Sunday, October 05, 2008

Paranoia and Paralysis - Facing Terrorism

Continued from Previous
Related links : Here and here

As discussed in the previous article (see here), the responsibility for designating and continuing Shivraj Patil as the Home Minister rests squarely on Sonia Gandhi as the Congress party President and UPA Chairperson, and Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister. But their culpability for allowing loss of innocent lives goes far beyond that. It is necessary to analyse the overall approach of the UPA government and, in particular the Congress Party, on Terorism.

It was stated in an earlier article (
see here) that the people were witnessing a State benumbed with terrorist events. That numbness is now turning into near-complete paralysis and the Central Government is just not willing or able to move with any purpose. Going by the senseless uttterings of those in Government and the political parties that support it, it is clear that it is unable or afraid to think or speak coherently on its response to terror. The Congress and other parties supporting the Government look to be suffering alernatingly from blurred vision and blindness induced by pathological myopia and it is extremely doubtful whether they realise the full gravity of the situation. The Congress in particular seems to have no idea of the resentment that is building up against the party and the entire Government due to its abject failure to address the problem as a responsible party or government.

What then, is the Congress Party’s and by implication the Government’s, policy on terrorism?

Neither the Congress nor the Government have ever made any attempt to clearly enunciate their policy on terror out of a constant sense of fear and paranoia. But the following statements illustrate the fuzzy thought processes:

On the Congress’s policy on terrorism, Shivraj Patil had this to say:

“My party's ethos is to do justice and to see that it is done in a manner which contains and controls criminal and terrorist activities and at the same time doesn't give any opportunity to human rights violation.” 15.9.2008

Is this deceptive nonsense a statement of policy on terror by the Government of the largest democracy in the world? Can any meaning be derived out of it? Justice to whom? And the purpose is to merely contain and control, not to eliminate? The statement also affirms what has already become very clear, that in the eyes of the Government terrorist activities are no different from ordinary criminal activities. Is such a feeble statement ever likely to discourage or instill fear in the minds of would-be terrorists? Does it indicate anywhere that terrorism would not be tolerated and in fact would be crushed with a heavy hand come what may? And what is the meaning of saying “ ..doesn’t give any opportunity to human rights violation.”? Should a country governed by the Rule of Law ever have the need to include such a caveat in its policy on terror? Does it not indicate that in the normal situation the Government may not care so much for human rights but would do so while dealing with terrorists? By saying this, the Government is making the country a laughing stock in the eyes of other countries that are faced with similar terrorist problems. It is a statement that actually hides an apology in advance to the terrorists and those who spring to the terrorists’ defense each time a suspected terrorist is apprehended.

The Prime Minister was no less when he said amongst other things:

"Let me take this opportunity to say, with the fullest emphasis, that there is no question of the Government being soft on terrorism” said he on Sept. 17, 2008.

Again, look at the weak-kneed mind-set. Is “not being soft on terrorism” the same as being “intolerant of terrorism”? The words ‘fullest emphasis’ clearly indicates that the Government is consciously not being ‘hard on terrorism’.

Let us also examine what may be the root cause of such a cowardly response to terror.

The cause of this dilatory approach is to be found in the chronic myopia, fear and paranoia deeply ingrained in the psyche of the Congress Party, and to a large extent its present supporting political parties.

The fear and paranoia is two-fold: First, the party has consciously adopted and pursued a long term strategy of building up its electoral base amongst certain sections. Over the period, it has assiduously tried to drive it into the minds of that base that somehow they should feel insecure in their own country and that their party would look after their interests and secure their future. Over time, the Congress, like other parties with similar approach, has come to firmly believe that this strategy is the right one. Although these parties may be dismissive about accusations of appeasement from the Opposition, it is a fact which they know and the people at large, including those sections themselves, know very well. And yet, these parties, ostrich-like, have to continue with the charade in order to protect their base. So deeply ingrained is their belief that what they are doing is right, that they are gripped by abject fear of losing their base even if, for example, the Government were to declare a war against terrorists whose only religion is terror, not Hinduism or Islam or another. This fear of the Congress and other such parties and its consequent reluctance to act with a purpose in sensitive matters of national security presents a geat danger to the integrity of the country in some ways. The sad fact which these parties have not yet realised, nor are likely to realise is that in trying to guard against the alienation of certain sections, the Government ends up dividing and alienating the people of the whole country. Such is the tragedy of the myopic-turned-blind Government.

