally and revamp it. The serial blasts will not remain undetected. We will reach the roots of it and give our findings to central agencies so that such blasts do not take place anywhere in the country again.
There is a perception that such blasts were expected in Gujarat after the 2002 riots. Also, add to that the dimension of most riots victims still not having got legal justice. Do you agree?
I don't believe that intense passion could be kept burning from 2002 to 2008. Emotions would be most intense in 2003, little less in 2004 and then it would recede further and further. From 2003 to 2008, there has been not a single event of terrorism in Gujarat.
It does not make sense to believe that an event in 2008 took place because of an event in 2002. Across the country, more than 30 similar acts of terror have taken place. There is no logic behind this argument. This is a political argument launched by some people and taken up by the media.
You are handling the home ministry. You have more facts on hand than anyone else. Do you find that jihadi elements are growing in India?
I strongly believe that if you want to stop terrorism then it is necessary to have the fear of security agencies and security forces in the minds of terrorists. To nab terrorists and to punish them, we need to take a fresh look at the legal framework and instruments of government.
We need to tighten up and strengthen the government machinery to nab terrorists. I have no objections against ongoing debates and criticisms and I do not mind when intellectuals keep talking about terrorism. But we have seen the horrifying terror on the ground and there should not be any dispute among us in fighting against it. That is my request to all Indians.
We should agree and be united on this one issue. We need stronger laws to punish terrorists. We should not have any debates that would demoralise the approach of security agencies to fight terrorists.
Some people argue that when riot victims do not get legal justice they feel like taking revenge. Outfits like Harkat ul Jamaat e Islami may get support from such people.
In Bangalore, in Mumbai, in Rampur (Uttar Pradesh [Images]) or in Ajmer or Jaipur, no riots have taken place recently. Terrorism [Images] and riots are not interlinked at all. These serial blasts have been done with a certain understanding and thought. This is a pre-planned act. This is not a result of some emotional outburst.
This is a cold-blooded act to break the spine of Indian economy. These blasts are aimed to destroy the political arrangement of the nation. It wants to destroy the confidence of the people of India. These blasts have nothing to do with any emotional events.
Do you think elements from the Gujarati Muslim community may have given support to the people behind this crime?
It is very difficult for me to say anything as minister till I get evidence. But, I strongly believe that whoever has done this and whoever is behind it, the Gujarat police will nab them and make sure that they are punished. We will, once again, set an example -- they will never repeat such act, at least in Gujarat.
Modi's popularity is due to his promise of security to all. Today, his promise is dishonoured. Gujaratis are feeling insecure. How can the common man face 16 blasts?
Narendra Modi is not only known as the leader of Gujarat. He is a leader of the entire nation. He is capable to work on the national stage. It is necessary for any state chief minister to guarantee security to his people. But, you should know that a conspiracy formed by terrorists at the national level and at the international level has been working at different places in India and has reached Gujarat.
If we could not solve this conspiracy, then there is the question of this debate, but if we are able to solve this terror act then, once again, it will be proved that only the Gujarat model can solve the issue of terrorism.
Were you surprised?
I wasn't surprised but I had regrets that we were a little late. I don't want to give any further information.
Did any central agency give you prior information?
Our chief minister has said in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images], Home Minister Shivraj Patil [Images] and National Security Advisor M K Narayanan that information from central agencies like the Intelligence Bureau is like a weather report. In my entire tenure, I have never received any information from the IB on the basis of which we can take action.
In this event there was no information even to match a weather report. The day after the Bangalore blasts, we got an email 'alert', which was sent to 'all states'. There was no specific information about the blasts.
Surely, there is a big security lapse in the country. Otherwise how can more than 50-100 people work in one area with such co-ordination without getting caught?
There is no doubt that India's national security is lax and we need to plug the weaknesses.
Which terrorist group is likely to be behind the Ahmedabad blasts?
We will first go to the roots, analyse and only then give complete information to the media. Not even my constable will speak out of turn before the investigation is over.
Have you been able to understand the modus operandi of terrorists?
They exploded a bomb at one place; the timer was set such that the second blast took place in the same place five minutes later. They waited for the crowd to gather. Obviously, the injured will be taken to the city's prominent hospital. So they timed the bomb for an hour later at the hospital.
The blasts at hospitals show that our fight is with such despicable people. Even during war, enemies do not attack hospitals and its employees. Even medical vehicles or the Red Cross is never attacked during war. It has been proved that our fight is with people with such dreadful ideas. That is why there can be no sympathy for these people. There should not be any activity in the country that would demoralise people who are fighting these terrorists.
Don't you think POTA and TADA are not preventive measures?
Nobody is above fear. Even terrorists have fears. If there is fear of harsh punishment they will not get local support. Under POTA, 14 cases were tried in Gujarat and punishment was awarded that have helped keep Gujarat free of terrorism in the last six years.
Look at the world, too. Ours is the only country which has repealed the law against terrorism after 9/11. This is vote-bank politics and at last now if our eyes are opening then we should rise above politics.
In the last five years, national security has become weak, intelligence agencies' morale has touched rock-bottom. Political will to fight terrorism is completely absent. I blame the United Progressive Alliance, which is running like a circus. There is no co-ordination between departments; there is no command structure in government. In the last seven bomb blasts, I have been reading the same statement from the Union home minister.
Do you think these blasts were carried out by jihadi terrorists?
Obviously! It is a fact accepted by the world. Jihadi Islamic fundamentalists groups are behind bomb blasts in India.
What steps are you recommending to combat terror when you attend high-level meetings in New Delhi [Images]?
Forgive me but I must say that I have attended four high-level meetings of chief ministers and home ministers, and I have seen that there is only a cosmetic approach. No serious action is taken during the discussion. All the minutes of the meetings are turning into trash.
What kinds of suggestions has Gujarat sent?
We have recommended special training curriculum and budget for Intelligence staff on the lines of IPS and IAS. We have recommended strengthening of the Research and Analysis Wing and suggested that they be given special military training. No action is taken on suggestions. Things are static at the Centre.
Are you worried that the image of Modi as a strong leader who could provide security is weakened now?
Bomb blasts in Ahmedabad are part of a series of blasts that occurred in India. The image of Modi has nothing to do with the bomb blasts.