Posts Tagged ‘Hindustan Times’

EDITORIALS FROM SOME OF MUMBAI’S ENGLISH NEWSPAPERS

November 28, 2008

EDITORIALS FROM SOME OF MUMBAI’S ENGLISH NEWSPAPERS:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Opinion/Editorial/EDITORIAL_COMMENT__Its_War/articleshow/3766472.cms

EDITORIAL COMMENT | It’s War
28 Nov 2008, 0000 hrs IST

This nation is under attack. The scale, intensity and level of orchestration of terror attacks in Mumbai put one thing beyond doubt: India is effectively at war and it has deadly enemies in its midst. Ten places in south Mumbai were struck in quick succession.

As in the case of the demolition of New York’s World Trade Center in 2001, Mumbai’s iconic monuments such as the Taj Mahal Hotel, the Oberoi Trident and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus have come under attack. The number of people killed in multiple attacks is 101 and counting, which includes foreigners and senior policemen. At least 300 have been injured.

The terrorists who carried out the attacks are well supplied, armed to the teeth and extremely well motivated. The question now is whether the nation can show any serious degree of resolve and coordination in confronting terror. This war can be won, but it will require something from the political class, from security forces and from ordinary people. It’s time now to move beyond pointing fingers at one another or resorting to cliches such as ‘resilient Mumbai’. It’s also time to end the habit of basing one’s stand on terrorism on the particular religious affiliation of terrorists, criticising or exonerating them using their religion a point of reference. Terrorists have no religion. Political bickering on this issue is divisive; what India needs now is unity.

While Mumbai also witnessed multiple attacks which brought the city to a halt in 1993, this one is different in two respects. One, it is unfolding in slow motion with the world media as witness, which makes for maximum psychological impact. Two, foreigners have specifically been targeted. Sites frequented by them have been chosen for attack and Britons, Americans and Israelis appear to have been singled out.

This kind of attack on India’s financial capital is intended to send the message that India isn’t a safe place to do business. The Indian economy and its links with the world are under attack. On the plus side, there have been unprecedented outpourings of sympathy and offers of cooperation from world governments. All the more reason to make the attacks on Mumbai a transformative moment. There has been talk of beefing up India’s poor infrastructure. Security must now be seen as an essential element of infrastructure, as vital as power, water or transport.

Both L K Advani and Rajnath Singh have said it’s time to rise above politics, which is welcome. An announced joint visit to Mumbai by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and leader of the opposition Advani would send a signal of political unity. Beyond that the PM, in consultation with senior opposition leaders, must draw up a consensus plan about how to deal with contingency situations as well as upgrade India’s security culture.

A host of institutions have been built since the 1980s when India first encountered terrorism. New agencies, special cells and commando units have come up since then. But how well do we run them, how well resourced are they and is there proper coordination among them to maximise and collate information? According to the home ministry, terrorists sneaked in from the Arabian Sea. They may have sailed past the naval headquarters to blast their way into the city. However, it took a while before the National Security Guards and naval commandos in the city were pressed into action. What explains such delay? Was it a multiplicity of commands or plain bureaucratic lethargy? The point is even in circumstances when personnel and infrastructure are available, planning and execution are shockingly poor.

Constitutional experts must put their hands together to see whether under existing laws any special, but temporary, powers can be given to the security agencies. All major political parties should be taken into confidence to see what urgent steps can be taken to prevent the nation from sinking deeper into chaos. There is a pressing need to restructure India’s security architecture. A federal agency to deal with terrorism has been suggested by this newspaper and now by the PM. A coordinated effort to process information gleaned by state and central agencies should help to transform randomly collected information into actionable intelligence.

The government should immediately work on an internal security doctrine that demarcates the role of various security wings and a clear command structure to deal with terrorism. This should include contingency plans for various scenarios which lay out in advance how to respond to them. Tougher laws, in consultation with the opposition, may also be needed to control terror.

It’s incumbent on all chief ministers to remain on alert and maintain calm in their states. Unnecessary repercussions from the Mumbai incidents need to be avoided at all costs. Election campaigning needs to be kept at a minimum to avoid stretching security too thin. The political class must ensure that communalism of all varieties is kept out of politics.