The second fear, which makes these parties almost paranoid is the fear of the Opposition parties. This almost morbid obsession over the Opposition has driven them to such absurd levels that everything the Government does or does not do is compared with what the previous Government did or did not do. Every statement that the Government or its constituent parties issue in defense of their actions is aimed at highlighting the follies of the Opposition during its time in the Government or criticising them. The people have been made completely irrelevant whereas it is the people who are seeking accountability from the Government. The people are not concerned what others did in the past. They only want the present Government to do a good job of serving the people. The people have nothing but disgust for the constant barbs of the Congress and other ‘secular parties’ against the Opposition as if the UPA came to form the Government with the sole task of highlighting what was or is wrong with the Opposition. Comparisons between the present Government and the previous one, which the television media in particular constantly instigate and hype for their own irresponsible purposes, have ceased to carry meaning for the people. Yet, so obsessed is the Congress that all its actions are taken primarily to make sure that the Opposition does not score any points.

And how do the Government and the parties within the Government actually deal with terror?

The casual approach of the Government and the constituent parties is evident from the way they indulge in blame games and creating confusion.

Consider their views on having tougher laws to strengthen the hands of the agencies in dealing with terror. The party and the government constantly keep making contradictory statements. The main tactic adopted is to keep saying that the country does not need POTA. Even 38 year-something upstarts from the Congress party do not fail to give their two-bits worth opinions on POTA, with superficial knowledge and being short on facts. When the Administrative Reforms Commission recommends comprehensive anti terror legislation, a spokesman of the Government sings a different tune. There are other voices also that say that tough laws are required. Does this innocent confusion happen by chance or failure in co-ordination? It certainly does not. It happens as a result of a well-thought out ploy. The Government is actually equating terrorist activities with ordinary criminal activities as highlighted before and is content to deal with terror on the basis of the normal criminal laws. By constantly harping on the so-called evils of POTA, it seeks to keep the focus of the people on a needless and futile debate focused on POTA. On the one hand, it keeps the self-styled protectors of human rights happy and on the other hand diverts the attention of the people from the core issue i.e. its failure to tackle terrorism. It just keeps the issue alive and inconclusive. It also enables the Government to do nothing, considering the short time it has left before the elections.

To further dilute the seriousness of its own follies, its Ministers regularly dole out statistics of terrorist attacks during the previous regime. This again is a diversionary tactic to shift the focus to irrelevant issues. Do the people constantly keep on thinking about what happened in the past to decide whether they are safe NOW? What they care about is that the present Government ensure their safety and security. Statistics of past events do not give them a sense of security now.

The other handy excuse that this Government including the National Security Advisor liberally uses (and even the previous Government used in its time), is to blame the foreign hand ‘across the border’, viz. ISI or even worse, some mafia dons sheltered outside the country. The implication is that the mention of the foreign hand, ISI and mafia dons explains and excuses everything. In actual fact, assuming that the terrorist activities in the country are being master-minded from outside, it is a grave admission of failure to protect the country from external aggression. This is so because even whether inspired or instigated from outside, the terrorist acts take place on the country's soil. If a single agency of a small country is capable of wrecking so much havoc within the borders of the largest democracy in the world having false notions of being a super power, what does it say for the country’s preparedness to deal with more serious external threats? Is external aggression in this day and age confined only to conventional warfare? How can the people be ever sure that its Government will not capitulate against such threats when it is doing so in the face of clandestine activities of ISI? Does the Government have no lessons to learn from countries like the USA and Israel? Has anyone in the Government ever thought of the implications of continuously blaming outside forces? Is this not sheer helplessness? Incidentally, if even with borders closed the external aggressors from across the borders can enter the country at will, how would the Government ever hope to control such activities when it proposes to open its borders on both sides of the country? Factually too, it is now very clear that more and more, these activities are being initiated within our own borders and many of the perpetrators are mere kids whom our Home Minister also refers to as ‘bachhe’.

Next in its arsenal is the denial mode. The Government is used to simply denying its own responsibility and placing the blame on the States so far. It is only after Delhi has been targeted that this blame game has become subdued somewhat.

The next excuse is the alienation that some of these terrorists might have felt due to poverty, lack of education, lack of job opportunities etc., leading them to take to randomly killing innocent people. This amply shows the mindset of the Government which, on its own finds excuses and justification for the terrorists. Are there not tens of millions in the country who are in a similar situation of deprivation and lack of opportunities?

The next deliberate tactic is to talk of forming a new federal agency. This is just a delaying gambit and designed to keep everyone engaged in a new debate. There are enough problems of coordination, information-sharing, jurisdiction and scramble for taking credit for any successes even amongst the existing agencies and to add one more would amount to ensuring that the war against terror does not succeed. To create diversion, add some spice and inject false hope in the younger generation of Congressmen, there is also talk of having a Minister of State for Internal Security. What then are the existing ministers and departments under them supposed to do? Does it imply that so far the subject of internal security has been a no man’s land with no one responsible? If at all a new department is created, it would serve the purpose of avoiding any responsibility on anyone for events that have already taken place affecting internal security and placing future blame on some junior minister.

