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Until terrorists have a change of heart

India must have a proper anti-terrorism law. And, please, let’s not have politics come in the way.

india Updated: Sep 14, 2008 23:35 IST

Very broadly, there are two ways of countering terrorism. One, to have tight laws in place that make conducting terrorist operations as difficult as possible. Two, to fervently hope that the perpetrators of terror — to-be perpetrators included — will have a massive change of heart and come over to the side of reason and life. If the run-up to Saturday’s chain of blasts in Delhi is any indicator, India’s ‘policy’ of counter-terrorism falls under the second category. There is little point at this stage to single out Home Minister Shivraj Patil for the mess we are in today. While his comments after the blasts, about being “extremely sorry for whatever happened” and finding and punishing those responsible sound, were resoundingly banal, the fact is that he is just a voice of statutory confusion.

Going by the way we conduct our post-attack investigations and put into place barriers against future attacks, one would be forgiven for thinking we are new to terrorism. Alas, we have much, far too much, experience. So what comes in the way of taking concrete steps to protect our citizens from turning into terrorist fodder? Politics.

In a polity where everyone takes every opportunity to hold forth on ‘national interest’, we woefully sacrifice national consensus against a common enemy at the altar of political one-upmanship. So after the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) was — rightly — thrown into the dustbin for being a ‘pell-mell law’ that netted more ‘usual suspects’ than those actually involved in the crime, we have had little to show for an anti-terror law. The shameful fracas over the ban on the Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi) — that saw UPA allies lining up to give it a clean chit simply because these parties ‘represented’ minority causes — must have made any potential terrorist smirk. Which is pretty much what the ‘Indian Mujahideen’ message on Saturday was all about. It’s time firmer anti-terror laws are put in place — never mind where the suggestions come from. Unless, of course, we’re still waiting for terrorists to have a sudden change of heart and throw flowers at us.