Besides terrorists coming in from the Arabian Sea, their looking for Americans, Britons and Israelis give the signal that the attack on Mumbai is a spillover from the larger war on terror. Al-Qaeda is, for the first time, feeling the pressure in its Pakistani sanctuaries as it is under Pakistani and American attack. But South Asian borders are notoriously porous. Al-Qaeda affiliated organisations such as Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) have struck deep roots in Bangladesh.

To tackle terror in India it is urgently necessary to stabilise Pakistan and Bangladesh. And, India should seek international help now to upgrade its own security apparatus, but also to stabilise the entire region stretching from Afghanistan to Bangladesh. There is no time to waste.

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http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Opinion/Editorial/TOP_ARTICLE__Neighbours_Create_Trouble/articleshow/3766468.cms

TOP ARTICLE | Neighbours Create Trouble

28 Nov 2008, 0000 hrs IST,

K SUBRAHMANYAM

Mumbai has experienced terror attacks earlier. In March 1993, simultaneous attacks on a number of targets resulted in over 270 fatal casualties.

Their origin was traced to Dawood Ibrahim and his associates who were based in Karachi. The multiple bomb blasts on Mumbai trains killed 200 people in July 2005.

Once again the investigations led to a link between those who carried out the blasts and Pakistan. The present batch of terrorists is reported to have landed close to the Gateway of India in rubber dinghies. The equipment, training and sophistication of their planning and the identity of a suspect arrested in Chowpatty would tend to indicate a Pakistani link.

Unlike in previous attacks when the casualties were all Indians, this time there are foreigners among the dead. There are also reports that the terrorists were particularly interested in US, UK and Israeli passport holders.

While an organisation called ‘Deccan Mujahideen’ has claimed responsibility the Indian agencies do not consider this a genuine claim; they feel that this is a Pakistani jihadi operation.

Since a few terrorists have been captured, their identities would surely be revealed in the next few days. The Mumbai police believe that the sophistication and skill of the terrorists would tend to indicate that they were not locals. It appears that a mother ship had dropped dinghies close to Mumbai. The Indian Navy has intercepted a vessel from Pakistan believed to have been the mother ship. Though in the 1993 operations the explosives came via sea the people who placed the explosives were from Mumbai. In this case, the terrorists landed on the Mumbai waterfront. Though sea-based terrorist attacks have been talked about, presumably those in charge had not paid adequate attention to it.

The counterterrorism efforts in India are fragmented among the state and central agencies. Efforts to have an integrated central agency to deal with terrorism have so far been thwarted by political parties who tend to place their own parochial interests higher than national interests. In the US, where they had a number of federal agencies dealing with different aspects of intelligence in the wake of 9/11 they found that there was inadequate coordination among them.

Hence, there was a failure to assess the 9/11 threat though there were bits of information. Subsequently, a new post of director of national intelligence was created to supervise and coordinate all intelligence agencies. In the biggest bureaucratic reshuffle in US history the department of homeland security was also created with bipartisan support. The terrorist threat India faces is far more severe than the one faced by the US separated from Europe and Asia by two oceans and having friendly neighbours in Mexico and Canada.

India has three unfriendly porous borders and nearly three decades of terrorism and proxy war directed against it. Yet our political parties are not sensitive enough to appreciate the need for intelligence coordination and an integrated internal security structure. Recently the Pakistani government stripped the ISI of its responsibility for political intelligence. Pakistan had to seek a multi-billion-dollar loan package from the IMF and the loan has been sanctioned with conditionalities.

Many in Pakistan have openly resented president-elect Barack Obama’s friendliness towards India. The recent friendly remarks of Pakistani president Asif Zardari towards India have also not found approval among sections of the Pakistani establishment. A section of the Pakistani establishment and the ISI have been attempting to bleed India through a thousand cuts.

The ISI was known to create problems for its own government to advance its interests. Therefore, the possibility of rogue elements in ISI and jihadi elements in Pakistan conspiring to create tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad cannot be ruled out. This would keep ISI’s pre-eminence in Pakistan’s India policy and help it to argue with Washington that increased tension with India rules out Islamabad playing a more effective role on its western front.

The terror attack on Mumbai was aimed at hitting tourist traffic and its commercial relations with the US and other developed countries. It was also intended to club India with the Crusaders (the US and the West) and Zionists (the Israelis). This may look like an act of desperation by the jihadis and their friends in the ISI and Pakistani establishment. In a sense, the jihadis may be attempting to bring the clash of civilisations thesis to its denouement. One should not forget the original ‘clash of civilisations’ thesis was the two-nation theory which the Indian Muslims repudiated by choosing to stay on in India.

