Terror and the Benumbed State
By now, all news media have given full accounts of the way terror has been stalking the country without any fear. The terrorist strikes in Bangalore and Ahmedabad on two successive days on 25th and 26th July 2008 have been condemned and the inaction of the Govt. has been strongly denounced by all the media and people at large.
And yet, the Governments of the day, whether at the State level or the Central level continue to demonstrate their impotence before and after each strike. THE STATE seems to be benumbed and to all intents and purposes continues to show scant regard not only for human lives but the threats to the very integrity and peace and harmony of the country.
For every terror strike, the primary responsibility remains that of the State Govt. and no amount of efforts to pass the buck on to the Center can diminish the responsibility of the State Governments for their failure to protect the lives and limbs of the residents of that State. The State Govt. is primarily responsible for law and order and it is the best judge of the ground conditions in the State. It is the State Govt. that has to develop its own strong intelligence network and also have an inter-state mechanism to share such intelligence. If fear has to be instilled in the would-be terrorists in the State, it is the State Govt. that is primarily in a position to do so. The State Govt.s do not appear to have any programs to provide specialized anti-terrorist training, if need be, with help from foreign countries, to its police force and create a strong cadre for such anti-terrorist operations. Nor do the State Govt.s have even a well thought out basic policy of giving monetary rewards for informants, not only after an act of terror but at all times. After all, information on suspect activities is likely to come equally from ordinary citizens as from those who are close to such activities. ( see here and here)
Therefore, in the case of Gujarat in particular, where the Gujarat Chief Minister has been daring the Terrorists all along shouting from roof tops, the blasts in Ahmedabad show that the terrorists are able to commit their anti-national acts anywhere and any time of their own choosing.
Most of the responsibility in case of the Terror attacks in Gujarat rests on the State Govt. who in over confidence and bravado has been caught napping. Unless the State Govt.s themselves develop a clear no-tolerance policy, any amount of help by the Central Govt. is bound to fail.
Having said all this, one must examine the total failure of the Union Home Ministry to take steps that are in its own power to take. Over the last few years the Central Govt. has shown a complete lack of sensitivity and seriousness and utter incompetence in creating an overall atmosphere that instills fear in the minds of terrorists. The firm actions taken by the USA after the terrorist attacks on its soil on Sept. 11, 2001, are there for all to see. The Govt. of India just does not have even the courage to state its policy, if there is one, on terror. If the Union Govt. is at all serious about rooting out terrorism from the country, there is nothing to stop it from taking actions which are within its own powers and if at all it has to give directions to the States on the subject, the States are bound to listen and follow. Instead of first defining its stance and policy on terror clearly, the Govt. continues to issue wish-washy statements that have ceased to carry any meaning even for the people at large, let alone the terrorist elements. The Govt. is now talking of having a federal agency. Such proliefration of new agencies will have no effect or impact because of enormous problems of co-ordination which are mainfest even within the existing agencies. The talk of such an agency is just a diversionary tactic to show that the Govt. is serious when it is not. The basic idea of the present Govt. seems to be to keep talking and going through the motions of taking actions till its time is over next year or even earlier.
All the actions or inactions of the Central Govt. so far show that far from being serious about rooting out terrorists, it actually does everything that achieves exactly the opposite and emboldens the anti-national elements.
The case of Afzal Guru is a case in point. Quite inexplicably, the Govt. has been sitting on his petition for clemency for years. There is no logical or plausible explanation, at least in the eyes of the public why the Govt. cannot take a decision. The only conclusion possible is that the Govt. has made up its mind either to grant clemency or wait to give the terrorists a suitable opportunity when they can secure the release of Afzal Guru in exchange as was done in case of other terrorists. Or, it does not have the backbone to take a logical decision of rejecting the application and would rather have a new Govt. take such a decision. In the unlikely event that it is voted in again, it is capable of sitting on the matter for as long as necessary. After all, Shivraj Patil had grandly told the Parliament that the Home Ministry sits on the petitions for an average of seven years.
No less intriguing is the absolute cussedness of the Central Govt. in not approving laws passed by certain State Legislatures, who in their wisdom think that such laws will help them to better support their own actions to tackle terrorism.
The level of intelligence gathered by the Central agencies also continues to be of poor quality and beyond giving regular cautionary advices to the States ‘crying wolf’, no specific actionable intelligence seems to be provided either to the Central Govt. or to the State Govt.
It is common knowledge that hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis are entering the country illegally and are even able to secure official papers of residence. However, the hear-nothing, do-nothing Home Ministry does not even have an estimate or assessment of Bangladeshis entering illegally. It is common knowledge that in the commercial capital of the country Mumbai, thousands of illegal aliens were helped in getting papers by a Congress MP in the city. It is also known that some suburban areas around the periphery of Mumbai have become a favorite abode of criminal and anti national elements and so has Navi Mumbai. It is also generally recognized that many of the terrorists who have executed operations in the country in the last few years have used the Bangladesh route to enter or are Bangladeshis or have connections there.
Such incidents raise legitimate questions in the minds of the people whether the Central Govt. is deliberately taking a soft line or is simply impotent and incompetent.
The continuance of a ‘Softee’ Shivraj Patil in the position of Home Minister lends strong credence to the perception that Govt. has not grasped the seriousness of the situation. In the history of the democratic Governments in the country, a more docile and incompetent Home Minister has never been seen. In fact, he just does not seem to inspire confidence in anyone EXCEPT HIS OWN PARTY CHIEF AND, PERHAPS, THE PRIME MINISTER. His being there as the Home Minister is giving a bad name to the entire Govt. His removal from the Ministry is the badly needed first signal that the Govt. is serious and has a will to change the present state of hopeless lethargy.
The Central Government has failed utterly and completely to inspire confidence in the people that the integrity of the country is safe in its hands.
There are two options to Terror. The first is to have zero tolerance and to deal with the terrorist elements ruthlessly. The second is to do nothing, by taking the view that in a country of over a billion people, human lives have no meaning and hope and pray that the terrorists, if they are ignored, will tire themselves out. India seems to have adopted the second approach.