A Strong Political Will, a National Level Combat Force and an Effective Judiciary – Prof. Arindam Chaudhuri

What happened on 9/11 is something that the world would never forget. Memories of the twin towers coming down are impossible to erase but more than that what made this event even more ‘memorable’ is the manner in which the US government has gone around hunting for terrorists in Afghanistan, and followed it up with an engagement in Iraq, thus changing the future course of global geo-politics. Similarly, 7/7 would also remain a memorable day as that brings forth the memory of the gruesome London blasts; and more than that the way the UK police had gone about chasing the perpetrators of the crime, making the incident even more unforgettable, almost giving a new definition to terrorism. What the US did to Afghanistan and then to Iraq would always remain a matter of contention globally, and has left a lot of room for criticism, but then the way the Indian government has been sleeping on terrorism over the past so many years, and allowing innocent citizens to be killed, is probably worse than that. This is evident from the fact that unlike 9/11 and 7/7, there would be very few people who would remember the following dates – 3/12 (1993), 2/14 (1998), 10/1 (2001), 12/13 (2001), 9/24 (2002), 5/14 (2003), 8/25 (2003), 8/15 (2004), 7/5 (2005), 10/29 (2005), 3/7 (2006), 7/11 (2006), 9/8 (2006), 5/18 (2007), 8/25 (2007)… People don’t remember these simply because the government itself has slept over the corpses of hundreds of innocents who were blown up by bombs somewhere in the country. Forget about a national consensus for combating terrorism, the government is still in a denial mode about the very fact that terrorism exists in the country. This attitude is evident from all the ghastly incidents that have occurred over the past decades and the manner in which the government has gone about handling them.

Starting from the Mumbai blasts on 3rd March, 1993, to the Hyderabad blast on 25th August, 2007, all of them have been a horrifying reiteration of the very same fact that terrorism in India exists and that the Indian government is in a state of perpetual amnesia. Oh yes, the Special Task Force of the Andhra Pradesh Police is surely investigating the twin blasts. But you can take it for granted that just like in the previous cases, the moment the media attention goes away (which it inevitably will), the issue would die its unnatural death. In fact, after a point of time, even media would lose its focus as in this country, too much talk on serious issues becomes a sore point for the public at large; and as such, such ‘socially-oriented’ programmes are bound to lose out on the TRP ratings. Politicians in general and successive governments in particular have taken advantage of this short memory of our citizens and have never bothered to devise a strong anti-terror policy. As a result of this, innocent citizens continue to bleed even after a decade.

Reports state that in 2006 alone, a total of 3,033 terror incidents happened in India. The figure for the year 2007 (till July 31st) has been 1579, and one should not be surprised if by the year end, the tally breaks the previous year’s records by a huge margin. Recent reports further state that the number of people who have died in terror related incidents from 1994 till 2005 in India is a shocking 47,371, of which Jammu & Kashmir alone accounts for 32,677 deaths. Again, these figures do not include Naxalite related deaths – for which one can safely add another 7,000-8,000 to the total count over the eleven year period. Incidentally, in 2005, Naxalite related deaths accounted for 1,594 casualties while the figure for the same period in 2006 was 1,509.

Shockingly, the attitude of the government is glaring when it comes to the state of police and special investigative agencies, our main combat force to counter terrorism! With shoestring budgets, corroded equipment and overworked manpower, what better can one expect. To get an idea of how much the police machinery is understaffed, one only needs to compare the ‘cop to population’ ratio of the western countries to that of India.

Whereas on an average there are 250 cops for every 1,000 people in western countries, the UN recommended figure of having 222 cops for every 1,000 people is a distant dream compared to the Indian statistics of 122 for every 1,000 people. In certain parts of India, it would be tough to find even 50-60 cops for every 1,000 people. To give an example of the utterly dismal situation, one look at the Special Operations Group of the West Bengal CID (which is responsible for counter terrorism) would be enough – the group has barely 13 personnel and one old Ambassador car to take care of the entire state. Similar is the condition in most of the states barring few. But in reality, political interference and bureaucracy stand as the biggest hurdles for any investigation to conclude.

Frankly, it is not difficult to combat terror – for that, we have successful home grown examples like KPS Gill, who almost single-handedly uprooted militancy from Punjab. What is needed is a strong political will coupled with a national level combat force and an effective judiciary to deliver prompt and befitting sentences to the perpetrators. More than anything else, given the lack of political will, it is the common man who can collectively force policy makers and politicians to act tough on terror, enact more stringent provisions in our laws and make sure that those who are involved with the execution of brutal terror acts are dealt equally brutally and judiciously.