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Fight the war on New Terrorism to the finish
May 14, 2008
How many more terrorist attacks should occur, and how many more lives should be lost, before the powers-that-be in India awake to the fact that practically every human being that lives, every building that stands, every vehicle that moves and every activity that goes on in the country is within the cross hairs of the terrorists who kill for attaining martyrdom?
The rabid motivation for murdering anyone within sight has ceased to have anything to do with policies pursued by this or that country; it is simply rooted in inhuman hatred, all-consuming ill-will and raging fanaticism. The Jaipur blasts, like all the previous ones, form part of a carefully masterminded operation that has managed to hoodwink the elaborate intelligence structure and police machinery; such meticulous planning which must have gone on for weeks, if not months, could not have been undertaken without local hospitality, support and collusion.
In the face of the terrible prospect confronting the country, anyone who underplays the mortal danger from the remorselessly and relentlessly advancing tide of jihadi terrorism has no mind to think and no eyes to see. Any party which plays vote bank politics at this critical hour mortgages the nation's stability and security to the jihadis. Any government that displays smugness, complacency, callousness, slackness, softness, weakness and indifference oblivious to the depredations caused by their outrage is itself guilty of inciting and assisting them in executing their murderous designs with still more ruthlessness.
Muslims living in India and loving India have a duty to their motherland: They should not assume the role of silent onlookers but should bring the evil elements in their midst out into the open so that they can be visited with condign punishment.
Equally, there is need for a change in the mindset of the country's elite and intelligentsia as well. They should realise that their habit of trivialising and communalising issues at the heart of a nation, denigrating the 83 per cent of Hindus, rubbishing their institutions, values, customs and traditions, and demonising those who speak up for them, while placating and pandering to minorityist self-seekers under the guise of secularism and human rights, gives indirect encouragement to jihadis.
It is their type which springs to the instant defence of Muslims when they take to violence over the Danish cartoons and to the instant attack of Hindus for criticising M F Husain's depiction of Hindu goddesses in the nude. It is their type that exhibits outrageous solicitude to Abdul Nasser Madhani's health.
For a moment let them ask themselves whether they will be tolerated, nay, whether their lives will be secure if, assuming themselves to be Muslims, they conduct themselves in Indonesia, Iran or Saudi Arabia in the above manner as the doughty champions of non-Muslims, or keep depicting members of their own faith (Islam) as vicious monsters.
The situation calls for firm handling. There should be no vacillation, hesitation or prevarication in bundling out lock, stock and barrel all the illegal immigrants who not only rob the genuine citizens of the due fruits of economic development but also pose grave danger to the country.
Their numbers have swollen to huge proportions thanks to unchecked infiltration and political connivance precisely in those areas of the country which are breeding grounds of anti-national elements. They deserve no consideration on the grounds of natural justice or human rights. The only place for them to go is back to where they came from, and all steps must be taken to that end and executed within a specified time-frame.
Next, analogous to the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Intelligence Bureau, a new Central Counter-Terrorism Bureau should be established, vesting it with the entire range of duties and responsibilities to extirpate terrorism, and with power and authority to override State jurisdiction in its best judgement.
In order to make it strong and effective, its functioning should be made totally independent of, and fully immune from, political meddling, manipulation and machinations, except for the government's right to institute inquiries into any abuse or misuse of authority.
Finally, the government owes it to their sovereign masters, the people, and to itself, to put on the statute book a special law for curbing terrorism, providing for summary trial akin to military tribunals, and detention without bail until the trials are completed. There should be only one chance to appeal and that too only on substantive points of law, and on conviction, the perpetrators should be given deterrent punishment of death or life-long incarceration. It is totally unacceptable that the trial of accused in the devastating serial Mumbai blasts of 1993 dragged on 15 years after the event.
Any further shying away from its paramount duty would expose the government to the charge of dereliction and betrayal of the safety and security of the nation. The no-holds-barred measures against terrorists adopted by the world's two tested and long-standing democracies, the United Kingdom and the US, must be equally good, if not even better, for the world's most vulnerable and fragile one.
The emerging scenario, in fact, calls for a law stronger than the Prevention of Terrorism Act which was misguidedly repealed in order to retain the vote-banks. The taunt that the existence of POTA did not stop terrorist acts is easily answered: No law is proof against commission of any offence. The existence of the Indian Penal Code has not prevented commission of murder, rape and the like; the Prevention of Corruption Act has not banished corruption.
It is also disingenuous to claim, as those seeking to soft-pedal action against Islamist terrorists do, that the existing laws are adequate. For 10 years, between 1961 and 1970 in the central home ministry, and later as chief secretary, I have had occasion to appraise them.
Take my word for it: They are not adequate. A more rigorous law strengthening the hands of the investigative agencies providing for quick and deterrent punishment will certainly help prevent terrorism from assuming more deadly proportions.
As regards the possibility of its misuse, civil society should be trusted to exercise constant vigilance so that instances of harassment of any particular community are taken up for inquiry and appropriate remedial action without delay.
The value of such a law, taken together with manifest firmness of the central and state governments in the other respects already mentioned, is that it will enhance the trust and faith of the people at large in the government. Indeed, in view of the distrust, hostility and resentment engendered by the impotence in the face of jihadi terrorism, Israel's example of swift and stern retribution is already finding many appreciative takers. (Israel is a democracy, may it be noted!) The absence of determined action against terrorism is bound to lead to violent upheavals.
To conclude: The war on what may be called New Terrorism has to be fought to the finish, with neither qualm nor compunction, neither apologies nor regrets. For, it is capable of growing new arms, new heads and new bodies, and wreaking havoc, elusive and unseen, unless it is stamped out without any trace whatsoever.
For far too long, the vote-banks crippled the government from being single-minded and firm in crushing the venomous forces striking at the root of the nation. If it does not shake itself out of its stupor, and deploy and use all the resources under its command now, those forces inimical to the nation will see to it that it does not get a second chance. In the war on new terrorism, there is no mercy for ditherers.
Hearken to the ancient saying of India's sages: Samshayatma vinashyathi (Ditherers perish)!
B S Raghavan is a retired IAS officer who was a member of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Director of Political and Security Policy Planning in the home ministry, and chief secretary of a state.