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Common man's fear factor high in UPA reign

Aug 08, 2008 07:29 AM IST India India

India’s internal security is looking more and more fragile as the country battles terror attacks on a regular basis. Not just terror activities, naxal attacks, too, have brought about a sense of complete public vulnerability. Add to that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, which continues to be at crisis point. Adding more trouble for the Government was the lifting of the ban on the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), which was nothing short of an embarrassment for the UPA. The Supreme Court has stayed the lifting, but the Government has to come up with foolproof evidence in the next 14 days. It has also been 10 days since the bomb blasts in Ahmedabad. The Gujarat police now say that the blasts were carried out by the same organisation that was behind the terror attacks in Hyderabad, Jaipur and Bangalore. But the investigation seems to have come up against a dead end. So has internal security been the UPA's greatest failure? That was the question asked on CNN-IBN show Face the Nation. On the to debate the question were MP and National Congress Spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi; former RAW director, B Raman; and Delhi University Lecturer S A R Geelani, who was acquitted in the Parliament attack case. Target India Bomb blasts, crisis in Jammu and Kashmir, no evidence against SIMI, where is India's Home Minister Shivraj Patil? After every conflagration, Patil makes statements like “Our brothers have gone astray and we have to bring them back to the family fold.” Regarding Mumbai blasts he said, “Government had advanced knowledge but did not know where and when.” On Samjhauta blasts he said, “We have clues but we will not reveal them.” PAGE_BREAK When the Home Minister makes such statements can the public be blamed for feeling insecure? Beginning the debate Singhvi said, “If SMS polls were the index of truth then things would have been different. So don’t go by them. The Home Minister says things, which are supposed to inspire confidence and not to reveal intelligence information.” “The Home Minister is not a person who has advanced knowledge of a terrorist attack. And if that were so then the previous Home Minister should have resigned long ago for Akshardham attack, Raghunath Mandir, Parliament attack and 20 other such attacks. But that is not the point here. We should not be whipping up emotions and creating a climate of insecurity,” Singhvi added. The initial SMS poll results on the show indicated that the Home Ministry did not convey a sense of strength and federal purpose. Reacting to the poll, Singhvi said, “The strength is not conveyed by making jingoistic statements. A sense of strength is conveyed by hard policing.” Rhetoric may not be enough, but experts also say that the Home Ministry has not been able to maintain an image of an agile body that can keep up with new age terror. The Home Ministry has simply failed to come to terms with the new terror realities. Textual and bureaucratic ways cannot solve the problems of terror in India. Taking a cue from the drift of the debate, Raman said, “We are facing a serious problem but it is there because there is no comprehension of the seriousness. There has been a general deterioration as one can see from the details of the judgment of the SIMI case. There is a certain amount of shoddiness and casualness in the manner in which internal security has been handled. And the deterioration can be seen in the police, investigative agencies and the state level.” So who is responsible for the present situation in the country? Today, parents are scared to send their children to school on August 15 because of terror strikes. “I would not want to point an accusing finger at anybody in particular. The fault lies also in the political leadership who are not prepared to come together to deal with such things. They are only interested in scoring points by accusing each other in public,” Raman said. “This is a coalition Government and allies will look at things differently. But it is the job of the professionals in the state and Central level to give proper advice on how such matters should be dealt with,” he added. As the debate gathered steam, the panel focused on the defects in the system. Geelani, who was sentenced to death and had a traumatic time in prison, has maintained that he was targeted because he was a Kashmiri Muslim. Has that fallacy changed or are we still going after the wrong enemy? “The system has not changed. Unfortunately, one community has been targeted for so many years now. If we look at SIMI in particular, the Government has said that the organisation has been behind a series of blasts, but the Centre was not able to find any evidence. After every attack the Government says it is SIMI or HuJI. So you first fix a target and then go about fabricating evidence,” Geelani said. PAGE_BREAKDealing with new age terror tactics In the quest of not being jingoistic, has the Government been unable to recognise that it is dealing with a technologically expert and lethal enemy? “It is very important to remind here that law and order in this country remains a state subject. The problem lies when state chief ministers treat detailed infiltration and advanced intelligence reports as weather reports. It’s very easy to pass the buck by saying the Central Government is responsible for everything. It’s we who have proposed again and again that a central coordinating agency is required to deal with such sensitive issues,” Singhvi said. But as UPA shares poor relations with NDA-ruled states it seems unlikely that such coordination is possible. However, Singhvi argued, “It will only happen if a majority of states decide to give up what they consider to be zealously guarded state territory. What we are proposing is not an encroachment on their powers.” So is the relationship between the Centre and state the nub of all problems? Raman said, “No, I would not say that because there are a lot of other reasons. In such serious issues the responsibility is with the Centre, so they cannot put the blame on the state governments. We have seen in the past during the ‘93 Mumbai blasts, Coimbatore blasts and Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, the Centre played a very pro-active role. But that is not seen anymore.” Responding to Raman’s allegation that the Centre is not behaving responsibly, Singhvi said, “The states have to be ready to give up some power to participate in the Central coordinating agency.” But how could the UPA get SIMI so wrong. It did not have any evidence against SIMI and that led to the ban being lifted. Doesn’t that embarrass the UPA? “If I were to put it the other way around it was a court judgment. The same Government that you are castigating went to the Supreme Court and got a stay on the ban,” Singhvi said. So is the UPA Government any better than the NDA government in tackling terror? Concluding the debate, Geelani said, “Things don’t change with changing faces at the Centre and state level. It is the policy, which has to change. It is the mindset of the investigating agencies, which has to change. The mindset is prejudiced and communal. I have faced it so I know. When you are sitting in front of the investigating agencies it does not seem that you part of a democratic country.” Results of the SMS/web poll: Yes: 86 per cent No: 14 per cent