The attack on Mumbai (26/11 2008) has been a tragedy of extremely severe proportions.
It not only shook the people of Mumbai but also the country as a whole. Its repercussions
have been on the politics in South Asia.
Terrorism as such has been dominating the political scene from last few decades, more so
after the dastardly attack on World Trade Center on 9/11, 2001. While the official version
of the act has come under severe questioning, all the same this event was used by United
States to further its goal of controlling the oil wealth in the West Asia. It led to a chain of
events leading to the invasion of Afghanistan and occupation of Iraq by US. This resulted
in total misfortune on the people of Iraq, one symbol of that came in the form of
Muntadhar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist hurling his shoes at George Bush. (December
The Al Qaeda which was blamed for the 9/11 has a long history and as its deeds came to
surface, one came to know in due course that it was formed by US itself to fight the
Russian armies in Afghanistan. The word, Islamic Terrorism was constructed by the US
media and was uncritically picked up by global media. The meanings of words Jihad and
Kafir were modified to suit the indoctrination module developed by US to train the
terrorists in the Madrassa especially set up in Pakistan. It is the left over of these groups
which have played havoc in South Asia, Kashmir and parts of India in particular.
As such terrorism has been also been the major expression of ethnic-national aspirations
of few regions in the World, Kashmir, North East, Sri Lank (Jafana) and Ireland (Irish
Republican Army). There have been attacks of terror after the gross injustices committed
on sections of society during communal carnages, after post Babri demolition Mumbai
violence and after Gujarat carnage of 2002. The worst political sin of current times has
been the US propaganda identifying terrorism with Islam and Muslims. The theory of
Clash of civilizations, which formed the ideological ground of attack on Muslim countries in
the West Asia, has been the hallmark of US policy after the collapse of Soviet Socialist
State. Israel and its terrorizing policies in the West Asia have been adjuncts of the US
Here in India, the acts of terror by Al Qaeda type groups were worst compounded by the
acts of terror done by RSS affiliates, Bajrang Dal, its plants in Bhonsla Military School and
what have you. Starting from April 2006 Nanded blast where two Bajrang Dal workers lost
their lives while making bombs, innumerable instances of involvement of RSS in the acts
of terror came to surface but were not pursued to their logical conclusion as the
investigating authorities were working on the ground that all terrorists are Muslims.
The matters changed when an upright ATS officer from Maharashtra, Hemant Karkare,
ignored this formulation and doggedly pursued the links and leads of Malegaon blast. The
evidence collected by him showed the involvement of Sadhvi Pragya Sigh Thakur, Swami
Dayanand pander, Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purihit and Rtd Major Upadhayay in the
Malegaon blasts. The investigation of the Maalegaon blasts and other blasts invited the ire
of RSS affiliates and they threw abuses on Hemant Karkare.
In the context of Mumbai tragedy many thought provoking articles have been published.
These highlight most of the facets of the problem, the phenomenon of terrorism, the state
and social response to the same, the Government rushing to formulate new law giving
more powers to investigating authorities, the investigation into terror attacks, the events
building up to the terror attack and even the war cry against our neighbor, who herself is
the victim of this phenomenon in equal measure. What is important at this juncture is the
joint efforts by India and Pakistan to root out the phenomenon from the sub continent, to
investigate the terror attack and to pursue the investigations in to Malegaon blasts.
It is also imperative that we have a broader and long term vision of Peace and opposition
to Imperial designs of US, to restore the political/moral authority of UN with more
emphasis on democracy amongst nations and to strengthen the global democratic
We wish to bring out such E digests for social activists to give them all the material for
their mulling over and making up their minds on various issues in the struggle against the
rising communalism and the threat of fascism.
Ram Puniyani, Shabnam Hashmi
Terror : The Aftermath
The attack on Mumbai is over. After the numbing sorrow comes the blame game and the
solutions. Loud voices amplified by saturation TV: Why don't we amend our Constitution
to create new anti-terror laws? Why don't we arm our police with AK 47s? Why don't we do
what Israel did after Munich or the USA did after 9/11 and hot pursue the enemy?
