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India attacked in Mumbai

Blasts were directed against the entire nation and not against any one community or region, writes Pankaj Vohra.

india Updated: Jul 17, 2006 02:31 IST

The recent bomb blasts in Mumbai should serve as a lesson for our politicians, who should stop making attempts to derive political advantage from a tragedy aimed at destabilising the country. The blasts, probably the handiwork of terrorist groups funded by the ISI, were directed against the entire nation and not against any one community or region in particular. Therefore, to say that they were revenge attacks for what happened in Gujarat under Narendra Modi is to misread the situation.

Modi himself, or perhaps some of his supporters, may want people to believe that Gujaratis were the real targets since they want to encash on the unfortunate incidents where, among others, some Gujaratis were also killed. But everyone should understand that such militant acts are aimed at the entire country. It is India and Indians who were attacked and not Gujaratis, Marathis, UPwallahs, Biharis and so on. Playing politics is fine when the situation is normal, but to spread incorrect information to boost one’s own image is deplorable.

This is also applicable to a statement attributed to Mulayam Singh Yadav (and later denied) that sought to give a clean chit to Simi, a banned outfit linked with some terrorist organisations, whose role is under scrutiny by investigating agencies. The overenthusiasm of senior Congress leaders like Abdul Rehman Antulay and Arjun Singh, who are reported to have expressed opinions during the cabinet meeting without first discussing the matter with the Prime Minister, was also avoidable since it can send out a wrong message.

The crux of the matter is that when a militant attack takes place in the country, political parties and their leaders should stand behind the government and demonstrate that on matters of internal security and the sovereignty of the country, India is united. This would have a demoralising effect on the militant groups. It should also be understood that the strikes in Mumbai were neither the first by militants nor will it be the last. These groups are bound to regroup and attack soft targets, since their aim is to spread panic in the country and gain mileage from it. There is also a definite agenda of linking militant strikes elsewhere with the Kashmir issue to draw international attention and this is where a united India can give the militants and their benefactors a fitting reply.

It is well-known that in the past, Pakistan, through various outfits operating from its soil, had tried to encourage the terrorist agenda. But for reasons best known to the US, which is on the forefront of the war against terrorism, its approach towards that country remains both soft and cosmetic despite the fact that several Pakistanis had a hand in even the 9/11 incident. India is a country with vast resources and stature and, therefore, it has to find its own way of dealing with matters sternly. The country and its government have to create the perception that instead of only growling, it can even bite if need be. This message is missing and even when the BJP-led NDA was in power, the record of the government was nothing to boast of. While the NDA was often jingoistic in its responses, the UPA government is yet to learn the art of appearing fierce.

Unfortunately, every militant strike ends with politicians trying to outwit each other on the basis of half-baked information and an inability to look at the scenario from a national perspective. These strikes suit parties with communal and casteist agendas. The BJP and the SP, by making a pitch for different communities, may be hoping that their sagging fortunes may suddenly liven up. Unfortunately for them, there is no P.V. Narasimha Rao in our political midst who can help revive their position of the Nineties, when it suited him to weaken the Congress in the northern states. For the UPA in general and the Congress in particular, the secular agenda and the need to keep tension between various communities to a negligible level is more important.

Perhaps there is some truth in the speculation that had the Congress-NCP not been in power in Maharashtra, large-scale riots may have followed the bomb blasts. It is, as a matter of fact, a tribute to the Maharashtra government that it was able to prevent any untoward incident with communal overtones. The strength of this government as also of the Centre lies in their belief that in India, all communities have to live peacefully alongside each other. Islam and terrorism may be synonymous in many parts of the world but in India, no Muslim has so far been found to be involved in major international acts of terrorism.

There is no doubt that terrorist modules exist in this country as elsewhere, but to target one community and hold it responsible for all such acts would be an unwise decision. While there is no denying that those responsible for such acts should be brought to book and given the strongest punishment, no useful purpose is going to be served by insinuations against any community.

Political parties must apply their minds before making statements demanding new laws to deal with terrorists or describing the theory of hot pursuit as a possible counter-measure. The primary task is to first capture the militants, and existing laws are strong enough to deal with them effectively. The need to have special laws are excuses by incompetent or narrow-minded police officials to absolve themselves of the responsibility of nabbing the miscreants. The theory of hot pursuit also has ramifications that need to be looked into thoroughly and if such an action plan has to be pursued, there is no purpose served in talking about it.

Finally, the incidents have once again exposed our intelligence agencies and their inability to give pinpointed information. However, it would not be out of place to say that our internal security apparatus and the functioning of our intelligence outfits suffered setbacks during the previous regime and there is an urgent need to plug the loopholes. The state of R&AW and IB as well as other outfits may not be as good as it should be and effort needs to be put to give these intelligence agencies more teeth. It is for the government as also the chiefs of these agencies to find ways and means of setting things right. But so far as the response to these attacks is concerned, we as Indians should show the world that the design behind such acts will never be allowed to succeed. Between us.