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Manmohan hints at new legislation

india Updated: Sep 18, 2008 00:52 IST
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In the midst of growing demands to strengthen the anti-terror law, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday declared the government was considering legislation to strengthen the anti-terror law and there was no question of being soft on terrorism.

But Singh conceded there are “vast gaps” in the intelligence network.

The prime minister said the Congress-led coalition did not have a “fixed, inflexible or ideological view” on a stringent anti-terror law.

The UPA government, including the prime minister, had earlier turned down suggestions to make the law more stringent, saying existing laws were adequate. The BJP has consistently accused the UPA government of going soft on terrorism.

Singh indicated the change in the government’s thinking. “We are actively considering legislation to further strengthen the substantive anti-terrorism law in line with the global consensus on the fight against terrorism,” he said at the conference of governors, hours before he was to chair the the Union Cabinet to discuss the country’s response to terrorism and defuse the political crisis centered on the performance of the Home Ministry.

The prime minister lamented that the public debate on terrorism had “tended to get driven by politics” and centred on certain laws enacted or repealed by governments of different political persuasions.

Singh also spoke about the local elements in recent blasts that gave a “new dimension” to the terror threats and required greater vigilance by intelligence agencies rather than strengthening security along the borders.
The reference to the local elements was to the shadowy terrorist group, Indian Mujahideen, that first claimed responsibility for the Uttar Pradesh blasts in November 2007 and every subsequent blast.

Singh was, however, quick to emphasise that the role of Pakistan-based terrorist groups could not be minimised and the Pakistan-based terrorist outfits hadn’t stopped trying to set up new terrorist modules.

This was the prime minister’s first public statement on terrorism after the serial blasts in Delhi that put the government, especially the home ministry, on the back foot.