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Cry, the Beloved Country

Bomb blasts wrecked havoc in Indian cities in '08

India’s three year honeymoon is over. Terrorism is back in the spotlight, as is communalism. These two elements of violence are interlinked in a vicious circle.  Communal violence unleashed by the BJP’s dogsbodies alienates an already alienated minority.  The sense of alienation, rightly breeds resentment. Resentment breeds vindictiveness, which in turn could manifest itself in the form of terrorism. BJP’s venomous agenda is clear, both at the state and central levels. They live to insight communal tensions in the country, even in places where such things have been unheard of, such as Karnataka. I have always maintained that Bangalore is the most liberal metropolitan city in India, even more so than Mumbai, where nutjobs like Raj and Bal Thackeray appeal to the mob mentality to attack anything un-Marathi. Yet, the recent attacks on churches in Bangalore, not coincidentally under the watch of Karnataka’s first ever BJP administration is very concerning.

That all of this is happening while Kashmir is burning and bombs are exploding everywhere, shows the signs of a cauldron that has long been simmering, going unnoticed by the beneficiaries of the Brave New Economy. It took a seemingly minor incident (the Amarnath board issue) to trigger off massive demonstrations, riots, and renewed calls for azadi in Kashmir. In the midst of all this, that hideous serpent Arundathi Roy, decided to chime in by calling for the independence of Kashmir. She needs to explain what plans she has to save the Hindus in Jammu or the Buddhists in Ladakh from impending slaughter following the independence that she’s fighting for.  I’m yet to see what she has to say about PoK. Does it merge with J&K, thereby creating a seamless state where terrorists west of the LoC can socialize and exchange notes with those east of the LoC on how best to blow up the Parliament? I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any debate over Kashmir’s independence – that’s an issue for another day. I’m questioning, as I always do, her sanity, for adding fuel to the ongoing fire.

While the country is in flames, the only item on our Prime Minister’s mind is inking the nuclear deal with the United States. Never mind that the UPA has come up with no credible strategy to counter terrorism in India despite the deaths of over 100 civilians across three major cities and the 50 undetonated bombs that have been discovered in Surat and Delhi within the past two months alone. What the UPA initially debated was to create a ministry in charge of counter-terrorism. Great. That’s what India needs most. More bureaucracy.

What we need most of course, is an anti-terrorism unit (as opposed to a ministry) at the federal level – something that the UPA is disinclined to setup. India’s problems in Kashmir and in the mainland over the course of the last few years has been insecurity on a local and regional scale. Yet, India is the world’s largest importer of defense equipment. We have the world’s second largest army, the fourth largest air force and the fifth largest navy. We’re armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, apparently preparing for some unlikely doomsday war against an unidentified adversary. Our local law enforcement is a pathetic joke. Sambar-bellied constables, roaming the streets with lathis are unlikely to outmaneuver the highly sophisticated and motivated terrorist. What India needs most right now include:

  • An effective anti-terrorism law, unlike POTA and TADA, that have been used as tools to hold incarcerate minorities without charge;
  • A potent and capable anti-terrorism unit, commissioned at the federal level, that is able to both react to terrorist attacks and deter potential attacks;
  • A potent cyber crimes enforcement unit, commissioned at the federal level, to trace communication between suspected terrorists, analyze equipment and data retrieved from known or suspected terrorists, and pro-actively penetrate terrorist networks, forums, blogs, websites and email accounts to glean as much information about the structure of terrorist organizations in the country, their modes of operation, their financiers and backers, and impending targets of attacks;
  • Better communication between any such federal bodies and state-level law enforcement agencies, and indeed, between state level law enforcement agencies, leaving no room for “I told you so”;
  • An unambigious system to impose curbs on the rights of movement and assembly of citizens as a direct response to a declared threat, or as a response to a terrorist attack;
  • A citizen awareness program, where citizens are educated on potential curbs on their rights during a terrorism-related investigation;
  • A rumor management system to address panic, advise citizens and dispel misinformation;

I’d like to think that establishing such a program wouldn’t be far beyond the capabilities of India. The country, at the state level, will simply not be able to enforce such an agenda, given the disparity in governance, development and financial power between the states. Is there any need for our defense budget to be pegged at 3%? If we allocated 2% or 6% to defense expenditure, would it leave us any worse than Pakistan or any better than China in military capabilities? Can we not allocate a meager 1– 2% towards creating a counter terrorist unit in India? More importantly, which political party has the will to do such a thing? The Congress is notoriously indifferent to matters of national and local security, choosing instead to tow the Mahatma’s philosophy of turning the other cheek. Sorry lads, but we’re fresh out of cheeks to turn. Or do we look to the BJP, a party that hides its ineptitude behind the cover of demagoguery and convenient accusations against Pakistan and the ISI.

Prior to the 1990s, bomb blasts were almost alien to India. They made their grand entrance in Kashmir, appeared again in Mumbai and have now crept into mainland India. New Delhi, Hyderabad, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Mumbai, and Nasik. How many more cities need to be attacked before our politians decide to give a crap?

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