I came across this rather provocative article, and while I do not fully subscribe to the author’s views, it nonetheless raises some interesting questions about governance in a democratic system, and the tendency of politicians to subvert the democratic ideals in favour of vote-bank politics.
Having spent a significant portion of my life outside India, in the US and in Singapore, where, in both countries, I was a minority, I cannot help, but compare, the politics of the United States and Singapore. Two diametrically opposed systems as far as personal freedoms and role of government goes, but with one common thread – a citizen is a citizen regardless of ethnicity, religion, or gender, and one law applies to all, criminal and civil.
Comments and thoughts are, as always, requested and invited.
It was a national humiliation
Arvind Lavakare may be 71, but the fire in his belly burns stronger than in many people half his age. The economics post-graduate worked with the Reserve Bank of India and several private and public sector companies before retiring in 1997. His first love, however, remains sports. An accredited cricket umpire in Mumbai, he has reported and commented on cricket matches for newspapers, Doordarshan and AIR. Lavakare has also been regularly writing on politics since 1997, and published a monograph, The Truth About Article 370, in 2005.
Hang your heads in shame, my countrymen. Do it because a dozen-odd terrorists traveled 500 nautical miles of the Arabian sea from Karachi to Mumbai’s Gateway of India, just opposite the grandiose Taj Mahal Hotel and proceeded to humble the city of 16.4 million into utter helpless ness for over 48 hours even as over 125 civilians and some distinguished professional security men lost their lives to the hand grenades and rifle bullets of a fanatical mindset. It was a humiliation worse than the drubbing the Chinese army gave us in 1961.
It was because our motherland, India, is a soft nation, tested and proven so several times. Despite the weighty evidence of Clement Atlee, the Britain’s post World War II prime minister to the contrary, the Congress party brainwashed the entire nation, including the press, that it was the non-violence strategy of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi that brought us independence.
Atlee had expressed fears regarding the rage of Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army as a reason for its decision to give us independence; another reason was that World War II had liquidated the British Empire and left it to ration even eggs to the citizens of England. But Gandhi disliked Bose’s guts and gumption and Nehru sent the officers of the valiant INA to a secret trial in the Red Fort.
Thus, even as the Congress of Gandhi and Nehru, his pampered disciple, ahimsa, non-violence, became the motto of our motherland. So bad has this become over the last 60 years that today even killing a stray dog on the street, however vicious and sick, has become a crime, courtesy another Gandhi, Maneka by name.
Take the more serious issue of terrorism. Excepting during the Khalistan uprising in the eighties that was ultimately doused by K.P.S. Gill and his brave police force, our country’s approach to terrorism has all along been tepid and timid, castrated and impotent.
Because almost all the terrorist acts in recent years have involved Muslims as the perpetrators, and because of the Congress fetish of appeasing the minority Muslim community at any cost, our soft national psyche inherited from Gandhi, our response to terrorism has become a combination of impotence and vote bank politics sought to be covered by rhetoric and pleas for peace.
At every stage of our every “encounter” with a terrorist act, our collective national response has been reactive rather than active, defensive rather than offensive. Public statements are issued, action is promised. Period. Nothing else really happens.
At the base of it all is the shameful fact that we choose to be confused by terrorism. We are not sure whether to treat it as a law and order problem or as an act of war against the nation. Our elite journalists of the print and TV/radio world are not even sure as to whether to describe those who indulge in an act of terror as “militants” or “terrorists”.
Reams of newspaper reports are testimony to this confusion. The latest Mumbai drama was no different as one prominent TV channel kept on describing the killed terrorists as “militants”. Politicians are, or choose to be, equally confused in this simple matter.
Yes, it is a simple matter because the English dictionary will tell you that a militant is one who confronts, face to face, not one who wears a mask; and this militant does not wield an AK 47 or throws hand grenades or detonates a bomb with remote control mechanism.
Further, we have had the phrase “terrorism act” well defined in one of our Constitutional documents right from 1985.
Called “The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order”, it empowered Parliament to enact any law to prevent “terrorist acts” and went on to define “terrorist act” as “any act or thing by using bombs, dynamite or other explosive substances or inflammable substances or firearms or other lethal weapons or poisons or noxious gases or other chemicals or any other substances (whether biological or otherwise) of a hazardous nature.” By corollary, the perpetrator of a “terrorist act” is a “terrorist If you get your concepts right; the right action will follow — provided you love your country more than your political party or your own advancement in political circles.
