Miles to go before we wake!

Last week’s terror strikes in UP courts would rank as the fastest forgotten bomb blasts in recent times. Despite another 13 unfortunates becoming soulless statistics, the memories of the blast faded faster than the smoke they sent up. Really, of late, more than the regular bomb blasts … and scares too, it is the all round apathy and the casual and listless manner in which they are discussed in public fora like the media and Parliament that is singularly shocking. It looks Bharat’s benighted sons and daughters have collectively become blase to blasts.

The most obvious symptom of this suicidal immunity is the lofty claims of ‘life coming back to normalty’ and the proud rantings over the ‘nation’s resilience’. I would rather think such talk betrays a rank selfish and a grossly insensitive mindset, a tearing hurry to ‘become normal’ unmindful of the misery visited upon fellow citizens and the sickening attitude that ‘it is all part of the game so long as it does not happen to me’. But what should really be the measure for normalty? To know that, one should actually check out with the kin of the victims if their lives have ‘come back to normal’. But will it ever? Never! In which case, a minimum yardstick could be their faith that recurrence is remote and the perpetrators would be punished. But such hopes belong to the realm of dreams. Rather, the Indian experience is that we forget blasts, forgive blasters and thereby forfeit all moral right to fight terror. That Afzal Guru is yet to meet his Maker is proof of this stale pudding!

Some would probably pardon the blast-proof mental disposition of the public as a direct consequence of media overkill. Sure, the repeated airing of visuals by the TV channels does dim the shock impact while all spontaneous outrage is expended in minutes on primetime; normalty sets in early because one has seen and heard all that needs to be in a jiffy. Also, life in a way has become some sort of a commercial break between blasts and one perforce has to make the most of the time and peace so munificently bestowed by the benign bombers. So, let’s grant ourselves a general amnesty so that we occupy ourselves with more pressing issues like Taslima’s future or MF Hussain’s fate or even more fruitfully with the ‘blast of serials’ on the telly. But can we spare the politicos, particularly those in power, drafted to protect you, me, our uncles, aunts and our favourite film stars? Their words and deeds are painful, even to our numbed thickskins.

Normally, it is the sleepless PM who tops the charts for ridiculous post-blasts utterances. (Samples: ‘Pak and India are both victims of terror; ‘Terrorists have no religion’) But with the worldly-wise Sardar away abroad, beyond hearing distance of booming bombs, it automatically devolved on the Home Minister Shivraj Patil to maintain that sterling tradition. Within hours of the blasts he assured the nation that there was no intelligence failure. It could mean only two things: Either there was no ‘intelligence’ at all in the first place for it to fail or that the intel agencies did get wind of the murderous mischiefs in advance but for some reasons kept them a secret. But, does one need much intelligence to decipher the mind and methods of jihadis? Several media reports have meticulously documented the activities of terrorists and their cells with intricate details about the who’s who and what’s what in their bloody world. The terrorists themselves maintain well updated websites and widely circulated written literature lest we misunderstand their motives. Besides, they also keep you posted with e-mails just so we do not forget them. Indeed, it is not intelligence information we lack, but the political will to act on it. And the terrorists know this soft spot.

Hear more and you would know why the PM is likely to get an inferiority complex vis-a-vis his HM. Patil has ruled out the need for a POTA-like law. He is probably dead sure his government would never use it. He then rejects the need for a Federal Crime Investigating Agency because ‘the States would apprehend erosion of their jurisdiction’. Great logic. Why not, then, shut down all such federal institutions and even grant independence to States? But the biggest perversion has come from his blatant attempts to pass on the blame to the States. He does not see Islamic terrorism as an issue of national security. For him it is a mere L & O problem, a State subject, to be handled by your neighbourhood inspectors and their lathi-wielding constables! Of course, the Centre will render all help ‘possible’! Now, where is this Centre centred? In the UN? or the Commonwealth? Or in New Delhi, right in India? All this even when the SC has time and again held that terrorism, being an assault on the sovereignty and defence of India, is primarily a Central subject. What a callous, criminal cocktail of indifference, incompetence and impotence! Time the Home Minister headed home!

In Britain and the US, which are declared targets of terrorists, the establishments are moving heaven and earth to empower themselves to be better positioned to tackle terror. Bomb-happy Bush would cross oceans and continents if he believes his pet dog is in peril. In the UK for instance, the PM is engaged in a grim battle to overcome resistance from civil rights groups, human rights activists and the people themselves, brought up on diets of melting pots and multi-culturalism, to increase the period of detention of terror suspects from 28 days to 56 days. But in India, which has a longer history of being a terror target, courts have consistently granted as much time as the authorities wanted for such detentions. Yet, virtually every recent bomb blast remains unresolved with the First Information Report also being the last decisive step while there is nary any arrest and nil chargesheets, let alone convictions. And if at all there is a conviction, the neck and noose never meet! Forget prevention or pre-emption, we do not seem to have even started on the terror trail.

Stuck firmly at the starting line itself, we should probably listen to the Commies’ suggestion for containing terrorism. Sitaram Yechury of the CPI-M, in all seriousness, has reasoned in the LS that the solution is to make the minorities feel safe and secure. And for that to happen, the Sachchar Committee report has to be ‘implemented forthwith’. Now, who’s linking who with terror? Or, is that what we call a Freudian slip or in simpler terms, a sameside-goal?

e-mail the writer at [email protected]