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Deliver us from all evil

The strident calls for the re-enactment of the Pota by the BJP as the only way to succeed against this battle against terror is missing the woods for the trees, writes Sitaram Yechury.

india Updated: Apr 02, 2009 14:52 IST

India’s battle against terror is taking a bizarre turn. At the outset, it needs to be underlined that this is a battle that India must win. On the issue of strengthening internal security, there can be no compromises. At the same time, the unity and integrity of India is non-negotiable. This means, the celebration of our vast plurality and diversity in all its forms.

Seen in this light, the Uttar Pradesh Bar Council’s refusal to appear for those charged with acts of terrorism is not merely unfortunate but counter-productive. This only further emboldens the feeling of alienation among youngsters from the minority communities bolstering their sense of ‘perceived’ injustice.

Such feelings of the system being unfair is also strengthened by conflicting versions of the encounter that took place at Jamia Nagar in Delhi where Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma and two youngsters were killed. The massive house-to-house search operation launched in Azamgarh has also failed to throw up any evidence that the police were confident of obtaining. Bank accounts of alleged terrorists believed to contain some crores turned out to contain a few hundreds.

If these operations, however, lead to nailing the guilty behind the bomb blasts in Delhi, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Bangalore, then this would be a great advance in our battle against terror.

Further, this battle can’t be won by identifying terrorism with any one single religious (or any other socially categorised) community. At the expense of repetition, it needs to be recollected that we lost Mahatma Gandhi, a Prime Minister and a former Prime Minister to the bullets of terrorists, none of whom were associated with any Muslim outfit. Similarly, various outfits in the North-east — apart from Maoist insurgents — claim the lives of innocent people. The Deoband fatwa declaring that terrorism has nothing to do with Islam has, unfortunately, not stopped the proclivity of many to jump to conclusions. Terrorists, simply, are anti-national criminals. They need to be combated without any sense of prejudice. Failing to do so can only be counterproductive.

The strident calls for the re-enactment of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) by the BJP as the only way to succeed against this battle against terror is missing the woods for the trees. When Pota adorned the statute books, Parliament, the Red Fort, the Raghunath temple, the Akshardham temple etc were attacked by terrorists. Pota, clearly, could neither prevent these attacks nor could it help in apprehending the culprits. It is not the inadequacy of the law but the efficacy of our law and order apparatus and intelligence-gathering system that needs to be strengthened.

Our law and order establishment still functions under the Indian Police Act enacted in 1861 to subjugate the ‘Natives’. It is unfortunate that this anachronism continues despite the recommendations of various commissions set up to look into the issue of police reforms since

Independence. The National Police Commission, the Law Commission, the Ribeiro Commission, the Padmanabhaiah, Soli Sorabjee and Malimath committees — to name a few — have all made various recommendations to bring the law and order apparatus in tune with a modern secular democratic civil society. Many of these recommendations still lie unattended.

Considering the fact that law and order is a State subject, the Union government has posted on the Home Ministry’s website a Model Police Act. So far, no single state government has enacted legislation, due to serious differences that remain unresolved, in full conformity with this. In 2003, the NDA government under L.K. Advani’s Home Ministry had accepted recommendations for the creation of a multi-agency centre to strengthen our intelligence-gathering apparatus. Of the recommended additional 3,000 Intelligence Bureau personnel, 1,400 posts have been sanctioned, the remaining are yet to be filled.

If the battle against terror needs to succeed, then these inadequacies need to be urgently addressed. Simultaneously, the State must not merely appear to be fair in dealing with terrorist outfits of all hues but must establish and practise its impartiality. On this score, the continuing attacks on Christian minorities spilling over into various states is sharpening communal polarisation. This, however, appears precisely to be the objective of the tentacles of the RSS like the Bajrang Dal that have been claiming the responsibility for such attacks in many places. The credibility of the secular democratic republic crucially rests on the impartial manner in which it deals in curbing such attacks.

Unfortunately, the politics of communal polarisation for the sake of petty electoral benefits are tearing asunder the unity and integrity of our country. Majority communalism and minority terrorism only tend to feed off each other. The casualty, as always, is innocent lives and the very foundations of modern India. India and its unity can be preserved only by strengthening the bonds of commonality that run through its vast diversity; not by imposing a uniformity on this diversity. This is precisely what the communal forces seek to do, thereby undermining the modern secular democratic republic. For the sake of India, for the sake of Bharat, these must be defeated.

Sitaram Yechury is a Rajya Sabha MP and member, CPI(M) Politburo.