Tragically, that hasn’t happened in our country so far and is unlikely to ever happen till, heaven forbid, a colossal and unbelievable act of terror paralyses the entire country into a daze.
Just recall some events of recent years. The UPA government that came in 2004 quickly repealed the Prevention of Terrorist Act (POTA) which the Vajpayee-led NDA government had introduced after the ghastly attack in December 2001.
It was not withdrawn because of its stringent features but because it was allegedly misused against the minorities (read Muslims). The basic fact was that the Congress, which heads the UPA sarkar, wanted to appease and win over the Muslims with one more lollipop.
Amusingly enough, any call by the BJP for the re-introduction of POTA or some such tough law is counterattacked by the Congress. “Did your POTA prevent the attack on the Akshardham Temple?” they ask.
Forgotten in this child-like question is that it was POTA that secured the conviction of Afzal Guru. Forgotten is that the acceptance of a confession to the police as evidence (considered a draconian legal provision) was what led to the conviction under TADA of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins.
In several other areas as well, our successive governments have failed to act in ways so crucial to minimize, if not totally stop, the reign of terror that now occurs so frequently that from a tragedy it has become a joke for the cynic.
Take the policing of our urban areas which are the focal points of terrorism. Lt General Sinha recently disclosed that in the last sixty years after Independence the number of police stations in the country has increased by a laughable 15 per cent over the figure of 12,000 that existed then.
In contrast, he says, our population has increased four times in that same period even as policing has become so much more complex than before.
Further, whatever police force available is overworked but underpaid, apart from being manipulated and exploited by their political bosses. That is why, at least Mumbai’s policemen, and policewomen , look so unfit, almost obese, and so blank in face.
Ditto with our Intelligence force. Marginal increase in their strength has occurred, but assignments include assessment of likely performance of the ruling party in the coming elections. And why the National Security Advisor should have been involved so much in the Indo-US nuclear deal as he actually was is a mystery.
Then there’s the human rights industry and our politicians’ concern for it much beyond national interest. And there’s that impractical concern for “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” even in matters of terrorism. If cockroaches had votes and rats had a religion, our politicians would enact a law prohibiting killing of those two living species as well.
Imagine the People’s Democratic Party of Jammu & Kashmir granting pensions from government to families of slain terrorists. Imagine, the Prime Minister himself disclosing his sleepless night over the plight of the mother of an Indian Muslim held in police custody in Australia on suspicion of being involved in a bomb blast but not over the plight of mothers of thousands of his innocent countrymen killed in terrorist violence.
Imagine two Cabinet Ministers oppose the ban on SIMI despite the latter’s proven guilt. Imagine one Cabinet Minister wanting all illegal migrants from Bangladesh to be given full citizenship rights, when it is well-known that many among them have links with terrorists. Imagine another Cabinet Minister approving of a University vice chancellor’s decision to deploy funds provided by a foreign government to be utilized for the legal defence of two of his University students accused of involvement in terrorist violence.
Imagine, lastly, that amounts running into thousands of crores have been spent on the Haj subsidy for Muslims but the security of our very long coastline on the west is so ill-funded that terrorists can come from Karachi across the Arabian Sea to Mumbai without being spotted.
Contrast all of this is typically indolent-cum-idealistic-cum-selfish Indian attitude to the stark realism and patriotism of the USA when 9/11 occurred in 2001. One thing that nation did shortly after that dastardly day was the enactment by the USA Congress of what’s come to be known as the USA Patriot Act. That nomenclature is really an acronym, and the full name of that legislation is “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001”. If a name can arouse emotions, that one certainly does. And however draconian that law has been, it has prevented the recurrence of 9/11.
Unless the whole young nation of ours forgets non-violence as a magic mantra and unless our politicians show a commitment similar to that of the USA to engage in a literal war against terror, we shall continue to allow just about a dozen-odd terrorists to humiliate an entire nation for over 48 hours, even as a naïve Prime Minister calls the Pakistan chief of intelligence to share info with us.
(The views expressed in the article are the author’s and not of Sify.com