The present acts of terrorism is an attempt by the advocates of this thesis to create tension between the two communities in this country. Till now the US and other western nations were not adequately sensitive to terrorism perpetrated against India. This was partly because the casualties were all Indians. This time it is different.

While all evidence points to the involvement of Pakistani elements in the terror acts, New Delhi should at the same time be careful not to walk into the trap of creating major Indo-Pakistan tensions as a new president takes over in Washington and with India facing a general election in the next few months. The country expects the two national parties to get together to formulate a joint strategy to thwart the jihadi attempt to create a ‘clash of civilisations’ in this country.

The writer is a Delhi-based strategic affairs analyst.

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http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Opinion/Mumbai_paradigm_of_terror/articleshow/3766983.cms

Mumbai paradigm of terror

28 Nov 2008, 0101 hrs IST, ET Bureau

EDITORIAL

Even for a country distressingly familiar with terrorist outrages, the multiple attacks in Mumbai herald a new low. The sheer audacity and scale of the attacks, the spectacle of young men armed to the teeth with machine guns and grenades roaming on the streets of India’s financial capital, bring home the fact that terrorism has attained a new sophistication and organisational ability.

To talk of an intelligence failure is almost a truism, yet given that such a large group of men could physically launch attacks on multiple high-profile targets, eschewing the recent pattern of engineering blasts, is a clear sign of an abysmal deficiency in our intelligence-gathering capabilities.

To combat such a new level of terrorism, it is imperative the contours of the extant anti-terror paradigm change. Terror has simply been politicised, with parties using it as yet another electoral plank. The scale of this latest outrage demonstrates the pitfalls of a divisive polity squabbling over instrumentalities.

The need of the hour, and the future, is for political parties to break with past patterns and evolve a clear consensus on how to prevent the recurrence of such heinous attacks. In this context, it is heartening to see that there is some sort of communication between Manmohan Singh and L K Advani.

To ensure a better security culture, and the involvement of every citizen in contributing to it, is also a matter of shaping a thoroughly neutral investigative apparatus. The issue of abysmal intelligence gathering also has to do with the perception of investigative agencies as being partisan.

This has also led to severing of links between effective policing and intelligence gathering and various communities and groups. The prime minister has in the past spoken on the need for wider police reforms, and we could not agree more.

The wider aspect of such reform, however, should also be to address the rifts within civil society at large. The spectacle of young men engaged in such brutally invasive terrorist acts, with no thought whatsoever as to concealing their identities also posits that idea of a collapsed civil society.

And beyond measures such as preparedness and response, the extremism that feeds such fanatical acts needs to be addressed in the wider socio-political arena. That is, without doubt, and as various nations around the world have discovered, the best kind of pre-emptive measure.

That said, installing effective anti-terror mechanisms are also a matter of intra-state and international cooperation. While domestically measures such as institutionalising state coordination among investigative agencies would be imperative, India should now press hard for greater intelligence sharing within the region.

These latest attacks have also demonstrated a new level in the terrorists’ capabilities. The organisational and logistical abilities they have displayed are staggering. Both in the kind of targets chosen, the scale of the destruction and bloodbath, as well as the fact that for the first time, western nationals were sought to be targeted for greater international impact, point to a sharp escalation in terrorist ambitions.

And even the response and management capabilities of the state have been shown to be glaringly low. That such an immense attack, almost akin to a mini-invasion, should have happened in Mumbai, home to one of the more respected police forces in India only underlines that fact.

Another aspect of terrorism relates to how security forces are able respond in a situation where hostages are taken by terrorists. The past 36 hours have shown that the police is not equipped to handle such complex situations.

The National Security Guards (NSG), where commandos are drawn from the army, has the wherewithal to do so. But the NSG has limited numbers and is a national-level organisation. Wednesday’s incident has indicated the need to have NSG-like outfits at the state level so that they can move more swiftly into action when the need arises. The NSG is trained specifically for such situations.

And it would be a good idea to create state-level NSG-like modules, which are ready to act swiftly when such incidents occur.

