Political Failure in War on Terror
The continued politicking dealt a serious blow to India’s ability to fight terror as Opposition sought to embarrass the Government more than solving the issue while the senior Ministers sought to divide the country further on the basis of religion.



The continued politicking dealt a serious blow to India’s ability to fight terror as Opposition sought to embarrass the Government more than solving the issue while the senior Ministers sought to divide the country further on the basis of religion. The Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) introduced an adjournment motion castigating the Government for non-performance on terrorism knowing fully well that the motion will be defeated. The BJP’s only suggestion was that the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) needs to be reenacted was stoutly rejected by Home Minister Shivraj Patil who did not have any constructive ideas of his own on how to combat terror.

Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani, who moved the motion, sought to counter the criticism that the motion was intended to divide the House. On the other hand, it was to point out that the Government's response in meeting the challenge was not adequate. He said the BJP had never accused any particular community of indulging in terrorism and “that a terrorist is a terrorist and terrorism and civilized society cannot co-exist.” Patil himself said that the Government did not accept the view that the people belonging to one religion or community were terrorists and that “those indulging in terrorism do not know religion.” Advani retorted saying “We say POTA is anti-terror but you say POTA is anti-Muslim” and accused the Government of “communalizing the war on terrorism.” Finally, Advani led a walkout stating that the Opposition was totally dissatisfied with the Government's response.

A careful study of both means that statements would show that both parties were saying the same thing but disagreed because of the BJP’s insistence that POTA is the only way to solve terrorism and Patil’s concerted effort to make the BJP look communal and anti-Muslim.

Most members were vexed by this grandstanding tried to praise the spirit of Mumbai and tried to rally members to work swiftly and remained united and speak in one voice against terrorism. The question is whose voice that would be. In earlier days, a Congress Government under Indira Gandhi relied on a Communist Chief Minister to rout Naxalism. Another Congress Government under Narashima Rao sent Opposition leader and formed Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to present India’s case on Kashmir in Geneva. Rao also sent another Opposition Leader and former Prime Minister IK Gujaral to present its case in the United Nations. The Lok Sabha was even united to pass a resolution saying that Kashmir “was, is, and will forever be an integral part of India.” Those days of unity on crucial national issues are gone and are being increasingly polarized on religious, caste, and language lines.

Patil’s plans read out of a textbook and outlined measures that should have been in place for the last 2 decades. He talked about setting up a coastal police with fast patrol boats but did not say how this is different from the Coast Guard. He talked about raising another 300 battalions of Central police forces but did not reveal how he plans to combat terror in the interim. He surprised everyone that he will now come up with a mega city policing plan when there was enough intelligence to show attacks on urban population. He promised to make extra efforts to strengthen intelligence gathering but did not reveal how he

plans to do this. He wanted to modernize the police forces in the States but did not say how. He promised to seek International cooperation but did not say what he was going to ask them—there are already multiple forums dealing with terrorism internationally and India is already part of 12 such forums. He said terrorism was no longer confined to the border areas but had spread to hinterlands—again something that everyone knows and nothing is being done by his ministry to contain it. He also revealed that the borders were secured through fences on the western and eastern sides—which is an overstatement as continued Army and intelligence reports say that infiltration continues at a greater pace. He said that terrorists were entering the country by sea and air which is again not new information as his own intelligence agencies have been saying the same thing.

In a classic display of narrow, selfish, and self-serving politics, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad tried to link the rise in terrorism to the demolition of the Babri Masjid and accused the BJP as the original perpetrators terrorism. He trivialized organized terrorism by mocking the events leading up to and subsequent handling of the Kandahar hijacking. While most members from the treasury benches laughed at the joke, the failed to see the seriousness of the issue. The unfortunate lack of political accountability process in India will continue to provide cover to those who take the death and mayhem of terrorism as means to lampoon political rivals.

Most countries have adopted laws that are more stringent than POTA to fight terror and India is the only nation that has discarded stronger anti-terror laws for the wrong reasons. The biggest problem with POTA is that it lacked due process, checks and balances, enforcement requirements, and oversight mechanisms. Draconian laws such as POTA are intrinsically bad and have the propensity for misuse. There were many instances when POTA proved most useful to catch criminals but were also abused to nail political opponents. Instead of strengthening those weaknesses, political leaders chose to abort the law and compromise the safety of the nation.

However, POTA alone is not the answer. The measures cited by the Patil are shockingly pedantic and it is surprising that many of these measures are already not in place. What India needs is unity, clarity, and cohesion in thought, practice, and deeds.