The Congress has perfected the fine art of putting the blame on others. Sadly for them, people have seen through their game. Consider three different statements from the Congress in different contexts. First, the blame for terrorist activities is often placed on the demolition of Babri Masjid structure by crowds of Hindus in 1992, 16 years ago. This event is still being offered as an excuse for acts committed by boys who were not even born or were just toddlers when the event happened. No one in right mind can believe that boys in their teens or twenties could have been so greatly influenced by an event about which they could have only scant knowledge, as to organise and train themselves and kill hundreds of innocent people all over the country. The second statement is the blame Oscar Fernandes the Minister for Labour placed on the industry when a CEO of an international firm having manufacturing in India was killed by a group of employees. “This should serve as a warning to managements” a completely blasphemous thing to say, meaning that the killing of the CEO was justly deserved. The third statement was made by Sheila Dixit, CM of Delhi when a female journalist was killed in Delhi recently. She said to the effect that the journalist should not have been so adventurous to move out at a late hour. Such an expression may perhaps be not out of place in drawing room or private conversations but people were shocked at the public utterance of a Chief Minister. This was perhaps a wrong choice of words. But then she also talked of the employer's duty! The common thread running through all three examples shows how deeply certain ideas are ingrained in Congressmen whose first instinct is to blame the victims or others and not those who take law into their own hands based on their perverse justifications.

This is the 'ethos' of the Congress, and the ill-effects of which are being experienced by the people.

Apart from the political failures, it is now high time also that the focus of the stage lights is brought on the bureaucracy and intelligence and security agencies at the Center as they are the key players with a huge reponsibility, much of which has to be fulfilled in the normal course regardless of political decisions. These agencies have failed miserably. The bureacracy in India has always found it convenient to cleverly hide their own incompetence and inadequacies by keeping away from public glare. A large part of the responsibility has to be placed on the somnolent, indolent bureaucracy reeking of ineptness and lack of seriousness, secure in the belief that they are not accountable to the people, as the political bosses would always be there to face the heat. This is particularly true at this point in time as regards the Ministry of Home Affairs and agencies connected with it, even the office of the National Security Advisor. The mind-set of the bureaucracy is exemplified by what the present head of the pack in the Ministry of Home Affairs Madhukar Gupta, the Home Secretary said after a blast.

"With every blast we are gaining experience," and "We have been observing that these kinds (of blasts) are happening in cities across (the country) in each incident you learn, gain experiences.”

Is this a serious statement by the chief bureaucrat of the Ministry responsible for internal security of this vast country or a display of stark immaturity? Is he hoping to turn the country into an experimental laboratory to develop a database? It is almost as if he is looking forward to more such happenings to continue gaining more experience and, perhaps, build up enough expertise to advise other governments around the world some day in future! He also said that now the Ministry will come out with a list of 'do's and don’ts' to "fill gaps". Is this trifling statement indicative of professionalism at its best? Babus with such an unprofessional approach cannot be considered fit for the sensitive job of eliminating terror and any other Government worth its salt would have shown the door to him with dispatch. But no, he continues to happily occupy the important seat. The Special Secretary in the Home Ministry looking after internal security also tried to justify that the Ministry was indeed working, saying: “As many as 400 terrorist modules have been busted. They have been prevented from committing blasts or such heinous crimes.” Can credence be attached to such tall claims? If so many modules have been busted, why has this not been proclaimed from roof-tops to bring fear into other terrorists? Where have all these people been tried? And if really so many modules have been busted, by the law of probability, at least 4000 others might still be in existence. It is not hard to conclude that ‘sleeper cells’ exist as much amongst the terrorists as within the Government, the only difference is that the ‘sleeper cells’ within the Government are meant to just sleep. Should the country feel secure with such bureaucrats at the helm?

The litany of woes, excuses and blame games of the Congress and its allies and the mismanagement of the Government is endless. What the above shows is that neither in thoughts nor in actions is the Government fit to protect.

Terror has to be met with relentless pressure on the terrorists. Here, it is the Government that is kept under relentless pressure by even small timers. It is the Government that is being paralysed into inaction by the pressure of the terrorists and not the other way round. And only the common man lives in fear of the system, not the terrorists.

The culpability of the Government is all too visible and no amount of drivel and sophistry indulged in by those from the Congress and its allies who keep defending the Government, makes a difference any more.

Lest they forget the responsibility for the lives that have been lost...
A reminder of the Delhi Blasts