Sunday, July 27, 2008

India losing to terror

The country again wakes to a morning that is laden with the news of the increase in number of dead and injured in another bomb blast that took place in the country somewhere. This time it was Ahmedabad and one day before it was Bangalore. Who knows by the time I conclude this write-up another blast would have ‘rocked’ the nation.

Since October 2005 when a bomb went off in the crowded Sarojni market of Delhi, just a day before Diwali in which more that 60 people died, 11 more such incidents have rattled India. The most deadly being the July 2006 serial blast in Mumbai’s trains in which over 200 people were killed. And not surprisingly we cannot say that we have been able to solve the case or even figure out the identity of the perpetrators. In most cases the obvious answer that one gets from the investigative agencies is the SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India), the HuJI-B (Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami Bangladesh) or the HuM (Harkat-ul Mujahideen).

The country witnessed its first major strike in 1992 when the financial capital of India was rocked. It was aid that the fundamentalist behind the Mumbai attacks were avenging the demolition of Babri structure and the subsequent riots. Then also the think-tank of this country has talked of formulating counter-terrorism policies that would make future such strikes much harder.

In very simple terms Terrorism is violence, or the threat of violence, calculated to create an atmosphere of fear and alarm. Terrorist acts are intended to produce effects beyond the immediate, having long-term psychological repercussions on a particular victim audience. The fear created by terrorists may be intended to cause people to exaggerate the strengths of the terrorist and the importance of the cause, to provoke governmental overreaction, to discourage dissent, or simply to intimidate and thereby enforce compliance with their demands.

Terrorist actions are generally carried out in a way that will achieve maximum publicity. Unlike other criminal acts, terrorists often claim responsibility for their acts.

None of the two major political parties, the Congress or the BJP can escape blame when it comes to who stands tall on the criteria of which of the two countered terrorism efficiently.

In the early 2000 when the BJP led NDA was at the power the country saw two major terrorist strikes that will be forever embedded in our memory. The Hijacking of the aircraft IC 814 and the attack on the Indian parliament which till then was considered impregnable and unthinkable.

The Indian Airlines flight, IC -814, carrying 178 passengers was hijacked on 24th December 1999 after it took off from Katmandu. The aircraft landed at three different places (Amritsar, Lahore and Dubai) before it flew to Kandhar. No counter-hijacking action was taken while the aircraft was still in the Indian airspace. In fact the pilot of the craft deliberately delayed the departure of IC814 from the Amritsar airport and waited for more than half hour to give the Indian establishments chance to mount a takeover. His wait was in vain. Later the then national security advisor, Brajesh Mishra stated that while the plane was still in Amritsar he had given instructions to the security agencies to shoot at the tyres of the craft so as to make it immovable. He also very candidly admitted that his instructions were not heeded to; why? Even he doesn’t know.

Brajesh Mishra at that time was no ordinary man or a bureaucrat. He was the national security advisor and the closest confidant of the Prime minister, even LK Advani who at that time was the Home minister couldn’t boast of sharing the same intimacy with Vajpayee when it came to Mishra. And if he says that his instructions went ignored then we can well imagine the whole anti-terrorism machinery the country had at that time.

It can be termed as nothing but a diplomatic failure that Vajpayee led government was not able to take either Pakistan’s or Saudi Arabia assent for a commando-led operation to take control of the craft when it was still in their respective airspace. Surely a commando operation was more feasible in Pakistan or Dubai rather then Afghanistan as it was subsequently discovered.

The subsequent chain of incidents are well- known as the Indian government had to resort to a face-saving exercise and release 3 dreaded terrorist in return for the safe release of the passengers aboard the ill-fated aircraft.

The then foreign minister personally took the terrorist to Kandhar. The three were Maulana Masood Azhar, Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar and Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh.

