In the interregnum between May 2004 when the Congress-led UPA first came to power, to the present September 2011, India has suffered umpteen attacks at the hands of Islamic radicals, mostly trained and funded and backed by Pakistan and its dreaded Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI). Now, there are enough home-grown terrorists to serve as handmaidens to the ‘religion of peace’.
The terror strikes have taken hundreds, indeed thousands of innocent lives. Numbers are meaningless to a numbed people. Still, we may count some instances that readily come to mind:
– 70 innocent civilians lost their lives in the three powerful blasts in New Delhi on October 29, 2005;
– 21 in the three terrorist attacks on Shri Sankatmochan Mandir and Varanasi Cantonment Railway Station on March 7, 2006;
– 37 on September 8, 2006 in the Malegaon mosque attack;
– 68 perished on February 18, 2007 in the Samjhauta Express bombing;
– 13 died in the Mecca Masjid, Hyderabad, blast on May 18, 2007;
– 42 died on August 25, 2007 in the two bomb blasts in Hyderabad Lumbini Park;
– 63 liquidated in the nine bomb blasts caused by terrorists in Jaipur on May 13, 2008;
– 29 killed on July 26, 2008 in the seven bomb blasts in Ahmadabad;
– 3 on September 27, 2008 in Delhi flower market bombing blast;
– 171 in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks;
– 17 in the Pune bombing on February 13, 2010;
– 18 in Mumbai serial blasts on July 13, 2011; and
– 13 on September 7, 2011 in the Delhi High Court terror attack.
During the NDA regime also India witnessed several terror attacks, including the December 13, 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament that had left seven persons dead and many wounded.
The objective behind these attacks was not only to provoke communal riots in the country, but to destabilize the Indian polity itself. Those who planned and executed these attacks did everything meticulously. But they failed to destabilize the polity and polarize Indian society on caste, communal and regional lines. Instead, the violence united all communities, barring a few vested interests.
Thus the nation frustrated the sinister designs of the Islamic terrorists and their sympathizers and supporters in and outside India, especially Pakistan, and sent a message across the world that Pakistani-sponsored terrorism or terrorism exported from other countries would never derange India and achieve its nefarious goals.
Yet the besieged citizens of India also tried repeatedly to impress upon the government the need to tackle terrorism with seriousness, to enact stringent anti-terror laws and implement existing laws rigorously so that the terrorists and other anti-India elements were isolated, nabbed and brought to justice. But the suffering citizenry was abandoned to god and anarchy by the irresponsible, arrogant and well-protected ruling elite, interested only in votebank politics and fulfilling its insatiable lust for power and pelf.
The Congress-UPA combine in fact taunted the citizenry by propagating zero tolerance for alleged human rights violations. The regime humiliated the men responsible for internal security and the safety and security of the nation by directing those involved in anti-insurgency operations to maintain utmost restraint, even in the face of grave provocation as the terrorists were on a killing spree.
The government itself audaciously, and mindlessly, described the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) as “inhuman” and “draconian” and held out assurances to a certain community that it would give a “human touch” to the anti-terror law that the Army and paramilitary forces needed utmost to bring the situation under control, and protect the territorial integrity of India.
The UPA repeatedly tried to communalize the cult of terror by saying, “Hindu terrorism is more dangerous than Islamic terrorism” (read Rahul Gandhi and flunkies like Digvijay Singh). The political elite hobnobbed, and continues to hobnob, with those denouncing the institution of the Army and demanding demilitarization. All this to appease a particular community, overlooking the grave evils that followed, including direct encouragement to separatists and terrorists.
Matters came to such a pass that the Indian Prime Minister took the astounding position that Pakistan, epicenter of global terrorism, was, like India “also a victim of terrorism”. He humiliated the nation by resuming the composite dialogue process with Pakistan, overturning his own government’s stand that terrorism and talks could not go on simultaneously. The Congress’ preeminent general secretary told the US Ambassador to India that “Hindu terrorism is worse than Islamic terrorism”. Another Congress general secretary openly sided with those with dubious credentials. Previously in 2004-2005, the UPA had repealed POTA.
The terror attack outside the Delhi High Court should have served as a wake-up call for the UPA and Congress leadership. But nothing of the sort happened.
Oblivious to public suffering, the Congress-UPA tried to deflect national attention from the scourge of terrorism.
So, after a hiatus of three long years, the government and party leadership decided to convene a meeting of the Sonia Gandhi-headed National Integration Council (NIC). The agenda – unbelievable as it sounds – was to solicit support of all political parties and state governments for the Sonia-led National Advisory Council drafted “Communal Violence Bill”!
As terrorism returns to the national capital, a conscience-less leadership tries to enact a law to pamper the minorities, especially Muslim and Christian minorities, which have been anyway setting the agenda for the Union Government! Perhaps this was a ‘Welcome Home’ gift to the party president, who could not attend the September 10 meeting as she is still recuperating from her undisclosed illness that took her out of the country for five long weeks.
This pathetic move to shift the focus from Terrorism to Communalism boomeranged with the Prime Minister and Home Minister finding themselves in a piquant situation. At least five chief ministers showed the Congress leadership its rightful place by not attending the meeting at all (Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat). The first four states return to the Lok Sabha more than 200 members out of a total of 542. In fact, the Tamil Nadu chief minister, Ms. J. Jayalalithaa, even took the lead in the weeks preceding the meeting to write to her counterparts, warning them of the perils of this legislation, and urging them to oppose it with all their might. In fact, most of the delegates at the meeting rejected the draft “Communal Violence Bill”.
The chief ministers of BJP-NDA-ruled states, without exception, denounced the draft as reactionary, communally-motivated and a deliberate move of the Congress-UPA to weaken the federal structure of the polity and snatch powers legitimately belonging to the States. Some chief ministers rejected the draft saying it would endanger national unity and help fissiparous forces to implement their nefarious break-India agenda.
The Congress-UPA isolation could be gauged from the fact that all opposition parties, barring the Rashtriya Janata Dal of Lalu Prasad Yadav (who is desperate to find a berth in the Union Cabinet), vehemently opposed the draft bill. The BJP, Janata Dal-United (JD-U), Shiv Sena, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Biju Janata Dal, Akali Dal, CPI-M, to mention a few, united against the proposed bill.
What came as a real shock was the unexpected support extended to the anti-draft bill forces by Paschimbanga chief minister Mamata Banerjee. The Railway Minister, who belongs to her Trinamool Congress party, told media persons on the eve of the controversial meeting that his party would not support the proposed draft in its present form.
Significantly, Congress’ Andhra Pradesh chief minister also did not support the draft. He suggested the Centre should take the state governments into confidence before any such proposal was discussed in the NIC. Thus, he actually opposed the draft in a sense. The speech of the Bihar chief minister (read out at the meeting) was stark – the draft bill, if adopted, would outrage the majority community (read Hindu community) as it would come to believe that it is the majority community that fans communalism and causes communal riots.
So, the Prime Minister, Home Minister, NAC and Congress leadership had to eat humble pie.
The nation needs a relentless fight against terror. It will not listen to such irritating inanities as – what happened outside the Delhi High Court was a “cowardly act” and “we will do our best to bring the perpetrators of terror to justice”.
We have already suffered enormous losses and citizens are at the end of their tether. We want concrete action on the ground. The time for fooling around is over; the time for action has come. This is the national consensus.
The author is former Chair Professor, Maharaja Gulab Singh Chair, University of Jammu, Jammu, & former member Indian Council of Historical Research