Solutions that will lead us further into the abyss. For terror is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It
thrives on reaction, polarization, militarization and the thirst for revenge.
The External Terror
Those who invoke America need only to analyze if its actions after 9/11 increased or
decreased global terror. It invaded oil-rich Iraq fully knowing that Iraq had nothing to do
with 9/11, killing over 200,000 Iraqis citizens but allowing a cornered Bin Laden to escape
from Afghanistan. It recruited global support for Islamic militancy, which began to be
seen as a just resistance against American mass murder. Which begs the question of who
created Bin Laden in the first place, armed the madarsas of Pakistan and rejuvenated the
concept of Islamic jehad? Israel played its own role in stoking the fires of jehad. The very
creation of Israel in 1948 robbed Palestinians of their land, an act that Mahatma Gandhi to
his credit deplored at the time as an unjust way to redress the wrongs done to Jews during
the Holocaust. What followed has been a slow and continuing attack on the Palestinian
nation. At first Palestinian resistance was led by secular forces represented by Yasser
Arafat but as these were successfully undermined, Islamic forces took over the mantle.
The first, largely non-violent Intifada was crushed, a second more violent one replaced it
and when all else failed, human bombs appeared.
Thirty years ago when I first went abroad there were two countries my Indian passport
forbade me to visit. One was racist South Africa. The other was Israel. We were nonaligned
and stood for disarmament and world peace. Today Israel and America are our
biggest military allies. Is it surprising that we are on the jehadi hit list? Israel, America and
other prosperous countries can to an extent protect themselves against the determined
jehadi, but can India put an impenetrable shield over itself? Remember that when
attackers are on a suicide mission, the strongest shields have crumbled. New York was
laid low not with nuclear weapons but with a pair of box cutters. India is for many reasons
a quintessentially soft target. Our huge population, vast landmass and coastline are
impossible to protect. The rich may build new barricades. The Taj and the Oberoi can be
made safer. So can our airports and planes. Can our railway stations and trains, bus stops,
busses, markets and lanes do the same?
The Terror Within
The threat of terror in India does not come exclusively from the outside. Apart from being
hugely populated by the poor India is also a country divided, not just between rich and
poor, but by religion, caste and language. This internal divide is as potent a breeding
ground for terror as jehadi camps abroad. Nor is jehad the copyright of one religion alone.
It can be argued that international causes apart, India has jehadis that are fully home
grown. Perhaps the earliest famous one was Nathuram Godse who acting at the behest of
his mentor Vinayak Savarkar (still referred to as "Veer" or "brave" although he refused to
own up to his role in the conspiracy), murdered Mahatma Gandhi for the crime of
Jump forward to 6th December, 1992, the day Hindu fanatics demolished the Babri
Mosque setting into motion a chain of events that still wreaks havoc today. From the
Bombay riots of 1992 to the bomb blasts of 1993, the Gujarat pogroms of 2002 and
hundreds of smaller deadly events, the last 16 years have been the bloodiest since
Partition. Action has been followed by reaction in an endless cycle of escalating
retribution. At the core on the Hindu side of terror are organizations that openly admire
Adolph Hitler, nursing the hate of historic wrongs inflicted by Muslims. Ironically these
votaries of Hitler remain friends and admirers of Israel.
On the Muslim side of terror are scores of disaffected youth, many of whom have seen
their families tortured and killed in more recent pogroms. Christians too have fallen victim
to recent Hindutva terror but as yet not formed the mechanisms for revenge. Dalits
despite centuries of caste oppression, have not yet retaliated in violence although a small
fraction is being drawn into an armed struggle waged by Naxalites.
It is clear that no amount of spending on defense, no amount of patrolling the high seas,
no amount of increasing the military and police and equipping them with the latest
weaponry can end the cycle of violence or place India under a bubble of safety. Just as
nuclear India did not lead to more safety, but only to a nuclear Pakistan, no amount of
homeland security can save us. And inviting Israel's Mossad and America's CIA/FBI to the
security table is like giving the anti-virus contract to those who spread the virus in the first
place. It can only make us more of a target for the next determined jehadi attack.
