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Terrorism – citizens need answers!

July 27, 2008

Considering the incidents of terrorism that have hit our country in Bangalore day before yesterday and in Ahmedabad yesterday (where 29 people have been reported killed and about a hundred injured), I decided to summarize some of my older posts on terrorism which explore why our country is suffering like this.

What or whom do we blame for our terrorism deaths? India has lost the most lives to terrorism and can we demand answers from our government? The government will not give us any answers so I wanted to try and find some answers on my own. Let me summarize these points for you here…mostly gleaned from newspaper reports (they are not listed in order of importance):

Does India need a Prevention of Terrorism Act? The general consensus in the opposition (BJP) seems to be that the central government is adopting “soft attitude” towards terrorism.. Examples put forward are inability to curb the activities of banned organisations like Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), the failure to go ahead with the executing the death sentence of convicted terrorist Afzal Guru and repealing laws like POTA (Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act) which allowed the police to detain terror suspects without the filing of charges, amongst other things. But does India need POTA…after all don’t other countries have similar laws?

Do we not value life in India? Do we in India really have no value for life at all? Are we morally and economically bankrupt? People die on the road, in bomb blasts, in hospitals, of diseases, of hunger, in fires, in building collapses…and no one seems to care. The feeling is that we as a nation aren’t doing enough to stem this…

Sleeper cells proliferate while government sleeps Organisations and educational institutions don’t bother about checking the antecedents of foreign students. Two recent examples illustrate a major point – the lax security. I cannot them out of my mind. One is the news item that a lot of the foreign students who are being refused admission in their own countries because of their radical background are enrolling themselves in universities in India without proper checks…and second, for just Rs 35,000 (865 USD) anyone who ‘looks’ Indian can acquire Indian citizenship!

Technology can help improve India’s conviction rate India has a fairly low conviction rate for all crimes, including terrorist crimes. Right now its terrorism that is uppermost on our mind. I for one just cannot accept the fact that a year has passed since the Mumbai blasts but the culprits have still not been brought to trial and not all those charged are the bombers. While I have faith in the ability of our police…I know they are not using modern forensic methods on a significant scale….and I also know they are not using surveillance cameras…

Indians in terror plot: Is it really shocking? When I heard that two men, Mohammed Haneef and another man called Sabeel Ahmed (both doctors from Bangalore) had been detained as suspects in the car bombings in the UK, I wasn’t very surprised. In fact what has surprised me is that so far no Indians have been deeply involved in any global terrorist attack. Surely, this utopia had to end sometime, given that we have our countrymen plotting terrorist attacks on our own soil? The Mumbai train blasts had Indians involved, even though they were not the masterminds…

Lets not call them terrorists. Call them criminals We should stop calling these psychopaths ‘terrorists’. They plant bombs and murder innocent people (68 in this case, at latest count) but we call them ‘terrorists’. They actually like to be called terrorists because causing terror is their objective. But actually they are not ‘terrorists’, but murderers and serial killers and psychopaths. If we can all a person who has killed just a few people a psychopath, why do we call these criminals ‘terrorists’?

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27 Comments leave one →
  1. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    July 27, 2008 11:14 am

    Nita,

    Thanks for this summarisation of your posts. Having read most of them before, I have not as yet grabbed the opportunity of perusing them at one go. But I’d like to say this:

    Watching the horrors of Bangalore and Ahmedabad on TV over the last two evenings, it really angered me were

    [1] how even supposedly responsible “senior” politicians lost not time in extracting political mileage out of the episodes (while protesting that this was not the time to do so); and

    [2]how the media (read TV), as usual in an indecent hurry to be the “first to report”, were not the least bit bothered about either getting their facts right or about the possible long-term consequences of their speculative (and half-baked) observations on what could follow. The comments of most channels on the socio-economic composition of the target localities in Ahmedabad were both incorrect and unwarranted. One got the impression that they were intended to ensure that there was more and sustained trouble, with great TRIP benefits accruing from it.

  2. July 27, 2008 9:45 pm

    Vivek, it was good to hear from you and from your comment I can sense the anger you have with the blasts happening in your city.
    As for the media reportage, it’s disappointing. They have nothing to report and are therefore re-hashing everything.

  3. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    July 27, 2008 10:20 pm

    Nita,

    My anger is not only because my city is affected. It is something I feel every time such things happen. This time it was on two consecutive days (B’lore & A’bad), so I could not contain myself. And the politicians and the visual media are busy making hay.

