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The citizens united

Mumbai’s response to these latest blasts is more mature. But how should Indians react to repeated terror attacks?

Written by Sanjay Nirupam |
July 29, 2011 12:45:44 am

It goes without saying that the responsibility of providing security to the citizens of our country lies with the government of India. However,the time has come for its citizens to assume some part of this responsibility. In the last 18 years,Mumbai has been subjected to 11 terror attacks. For this,the state and Central governments have faced considerable flak. Post 26/11,there has been a marked improvement in the intelligence network,the functioning of security agencies and the effectiveness of investigative agencies. It is learnt that Central intelligence agencies had given 17 specific warnings of various terror designs to disrupt and sabotage World Cup matches. It is to their credit that the police were able to prevent these terror attempts.

Without prejudice to the aforestated,I accept that the three bomb blasts of July 13 are definitely a security lapse. What exactly went wrong? Intelligence units usually gather information through tapping the communication network used by terror groups; perhaps this time this group did not use their usual network — they always improvise. With each terror attack,we must learn some lessons. It is therefore imperative that we learn something new from July 13. What was the new modus operandi? Is it a new group? There are no definite leads yet,but in the days to come,these questions may be answered.

Terrorism is a global phenomenon. India is surrounded by half a dozen countries with fractured social and political systems. Our borders are huge and unprotected,unlike America’s. With a billion-plus population,and vast underdeveloped localities,foolproof checks are not easy. This is precisely why our roads,malls,places of worship,markets,shops,railway stations,bus stops and other public places have become very vulnerable.

As concerned citizens,we must learn some lessons. Every time there is a terror attack,the public naturally vents its anger on politicians and the government of the day. However,we need to do more. How many times have we reported suspicious persons and activities to the local police? Mumbai police had asked market organisations to set up CCTVs in and around their establishments; Zaveri Bazar,which has been through bomb blasts on more than one occasion,is an example of how they provide important leads.

The anger of the educated classes is also an eye-opener. Earlier,after every blast,an SMS campaign was carried out,some of the messages highly objectionable,like: “Why is it that all Muslims are not terrorists,but all terrorists are Muslims.” Such SMSs have completely stopped for two reasons. First,the educated classes generally believe that Indian Muslims are not in favour of terrorism in the name of jihad. Second,investigations into the Malegaon blasts have provided enough evidence of non-Muslim terror groups. On July 13 it was heartening to see several Muslim and Hindu activists work together. Even the Hindus of Mumbai have realised that their Muslim fellow-citizens are generally not perpetrators of terror attacks,showing the growing maturity of Mumbai’s social fabric.

I expect yet more from the angry educated classes,with regard to their sharp reactions on terrorism-related issues. They have started asking: why waste so much money on the security of Ajmal Kasab,while we are so insecure? Another emotionally charged question: why waste time before hanging Kasab and Afzal Guru? These questions have tremendous emotional appeal. Even I feel like that sometimes. But India must honour its Constitution. We have a rule of law and a credible judicial system. Kasab is sentenced to death by a court; he is allowed to appeal to higher courts,though I am pretty sure even the Supreme Court will uphold the sentence. Even then,he has a right to apply for a mercy petition from the president. Till then,Kasab has to be protected by the government.

Should we have special fast-track courts for terror accused,without a right to appeal? Instead of blaming the system,let us seriously contemplate whether we can change it. If so,we must pressure the government to set up such courts.

Strong and undivided public opinion becomes the voice of the nation,which any political party is bound to honour. However,is such unanimity possible in India? Can the people of India compel the government to act decisively and toughly — despite all the concerns voiced by civil liberties and human rights groups? If so,the government of the day should be given a clear mandate to fight terror,with adequate powers and legal processes in place. For this,our Constitution must be amended. It remains to be seen whether the people of our country wish to enforce such a tough line of action.

The writer is a Congress MP in the Lok Sabha,representing Mumbai North

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