Policing, Justice and the Media
As for draconian anti-terror laws, they too only breed terror as for the most part they are
implemented by a State machinery that has imbibed majoritarian values. So in Modi's
Gujarat after the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in 2002, despite scores of confessions to
rape and murder captured on hidden camera, virtually no Hindu extremists were
punished while thousands of Muslims rotted in jail under draconian laws. The same
happened in Bombay despite the Shiv Sena being found guilty by the Justice Shrikrishna
Commission. Under pressure a few cases were finally brought to trial but all escaped with
the lightest of knuckle raps. In stark contrast many Muslims accused in the 1993 bomb
blasts were given death sentences.
The bulk of our media, policing and judicial systems swallows the canard that Muslims are
by nature violent. Removing democratic safeguards guaranteed by the Constitution can
only make this worse. Every act of wrongful imprisonment and torture that then follows is
likely to turn innocents into material for future terrorists to draw upon. Already the double
standards are visible. While the Students Islamic Movement of India is banned, Hindutva
outfits like the RSS, the VHP, the Bajrang Dal, and the Shiv Sena remain legal entities. The
leader of the MNS, Raj Thackeray recently openly spread such hatred that several north
Indians were killed by lynch mobs. Amongst these were the Dube brothers, doctors from
Kalyan who treated the poor for a grand fee of Rs.10 per patient. Raj Thackeray like his
uncle Bal before him, remains free after issuing public threats that Bombay would burn if
anyone had the guts to arrest him. Modi remains free despite the pogroms of Gujarat.
Congress party murderers of Sikhs in 1984 remain free. Justice in India is clearly not
there for all. Increasing the powers of the police cannot solve this problem. Only honest
and unbiased implementation of laws that exist, can.
It is a tragedy of the highest proportions that one such honest policeman, Anti-Terrorist
Squad chief Hemant Karkare, who had begun to unravel the thread of Hindutva terror was
himself gunned down, perhaps by Muslim terror. It is reported that Col. Purohit and fellow
Hindutva conspirators now in judicial custody, celebrated the news of Karkare's death.
Until Karkare took charge, the Malegaon bomb blasts in which Muslims were killed and the
Samjhauta Express blasts in which Pakistani visitors to India were killed were being
blamed on Muslims. Karkare exposed a hitherto unknown Hindutva outfit as
masterminding a series of killer blasts across the country. For his pains Karkare came
under vicious attack not just from militant Hindutva but from the mainstream BJP. He was
under tremendous pressure to prove his patriotism. Was it this that led this senior officer
to don helmet and ill-fitting bullet proof vest and rush into battle with a pistol? Or was it
just his natural instinct, the same courage that had led him against all odds, to expose
Whatever it was, it only underlines the fact that jehadis of all kinds are actually allies of
each other. So Bin Laden served George Bush and vice-versa. So Islamic and Hindutva
jehadis have served each other for years. Do they care who dies? Of the 200 people killed
in the last few days by Islamic jehadis, a high number were Muslims. Many were waiting to
board trains to celebrate Eid in their hometowns in UP and Bihar, when their co-religionists
gunned them down. Shockingly the media has not commented on this, nor focused on the
tragedy at the railway station, choosing to concentrate on tragedies that befell the wellto-
do. And it is the media that is leading the charge to turn us into a war-mongering police
state where we may lead lives with an illusion of safety, but with the certainty of
I am not arguing that we do not need efficient security at public places and at vulnerable
sites. But real security will only come when it is accompanied by real justice, when the
principles of democracy are implemented in every part of the country, when the legitimate
grievances of people are not crushed, when the arms race is replaced by a race for
decency and humanity, when our children grow up in an atmosphere where religious faith
is put to the test of reason. Until such time we will remain at the mercy of "patriots" and
As The Fires Die :
The Terror of The Aftermath
By Biju Mathew
06 December, 2008
As the smoke lifts from Mumbai, skepticism must prevail over those conjectures which
support the official state narrative. It is crucial to increase the pressure for transparency
and accountability at this moment to ensure that India doesn't slide into the same state as
The deaths continue even as I write this. The death toll stands at 195. And of the several
hundred injured some may not survive. It is now official. The siege is over. The last of the
gunmen inside the Taj Hotel has been shot dead. The other targets - the Leopold Cafe (a
popular tourist hangout), the CST railway terminus (also called the Victoria Terminus),
the Metro Cinema, the Cama Hospital, all seem to be targets the gunmen attacked as they
zoned in on the hotels and Nariman House. In the end this has become a story of two sets
of men with guns.