    About terrorism, I absolutely and wholeheartedly condemn it. But how many of us bother to go into the genesis of terrorism, Naxalism etc.? It’s easy to point fingers at them, but isn’t it high time those of us who take the high moral ground started looking within ourselves?.

    About my initial response, my apologies for the several typos in it, particularly TRIP when I meant TRP.

  4. ulag permalink
    July 27, 2008 11:28 pm

    Nita,
    As a resident of Bangalore i was really shocked when it was hit by the serial blasts. Most ppl in the south generally have a complacent view that they wont be affected by terrorism and that its a phenomenon confided to North India. I hope that these blasts throw the authorities out of their stupor and shake them enough to take stringent measures. Unfortunately im sure this wont happen. Our intelligence agencies are used more to keep track of political rivals rather than for security needs. There is no point of talking about setting a federal counter terrorism unit because once again postings to it are going to be made on the basis of whos got how much political clout. What we really need is an autonomous police force, something along the lines of the Election Commission. Govt interference must be minimum but the police must also be accountable to an independent judicial council consisting of eminent jurists. Such a police force can then carry out its investigation hampered neither by votebank politics nor by right wing politicians who use the force to exact revenge on certain communities.

    As you’ve said, technology has a very important role to play in investigation. Unfortunately our police lack the skills to use the available technology properly. The problem currently is that if we introduce stringent laws along the lines of the patriot act dozens of innocents will be unnecessarily picked up by the police for interrogation and this will lead to large scale harassment leading to more people taking the path of violence, like in Kashmir. So its very necessary to use technology so that we can pin-point the criminals and only necessary arrests can be made. After 9/11 and the July 22 bombings in London the police in both cases pin-pointed the culprits with the help of surveillance. Thats what needs to be done.

    But one thing that troubles me is the lack of value/importance given to such terrorist strikes. When the US or UK or other European nations even uncover a terrorist plot that was foiled, let alone carried out, they go into a tizzy, almost into a state of shock. In India i think, for very long, since the 1980s we have dealt with the consequences of terrorism. We knew of it in Punjab, in Kashmir, in Mumbai, in Sri Lanka and even lost a former Prime Minister to it. I think after 28 years of such incidents weve become numb to such things. We read about them in the papers and carry on with our lives making the same mistakes again and again of not caring enough on these issues to force and pressurize governments to cause a change. Does it show that we are so resolute that we dont let such things get in our way or does it show our complacency? Does it tell the terrorists that whatever they do we wont cow down to their threats and convert ourselves into a paranoid police-state or does such an attitude give them the impunity to repeat their dastardly acts again and again?

  5. July 28, 2008 2:10 am

    Nita,
    that is an exellent bunch of article on that topic of hoorw. I adore your civil courage and powerful words. If the media are dissapointing, at least you say the word. thank you!

  6. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    July 28, 2008 5:08 am

    Ulag,

    “Most ppl in the south … have a complacent view that they won’t be affected by terrorism and that it’s a phenomenon confined to North India.”

    That certainly sounds naive. It may have a different face in the south, but it certainly exists. Think of the LTTE, Veerappan, Naxalites, Mumbai, Malegaon, the bombings in Hyderabad and at IISc — the only difference is that they have not caused the kind of panic in urban areas that you witness further north.

    Regarding the setting up of a federal counter-terrorist unit, I am glad you have yourself pointed out the limitations of such an idea. It would be worse than the Patriot Act. It would only serve the hawks as an excuse to curb human rights and civil liberties. And It would be very tempting, for the forces of centralisation, to use it for purposes other than what it is designed for.

  7. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    July 28, 2008 6:08 am

    Nita,

    Minutes after I had posted my response to you last night, NDTV 24X7 condescended to carry a live show from Ahmedabad, along the lines of “We the People”, on the Saturday mayhem. The first cynical thought to cross my mind was, “the vultures have started descending because they now expect communal riots — good for TRPs, Breaking News, “Your channel was the first to report …” etc.

    No riots had started; and NDTV does have local insfrastructure (albeit not good enough for day-long coverage of mofussil brats with names like Duke or Duchess dropped into disused borewells by parents desperate for fifteen minutes of fame); so they saved face by rustling up a decent group of discussants (not just page 3 types), who did manage to go beyond the ususal platitudes spouted in well-modulated accents.

