Preventing Terror Attacks

The Hyderabad blasts, August 2007 at Lumbini Park and Gokul Chaat, both places which are frequented by people in large number, on the heels of blasts in Makkah Masjid in April 2007, are too tragic for words. So many of innocents got killed and added one more tally to the acts of insanity which are…

Written by

Ram Puniyani

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The Hyderabad blasts, August 2007 at Lumbini Park and Gokul Chaat, both places which are frequented by people in large number, on the heels of blasts in Makkah Masjid in April 2007, are too tragic for words. So many of innocents got killed and added one more tally to the acts of insanity which are going up during the last few years in the country. From 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai, over 12 major terror attacks have taken place. In Indian scenario, the acts of terrorism are scattered all over. In Kashmir the militancy which began around the slogan of Kashmiriyat went through the roof, in 1980s, with Al Qaeda elements entering Kashmir after their mission of defeat Russian communist army got over. Incidentally, Al Qaeda was a US-CIA creation, propped up for its proxy war against USSR, whose armies had occupied Afghanistan. The number of innocents killed in North East has been an equal, if not bigger than, in Kashmir. It has been a hot bed of terror acts. The NE problem has been revolving around the issues of ethnicity, the worst of which was seen in Nagaland in yesteryears and the current worst is witnessed in Assam and Manipur, where ULFA is the major player in the field.

The serial blasts which rocked Mumbai in 1993 were in the aftermath of the Mumbai pogrom, which itself was in the aftermath of Babri Masjid demolition. These seem to be the only one which was investigated. Mumbai probably has been the most unfortunate city as far as the blasts are concerned. After the Mumbai blasts of 1993, it was to witness blasts again in 2003, which could be related to the massive carnage of Gujarat in 2002. Again in 2006 Mumbai saw the blasts in trains, in the Western Railways, in the first class compartment, and one can faintly correlate it again to the Gujarat anti-Muslim pogrom.

Then again one sees a series of blasts in front of mosques at crowded times of Friday Namaz when the congregations are heavy. In April 2006, in one of the less publicised cases one blast took place in Nanded, in the house of Bajrang Dal activist, killing two of them.

As such there are multiple types of terror acts which have shaken the peace and killed so many of innocent people. Despite the rise in the acts of terror, where does the state stand in preventing the same? So far, the response has been to tighten the security, to pursue the investigations in a particular direction and to postulate the involvement of the terrorist groups from Bangladesh and Pakistan, which may have more than a grain of truth in that. But how come the matters stand where they were and the control of these acts is nowhere in sight. One of the theories doing rounds is that, since the laws like POTA or TADA have been abolished these acts are taking place, so they should be brought in again. One recalls here that these laws were in existence during the NDA regime and one has seen enough of acts of terror during that time also, including the attack on Parliament. The terrorists are willing to get killed in the act, so can such laws deter them? One recalls the case of Dhanu who came as a live bomb strapping the plastic bomb around her body and killed Rajiv Gandhi, surely knowing that she herself will be killed while doing so. Terrorism is an act of extreme frustration. These laws at the worst will give further authority to the police machinery in torturing some labelled characters.

So far what are the examples where either some reduction or partial success has been achieved in controlling this insanity? Two of these stand out. One, the political understanding between Central Government and Nagaland did result in the control of the situation there to a great extent. Mark the role of political process in this case. Similarly, one can see the reduction in the acts of terror in Kashmir during the last three years, of the current ruling coalition. This Government has been the outcome of a fair election process. The democratic representation of people coupled with the political process of dialogue with different groups has been a major factor. As large acts of terrorism are due to the underlying political discontent, one has to begin with the political process to tackle the terror attacks.

The process of winning over the confidence of communities cutting across religious lines is a must. It is the political alienation, which is the root cause of the formation of the psyche of the terrorists. The mere rhetoric of War against Terror, which only operates by the biases against particular communities, the biases which by now have assumed institutional characters, can in no way weed out the problem. The United States claimed to have launched a war on terror after 9/11. Can there be such a thing as ‘war on terror’?

Terror is an abstract concept coming into being because of innumerable reasons, so we have seen that the more the use of intimidation and oppression the more is the increase in this phenomenon. Today one can say that terrorism has roots in three major problems. The foremost is the politics for control of oil resources, which gave rise to outfits like Al Qaeda, which are now spreading far and wide. The second is the ethnicity related issues, like Kashmir, North East and the ones in Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka the major terrorist organisation in the world, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam is operating, the latest of its dastardly act was the attack near the hotel where our cricket stars were staying in July 2006. The third one is the rising communalisation, the consequent polarisation of communities, the increasing sense of despair in the minority community. Here the correlation of Babri Masjid demolition with Mumbai riots followed by blasts should be noted and matched with the ones in Gujarat. In Gujarat Godhra train burning, followed by Gujarat carnage and later, by the Mumbai blasts is unmistakable. The parallels cannot be missed.

The sincere efforts to control the terrorism will involve, looking at the root causes and trying to solve them. The terrorist acts can be prevented by an unbiased investigation, getting over the biases, and coming to identify the criminals. Only then their designs can be thwarted well in time. The biased intelligence and mere superficial approach cannot make any headway in preventing terror attacks.