Wednesday, September 17, 2008

WAR ON TERROR: FIVE WASTED YEARS


The serial blasts that shook Delhi on September 13, 2008, have finally jolted India’s ‘secular parties’.

Laloo Yadav, who till the other day was defending the SIMI, has made a complete ‘U’ turn. He now wants the head of the Home Minister for failing to prevent terror attacks. Mulayam Yadav’s voice, Amar Singh, has suddenly started talking like a statesman by calling for a bipartisan approach to fight terrorism. All that loud talk of defending the SIMI and calling it a secular outfit has simply evaporated.

The biggest turnabout, of course, has been of the Congress party which is heading the UPA government.

For five long years, every single Congress leader has been vehemently arguing that existing laws were more than adequate to fight terror. At all forums, they have been using the most unbelievably bizarre and pea-brained logic that since the earlier tough anti-terror law did not lead to a reduction in terror attacks, there was no justification for it or a similar ‘draconian’ law that was prone to misuse and harassment of innocent citizens. The terror attack on Parliament in 2001 has also been twisted grotesquely and used ad nauseum to run down the demand for tough laws.

Year after year, the United Nations and the US have been putting out reports highlighting in detail how India is hopelessly unprepared to tackle terror and suggesting in detail a slew of measures, including laws, that need to be put in place by this country which has suffered most due to terrorism. These have been summarily pushed under the table only because India’s politicians are mortally afraid that any tough steps would be viewed as anti Muslim and cost them electorally. Anti-terror laws passed by the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat have also not been cleared by the central government, more keen on mistakenly showing to Muslims how much it cares for them rather than developing any coherent strategy to combat and defeat this cancer that is making its presence felt with monotonous regularity.

Even as more and more Indians have been dying in terror attacks, the Congress and its allies have remained frozen and paralysed by the fear of loss of vote banks which, to them matter infinitely more than loss of innocent lives. At one point, the Home Minister had in fact gone to the extent of linking the hanging of Indian Afzal Guru with the demand for extradition of Indian Sarabjit Singh from Pakistan. Afzal Guru, convicted for the attack on Parliament, has still not been hanged only because that might prove electorally expensive.

As late as yesterday, fiery spokespersons of the Congress party were defending, to their last ‘breath’, the stand that there was no need whatsoever for a tough anti-terror law. Worse, without having even a foggy idea of what it meant, one spokesman of the party even declared that the government had ‘zero tolerance’ for terror! The National Security Advisor, an intelligence ‘specialist’, also went to the extent of claiming that some attacks has been prevented in Delhi in the last few days due to good intelligence.

Today, to use a Hindi proverb, ‘the parrots of all of them have flown’. Today, the Prime Minister, at long last, admitted that the intelligence set up of the country is in bad shape and that he is open to the idea of having tougher laws to tackle terrorism. There is also talk of appointing a separate minister for internal security, a belated acknowledgment that virtually no attention has been paid to the growing menace of terrorism by both politicians and the career bureaucrats who effectively run the show on ground.

Tomorrow, you will hear political chameleons speak virtually against themselves and all that they have been saying for five years. Till yesterday, they made it appear as if there really was hardly any terrorism worth talking about and that India actually faced a danger only from the BJP and its allies. India’s real war on terror, it seemed, was in TV studios between political rivals fighting to protect their respective vote banks rather than the nation.

Tomorrow, you will hear political statements that will amaze you. Tomorrow, you might be fooled into believing that after five lost and wasted years, India’s politicians have actually woken up to the danger of terrorism, the dimensions of which have suddenly been revealed after the Delhi blasts. A few good men apart, be sure that this ‘awakening’ is nothing more than political gimmickry and dishonesty. This volte face that the country is seeing is only because they have woken up to the realisation that many of their non-Muslim voters are very angry. There is a real danger that they will desert some parties and leaders due to the callous and criminal neglect displayed by them in ensuring the safety and security of innocent citizens of this country.

This government has only a few months left before elections are held. Will the appointment of a new minister at this belated stage serve any purpose at all? Will enactment of a tough law wash away the stains of years of criminal neglect? Who is to be held accountable for the five years wasted by the government in India's war on terror?

These wasted years have seen terror groups grow from strength to strength. They have not only been ignored but have actually been shielded and encouraged by some of our leading politicians. Before this country can start fighting terrorism with real purpose, it perhaps first needs to treat and tackle some of its politicians on the same scales of justice and firmness that are applicable to terrorists. Only then will the war on terror be won decisively.
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1. India Losing war on terror: the Prithviraj Chauhan syndrome

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