    It was entertaining to find the glamorous, recently Padma-decorated anchor (who rarely has the courtesy to hear out to the end her respondents’ answers to her questions) seemingly presuming that anyone in the hoi-polloi audience who was not sporting Versace (or at least Fab India), or had no signs of botox (is that meant to rhyme with “buttocks”?) on their faces, could not possibly be comfortable with English. So she patronisingly addressed everyone (other than the main panellists) in Hindi. And they responded in English (without the artificially stressed prepositions, conjunctions and auxiliary verbs favoured by the beautiful people on TV news channels).

    Contrary to what the Ministry of Environment, Bombay Natural History Society and WWF-India have been telling us, it seems the vultures are alive and well.

    An aside: The said Padma-awarded, glamorous anchor seems to have gone off diuretics: she did not “need to take a break” as often as usual.

  8. July 28, 2008 7:10 am

    Ulag, thank you for that brief analysis.
    You have said exactly what has been on my mind. For the last 30 or so years we have lived with terrorism. When I was a kid going to Kashmir was a mandatory kind of thing, but today few people go there and they don’t care if they don’t. They just go abroad! Even bollywood has deserted Kashmir. Overall we have all adjusted to the mayhem caused by terrorists and I also feel that technology is the answer. I feel we can afford it, if only we have the will!
    And I know what you mean about the people who live in the south of India feeling that terrorism won’t touch them much, because most of the heinous strikes have happened in Mumbai and Delhi and have done so for years. Of late though things are changing but yes cities like Bangalore and Chennai have not suffered the way Mumbai and Delhi have. But as Vivek said, the terrorism there is of a different kind, but yes less of the kind that affects ordinary people.

    Vivek, your comment was an entertaining read and made me smile despite the seriousness of the subject. If you had a blog, that would have made for a good post!

    Axinia, thanks!

  9. ulag permalink
    July 28, 2008 9:31 am

    @Vivek
    Tthe face of terrorism may be different here but as Nita correctly pointed out it hasnt affected the major cities in South India until the last 3 or 4 years. Naxalites attack police units and government infrastructure in rural Andhra Pradesh. But large scale violence against civilians such as bombings doesnt happen because the Naxals need the people’s support at the ground level. Verappan was considered as a menace and a ruthless criminal,yes, but hardly a terrorist who would use car bombs and RDX against civilians. The LTTE, despite having assassinated Rajiv Gandhi, still draws tacit support from most mainstream political parties in Tamil Nadu and open support from parties like MDMK. For all its heinous crimes in Sri Lanka the LTTE still garners sympathy for its cause from political parties. The Hyderabad blasts were the first indication of the growing tentacles of terrorist groups down south. My college campus is right next to the IISc campus where an IIT professor was gunned down by an assailant and till today noone knows who he was or what group he belonged to. Neither have they spruced up security at the IISc campus or surrounding areas. Anyone can still walk in there without being subject to any form of scrutiny. This shows how lax the authorities are towards concerns of terrorism. This is what i mean when i say the people here are more complacent thinking that they wont be affected by it. Safety and security with regards to terrorism has so far been taken for granted. There were reports in the papers in Karnataka a few months back about the police stumbling upon sleeper cells in some districts of Karnataka. You should have seen the surprise and shock in the reactions of everyone including the cops. Being police officials shouldn’t they have realized that terrorism is spreading and is a nation-wide phenomenon? But no, they were caught completely off-guard because they have this mentality that terrorists wont strike so far south.

  10. vivek mittal permalink
    July 28, 2008 9:49 am

    I dont agree when some people say about going to the cause of the terrorism etc..no excuse is acceptable for killing people..and in this case it is very much foreign exported terrorism

    Now time has come to have something on the lines of FBI in India..Prime Minister has already proposed… hope state govts agree to that

  11. Ravi permalink
    July 28, 2008 9:11 pm

    IMPLEMENT SSN (SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER). Our politicians have been escaping to act towards SSN becoming a reality. Every rupee we earn and spent must be known to the government and by doing so every citizen is accountable. We indians happened to be the most irresponsible citizens that any country would hate to have. We can pass the irresponsible factor of us but a greedy psychopath who wants to earn through illegal means. If the terrorists wont get help from Indians they would never plan anything.

    Its not the government but the politicians that must be blamed here we go again the dirty path leads to our filthy politicians.

    ALERT!!!

    Every Indian must be made responsible by giving him a SSN. Otherwise we could never control terrorism in a vast country like India.

