Monday, May 19, 2008

WHY TOUGH TERROR LAW WHEN ATTACKS DON'T STOP?

If there is one unimaginably absurd question that can be asked while a nation struggles to develop a meaningful strategy to combat terrorism, it is: why have a tough terror law when terror attacks could not be prevented even when such a law was in force earlier?

This question is actually not worth dignifying by discussion. But the problem is that it is not being asked by some illiterate, uninformed nobodies; the ones asking it are some rather famous media luminaries and, quite naturally, those politicians who have a less than honourable political stake in doing away with the earlier anti terror law in India, the Prevention of Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act(POTA).

Indian security forces have been battling terrorism in Kashmir for nearly two decades now. Nearly half a million men in uniform are fighting this battle, and thousands have died, while our armchair ‘intellectuals’ are comfortably enjoying the benefits of the economic boom that has kissed some Indians like them. Despite this massive deployment of forces, terrorist attacks continue unabated in Kashmir. Surely the perfect logic to withdraw forces from Kashmir a la POTA! But nobody except Pakistan demands that. Why? Because even the dullest and most intellectually dishonest of the lot know that the moment that is done, Kashmir becomes history for India.

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, a law far tougher and much more prone to misuse than POTA has been used for decades by India to tackle insurgency in the North East; it is still in force in a few places there, despite long drawn protests by locals, particularly in Manipur. That Act has not stopped terror attacks there; why is nobody applying the same brainlessly bizarre logic to ask for it to be repealed too, like POTA has been? Because the North East does not figure even in the periphery of their thoughts; they are interested only in places and issues which gets them the limelight and some international exposure, even if they talk either like Pakistan does or like zombies and bimbettes from Mars!

Let us take an example with which the rootless variety of animated urban articulators and hijackers of real public opinion will be familiar. The swanky cars that they drive are getting equipped with increasingly sophisticated security systems to prevent theft. That does not stop thieves. Why, then, have those expensive anti theft systems installed in the first place?! Ask them this question and they will chide you for not having even the elementary understanding that the objective of such systems is to make it difficult for thieves to first steal and then get away without getting caught, even if they successfully overcome security gadgets meant to prevent theft.

That is how I got my car back, some them will tell you, thanks to the latest tracking system which told me exactly where the car was after it was stolen. Some thieves can disable the tracking system too. So, does the solution lie in reverting to the minimal security provided by the humble door and ignition key(a car's IPC) and prayers to God, or to develop better systems(its POTA plus) to make theft more difficult and tracking and recovery of a stolen car easier?

They all know the answer to that one. But talk POTA and they will use every disingenuous trick to fool you and take you off the track, including hijacking the question itself to a discussion on state terrorism! The IPC has a provision for giving capital punishment. That has not stopped people from murdering. Should we not do away with that too? And focus instead on the human side of murderers and adopt a really soft, humane approach towards them?

Look at the extent of dishonesty. The same guys who oppose tough anti terror measures are the shrillest in demanding tougher laws and supersonic processes to punish rapists almost before they have finished committing that heinous crime! Why, even the Parliamentary Standing Committee, headed by commie Sitaram Yechury has recommended a tough law for, yes, drunken driving!

These are the same lot of people who also demanded and got enacted very tough laws to punish errant husbands. They all know that those laws have proved to be perfect tools of blackmail and harassment exploited most dishonestly by many unscrupulous, educated, aware and often economically independent women, to extract huge amounts of money from, and do worse to, their spouses. And this even as most of the really harassed and helpless women continue to suffer as they always have.

Yet, none of these angels hovering protectively over terrorists who mercilessly kill innocent citizens, have raised a voice for doing away with these other tough laws despite them being blatantly misused(May be some of them have personally benefited!). It is only when the question is about fighting mass murderers that they miraculously remember and cite isolated incidents of misuse as one more reason for continuing with perhaps the most benign and ineffective laws in the world.

All of them know, for example, that if maximum punishment for murder was reduced to say six months imprisonment, many, many more people would commit the crime. The knowledge that they will be hanged if they killed someone naturally deters a huge number of people from committing the crime. A few will still do it. Society has to deal with them, not by arguing that the law is useless! But those who are programmed for whatever reason to favour the lesser punishment will put aside their native commonsense and say that there is no statistical evidence to support this elementary understanding! It is due to this very basic commonsense, and not statistics, that tougher laws for many crimes, including the ones mentioned above, have been supported and actively got put in place by them!

The government also realises that a tough law and other tough measures are needed to fight terrorism and insurgency. But, it is clever enough to put them in place only in areas where it can do so without hurting its electoral prospects. Where there is a danger of losing its vote bank, and that happens to be in the rest of India minus the remote North East as far as religious terrorism is concerned, the same government dishonestly argues that normal laws are sufficient, even as every other country afflicted by terrorism knows better and has done otherwise.

But, to deceive the nation, indeed the world, through carefully manipulated TV studio debates anchored by politically committed individuals and carefully selected moles to globally broadcast a falsified public opinion, the government repeatedly exposes its inability to rise above its narrow political greed and do what the most imperfect process of multi party democracy practiced in India has mandated it to: govern and protect India as a whole with integrity, responsibility and a profound sense of history.

It is indeed a sad commentary on the powerful but debilitating intellectual capital of this country in its war against terror that the question hotly being debated in the media for a few years now is about the justification for having tough terror laws only because terror attacks have not stopped. That I have to write this article on the subject is, to me, a demeaning experience, because the question reflects a disturbing level of dishonesty, even unacceptable disability, at the core of the political processes that determine India’s response to this unprecedented threat backed by powerful external forces.

The crystal clear answer to this question will have to be acknowledged one day when further pretense will no longer be possible. Till then, perhaps all you and I can do is to keep a count of the number of innocent men, women and children killed by terrorists and try to imagine how many of them could have been saved had this nation made it more difficult for these mass murderers to indulge wantonly in their mission of death in the name of and for the Almighty Allah.

The later this answer comes to our leaders, the more blood they will have on their hands.