August 27, 2003
The debris may have been cleared from the Gateway of India and the Zaveri Bazar, but they will continue to litter the dreams of the people of this metropolis. The blame game is on already and politicians will reach out over the 50-odd corpses to grab votes.
Let us insulate ourselves from the larger terrorist scene — jihad, ISI, Al Qaida and the Taliban. We need to look inwards. Three issues stand out: how the state has handled sectarian issues; the fallout of government policies on the terrorist scene, and whether our security apparatus can handle terrorism.
Politically, the record of the government — BJP or Congress—in handling terrorism has been pretty shoddy. In Kashmir, the policy has been to do nothing politically, and let the army and the para-military carry the can.
On the broad sectarian front, the policy is to raise the Mandir issue and hence communal passions once again stir the witch’s brew and let police manage the fallout. If the 1993 Bombay blasts could be traced to the fall of the Babri Masjid, the current blasts could take us back to the Godhra train carnage and the Gujarat pogrom that followed.
One is not taking sides here. The Congress government at the Centre fiddled and sipped jal jeera while the Babri structure went down. And it played a leading role in the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi in 1984.
Kashmir, apart, there is a direct link between sectarianism and terrorism. So we can take it as an axiom that anyone who fans communalism is fanning terrorism. Suddenly the temple issue has been brought centre stage —the various and often contradictory statements of leaders, the foredoomed efforts of the Shankaracharya, the rantings of Ashok Singhal bear testimony to this.
If we play down communal agendas, if we don’t have kar sewaks running all over the country in special trains, there will be less motivation for terrorists. But governments have also directly interfered in the policing of riot-affected zones. In Ahmedabad there were reports that ministers sat in the Police Control Room restraining the police from rushing to the aid of beleaguered Muslims.
The constabulary, because of the class it comes from, is very susceptible to reactionary propaganda. The role of the Mumbai police in the 1993 riots came in for harsh criticism. Similarly the PAC in UP has a poor track record in communal riots. Isn’t it ironic that the state in some cases turns a blind eye to killing, then drags its feet in recording FIRs and investigating crime and then appoints a commission to enquire into these very aspects? Then each time the government changes, you play cat-and-mouse with the findings. Where lies the state’s credibility?
An easygoing, free and democratic people are easy targets for mayhem. India is a terrorist’s dream, move where you like, hire any vehicle or house, buy a passport, ration card—even explosives. All you need is money and cussedness a yard wide. And you have communal passions and grouses thrown in. After Blue Star, a section of the Sikh youth was like a gunpowder keg waiting for the terrorist match. All this makes prevention of terrorism very difficult.
Zealots may have taken over from the underworld in triggering blasts. The needle of suspicion points towards LET, Ahle Hadees, and the Jamaat-ud-Daawa. Of course these organisations have a support base in Pakistan. The point though is that our internal politics have given enough motivation for mischief to elements within the country.
The Mumbai police needs to be much more vigilant. Pickets, more intensive patrolling, checking vehicles, surprise checks should be the order of the day. The airport, railway stations, hotels, even bus terminals need to be specially guarded. Many more special teams are needed to sniff out ISI terrorist nodules. The focus of the police has to shift from bandobast and crime to terrorism. Delhi, after two decades of terrorism, is better prepared that way.
The police, with support from the Special Branch and intelligence agencies, are still best equipped to tackle terrorism, because they have their nose to the ground and contacts with the mafia. We don’t need new organisations. After 9/11, the US set up the Homeland Security and a Terrorist Threat Integration Centre. We have a surfeit of organisations. Let us concentrate on improving what we already possess. But having said that, no force or government can guarantee a terrorist-free city. Just as no intelligence agency in the world can predict or prevent each blast or suicide bombing.
The writer, a well-known poet, retired as chairman, Joint Intelligence Committee
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.