  12. Ravi permalink
    July 28, 2008 9:17 pm

    LOL@Padma-awarded, glamorous anchor….Vivek U r awesome!

  13. Ravi permalink
    July 28, 2008 9:19 pm

    Its really surprising that hyd had very few blasts while hosting more number of terrorists than any other Indian city.

  14. July 28, 2008 9:19 pm

    have been real busy and would be for the foreseeable future
    have also posted on this and found it rather amazing that you are also getting disillusioned like me from ur comment

    our views on this subject match to an extent but i think i take a much harder line – u should see the carnage not on tv but 6 /10 feet in front of u to understand why .
    Sadly most of the best resources of the police are employed to protect the lot of politicans that radicalise so called minorities so as to keep the flock in chk – and voting for them – and that hunger is increasing with the reservation percentage – never mind if terrorism is the offspring .

    ulag techint is imp but in such kind of a structure humanint is most vital – look at afghanistan and pakistan
    Mumbai police’s sharpshooter squad and their khabri network or the humanint part has been dismantled with its officers and most officers are dragged to court – The ATS is a joke and the biggest cops was allegedly a benami builder – cid posts are punishment postings and politicians call on shots on which fav cop will become a dcp – now what should one expect?

    Most cops only know eating tobacco and doing bandobast or nakabandi – and threatening decent civilians – while having a good rapport with the areas history sheaters – lest any one of them becomes a politician!

    next statement to come out from someone of the upa
    will be to blame the state govt and PRAISE PEOPLE FOR THEIR RESILIENCE (Dirty rotten word )
    AND VIVEK on the US educated communist supporting NDTV anchor and similar press -no one could have said it more aptly than u !

  15. Ravi permalink
    July 28, 2008 9:20 pm

    I guess we already have Indian version of FBI i.e. CBI.

  16. Ravi permalink
    July 28, 2008 9:58 pm

    It wouldn’t be appropriate grammatically to relate politicians to disease but it seems like here its required. Each and every controversy has its roots with a politician get involved and it occurred due to satisfy his selfish needs. CBI, CID, POLICE, MILITARY and every thing that has power and influence must be barred from having political influence. Without doing this it doesn’t matter if we FBI or CIA.

  17. July 28, 2008 10:14 pm

    @ Nita: Good post…Just one curious omission…No mention of the ideology of “jihad”? Or do you think it is not a problem?

    Look forward to your thoughts (and your readers too)..

    thanks.

  18. July 28, 2008 10:34 pm

    Thanks all for your responses!
    Shantanu, idealogy of Jihad? What’s that? :) Well, sorry to make light of it, but that is what I think it is. I think all of them are criminals and I have mentioned that in my last post mentioned in the list above.They are criminals who are using God as their excuse and today many Muslims are coming around to the this view too. I have no sympathy or understanding for those who justify violence by citing religious reasons.

  19. July 28, 2008 11:32 pm

    Yes, the real ‘sleeper cells’ are in the governnent. And they seem to have taken an overdose of the the ‘Rip Van Winkle’ drug. Nothing has woken them up till now, nothing is going to wake them up in future. As long as faceless civilians and soldiers are the ones getting killed.

    The politicians are more interested in fighting with each other and the babus are focussed solely on preserving their stranglehold over all organs of the government.

  20. July 29, 2008 2:14 am

    a different perception to this whole thing,..good post..
    i guess i could not disagree u even in a single point..
    i feel that the govt acts always late in all situations..
    ther e is a bomb blast and then security is increased ..Does it help…
    after some days the security is lightened again…

  21. July 29, 2008 8:15 pm

    Do we have to blame someone?

    Instead of making the system more efficient,secure and safe why are we so keen on playing the blame game?

    I heard Sushma Swaraj in a Press conference stating that the govt did it so that everyone will forget the cashgate incident of parliament?? How ridiculous that statement is, that too from a leader of a national party.

    Will POTA help??? everything has it pros and cons, what about those innocent people caught under POTA if implemented, by the police just for personal reasons?

    Your third point about our not valuing life is very valid.

    Yes money is what matters, why bother to do a bg check done when you can pocket lakhs of rupees?

    Conviction rate is indeed poor.You have really made a good point, technology can help in this matter.

  22. July 31, 2008 1:26 pm

    The news about all the bomb blasts and defused bombs is quite enraging. But we Indians, pride ourselves on our ability to go back to normal almost immediately. We fail in WANTING to seek justice. The americans are over-zealous in their search for justice (and all the political crap aside). Surely there is some middle ground, between a spineless India and a trigger-happy America.

