CMs must accept a central mechanism to fight terrorism

Last Updated 24 February 2013, 16:58 IST

Yet another assault on the integrity and social stability of India. Yet another blame game. These are the first reactions of the average citizen, lucky not to have perished at the hands of a mindless terrorist, who owes his loyalty to a hostile neighbour for no apparent benefit.

Initial official response was non-committal and therefore facetious. When the evidence became tell-tale there came the grudging acknowledgement that the ghastly occurrence in Dilkushnagar of Hyderabad on the evening of February 21 was indeed a terrorist attack. The rattled commoner is not interested in who did it and why he did it. He is only concerned that the government had once more failed him. The Hyderabad twin blasts have again proved — if proof indeed was needed — India’s incapacity to stave off the terrorist. The embarrassing comparison with the resolve and roaring success of USA in crushing all attempts to destabilise public order in that country may be irksome. But the comparison is unavoidable. In spite of all what P Chidambaram did to borrow the best practices of US we are still a non-starter, and look comical to a foreign eye.
 The fight against terrorist is still incipient, and the inputs I get from knowledgeable observers in Mumbai are to the effect that the ‘Maximum City’ is still very much vulnerable despite tall claims to the contrary and the huge post-26/11 investment. Against this backdrop, Hyderabad’s 21/2 does not come as a surprise. It was waiting to happen ever since the two infamous hangings. While both were legally sustainable and we need not be very defensive, the secrecy that shrouded both actions left a lot to be desired. The refusal to grant even a brief interaction between Afzal Guru and his family was even more galling. So much so that ‘speed post’ has now become a synonym for ridicule and cruelty even where a judicial penalty was well merited.

Any analysis for the benefit of the ordinary Indian, who is traumatised by the repeated inroads on his security, will have to necessarily deal with at least four aspects of the scene. These are the motive of the assailants, role of Intelligence, strengths and weaknesses of police at the cutting edge level and the politics that envelops any exercise to make India less of a prey to prowlers from across the border. 

The Indian Mujahedeen (IM) is a fashionable name that our enemy has given to himself in order to mask the identity of his masters operating from the hospitable Pakistan terrain. The Laskar (LeT) is continuously in search of a proxy wherever he operates, and he has found one among the hugely discontented Muslim youth in India. These young Indian citizens believe they have no hopes for even modest economic success (to which they are entitled to as Indian citizens) in a heavily Hindu-dominated country. They cannot be totally faulted. Some of us who have traversed the length and breadth of the country know how genuine their grievances are. I do not want to pontificate on whether such violence flowing from such a state of mind is justified or not. The fact remains that the Muslim youth feels he deserved a better lot, and there are vested interests — both religious and non-religious — who are ready fan the flame. As long as this remains the case, the IM will have no shortage of recruits. We are stuck with this phenomenon, and any conscious strategy to outwit those harming the concept of Indian nationhood will take at least a century to bear fruit.

Usual controversy 

There is the usual controversy that goes under the broad caption: intelligence failure; this is an expression that is annoying to the core. Terrorist organisations are  normally well knit and are impervious to infiltration by intelligence agencies. This is the real problem that counter-terrorism exercises experience. In the present case, all police forces in the country knew of the highly surcharged feelings generated by Afzal Guru’s hanging. There was therefore a need for high alert. Remember that the explosions came within a fortnight of the execution, and there was no case for any let-up of guard. In my view the Hyderabad blasts confirmed what we already knew that grass roots policing was indeed the weakest link of the chain. Also every one of us is aware how street-level policing has been totally diluted by political interference and the venality borrowed by the police from their political mentors. 

We have to rebuild our police stations as centres of executive excellence and public service. The painful fact that the 10,000-odd police stations in the country are far from being such centres. Both the political executive and officers of the elite Indian Police service have to bear the cross for this unpardonable neglect. It is not too late to work on this, provided chief ministers shun politics. They should not see a ghost in everything that the ministry of home affairs (MHA) does. The latter has any number of blueprints which are cost effective and offer swift down-to-earth models.

One bane of the Indian setting is the Constitutional position that ‘policing’ is solely the province of states. The latter jealously guard this prerogative, except when they receive a dole for modernisation of police forces from the Centre. This situation has come about partly because of New Delhi’s own misdeeds vis-à-vis a state ruled by an Opposition Party. One example is the vagaries and caprice that characterize the management of the IPS. 

The concept of a National Centre for Counter-Terrorism (like the one US built after 9/11) has been shot down by some of the states because of the mistrust between the two parties. There was a feeling when Chidambaram’s well conceived plan misfired that the concept had not been properly sold. After Hyderabad, the states have no business to continue to oppose this needed mechanism that would become a single window for quick exchange and analysis of valuable information. Let us hope that sustainable wisdom will prevail over avoidable acrimony and suspicion. The NCCT is a vital tool to fight terrorism. It is an experiment that will do more good than harm if the chief ministers sink their egos and show themselves accommodative to a good cause.(The writer is a former director of CBI)

(Published 24 February 2013, 16:58 IST)

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