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http://www.indianexpress.com/news/our-nightmare-our-wakeup-call/391644/

Our nightmare, our wake-up call

Shekhar Gupta

Posted: Nov 28, 2008 at 1038 hrs IST

How does a democracy of billion-plus people respond when a few madmen tear the heart out of its financial capital and shatter its soul? The question has to be asked because it is only adversity of such staggering magnitude that shakes up slumbering, old civilizations to turn it into an opportunity. It is time, therefore, to close rank, unite, focus on the greatest threat of our generation, perpetrators of which have benefited from the fuzziness that partisan politics can bring to most issues in a democracy. Posterity will record this as India’s 9/11. But are we now stirred enough to also respond to it with the equanimity with which the other democracy recovered, and has protected its people in the seven years that followed?
Nothing can guarantee that a small suicide squad will not infiltrate one of our cities and cause mayhem. But a policy of genuine, non-partisan zero-tolerance towards Terror of all kinds would have made the task of such conspirators much tougher. In this case, it seems to have been rather too easy. Sadly, our woolly-headed response to terror over the past five years was not caused so much by any fundamental differences in the way the two national parties look at it, nor because we have had so brilliant a Home Minister that he can tell live, realtime TV, which presumably the terrorists could be watching inside the hotels, that “200 NSG commandos” had left Delhi “at 1.15 (am)” and should be on the job in a few hours. It was caused by five years of surreal politics, rooted in psephology rather than ideology, that communalised our responses to terror in a manner that no other democracy allowed since 9/11. Both sides, the UPA and the NDA, were equally guilty, so while one railed endlessly against “jehadi” terror, the other searched for “root causes” of terrorism. Similarly, when a module of alleged radical Hindu bombers was busted, one side was smiling that vicious, non-stop “Gotcha” smile in TV studios, while the other was questioning the motives of the ATS, and demanding the sack of its brilliant and intrepid chief. At least in his death now Hemant Karkare would have achieved what he could not when alive, to have Congress and the BJP shed a tear for him. Together.

That is the key word: together.

Time had come a long time ago to depoliticise our response to terror just…

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http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?sectionName=ViewsSectionPage&id=57f8f8cb-7f49-4bbf-a2f6-faef3d67ac79&MatchID1=4858&TeamID1=1&TeamID2=5&MatchType1=1&SeriesID1=1224&MatchID2=4862&TeamID3=9&TeamID4=8&MatchType2=2&SeriesID2=1225&PrimaryID=4858&Headline=A+nation+that+cannot+afford+to+sleep

Fri,28 Nov 2008

A nation that cannot afford to sleep

Hindustan Times
November 27, 2008

India is under attack. And along with it, the idea of India is under attack.

When a city like Mumbai is held hostage by marauding terrorists, with its citizens forced to cower in fear under a fog of utter helplessness, any notion that the country is secure ― or will be able to re-establish its sense of security quickly and effectively ― becomes a fanciful thought. This country has had its fair share of experiences with terrorism. One would have thought that our governments, law and order machinery and political establishment would be prepared to tackle and disarm these noxious forces. But the tragedy that continues to unfold in India’s most vibrant, cosmopolitan city has exposed the terrible unpreparedness ― and dare we say unwillingness ― to fight terrorism on a war footing.

The attacks that have crippled life in Mumbai, stunned the nation and the world have also woken up many people from the reverie that saw India as a safe house in a dangerous neighbourhood. Terrorism in the Indian mainland, either perceived as a localised menace or one coming from ‘across the border’, has linked itself to a global phenomenon overnight. If there was any further confirmation needed regarding the borderless nature of terror, India has got it the hard way. Regardless of the nomenclature, the Deccan Mujahideen carries all the hallmarks of the genre of terrorist networks that go under the name of al-Qaeda. This is 21st century terrorism reaching the shores of our country.

Unfortunately, Indian counter-terrorism is still in 20th century gear. Intelligence collection and intelligence coordination are two processes lying at the core of the contemporary war against terror, whether in the United States, Israel, Britain or any other targeted country. India needs to understand that and understand it quickly. It also needs to implement stringent anti-terror-laws. Without these in place, India will still be fighting a contemporary war anachronistically. A department of homeland security is still shockingly a non-concept here. And to add to the general sense of flailing about is the spanner of politics. After September 11, 2001, America came together to fight a common, shape-shifting enemy. Can we as a nation that has known terrorism for far longer ― and with far more wounds to show ― come together to face this nation-crippling assault?