    As for terrorists and Psychopaths/serial killers, Serial killers derive pleasure from their murder. Terrorists derive political mileage.

  23. July 31, 2008 7:57 pm

    ” The self-proclaimed and the so-called saviours of the Indian Muslims,the Indian Mujahideens,should be enlightened by the fact that almost all religious communities in India
    have had the similar unfortunate experiences like the 2002 post -Godhra riots in the hands of their neighbour communities in the same or other way.From saint Thomas to the Graham Stains ,many christians were murdered on the Indian soil.Time and again,Hundreds of churches have been demolished by the religious fanatics.There have been many atrocities on the tribal christians in the remote areas of Gujarath and Orissa.Yet,there were and won’t be the attempts of revenge by the tolerant and merciful christian community against the Indian state and its people.Hundreds of Sikhs were massacred in the 1984 Anti-Sikh riots.Yet,the resilient Sikh community never transpired to revenge against the Indian state.Many Hindus had been killed in Jammu&Kashmir by the Muslim religious fanatics.Within the Hindu community itself,many so-called lower caste people have been killed by the so-called Hindu upper caste communities.Yet,the victim sections never retaliated against their fellow castes and communities.We,the people of India collectively raised our voices against the injustice met to the Muslim community in the form of Babri-Masjid demolition and 2002 Gujarath massacre.We empathise with our fellow muslim’s heartaches since we too have had the similar heartaches in the form of christian leaders massacres,churches demolitions,anti-sikh riots and Kashmiri Brahmins killings.Though some of the Hindu religious fanatics took revenge it was transient and they have been alienated globally.No human seems taking revenge eternally.The banned outfits like the LeT,the HUJI, the Indian Mujahideens and the SIMI have been exploiting the once-occured Gujarath massacre and Babri-masjid demolition in meeting the objectives of the Indian state enemy ISI.They should be reminded that they would meet the same fate of the Bhindranwales and the Afzal Gurus.Its the collective resolve and will of the all the Indians irrespective of religion.”

  24. July 31, 2008 9:32 pm

    Vinod Sharma, it’s pretty bad isn’t it…but I have hope for the future.

    arvind, the security is a sham. the terrorists can strike whenever they want. They have proven it.

    Sharad, I think technology is the only thing that can save us, because in our country POTA won’t work. But there has to be the will.

    DD, the complacence here is indeed sad. We have become so inured to suffering that we don’t stir. You know that experiment with the frogs who were put into cold water and the water increased in temperature just one half a degree at a time? The frogs could have jumped out anytime and saved themselves but they didn’t and they died when the water reached boiling time! This sounds pessimistic doesn’t it, but well that is the mentality of humans too…but let me add that I think we will jump out in time. A few of us have already jumped out and out trying to lure the others. :)

    Sam, criminals are criminals and they need an excuse. I mean, what the heck, there are people who want to beat up someone because he scratched their car! All this revenge thing simply hides a vicious mindset and a deep level of frustration. the idealogy is a mask. .

  25. August 4, 2008 1:28 pm

    @ Nita: You said, the idealogy is a mask. .

    I believe this is a mistake…We need to grasp the nettel here…

    Isnt it a bit odd that the “mask” has been used across the world in situations where there has been no apparent reason for “frustration” or any imagined or real grievances – from Madrid to London, Beslan and of course India?

    Anyways, for whatever they are worth, here are my 7 suggestions to tackle this menace (in no particular order):

    The Political Will

    Effective Policing and Intelligence Coordination

    The role of the “middle class”

    The role of the Muslim community

    The role of Pakistan

    Better Legislation

    The Ideological Challenge

  26. sJena permalink
    September 17, 2008 10:24 am

    Do you know what you started this blog on 27 july 2008 and since then again a blast in New delhi killing so manhy lifes. I don’t understand when and at what point the govenment will realise the importance of human life in India and do something about it.

  27. jihtu permalink
    September 8, 2009 5:23 pm

    hai, agree with the above comment saying that why do we petisioning other countrymen or others. it’s all of indians irresponsibility to tackle them and this shall come to true only if people have good understanding within the country itself. and if we are spread out as various people who belongs to different country like then who can’t enter our country and attack on our issues and the holdings that we have with us. it’s each and every indian’s responsibility to tackle them not only govt duty to control them.

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