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Bullet-for-bullet is the only way

Bullet-for-bullet is the only way

Author: Joginder Singh
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: August 11, 2008

Terrorists have struck again -- this time in Bangalore, Ahmedabad, and Surat -- sending a reminder that they can strike at will at any place at any time. They have used integrated circuits, timers and chips for the first time in their attacks, revealing that those behind the mayhem are highly educated and technology-savvy.

Another new factor is the use of gas cylinders placed with the bombs that killed 26 persons at the emergency ward of the Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad. A similar technique was used last year at Glasgow airport when Indian engineer Kafeel Ahmed, indoctrinated by Al Qaeda, and his accomplice rammed a jeep laden with explosives and gas cylinders into the terminal's wall. The use of integrated circuit chips and gas cylinders has confirmed the suspicion of intelligence agencies that the attacks, though planned and executed by local outfits, have been inspired by an organised, technically-oriented mastermind

The Union Government claims that State Governments were advised to take preventive measures about the likelihood of such terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, all such advisories are only general sermons which anybody without even being in the intelligence set-up can envisage. No specific or actionable intelligence has been provided.

The first salvo was fired by a non-Congress Cabinet Minister after the Union Cabinet Meeting that followed the blast. The Minister was so perturbed that he did not even care for conventional niceties. Another Minister told mediapersons, "I think there is more information in newspapers than what the Home Minister told us (in the Cabinet meeting)."

The political response of the country determines its response to militancy. The only person to come out against terrorism and advocate a bullet-for-bullet policy, apart from Mr LK Advani, is Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. He has said, "How can you initiate talks with terrorists who after attaining training from across the border come to kill you? Either you have to kill them otherwise you will be killed... We may have talks with the neighbouring country, but as far as terrorism goes, there can be no tolerance towards terrorists and they should be dealt with a stern hand."

Unfortunately, whenever a terror incident happens, you can anticipate the standard response and even the language of the leaders. They use the same tone and tenor like "It is a cowardly act" and that "innocents have been targeted" and "very strict action will be taken against the perpetrators". But the ground reality is that such statements and announcements of compensation by the Government to salve its own conscience and to pay for its failure have become a routine affair till the next terrorist attack.

But the sufferer of all such terror attacks is the common man as the leaders are safe with their huge paraphernalia of security. Steps to improve the situation need to be taken -- at legal, diplomatic and people's level.

At all the sensitive places close-circuit television cameras should be installed. New York has more than 50,000 such cameras. Incidentally, perpetrators of the London bombings in 2005 were nabbed with the help of CCTV recordings. These cameras, apart from keeping a record of suspicious activities of likely terrorists, can also help in detecting incidents of traffic violation, eve-teasing and other crimes like pick-pocketing, chain-snatching and rash driving.

The Union Government should set up world class forensic science laboratories in every State capital, of which there is a woeful dearth, apart from pulling up intelligence agencies for their failures. Tech-savvy terrorists need to be met on their own turf.

The Government is giving an impression of being soft on terrorists. All over the world, including in the oldest democracies, laws have been turned upside down to deal with terrorists. But in India, we still have laws framed by the British on the ground that the old laws are sufficient. It is time to bring in new laws on terrorism, thus putting the onus on suspected terrorists to prove their innocence. Every arrested terrorist must be subjected to narco-analysis test to find out his other colleagues and associates involved in the crime. Political parties naturally play politics in every thing they do. It is for this reason that a MCOCA-type law, which is in force in Maharashtra, has not been allowed in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh.

It is imperative that national security should be kept outside the ambit of politics and terrorism should be treated as a national threat and not an excuse for vote-bank politics. We have been hearing for a long time about the need to have a Federal Investigating Agency to investigate crimes like terrorism. The Centre-State conflict over the proposed agency seems specious: If the US can have the FBI despite a full-fledged federal system in which States have far greater autonomy than they do in India, why cannot we have a similar agency?

In fact, the top priority of the FBI is to "protect the US from any terrorist attack". There is simply no such agency in India mandated to take on terrorists at the national level. The CBI, which is primarily meant to deal with corruption, comes in if and when a State refers a case of terrorism to it.

The Union Government can issue an Ordinance creating a federal agency which will function in the States with their consent. In today's situation, there is hardly any State which will not give its consent. The Centre should strike while the iron is hot.

It must be clearly understood that in a country of our size and population it is almost impossible to reach consensus on any issue. But it is the job of the leaders to lead the country and show the will in the national interest.

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