The human story of the innocents who died, the hotel staff who kept their cool and moved
guests around the hotel through the service entryways and exits, those who helped each
other escape, will not really make it to the headlines. The maintenance worker at the
Oberoi who shielded guests and took the bullets in his stomach will remain unsung. The
hospital orderlies who ran in and out with stretchers carrying the wounded - each time not
knowing if they will make it back themselves to the ambulance, will not be noted. The
several trainee chefs at the Taj who fell to bullets even as other kitchen workers escorted
guests away from the firing and hid them inside a private clubroom will not be written up
in the book of heroes. The young waiter at Leopold who was to leave to work in a Cape
Town restaurant will soon be forgotten. The two young men who dragged an Australian
tourist shot in the leg away from the Leopold entrance and carried her to a taxi will not
even identify themselves so that she can thank them. These stories, in as much as they
are told, will remain on the lips of only the workers, the guests and the tourists who helped
each other. The officials will try and produce a clean story to tell the world. And we know
the clean story is untrue.
The official story that has already begun to emerge is one that may have some facts
embedded in it. But we must remember that between every two facts is a lot of
conjecture. The conjectures that unite the few facts (16 gunmen, AK47s, grenades,
passports of multiple nationalities, boats on which at least some of them arrived, a dead
Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) chief, Hemant Karkare, who was heading the investigation
against the Hindu Right wings' terror campaign, the gunmen trying to identify British and
American citizens) makes the story. The story then is as much a product of the conjecture
as it is of the facts. And there are certain stories that we are already oriented towards. The
conjectures that create that story - the story we are already prepared for - is the one the
State will dole out for our consumption. Already the conjectures that will serve the State,
are out there in great profusion.
Several reporters have noted that the gunmen were clean-shaven, dressed in jeans and
T-shirts. The silent conjecture is that they were expecting and were surprised by the fact
that these men did not have beards and did not sport the Muslim prayer cap. Every
newspaper worth its salt - the Times of India, the Jerusalem Post, the Independent from
the UK, among scores of others - have already run commentary on the unsecured
coastline of India. The conjectural subtext is that securing the coastline is possible and if
India had done so, this attack would have been prevented.
There is also a quick labeling going on -- India's 9/11. The subtext is that India could and
should act as the US did after 9/11 - decisively and with great aggression. There is also
the subtext that the Indian State is soft on terror that adds to the US-tough-on-terror
contrast. Sadanand Dhume, writing in the Wall Street Journal, has castigated the Indian
government for withdrawing the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and for preventing
states like Gujarat from passing their own version of the draconian worse-than-Patriot Act
legislations. Neither Mr. Dhume, nor the several reporters who will now write stories about
how the POTA repeal represents the Indian State's soft attitude towards terror will ever
feel the need to explain how POTA could have prevented this attack.
The dead are on the floor. The vultures are moving in. The conjecture will try to unite the
country into a series of unexamined positions. That POTA must be recalled. That States
must be allowed to pass even more draconian laws. That Hindu terror is not a big issue
and must be forgotten for now - especially now that we may not find an honest policeman
or woman to head the ATS. That the defense budget must go up. That the coastline must
None of the well educated masters of the media will write that the 7000 odd kilometer
coastline cannot be protected - that all it will translate to is billions in contracts for all and
sundry including Israeli and American consultants. Nobody will write that a hundred
POTAs will not prevent a terror attack like this one; that Guantanamo Bay has not yielded
a single break through. Nobody will write that higher defense budgets have been more
often correlated with insecure and militarized lives for ordinary citizens. Nobody will write
that almost without exception all of US post-9/11 policies have been disasters. Bin Laden
is still around, I am told and so is the Al Qaeda. The number of fundamentalist Christians,
Muslims, Hindus and Jews have probably gone up over the last decade. So much for good
policy. But the conjecture will go on.
