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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 110

Terror Talk

By Allabaksh - Syndicate Features

Acts of terror are as tragic as they are reprehensible but no less lamentable is the trail of ugly politics that invariably follows the dastardly acts. Every political party competes first in commiserations and then quickly launches into a pointless blame game. The critics assume that the perpetrators of terror are easily identifiable card-carrying members of recognised parties who are treated with kid gloves by a government that is forever capitulating before terror.

While the government busies itself in dispelling the opposition charge that India has become a ‘soft state’, the opposition presses further with the demand for introducing ‘tough’ laws to counter terrorism. The dubious debate over tackling terrorism is spiced with a blanket denunciation of the intelligence agencies as well as the police for their various failures.

Watching the politicians’ mud-slinging game it becomes apparent that they are no lesser villains because they have used terror either to consolidate their vote bank or to damn the opponents. The politicians have not wasted their energies on finding an immediate solution that is easily and quickly applicable such as pressing for adequate staffing of police stations and various agencies dealing with terror and sensitising the sections vulnerable to the influence of terror masterminds.

Of course, the intelligence agencies are set up to anticipate trouble, whatever its origin or nature, so that a timely warning helps in fending off any impending attack by terrorists. The security forces act on tip off from the intelligence agencies either to capture terrorists before they strike or killing them when they venture into the field looking for innocent preys.

More often than not the post-mortem of terror attacks apportions a greater share of blame on the intelligence agencies than the police. Attention is shifted to inadequacies in staffing the intelligence agencies most of which have to survive with in house rivalries when warding off pressure from politicians. Then there are those who are blind to the fact that such laws have not really brought the desired results in the country raise demands for ‘tough’ anti-terror laws.

Assuming that all the criticism and the demands raised are justified one thing still rankles. A reading of the post-mortem reports of acts of terror over the past many years makes it quite clear that not enough has been done to remove some of the rudimentary flaws in the counter-terrorism mechanism in the country.

What irritates is that while ignoring or downplaying the flaws the government starts talking about tightening its machine by asking the various anti-terror forces to up vigil and so on. In the latest instance of the two blasts in Hyderabad, the government has talked about the need to set up a sort of federal anti-terror agency.

The idea as such may be fine but the fear is that if it is accepted the country may raise one more anti-terror agency that will further duplicate the work carried out by the other intelligence agencies that have existed for long but have not been seen to be very successful. While only someone who has observed or worked in these agencies can talk better on all the reasons for their failures, certain shortcomings of the agencies engaged in counter-terrorism tasks have been clear.

Shortage of manpower is one of them. Many of these agencies are not only short of officers but even the foot soldiers. But going by accounts that keep leaking out of these agencies the bigger problem seems to be the poor communication and lack of coordination among the agencies. Some have tended to blame it on the ego factor; others have suggested that the appointment of ‘outsiders’ as the head of some of these agencies is at the root of the problem. It is no secret that coordination between a state and central agency is not always perfect.

Assuming the government today appoints a super federal spy agency to deal with terrorism and all the experts and pundits applaud it, chances are that its effectiveness would soon be undermined because of trouble within, on account of staff dissatisfaction or some administrative reason that keeps the staff unhappy.

Maybe, a country of the size and diversity of India needs a number of spying agencies to deal with the problem of terror and other crimes. It is the first task of the overall boss of these agencies, the government, to have them properly equipped with not only the right tools but also the manpower. It is even more important to ensure cooperation and coordination among these agencies if they are expected to deliver results.

It must be a matter of worry when after initial breakthrough many terror cases fall by the wayside because one agency did not extend cooperation to the other where the case was subsequently transferred or it refused to share all the vital details obtained during the initial probe in the case. Conviction rates in India seem to be uniformly poor, irrespective of the nature of the crime.

A suggestion that crops up frequently and is supposed to overcome the problem of poor conviction rate is the demand to enact specific anti-terror laws. The BJP, for instance, has been crying hoarse for the re-introduction of a ‘tough’ anti-terror law like POTA.

This BJP demand is another instance of politicians being more obsessed with their own partisan games than tackling the problem of terrorism. The same party had opposed a previous anti-terror law, TADA, by calling it ‘draconian’ and now demands the recall of its clone only because it will show the BJP as being harder in dealing with the curse of terrorism. No need to dwell on this point because neither TADA nor POTA helped in curbing acts of terror in the country.

There may be certain specific reasons for the failure of the ‘tough’ laws of the past, but one that strikes one immediately is that the moment a ‘tough’ law is enacted many in the country, including political parties in the opposition, pounce upon it to denounce it as ‘draconian’ and start demanding its repeal. There will always be some ‘draconian’ provisions if an anti-terror law has to have enough teeth.

In countries like the US and the UK, some ‘tough’ anti-terror laws have been introduced despite criticism by a section of the civil society and human rights activists. The anti-terror laws are getting tough in more Western countries unmindful of the protests from local Muslim community.

In India the ‘draconian’ nature of the law quickly surfaces because of the misuse by the police, often working on instructions from the political executive. The West is generally immune to this problem and hence gets away with ‘tough’ laws while in India it becomes an object of a slander match between opposite parties who give the impression that they care more about their votes than measures to counter terrorism.

- Syndicate Features -

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