Tuesday, December 16, 2008

GIVE ME THE BALLOT, TAKE THE BULLET



Having made themselves safe from bullets, India's politicians have again shown that to them ballots are more important than the lives of faceless citizens who are more vulnerable to bullets today than ever before.

The terror attack on Mumbai on November 11, 2006 has finally jolted the Government into action after long years of apathy and insensitivity. After the symbolic rolling of a few heads, new Home Minister P Chidambaram has moved into action with deliberate haste to start putting in place some measures that are sorely needed to better protect the country against the proxy war unleashed by Pakistan. That he has been able to do so in within a couple weeks of getting into office suggests that these had been thought of much earlier but were not activated solely because getting into power by votes was given precedence over preventing terrorists from getting into the country by boats.

Some politicians, however, still remain unmoved. Hiding behind the safety provided to their person by heavily armed commandos at state expense, the likes of Mulayam Yadav, Laloo Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan have apparently again torpedoed the proposal of the government to put in place a tough anti-terror law because it might be misused against the minorities. Surely, a provision for speedy, stringent punishment for such misuse can be included in such a law. But no.

It was only a few months back that Paswan had demanded that all illegal Bangladeshi migrants be given Indian citizenship. During the last elections in Bihar, Laloo Yadav had by his side an Osama Bin Laden look-alike at all public meetings. Mulayam Yadav was, of course, till recently championing the cause of the seditious SIMI, referring to the organisation as secular. 11/26 has taught them nothing, it seems.

Guys like them should have no fear of attack from terrorists, whose job they are making easier. Why, then, are they living in fortresses and asking ordinary citizens to keep braving death defenselessly?

Thanks to such leaders, all that the Union Cabinet has been able to approve is the setting up of a National Investigating Agency (NIA) and the deployment of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) to guard vital installations in the private sector. It has taken the government decades to treat terror as a pan national security challenge rather than a mere law and order problem. The NIA will fill a long felt need to have a federal agency to investigate terror related crimes all over the country without obtaining special permission from respective states, as is the case now, law and order being a state subject.

But the laws to tackle this proxy war are the same ineffective ones, thanks to our politicians who have remained out of harms way due to the oppressive personal security that they have ensured for themselves. Had that security been breached in the attack on Parliament and led to bullets getting to the person of some of them, no one would have opposed a tough anti-terror law.

It is no accident that the bigwigs of Corporate India, without whose financial support politicians cannot survive, have prevailed upon the government to give them CISF protection after just one attack which brought the reality of terror into their world in South Mumbai.

The common man, unfortunately remains as vulnerable as he always was, even though he is the one who puts politicians in office and pays for their protection. As long as he is treated as an almost inanimate 'vote bank' from where votes can be stolen time and again, without fear of serious penalty, nothing is going to change; India's politicians will continue to ask him to give them the ballot and take the bullet.

India is going to have many more 11/26s and worse. If the Pakistani masterminds of terrorists have learnt their lessons well from the Mumbai attack, in future they will chose even more dramatic targets, but ones where the human victims are only ordinary, faceless Indians.
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Readers may also read:
1. Forget POTA even police not needed!
2. Why tough terror law when attacks don't stop?
3. Stiff law for drunken drivers, not terrorists