By I. Ramamohan Rao
New Delhi: Events have moved fast since Saturday, September 13, when five serial blasts occurred in Delhi, which claimed the lives of 20 citizens and injured many. The blasts could not be prevented even though intelligence agencies had indication that the Capital would be a target - after Bangalore and Ahmedabad. Delhi was waiting to happen to complete 'Operation BAD'.
Knowing that Delhi would be a target was not enough to prevent terrorist attacks. The country has been a victim of terrorism for over two decades, but most of the time we have been busy analyzing it.
India has been waking up to the threat of war, proxy war and terrorism only when the enemy has taken the initiative. This has been the feature of the country's history for over sixty years.
India did not have to fight the first war over Jammu and Kashmir if the Government had clearly told the Maharaja that he did not have any option, just as it did to over six hundred Princely States. He was allowed to choose his time. It was only when Pakistan invaded the state and the enemy was knocking at the gates of Srinagar, that the Maharaja woke up and signed the instrument of accession, and requested India to evict the invader.
When the Indian Army was on the point of evicting the Pakistani forces from the State, the Government thought it fit to complain to the United Nations. India agreed to the plebiscite and waited for Pakistan to take its forces out of the State. Pakistan never did it and the UN resolutions could never be implemented. But we gave an excuse to Pakistan to rake up the issue at its will.
Similarly in 1965 India won the war against Pakistan but surrendered its advantage on the diplomatic table at Tashkent. In 1971 the Indian Army trounced Pakistan and secured the surrender of 93,000 prisoners-of -war. The agreement signed at Shimla saw Pakistan not only get back its soldiers, but also its territory.
India had been at the receiving end of a proxy war in Punjab in the 80s. The proxy war in Punjab claimed the life of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984.
Pakistan acquired the courage to extend the proxy war to Jammu and Kashmir and used the weapons that it got from the United States to arm 'militants' in the Valley. The eruption of militancy in the Kashmir valley that commenced in 1989 is still smouldering.
Pakistan became a frontline State in the war against terror in 2001. A fallout of that has been that India become a target for forces which are promoting terror.
India has been busy studying the phenomenon of terrorism. If anyone wants a critical analysis of the danger one only has to delve into the latest report on terrorism submitted to the Government of India by Veerappa Moily, the Chairman of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission on September16. .
In his dissertation, Verappa Moily has pointed out that there are various types of terrorism: ethno-nationalist terrorism, which India is facing in the north-east, religious terrorism in the form of Jehad, ideology oriented terrorism like the Maoist or Naxalite movements, and narco-terrorism.
The Administrative Reforms Commission has come to the conclusion that to combat terrorism effectively, a comprehensive and effective legal framework to deal with all aspects of terrorism needs to be enacted To counter the fears of human rights activists, he has recommended that it would be necessary to have adequate safeguards to prevent its misuse.
Veerappa Moily has underlined the need for a multi-pronged strategy to combat terrorism. In his report, he has underlined the need for the Government, the political parties, security agencies, the civil society and the media to work in a coordinated manner to effectively deal with the danger of terrorism.
The Commission has also recommended changes in the law that provides for bail and extension in the period of detention and to make confessions before the police admissible. It has also recommended the establishment of Special Fast Track Courts to exclusively deal with terrorism related cases and the setting up of a Federal Agency to investigate terrorist offences. Simultaneously, it has recommended measures to block the flow of money to terrorist organizations in the country.
When one heard Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking to the Governors who had gathered in the capital on September 17, one felt that the powers in Delhi had accepted that the existing law was not adequate to deal with terrorism. He spoke of devising an effective counter terrorism strategy. He said that 'there is no question of the Government being soft on terrorism'.
But the very next day, one heard Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi saying that we had laws stricter than those in USA and the United Kingdom to deal with terrorism. He also ruled out the revival of the POTA as it was 'draconian' and violated 'Human Rights'.
The impression that one got was that we are back to square one.What has been promised is that additional forces would be raised to combat terrorists and more funds would be provided to modernize the police.
One would have heard that some members of the United Progressive Alliance still have doubts about extending the ban on SIMI, but they were made to hold back their views due to the encounter in Jamia Nagar in Delhi on Friday, September 19, which exposed the plans of terrorists to organize more blasts in the Capital. The encounter claimed the life of a police officer. Many suspects have been rounded up.
Will there be a national consensus on evolving a broad strategy to fight terrorism, or will be continue the debate on the need to revive the TADA or POTA, and continue to maintain that the existing laws and machinery are adequate to fight terrorism, knowing full well that it is not true.
In the final analysis, the UPA government is dependent on the support of the Samajwadi Party, which is reluctant to hurt the sentiments of the Muslim electorate.
Is it too much to expect, as Moily said in his report, that 'the people of our country have a right to expect that our national as well as regional parties will rise above their sectarian and petty electoral compulsions'. Are some more serial blasts necessary before we wake up? I. Ramamohan Rao, former Principal Information Officer, Government of India. e:mail:firstname.lastname@example.org