The foreign hand and its internal partner will be floated without ever naming anything
precise. But the country will read it just as it is meant to be read - Pakistan and the Indian
Muslim. Everything will rest on the supposed confession of the one gunman who has been
captured. A Pakistani from Faridkot, I am told. Why should we believe it? Didn't the same
Indian State frame all the supposed accomplices in the Parliament attack case? Didn't the
same Indian State claim that the assassins of Chattisinghpura were from across the
border until that story fell apart? And more recently, didn't the same Indian State finally
agree that all the accused in the Mecca Masjid bombings were actually innocent? And
even if Mr. Assassin supposedly from Faridkot did say what he did say - why should we
believe him? Why is it so difficult to believe that he has his lines ready and scripted? If he
was willing to die for whatever cause he murdered for, then can he not lie? Oh the lie
detector test - that completely discredited science that every militarized State trots out.
And the media love the lie detector test because it is the best scientific garb you can give
I certainly don't know the truth. But I do know that there is more than enough reason for
skepticism. The problem is that we need a new theory of the State. We need to reunderstand
There is such unanimity when it comes to analyzing the Pakistani State - that the ISI, and
if not all of the ISI, at least a segment of it, is a rogue element Furthermore, that its bosses
may not be sitting in Islamabad, but perhaps elsewhere in the country or even abroad. If
we can accept that about the Pakistani State, why is it so difficult to accept it about the
Indian State? We all know that Colin Powell was a kind of a patsy - a fall guy, who trotted
out some lies on behalf of a segment of the neo-conservative movement firmly
entrenched within the American State (which Obama will not touch). We also know that if
the ISI has a rogue element in it, it was in good part created by the CIA. Then why do we
think that the same guys couldn't render another State - such as the US - itself hollow
from the inside.
The contemporary State is a different being. For every story of money-corruption you
hear, there could just as well be one of political-corruption. Every vested interest who
locates himself inside the State apparatus is not just a vested interest going after money
but could just as well be securing the space for creating a certain politics. The RSS has a
long history of trying to take over the bureaucracy, doesn't it? So do the neo-cons and so
do the jamaatis. Then why do we believe in a theory of the State that is unified and with
The history of the liberal State and its relationship with capitalism of all types is a simple
one. The longer that relationship persists the more corrupt and hollow the liberal State
gets, leaving the space open for political ideologies to occupy its very insides. The logic for
this is inherent in the very system. If profit is above all, then given the power the State
has, it must be bought. Cheney is no different from Shivraj Patil, and Ambani is no
different from Halliburton. They are both part of the story of hollowing the State out. And
once the hollowing process begins, every ideological force can find its way in, as long as it
has resources. The archetypal bourgeois liberal State is over. It never really existed, but
what we have at the end of four decades of neo-liberalism bears no resemblance to the
ideal formulation whatsoever. What we have instead is a series of hollowed out States
with their nooks and crannies, their departments and offices populated with specific neoconservative
ideological interests. The US has its variant. India has its. And Israel its very
own. It is incapable of delivering the truth, and not just the truth, it is only capable of
If this story of skepticism makes sense then we have only one choice. To understand that
it is crucial to increase the pressure for transparency at this moment, to be relentless in
our demand for openness and detail, in our call to ensure that no investigation or inquiry
that was in place be halted and that every one of these be subjected to public scrutiny. It is
our responsibility to reject the discourse of secrecy based on security and demand specific
standards of transparency. What we should demand is that every senior minister and
every senior intelligence officer be examined and the records be made available to the
public. What we must demand is that an officer of impeccable record be found to replace
Hemant Karkare. What we must demand is that we get explanations of how a POTA clone
would have stopped this crime. What we must ask is how POTA or the Patriot Act could
have ever helped prevent terror? What we must do is support the Karkare family in their
demand for a full investigation of his death in the company of the encounter specialist-
Salaskar. What we must have is an open debate on every single case of terror over the last
decade in India.