The days ahead will show whether we will be able to survive ‘effortless’ terrorist attacks. It will also show whether we can save the idea of India and the way we live our lives. Playing the headless chicken is no longer an option.

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Time for some meditation By Jyotirmaya Sharma – Hindustan Times

November 24, 2008

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?sectionName=HomePage&id=1a9975a3-6c03-4f3e-8deb-ba0d2134b149&&Headline=Time+for+some+meditation

 

Jyotirmaya Sharma
November 23, 2008
First Published: 19:47 IST(23/11/2008)
Last Updated: 23:35 IST(23/11/2008)

An amusing spectacle is unfolding on most news channels these days: the top leadership of the BJP strenuously arguing that it is wrong to speak about ‘Hindu’ terrorism. These are the same people who demolished the Babri mosque, coining the slogan Garv se kaho hum Hindu hain (Say it with pride that we are Hindus). They are the same people who encourage and incite lumpens to attack M.F. Husain’s exhibitions in the name of preserving ‘Hindu’ culture. The same who glorified and justified the wilful killing of thousands of Muslims in a premeditated, planned and systematic fashion after the Godhra tragedy in the name of ‘Hindu’ pratishodh (reaction, retaliation). Among them are also people who have invented the most hateful, diabolical and misleading formulation in recent times, arguing that ‘all Muslims may not be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims’. Among these very people are individuals who have flouted every norm and tenet, every single article of faith of the Indian Constitution in the name of preserving Hindu asmita (sense of self). Among them are also people who certify Jinnah’s secular credentials, but brand anyone talking about coexistence, civility and debate as pseudo-secularists.

Having said this, I agree with them that there is no ‘Hindu terrorism’, just as there is no ‘Islamic/Muslim terrorism’. But there is something called Sangh parivar terrorism, just as there is al-Qaeda terrorism. Neither Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur nor Osama bin Laden represent their respective faiths, nor do their organisations represent the people who they claim to represent. To push aside misplaced legalism, just as the charges against the sadhvi are yet to be proved in a court of law, even Osama bin Laden has not yet been indicted by a court of law anywhere in the world. The only difference between Osama and Pragya is that the former is unlikely to contest an election in the future and become a member of an elected body. In the case of Pragya Thakur, given the way in which criminal investigations are conducted, there is a strong possibility of her becoming a people’s representative, as she would only be following a ‘great’ tradition. Just as Osama hides in the impregnable mountains of Afghanistan, the likes of Pragya will hide behind the fig leaf of the democratic ‘will of the people’. This is why very few people in the country speak about political, electoral and administrative reforms, and the Indian polity has been penetrated by criminal elements of both communal and secular hues. If a hundred people tell a lie and another hundred believe in it, it does not become the truth — this classical formulation has been conclusively reversed in our country.

The predicament of the Sangh parivar is akin to having a tub bath, where one only floats in one’s own dirt and filth. From the 19th century onwards, apologists of Hindu nationalism have sought to portray Hinduism as a unified, seamless and monochromatic faith. The mess that is Hindutva is a result of this ideological confusion and intellectual laziness. While it argued, on the one hand, that Hinduism was a tolerant, peaceful, inward-looking, all-embracing faith; on the other hand, there was a call to all Hindus to regain their Kshatriyahood and resort to the virtues of biceps and the Bhagvad Gita.

Every proponent of Hindu nationalism encouraged and promoted the idea of retaliatory violence, be it Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo or V. Savarkar, in the name of preserving righteousness and a fictional unbroken, centuries-old Hindu tradition. All of them were ensnared by 19th century definitions of religion and attempted to mould their own faith, as they understood it, in ways that were alien to the diverse strands of ‘Hinduism’.

Without exception, all Hindu nationalists from the 19th century onwards argued that religion was the core of Hindu nationalism, and moreover, that it was the only core of nationalism. They further argued that if the former was true, then, nationalism was the only religion. It is this formulation that allows the likes of Vajpayee and Advani to argue, to this day, that Hindutva stands for idealism whereas nationalism is their ideology. They say so in the belief that this linguistic and rhetorical contortion will go unnoticed, and it often does. It also manifests in contemporary times as Indian middle-class aspirations of envisioning India as an economic and military superpower. Very little time and energy are expended in discussing the constellation of values that will constitute the heart of this putative superpower. Like their 19th century predecessors, the Hindutva votaries are satisfied as long as they can vanquish their real and imagined enemies, at home and abroad, and impose their national socialist understanding of the idea of will to power.