After his release Maulana Azhar set up Jaish-e-Mohammad in early 2000 which is accused of the deadly attacks on Indian targets, including one on the parliament in Delhi in December 2001.Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar after his release renewed the activity of Al-Umar Mujahideen in Muzaffarabad, close to the LOC, in recruiting and training of young Muslims to the independence war in Indian occupied Kashmir.Zargar while in custody revealed his enormous hatred for Non-Muslims especially Jews, Hindus and Christians and once famously said "If you want to end these terror strikes in the world then either accept Islam or wipe out Islam" .

The last of the freed terrorist who was once a LSE attendee, Sheikh Omar Saeed was later arrested by Pakistani police on February 12, 2002, in Lahore for his involvement in the Pearl kidnapping and sentenced to death.

The whole IC 814 incident the way in which it was handled is a terrible blotch on the BJP and India as a whole and is often used as an example of “how not to deal with hijack situations”.

Though the terrorist strike on the parliament was thwarted by the individual bravery of the sentinels yet it pointed out the glaring deficiencies in the over-all security setup of the seat of democracy and the weakness and failure of the intelligence gathering mechanism of the country. It was not the first time that the intelligence agency had failed us. Kargil was happening right below our nose and we were in deep slumber.

Since then the terrorist strike have increased at an alarming level and on an average a major terror strike is being carried out at a period of every 3-4 months.

Although the security agencies have been successful in busting quite a few modules, the most recent being the SIMI module which was taken out in Indore which led to the arrest of scores of SIMI operatives including the arrest of SIMI chief Safdar Nagori and the discovery of many nefarious designs, yet terror has no sigh of abetting.

Terrorist too are evolving and now have took a liking for soft targets and are shying away more and more from hard targets like military bases. Soft Targets are relatively unguarded or difficult to protect from terrorists, and therefore yield a higher probability for a successful attack. The recent blast in the markets of Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Delhi confirm this shift of pattern.

Similarly they have also adopted the serial bombing method which are more ‘productive in terms of the number of deaths and have a more deep impact psychologically. Also since the serial bombing doesn’t require huge amount of explosive device at a single place, they stand a much better chance of being undiscovered hence causing maximum damage.

After every such strike the political establishment wakes up and the President, the Prime Minister and the various political parties issue statements of condemnation. The Home Minister issues stern warnings that terrorism would not be tolerated and that the terrorists involved in the latest attacks would be brought to book. Ministers then visit the hospitals in the city where the terrorist attack has taken place to show their sympathy. And then it gets over.

Nothing concrete is done, some knee-jerk reactions at the state level; transfer of officials is the standard statutory method to mollify the public sentiments.

The country earlier had the stringent POTA laws. The POTA might not have been successful in deterring the hardcore terrorists but it had the desired effect on those minds that were still at the stage where they could be brought back in to the social mainstream. It deterred the gullible minds from taking the path that was both detrimental to them as well as the country.

But the law was revoked after the Congress came to power. In fact Congress in its election manifesto had said that it would revoke POTA if it came to power. It said that POTA was a draconian law and was aimed against the minorities. Agreed that there might have been cases of police excesses under the law but it should not have been done away without an alternative legal tool.

The minority appeasement policy that is followed by political parties in general and Congress party in particular has not helped either. A Former police commissioner of Mumbai said that the state minorities commission, civil rights activists and mohalla committee workers had cautioned the police against conducting combing operations, random checks and make preventive arrests. Time and again intelligence agencies have expressed helplessness in wake of political interference that has hampered the agencies from effectively investigating the incidents

The failure of the implementation of the finding of The Justice Srikrishna Commission report acts like a fuel to fire. It indicted 31 police personnel (from officers to constables) for abetting the rioters. But no action has been taken against the bigger leaders that have been named in the report.

The politicians play their game of linking the minorities to the terror strike. They stand on dais and scream of ‘stopping the state from alienating the minorities’, thereby giving the perpetrators an identity based on religion.

States like Maharashtra has its own set of stringent anti-terror law. The MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act.) which has been termed draconian by some rights activist but they conveniently forget that it’s this draconian law that has curbed the terror incidents in the state. Similar anti-terror laws passed by the Gujarat and Maharashtra are lying with the president office for the past 4 years for its necessary assent and it speaks volumes about the Center’s attitude on its mindset to tackle terrorism.

