UPA Deliberates On Terrorism and the Role Of Police

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has finally realized that its government cannot take the political risk of remaining quiet about the noise made in the recent past about its anti-terrorism policy having certain weaknesses. The flaw in the approach has surfaced more prominently in the recent weeks with the Batla House encounter (September 19), in which two suspect terrorists (Muslims) and an inspector were killed, being criticized as a fake one. Besides, revelations made about involvement of extremist Hindus in several terrorist incidents, including the Malegaon blasts (September 29), have shaken the government to begin giving greater importance to weaknesses in the country’s law and order system. Not surprisingly, while speaking at the annual meeting of Director Generals and Inspector Generals of Police, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh laid stress on the need of strengthening the country’s police services. The theme of the two-day conference, organized by the Intelligence Bureau (IB), was terrorism (November 22-23).

“Terrorism is now recognized as the main scourge of the modern world,” Singh said. Though crediting police for its success in preventing many terrorist incidents, Singh accepted that “a single incident of reasonable magnitude causes repercussions, and calls into question the capability and the capacity of the government and its various agencies.” “The globalization of terror has made terrorism an all encompassing danger,” he said.

Giving stress to the need to effectively check the virus of “communal violence that threatens the secular fabric” of Indian society, Singh said: “Whatever be the circumstances, the police must not remain passive spectators, when deliberate efforts are made by communal elements or others to disturb the peace.” Singh underlined the need for “restoring the faith of people- especially those belonging to religious and ethnic minorities and the weaker sections – in the impartiality and effectiveness of the police.” The police must win the people’s trust, as he said: “An adverse image of the police undermines its efficiency. It makes your task so much more difficult. Your work is with, and amongst, people, and you require their support, understanding and help. You need to win the trust of civil society. You need understanding from and rapport with the media. Above all you must carry conviction to one and all about your impartiality and honesty of purpose.”

“The inability of the intelligence agencies and the police to obtain pinpointed and actionable intelligence and in time has enabled these outfits to carry out some high-profile attacks,” Singh pointed out. Despite the police facing certain limitations, including “inadequate” resources, they could still do a “great deal,” Singh said.  Signaling his government’s aim to ensure a proper-networked security structure, Singh suggested establishment of Task Force, which would within 100 days come out with a road map on detailed steps that need to be taken immediately to overcome the limitations prevalent in the system. “The Task Force could be chaired by the National Security Adviser with suitable representation from the central and state agencies,” Singh said. He suggested development of integrated capability through closely networked intelligence collaboration and upgradation of both human and technological intelligence to address problems related with extremism, terrorism and insurgency.

The preceding day, during his inaugural address at the conference, Home Minister Shivraj Patil described terrorism as “nothing but a kind of violent cowardice.” “Religions or cultures do not preach terrorism,” Patil said. Ruling out possibility of introducing any law similar to or tougher than Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), Patil said: “It is not possible to have a law like POTA on the statute book.” Patil, however, pointed out that provisions required to facilitate investigation of cases related to terrorism, which do not go against basic principles of criminal justice and human rights were being looked into. “Law making is a balancing act, which should aim at doing real justice which means punishment of the culprits and protection of the innocent, solve problems and not creating more problems.  If real culprits are punished, terrorism will be controlled.  If innocent persons are punished, terrorism may find justification to exist, which should be avoided,” Patil said.

In India, “Terrorism is visible in Jammu & Kashmir, in the North Eastern states, in some states which are covered with thick forests and which are not developed as other parts of the country are, in hinterland and in some cities of importance, for trading and industrial activities,” Patil said. While laying stress on the measures that need to be taken to effectively counter terrorism, Patil acknowledged the media’s role in “creating awareness about it (terrorism) and alerting us all to take steps to control and nip it in the bud.” Among the measures Patil suggested to counter terrorism, include provision of more funds for strengthening forces, more police stations, more training centers and modernizing transport & communication facilities. 

“The best weapon, which can be used to counter terrorism, is intelligence,” Patil said. Acknowledging that intelligence machinery which is with the states “is not strong enough,” he said: “It is, therefore, necessary to strengthen them without delays.  The union intelligence agencies are stronger and better equipped.  But, they also need to be strengthened further. Steps are being taken to strengthen them.”

What stands out in statements of both Singh and Patil is their acknowledgement that the lacuna in country’s own policy and system is considerably responsible for having failed to check the terrorist incidents that have taken place here. This may also be viewed, to a considerable degree, their silent but definite rejection of the noise made by saffron brigade (extremist Hindus associated with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) about holding only Muslims and their organizations as responsible for terrorist incidents in the country.


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