No nation is either entirely tolerant or wholly wedded to violence. Any civilisation is a composite of the pure and the tainted, and from the struggle between the two emerge values that are sublime, civilised and truly human. This struggle is neither a given, nor is it a zero-sum game, and it impels human beings to make choices. Choosing peace, tolerance, civility and truth is not a sign of weakness as the apologists of violence and retribution will make people believe, but a way of sublimating the beast within us. Buddha, Mahavir and Gandhi were not weak men. Why, then, are their spiritual children afraid to take this crucial leap? I posed this question to a Japanese writer, who also writes on questions of identity and nationalism. He paused for a moment and said: ‘They did not have the burden of contesting and winning elections.’

(Jyotirmaya Sharma is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Hyderabad)G

Our terror, their terror – By Vir Sanghvi – Hindustan Times

November 23, 2008

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print.aspx?Id=127e1ae8-03bb-4bd3-ab47-9fe29fb3980f

Our terror, their terror

Counterpoint | Vir Sanghvi

Hindustan Times (Nov. 22, 2008)

Shortly before LK Advani spoke at the HT Summit on Friday, I was
chatting to Ajit Doval.  Though he is not yet a household name, Doval
is a former director of the Intelligence Bureau who was close to
Advani when the latter was Home Minister and he will probably be
National Security Advisor if the BJP comes to power.

As Advani has – by his own admission – been reluctant to say very much
about the allegations of terrorism against various militant Hindus, I
asked Doval how he viewed the arrests and the claims made by the Anti
Terror Squad (ATS).

Doval’s response was that the term ‘Hindu terror’ worried him. There
were, he said, two dimensions to any battle against terror. The first
was law and order. You should treat all terrorists as murderers
regardless of their religions, ethnic origins or whatever.

But the second one had to do with their cause. You always avoided, he
said, any nomenclature that helped terrorists broaden their
constituencies. So, in the 1980s, you never ever used the phrase ‘Sikh
terrorists’ no matter how many bombs exploded. And in the 21st
century, care was taken to refer to ‘Jehadi terrorists’. If you said
‘Muslim terrorists’, you suggested, however subliminally, that the
terrorists represented all Muslims – which of course, they do not.

It was a perceptive point and one that Advani also made in his speech
at the Summit. Though he refused to be drawn further on the subject –
despite an excellent question from an IBN7 correspondent – Advani said
that he was unhappy with the phrase ‘Hindu terrorists’.

I have no real problem with Advani and Doval’s position. The bombers
do not represent Hindus, and yes, there is a danger that Hindus may
subliminally feel that the terrorism was conducted on their behalf if
we refer to those accused of the killings as Hindu terrorists.

But listening to Doval, I got to thinking about the extent to which
the allegations of ‘Hindu terror’ have changed all the rules.

I have always been suspicious of the claims advanced by various police
forces about their successes in the fight against terror. One simple
fact should illustrate why I believe my skepticism is well-founded:
the police keep changing their minds about who is behind the blasts –
and yet, each time they claim to have cracked a case, they advance
these claims with an air of certitude.

Take the Samjhauta Express bombing. When it took place, we were
assured with great authority that the bombers were jehadis, acting
under instructions from Pakistani terror outfits. Now, we are being
told that they were the Hindus who the ATS has in custody.

To go from blaming Pakistani jehadis to pinning the blasts on militant
Hindus is a 180-degree about-turn. Yet our security services show no
embarrassment about the complete shift in stance.

Or, take the example of the last spate of bombings. Four different
police forces have arrested four different ‘masterminds’. Men who were
described as being in the Osama bin Laden league are suddenly not
talked about at all.

All this is indisputable. And if you enter the more controversial area
of encounters, the police come off even worse. Nobody seriously
disputes that many of the people killed in so-called encounters have
actually been shot in custody. The dispute is over whether they were
ever terrorists to begin with. Once a suspect is dead, the police
don’t have to bother with evidence. They make whatever claims they
like and when you challenge these, they resort to the obviously bogus
explanation: “If he was not a terrorist, then why was he firing at the
police?”(Which, of course, he wasn’t….)