Terror strikes can never be rid of completely, but they can be minimized to a negligible level. Sets of effective steps are the need of the hour. A closer and increased co-ordination between the Center and the State on measures to curd terrorism is needed. Recently the Central government had issued a high alert warning to all the states asking them to step up vigil, but it seems that either they were not taken seriously or were completely ignored. Also it would be more effective if the special Anti Terrorist squads (ATS) that are present in most of the states work in tandem.

In the long-run political establishment should think of forming a special agency that would specifically deal with terrorism, something in the lines of the IB or the Vigilance agency, both who have a specific nature of job. The agency should be headed by a senior rank IPS officer and should be directly under the PMO so as to reduce political hindrance and interference. This will help in fixing responsibility and channeling of concentrated resources and efforts in the right direction so as to curb terrorism.

Political will to weed out terrorism is the foremost of all. If that is not present then even the best of counter –terrorism measures will be rendered ineffective. Stress should be led on intelligence based policing. Due importance has not been given to the intelligence branch and is most states it is used by the political parties to gauge to mood of the voters and the strengths and the weakness of their rivals.

In the morning of the 22nd of July when the confidence motion was to take place, the CBI chief gave a courtesy call to the prime minister residence. It is anybody’s guess that what the nature of the courtesy call was.

If such terror strikes are not curbed then the demand for a state supported attack into foreign territories and into Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) to destroy the terrorist camps which till now are sporadic in nature will gain more recognition and appreciation and then the situation may get more trickier for the government

A lot of money is required to support intelligence gathering which unfortunately is not happening in this country. Similarly Sensitization of people and greater awareness on sustained basis in the battle against terrorism will pay a great dividend as the terrorist work while staying between us. Also religion and fanaticism should be looked through two very different perspective, they should not be mixed for anyone’s convenience.

Finally our resolve to spring back to life after every such attack is the most effective method that can be taken by an ordinary citizen to combat the evil designs of these terrorists.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Chhattisgarh political - June


Ahead of state polls in Chhattisgarh, development issue seems to be emerging as a buzz. While Chief Minister Dr Raman Singh is riding to retain power on the same issue, three elected panchayat representatives have to go for failing to do “development”.

Chhattisgarh chief minister Dr Raman Singh took a ride state-wide to spell how his government defined and designed development of the state. The 19-day and six-phased Vikas Yatra (development road-show) concluded on June 29 with a big respite for the ruling party that the yatra went on right road.

“The Vikas Yatra was a great success and people responded to it endorsing the development works taken up by the BJP government (since it came to power in December 2003),” Dr Singh said after the campaign that ended in Jashpur on June 29. BJP President Rajnath Singh and state in-charge for party affairs Ravi Shankar Prasad were specially present at the concluding function.

The BJP leadership however have all the reasons to smile. For, the Vikas Yatra that only centred in and around the development issues evoked good response from the people at different corners of the state. The chief minister wholeheartedly sanctioned new development works that would cost crores of rupees.

The campaign started from Maoist-infested Dantewada district on May 23 and ended in Jashpur—the centre of inter state gangs active in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. But law and order was not an issue that was evident the way people clapped for Dr Singh when he addressed gatherings from the stages and roof-top of his chariot (rath).

According to political observers, the BJP leadership is well aware which cards to play in the ensuing assembly elections, due for October-November. Since the issue of development is the biggest card to deal with the anti-incumbency, the saffron strategists know very well that it will hit the right target to counter the opposition party, Congress, which is yet to work out a plan to propel its cadre to election mode.

The faction-ridden main opposition party Congress is struggling to set its home in order before attacking the ruling party. The simmering differences between different camps in the party spilled out in open on June 27 when party activists clashed for an ugly show in Korba in front of senior party leaders who have been entrusted to take the challenges of BJP and ensure victory of the Congress that was rooted out of power in December 2003.

