The Bold Voice of J&K

Willing to strike, unafraid to wound

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Joginder Singh 

It is understandable when one party, after having lost power, says that it will always be the ruling force, to hide its frustration. The losing party does so by constantly blaming the new ruling party, no matter the fact that it itself made many mistakes while it was in power. It is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.
Recently, an Opposition leader referred to the incumbent regime as suit boot ki sarkar. This label may have been worth something had only the accuser never worn a suit himself. Anyway, the ruling party responded that the suit-boot is better than “suitcase” – a reference to the bags of bribe money that had often changed hands in the past decade when the lead Opposition was in power.
Similarly, another member of the Opposition has alleged that the present Government is copying the welfare schemes of its predecessors. Yet, fighting poverty and providing succour to the poorest of the poor is and has been the duty of every single Government. All those who have lost power are out to advise the Government on how to function. A former Minister recently took exception to the Defence Minister’s comment that terrorists have to be neutralised through terrorists. The former Minister demanded that the Defence Minister must withdraw his “terrible” remark.
It would have been better if the former Minister had gone to Jammu and Kashmir and advised the terrorists who do not want mobile phone towers to be installed. Or, he should have pontificated in Manipur, where militants killed 18 soldiers on 5th June. Some leaders practise what they preach and others only sermonise. If the former minister has a formula to finish terrorism, without using any force against militants, he should consider employing it in areas controlled by the Islamic State.
Most of India’s Union Law Ministers have been lawyers themselves. Yet, the country still has laws wherein the onus is on the state to prove that a particular individual is not a terrorist or linked to foreign terror groups The result of such obsolete laws can be seen in the major terror attacks in India, carried out by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists.
India has faced terrorism practically since the country was created. The North-East, central and east India, Punjab, and Jammu and Kashmir have been particularly affected, but no State has been entirely free from terror. In dealing with the terrorists, past Governments have followed the policy of ‘Willing to Strike but Afraid to Wound’. However, with the targeted strike in Myanmar last week, the Narendra Modi Government has indicated that it will be bringing in a welcome change in this policy.
Another problem is that even convicted terrorists are not given full punishment. For example, those handed down the death sentence are usually not hanged. In the rare case that they are made to face the hangman’s noose, the whole episode becomes terribly politicised. Last year, Indian courts handed down at least 64 death sentences, but no executions took place. More than 270 people are on the death row but in the last two decades, only three convicts have been hanged.
India has, unfortunately, earned the reputation of being a soft state. This is because of the policies it has followed since independence. Soon after partition, Pakistani irregulars attacked Kashmir, killed many Hindu residents and displaced hundreds of locals but India did little to protect its people. Decades later, in December 1999, the then External Affairs Minister personally escorted to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, three terrorists who had been previously captured by Indian forces and thrown behind bars, in order to secure the release of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC814. Such steps have sent a message to terrorists that India is a soft state that can be taken for a ride. Moreover, the situation has been made worse by peaceniks in New Delhi who preach patience and oppose any tough action.
It is high time India pays back the terrorists in their own coin. As for terror sympathisers, they should be deported to countries that support terror as a state policy. Also, the media should be requested to exercise restraint when reporting on terrorists to avoid the latter unnecessary publicity. Most importantly, it is the actions of Government that will make all the difference. If the Government indulges in quixotic schemes, then the terrorists will continue their reign of terror. For example, India allowed Kashmiris, who had migrated to Pakistan more than 20 years ago, to return to this country. This, as expected, has created much trouble in Kashmir.
As a nation, we are more bothered about the rights of those accused of terror rather than their victims. This approach must change. Currently, Indian laws require eye witnesses for successful prosecution. But how do find witnesses for terrorists acts? Also, which witness will want to depose in a court of law when cases routinely drag on for decades (think of the 1993 Mumbai blasts case).
Why should the protection of the Constitution of India be available to those who are out to destroy the country? Many other countries have suitably amended their laws to make them tough on terror. Why doesn’t India do the same? Most powerful countries are not ashamed of taking down terrorists even if they are hiding in foreign soil. Look at how the US killed Osama bin Laden in a midnight raid in Pakistan!
There is also another issue here: Without local assistance, terrorists, like guerrillas, would be like fish out of water. Infringement of laws to support acts of terror, either with money or due to ideology, should entail the same punishment as the terrorists and terror acts. India should have a clear anti-terrorism policy as well as strong anti terror law.
Unfortunately, in the interest of vote-bank politics, India has been slow in its anti-terrorism approach. The security and integrity of the country is the responsibility of the Union Government. If necessary, it should amend the law in such a way that no State Government is be able to misuse or bend it to suit parochial interests. Whatever be the cost, the security of the nation should come first.

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