There’s more. None of us doubts that torture is routinely used to
extract information from suspects. And, by and large, this practice
has widespread public support.

Consequently, when any of the suspects or their lawyers or human
rights organisations protest about torture, we pay no attention. Of
course, the police are going to use third degree methods, we say. It’s
a question of saving lives.

Such is the attitude of many of India’s politicians – and especially
those in the BJP – that to raise even the most obvious questions about
claims advanced by the police, is to act in an ‘anti-national manner’.
How dare we demoralise our security forces, we are told.

I know this from personal experience. Every time I have raised
questions about encounter-killings or excessive claims made by police
forces, I have been roundly condemned.

The most notorious instance was the famous Ansal Plaza encounter where
the police took two suspects to the parking lot of a shopping mall and
shot them. Then they announced that they had foiled a terrorist
strike. Advani was Home Minister (and Doval was number two in IB) and
he congratulated the police and associated himself with that ‘triumph
in the war against terror’.

When the HT queried the police version, even those BJP leaders who
should have known better called us anti-national and questioned my
patriotism.

We do not know yet whether the recent Batla House encounter was
conducted in the way the police claim it was. But given that there
were legitimate questions to be raised, and given that the police have
a record of lying, it was entirely understandable for people to ask
for explanations. But even then, those who raised questions were
called unpatriotic.

I was reminded of all this while listening to Advani and Doval because
the Sangh Parivar has now conducted a 180 degree about-turn on the
police version of terrorist arrests. Worse still, the BJP now says
that the Anti Terror Squad frames innocent suspects.

To recognise how astonishing the BJP’s about-turn is, think of it this
way. Suppose those accused of terrorism were not Hindus but Muslims.
Suppose it wasn’t a sadhvi but an imam.

How would the BJP have reacted?

First, it would have emphasised the ‘jehadi conspiracy against India’
angle to make Hindus insecure. Then, it would have condemned those of
us who questioned the arrests as traitors.

Assume now that Muslim organisations had banded together to attack the
police in the way that the Sangh Parivar and assorted sadhvis and
sants recently did. We would have been told how shameful it was that
Muslim leaders had ‘communalised’ the situation. The BJP would have
suggested that the Muslim leadership actually approved of the
terrorism. And it would have been said that the spectacle of mullahs
and politicians coming together to question the institutions of a
secular state demonstrated that Muslims had no real loyalty to India.

And yet, the way in which the BJP has responded to the arrests goes
far, far beyond anything that Muslim organisations have done or said.

If it was anti-national to question the Ansal Plaza encounter, then,
by that same yardstick, Rajnath Singh is a traitor for running down
our anti-terrorist squads.

Even Advani, who clearly recognises that there is a double-standard
involved, has written to the Prime Minister complaining about the
torture of one of the suspects. But if a Muslim politician had
demanded that the Delhi police do not torture a Muslim blast suspect,
the BJP would have vilified him.

It is not my case that the Hindus accused of violence are guilty –
they are innocent until the police can prove otherwise in a court of
law. But the BJP cannot take the line that when the cops arrest
so-called Muslim terrorists, they are never to be challenged.

It’s only when they arrest Hindus that we can accuse them of framing
the suspects!

That shameful double-standard exposes the hypocrisy and prejudice at
the root of the BJP’s approach to terror. The party is not really on
the side of the police at all. All that sanctimonious nonsense about
how it is ‘unpatriotic to question our brave security forces’ is
quickly forgotten the moment Hindus are arrested.

We can now see what the BJP’s message to the police really is: arrest
all the Muslims you want; we will back you unthinkingly. But if you
dare arrest a Hindu for terrorist violence, we will attack you from
the highest platforms.

So yes, Advani and Doval are right. We should not use the phrase
‘Hindu terrorists’. But that’s because we shouldn’t communalise
terror. Not because no Hindus are terrorists. Or because all Muslims
are.

And one more thing: now that the entire Sangh Parivar says it is our
patriotic duty to claim that the police tell lies, frame innocent
people and fabricate cases, can all of us who were called
anti-national for merely raising a few questions get an apology
please?

It’s the least Rajnath Singh can do.

— counterpoint@hindustantimes.com