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Act together, don’t play politics

Vigilance is the price for democracy and instead of blaming each other, political parties must meet the terror threat united, writes Pankaj Vohra.

india Updated: May 19, 2008 02:22 IST
Pankaj Vohra

The aftermath of the gruesome Jaipur serial blasts that left more than 70 persons dead and scores injured has brought into focus an absence of a national policy to deal with such tragedies. The BJP in general and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje in particular introduced an element of politics in the incidents on the same night itself. The Union Minister of State for Home Shriprakash Jaiswal in his eagerness to be on TV displayed his ignorance on the subject. The Congress, by stating that intelligence inputs were given to the Rajasthan government and on time, was unable to sustain the argument after a statement attributed to National Security Advisor (NSA) MK Narayanan claimed that the agencies were not adequately informed about the terror attacks themselves.

The tragedy was further politicised after Vasundhara Raje and her BJP colleagues, apparently on an impulse, ordered the verification of Bengalis living in Rajasthan who had voter I-cards or ration cards but had given their original addresses to be of some place in West Bengal. The action has been ordered following a suspicion that Bangladeshis masquerading as citizens of Bengal had come to live in Rajasthan and had to be sent back. There is no denying that citizens of Bangladesh, who are staying illegally in Rajasthan, Delhi or any other part of India need to be sent back, but the objective of the Rajasthan government appears to be to target Muslims in the guise of action against Bangladeshis. The BJP is consciously using the tragedy to further its political agenda. Demands for introducing the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 (Pota), or other draconian laws have already gained momentum. One fails to understand why Pota or any other such law should be introduced when existing laws are sufficient to deal with any problem of law and order or of terror. POTA, in its earlier incarnation, was misused more than it was used properly and India is not a police State where the police needs to be given so much power when their accountability is suspect. In any case, the need of the hour is to first arrest those responsible for the blasts and bring them to book. In the absence of any concrete arrests, the talk of POTA or special laws loses relevance. The police has to arrest the culprits to regain the confidence of the people. The Rajasthan government would also do well if it addressed the problems faced by the victims of the blasts and put pressure on the police agencies to arrest the suspects. Harassing the voter ID cardholders on suspicion of their being Bangladeshis will lead to further complications and if Bengal retaliates with a similar action against residents of Rajasthan in its state, the matters will unnecessarily become ugly.

The Congress, the BJP and all other political parties must understand that there has to be a unified approach in dealing with terror. It is not a question of which party government is there in which state or centre, it is the question of putting India’s interest above everything else. On security issues there is no point in trying to score brownie points over each other.

Now coming to our intelligence-gathering abilities, which seem to be under fire from all quarters. The observations attributed to the NSA are of a serious nature and the government, especially the political leadership, must take corrective measures immediately. The NSA too must insist on adding more muscle to the intelligence-gathering apparatus. If the political leadership feels that there was a need to once again make the Director of Intelligence Bureau and the RAW chief report directly to the Prime Minister and not through the NSA, the change-over should take place immediately. A person of Narayanan’s seniority will know the importance of all this as he himself while he was the Director of Intelligence Bureau used to brief the PM directly.

It is in no way going to dilute Narayanan’s responsibilities but the new mechanism may directly bring in the political leadership into the picture. Both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister Shivraj Patil cannot absolve themselves of responsibility if something goes wrong. The NSA is to assist them not to substitute for them. Narayanan is one of the best cloak-and-dagger guys we have had but he can only become doubly effective if the political leadership also gets involved and the intelligence agencies start working on actionable intelligence. The IB needs to get more teeth and if the government feels that officers other than those already working in the IB can help in toning up the agency, the decision should be taken. After all senior officers of the IB go and join as DGPs in other police organisations at the fag end of their careers. Why shouldn’t a good investigator from a state police, for instance, be brought into the IB to tone up its intelligence-gathering abilities?

The Jaipur blasts should be seen as a wake-up call. It is not a mere coincidence that the blasts have taken place when an internal tug of war is going on in Pakistan, the country responsible for such blasts in the past. While Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif fight it out, Pervez Musharraf is becoming stronger. The blasts also coincide with infiltrations on the Jammu and Kashmir border and show that ISI is not under the control of the elected government in Pakistan.

It is also premature to presume that HuJI of Bangladesh is responsible for the incidents as there are indications of the involvement of Simi also. All these outfits operate in close coordination with each other and keep on changing names. The Jaipur blasts could be the handiwork of those behind the Ajmer blasts, which the authorities had claimed, had been worked out. The moral of the story is that vigilance is the price for democracy and instead of blaming each other, political parties must meet the terror threat united. The country is above politics. Between us.