The Congress leaders are confused to tackle the anti-incumbency factors while the BJP has scored over to spell out its development agenda and have gone before the people through the Vikas Yatra well ahead of the onset of election campaign to inform the electorate about its achievements and archives. For the Congress leaders, it would not be an easy task to grill the government on the issue of development.

Had the Congress succeeded in launching a campaign before the BJP’s Yatra, things would have changed as people could not have been convinced with the development formula of Raman Singh. During the regime of previous Congress government headed by Ajit Jogi, the state had no doubt seen a new horizon of development. but the failure of Congress party to encash the issue resulted in its ouster from the power.

The BJP leadership would not commit the same mistake. And the Vikas Yatra strategy stands testimony to it. The party is also planning to take Vijay Yatra (victory campaign) before the electioneering starts on the same issue to consolidate its position before the electorate. The saffron brigade knows the importance of development. And it was in its tenure that Chhattisgarh created history by voting out three panchayat presidents for failing to take up development work.

People of Gunderdehi, Rajpur and Nawagarh Nagar Panchayats on June 17 created history by toppling the President of their respective civic body by casting vote against them by exercising the right bestowed under the state Nagar Palika Act to recall elected representatives.

Under Section 47 (recall of the president) of Chhattisgarh Nagar Palika Adhiniyam 1961, election can be sought to recall the elected representatives if three-fourth of the total number of corporators in the municipal bodies give in writing to the collector that the president has lost the confidence of the body and hence election be held to recall.

Though people’s power ousted the three elected representatives, progress (development) and politics were the main driving force that led to the historic battle of ballots in the three sleepy towns of Durg and Sarguja districts. The corporators blamed the presidents for obstructing the development works and affecting the progress of the panchayat area while moving proposals to collectors.

Bihar Political- June


The rebellion in the BJP against the deputy chief minister, Sushil Kumar Modi, seems to be over in Bihar with the central leadership declaring him as the leader of legislature party following his majority in the organization.The party summoned all the legislators to New Delhi and held secret voting. Modi got popular support in the secret ballots and the party president, Rajnath Singh declared him as the undisputed leader. For the last six months, the deputy chief minister was facing rebellion in the legislature party following cabinet reshuffle in which some influential party ministers were dropped from the cabinet.

The rebel leaders who had been camping in New Delhi returned to Patna after losing the vote of no-confidence and reaffirmed their faith in Modi. The two senior ministers, Ashwini Kumar Chaubey and Nandkishore Yadav, who were leading the anti-Modi campaign also declared their faith in Modi .With Modi returning to Patna after getting support of the central high-command and also his legislators, the BJP is now engaged in preparations for the coming Lok Sabha elections. The central high-command can not dare top ignore Modi,a senior party leader and also a popular leader of the backward castes ,who are deciding factor in the elections in the state. Modi has also backing of the Sangh, since he was former Pracharak too.

New political equations are seem to be developing in the state/The Lok Janshakti party chief, Ram Vilas Paswan, has appreciated the role of the chief minister, Nitish Kumar, in developing the state and declared Kumar was doing better than Lalu Prasad Yadav.Paswan, who is keen to get his wife elected as member of Parliament ,is also trying to have adjustment with Kumar For both Kumar and Paswan, Lalu Prasad Yadav's RJD is the common enemy and Paswan who had contested the last elections without entering into alliance with other parties may enter into strategic adjustment with the Janta Dal(U) to ensure RJD's downfall.

Paswan has tried to establish himself as Mr Clean as he did not come out in the open to support Suraj Bhan, the LJP member of Lok Sabha,who was convicted for life by a court in Begusarai in a murder case. Suraj Bhan,who was elected on LJP ticket in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections is considered the main financer for Paswan.

The Governor,R S Gavai,has been removed mid-way through his five year's term and sent to Kerla.The veteran Congress leader and Kerala Governor, R L Bhatia, has replaced Gavai, who had earned the goodwill of the people and the government as he had improved the academic atmosphere in the state. Due to his efforts as the chancellor of the universities, examinations are now being held on schedule and results also getting declared within stipulated period, in some cases even within three days of last dates of the examinations, as done by Patna University this year. Teachers, even the senior political leaders enrolled on the jobs in different universities had started attending to their classes due to his directives. The chief minister, Nitish Kumar, has taken serious objection to Gavai's removal and claimed it was against the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission, Kumar claimed Gavai had done a lot for improvement of education in the state and got the universities freed from politics as he even got several senior teachers suspended for not taking classes.

