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POTO in toto

POTO in toto

Author: A R Kanangi
Publication: Afternoon Despatch & Courier
Date: November 24, 2001

Can we trust the police? Can we allow a police officer to be a magistrate as well?

Can we really expect a policeman not to use force - third degree - to extract a confession from an accused.

It would be a big mistake if a confession made to a police officer is admissible in a court case.

Confessions are usually extracted under duress. This is a routine procedure at all police stations. Unable to bear the pain, the accused breaks down and is ready to say anything that the police want.

This is one of the flaws in POTO - the recent ordinance which seeks to deal with terrorism more effectively.

But POTO is a sound strategy. Only it has some flaws and these have to be removed.

It would have been understandable if there was some objection to certain provisions in POTO and a demand for changes, but what we see is a hue and cry - highly suspicious - that POTO should go.

POTO should not become a political issue, but it has given a stick to quite a few parties in the opposition to beat the government with.

It looks like those who want to divide Muslims and Hindus want the terrorism law to be scrapped. For instance, the party of Mulayam Singh Yadav is totally, strongly opposed to POTO. He would not have been so vehement about criticising the law, if perhaps there was no election in Uttar Pradesh in March.

Political ends

Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav is an unscrupulous politician who is resorting to communalism to further his political ends. He fancies himself as a great friend of Muslims. What he is trying to make out is that POTO will hurt Muslims most. It is a law against them - in favour of Hindus. The BJP which is interested in promoting Hindutva and is against Muslims has brought in a bad law.

Stuff and nonsense

We have been too lenient with anti-national elements in the country. We have been lenient to persons who openly say they are not Indian. We have been lenient with persons who receive arms and money from foreign agents and carry on bloody missions. How should we deal with persons who go to Afghanistan or Pakistan, get trained in terrorist camps and come to India and resort to violence?

The Human Rights Commission is wrongly concerned about the campaigns against terrorists in Kashmir. They want the terrorists to be brought before courts and tried. What it forgets is that democratic norms are not applicable to anti-national elements. Any citizen who at the behest of a foreign country commits act of terrorism and resorts to mass murder does not deserve legal procedures available in a democracy.

We have been too lenient to pro-Pakistani militants in Kashmir who have done a great deal of damage to the country. They have resorted to mass murder and got away with it. They are openly pro-Pakistan and implementing Pakistan's proxy war. They have chased away Pandits from their homes -- who today are living under wretched conditions. They have killed women and children. They have eliminated a large number of Muslims who are ardent patriots and pro-India.

We failed to nip the Kashmir trouble in the bud.

It is better late than never. The situation in the region has undergone a drastic change. We are very near a country where terrorist camps are being destroyed and a hunt is on for the world's terrorist number one. There is a global war against terrorism. We are partners in the coalition that is waging the war against terror.

And in the circumstances, POTO becomes more relevant.

If we were alert and perhaps if there was a POTO then, the bomb blasts in Mumbai would not have taken place. And then, Dawood Ibrahim could not have committed the heinous crime without massive and active support of quite a few henchmen.

Such anti-national elements are still in the country.

It is pathetic that anyone can have sympathy for a terrorist who has masterminded the killing of some 7000 innocent people in New York. There have been some demonstrations in the country and there was a riot in Malegaon. And there are organisations like the SIMI which according to Home Minister Chhagan Bhujbal is not even prepared to say Kashmir belongs to India. Whom are they working for. There are some who justify action against SIMI but say similar action should have been taken against Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and the RSS.

None of these organisations is anti-national.

Any person or organisation that is anti-national should be regarded as a terrorist.

Those who commit murders, rape, dacoity are not terrorists. They are criminals. I would say Naxalites who kill and believe that violence alone will get them to power are not terrorists. The fight that the LTTE is carrying on in Sri Lanka does not come under terrorism category. It is an ethnic war.

We have enough laws to deal with crime. And encounters too.

We do not have to apply POTO in such cases.

POTO should aim to deal with cross-border terrorism, with anti-national elements who are traitors and who work for foreign countries.

Just now POTO should be applied mainly to deal with terrorism in Kashmir. There is nothing like a moderate anti-national. If the Hurriyat leaders aid and abet campaigns to help Pakistan grab Kashmir, they too are terrorists. In fact Hurriyat leaders say they are not Indians. They should be promptly sent to Pakistan.

Ground realities

The Congress party is opposing POTO not so much because it is against the provisions of the Ordinance but because it does not want the BJP to win in the one-upmanship game. Of course, in the case of the Congress, it is opposition for opposition's sake.

The Congress does not want the BJP to steal the political show. The anti-terrorism move is a major one that puts many a feather in the BJP's cap.

What it does not realise is that even if it blocks the passage of the anti-terrorist bill, it will be the BJP which will have the political advantage. Well, we wanted to move strongly against terrorism, but the Congress seem to be not at all against terrorism. The BJP will score greater gain if the POTO is scotched by the Congress. The Congress has majority in the Rajya Sabha and it can scuttle the POTO.

It is a matter for concern that a good, necessary, effective measure like the POTO has become a political issue.

We should take into consideration ground realities and take steps to deal with them. Following new, disturbing developments in the region, India has to initiate an effective strategy to deal with terrorism. For Pakistan's ISI, India has become a grand playing field. It has done a lot of damage in different parts of the country - particularly in Kashmir. There are many terrorist bases in Pakistan. We can expect the US to persuade General Musharraf to dismantle them. Until this happens, we need a weapon like POTO.

Let us get ahead with POTO in toto.

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