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Free of all zealots

Real security will only come when the principles of democracy are implemented in every part of the country, and when our children grow in an atmosphere of humanity where religious faith is put to the test of reason. Until such time, we will remain at the mercy of zealots, writes Anand Patwardhan.

india Updated: Dec 09, 2008 21:41 IST

The sorrow is still palpable in the city. And now comes the blame game and the ‘solutions’. Loud voices amplified by saturation TV say: ‘Why don’t we create new anti-terror laws? Why don’t we arm our police with AK-47s? Why don’t we hit the enemy like Israel and the US do?’ Terror is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It thrives on reaction, polarisation and the thirst for revenge.

<b1>Thirty years ago, there were two countries my passport forbade me to visit. One was racist South Africa, the other was Israel. Today Israel and America are our biggest allies. Is it surprising that we are on the jihadi hit-list? Rich countries may be able protect themselves. But can India cover itself with an impenetrable shield? India is a ‘soft target’. Our vast population, land and coastline are impossible to protect. The Taj and the Oberoi can be made safer. But can our railways, buses, markets and lanes be made so?

India is also a country divided by class, religion, caste and language. Some jihadis are home-grown. Perhaps the most famous one was Nathuram Godse who murdered Mahatma Gandhi. Jump ahead to December 6, 1992, the day Hindu fanatics demolished the Babri Mosque. The riots, blasts and pogroms that followed over the years have been the bloodiest since Partition. At the core, these organisations that admire Hitler nurse the hate of historic wrongs inflicted by Muslims. Ironically, they remain admirers of Israel.

On the Muslim side of terror are scores of disaffected youth who may have seen their families tortured and killed. It is clear that no amount of spending on defence, patrolling the high seas or strengthening the military and police can place India inside a bubble of safety. Just as nuclear India led not to safety but to a nuclear Pakistan, similarly no amount of ‘homeland security’ can make us feel secure.

Draconian anti-terror laws can only breed more terror. In Narendra Modi’s Gujarat after the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Muslims in 2002, despite scores of hidden camera confessions to rape and murder, virtually no Hindu extremists were punished while thousands of Muslims rotted in jail. The same happened in Bombay despite the Shiv Sena being found guilty by the Justice Srikrishna Commission. Removing democratic safeguards guaranteed by the Constitution can only make this worse. Every act of wrongful imprisonment and torture that follows is likely to push innocents into the waiting hands of terror. Murderers of Sikhs in Delhi in 1984 and of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 remain free. Increasing the powers of the police cannot solve this problem. Only honest and unbiased implementation of existing laws can. It is a tragedy that an honest policeman like Anti-Terrorist Squad chief Hemant Karkare, who was investigating the thread of ‘Hindutva terror’, was gunned down by ‘Muslim terror’. So Islamic and Hindutva jihadis do serve each other. Do they care who dies?

I am not arguing that we do not need efficient security at public places. But real security will only come when accompanied by justice and when the principles of democracy are implemented in every part of the country, and when our children grow in an atmosphere of humanity where religious faith is put to the test of reason. Until such time, we will remain at the mercy of zealots.

Anand Patwardhan is a Mumbai-based documentary film-maker.