Madhya Pradesh political- June


Assembly elections in the state are five months’ away, but all the major political parties including the BJP, the Congress, the BSP, Uma Bharti led BJS and the NCP have already initiated their efforts to chalk out strategy for the polls.

Union Civil Aviation Minister and Nationalist Congress Party's Madhya Pradesh in-charge Praful Patel who was in the capital recently said his party would contest 80 to 100 seats in the state's assembly polls. Though experts feel that the NCP and Congress will go for a tie-up as then they will have a better chance of upsetting the claims of BJP.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will also be playing a bigger role in the forthcoming elections and who knows it may outdo its own expectations. The districts bordering Uttar Pradesh are in the influence of BSP and it might play an important role there. The BSP has already launched special drive to gear up for assembly elections. It has been conducting conventions of different communities throughout the state, in view of implementing 'social engineering' like in Uttar Pradesh. Besides targeting other upper castes, the party is concentrating on Brahmin community.

The party has already conducted conventions of different segments of the society in different parts of the state. Besides, the BSP has become the first party in the state to declare it candidates for assembly elections that are five months away. Following its election strategy, the BSP has already declared its candidates in 62 constituencies. Of them, maximum number of seats has been allotted to Brahmins, Rajputs are on the second, while OBCs are on the third. This has indicated the strategy of the BSP as how it is going in polls in November.

State president of BSP Bhujbal Singh Ahirwar, who’s party decided not to contest civic body polls, is upbeat after the victory of a former BSP worker in the recently held the Malajkhand municipality polls as an independent.

The BJP on the other hand after having introduced 33 percent reservation for women in the party, is working overtime to woo women voters. The party is giving final touches to specially designed campaign to target women. Conventions of women are being convened at district-level and they are being informed about women oriented schemes introduced by the State Government.

Going by the past records of the last assembly elections, there were 3.79 crore voters in the state out of which 1.81 voters used their franchise including 1.12 crore females. The voting percentage in the election was 57.25, which included 62.14 percent female votes. Sensing the important of women voters, the BJP has prepared a strategy to target women across the state. The party has prepared date-wise programmes for women conventions in each district. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who is touring constituencies, is addressing women informing about party’s attitude towards fairer sex. Chouhan has already addressed over a dozen such meetings.

In past four years, the State Government has launched several schemes oriented towards the women. The most recent being 'Usha Kiran Yojana'. Laxmi Yojana has been a grand success and it has been implemented in other states as well. Besides the Laxmi Yojana other schemes like the Janani Express Yojana, Janani Suraksha Yojana, have helped both the women and the BJP.

Chouhan is working on a strategy that walks on the line of striking a rapport with smaller but influential social groups in addition of holding caste and sub-caste panchayats. In the recent past, he has already orgnaised panchayats of Kotwars, women, sports persons, physically challenged, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, farmers, youths and others. The decision of giving pension to MISA detainees was also one of those decisions that may not seem important in the present but it becomes vital when one considers that this not only helped the BJP in gaining support from over 2,000 families but also generated goodwill among the middle and lower class working group.

While the BJP continues to chip away at the smaller groups and working towards strengthening and broadening its support base, the main opposition Congress is still struggling to present a united face of the party and looking for 'big issues' which till now has eluded them . The recent corruption charges against one of the BJP ministers came as a god-send gift, but by the time Congress could wake up and grab the chance, the minister resigned and the issue was consigned to flames.

The visit of Sonia Gandhi did nothing spectacular to lift the dropping shoulders of the state Congress workers. Suresh Pachouri , the state Congress chief it seems is still grappling with the inner intricacies. Congress’s chance of a victory in Madhya Pradesh, like in Chhattisgarh appears grim.



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