When I am in Bombay, I always stay at a friend's on Third Pasta Lane. Each afternoon I
would walk out and see the Nariman House. I have wondered what the decrepit building
was. I have always contrasted the drabness of the building with the colorful sign on the
next building that announces Colaba Sweet House. The next time I won't wonder. I will
know that it was one of the places where the drama that inaugurated India's renewed
march towards fascism unfolded. Unless we act. Unless we act with speed and
determination demanding transparency and accountability and a careful rewriting of the
story of terror in India. Only a renewed movement can ensure that India doesn't slide into
the same state as post 9/11 USA.
Biju Mathew is a member of the Campaign to Stop Funding Hate and the Coalition
Hotel Taj : Icon Of Whose India ?
04 December, 2008
Watching at least four English news channels surfing from one another during the last 60
hours of terror strike made me feel a terror of another kind. The terror of assaulting one's
mind and sensitivity with cameras, sound bites and non-stop blabbers. All these channels
have been trying to manufacture my consent for a big lie called - Hotel Taj the icon of
India. Whose India, Whose Icon ?
It is a matter of great shame that these channels simply did not bother about the other
icon that faced the first attack from terrorists - the Chatrapathi Shivaji Terminus (CST)
railway station. CST is the true icon of Mumbai. It is through this railway station hundreds
of Indians from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Tamilnadu have poured
into Mumbai over the years, transforming themselves into Mumbaikars and built the
Mumbai of today along with the Marathis and Kolis
But the channels would not recognise this. Nor would they recognise the thirty odd dead
bodies strewn all over the platform of CST. No Barkha dutt went there to tell us who they
were. But she was at Taj to show us the damaged furniture and reception lobby braving
the guards. And the TV cameras did not go to the government run JJ hospital to find out
who those 26 unidentified bodies were. Instead they were again invading the battered Taj
to try in vain for a scoop shot of the dead bodies of the page 3 celebrities.
In all probability, the unidentified bodies could be those of workers from Bihar and Uttar
Pradesh migrating to Mumbai, arriving by train at CST without cell phones and pan cards
to identify them. Even after 60 hours after the CST massacre, no channel has bothered to
cover in detail what transpired there.
The channels conveniently failed to acknowledge that the Aam Aadmis of India surviving
in Mumbai were not affected by Taj, Oberoi and Trident closing down for a couple of weeks
or months. What mattered to them was the stoppage of BEST buses and suburban trains
even for one hour. But the channels were not covering that aspect of the terror attack.
Such information at best merited a scroll line, while the cameras have to be dedicated for
real time thriller unfolding at Taj or Nariman bhavan.
The so called justification for the hype the channels built around heritage site Taj falling
down (CST is also a heritage site), is that Hotel Taj is where the rich and the powerful of
India and the globe congregate. It is a symbol or icon of power of money and politics, not
India. It is the icon of the financiers and swindlers of India. The Mumbai and India were
built by the Aam Aadmis who passed through CST and Taj was the oasis of peace and
privacy for those who wielded power over these mass of labouring classes. Leopold club
and Taj were the haunts of rich spoilt kids who would drive their vehicles over sleeping
Aam Aadmis on the pavement, the Mafiosi of Mumbai forever financing the glitterati of
Bollywood (and also the terrorists) , Political brokers and industrialists.
It is precisely because Taj is the icon of power and not people, that the terrorists chose to
The terrorists have understood after several efforts that the Aam cAadmi will never break
down even if you bomb her markets and trains. He/she was resilient because that is the
only way he/she can even survive.
Resilience was another word that annoyed the pundits of news channels and their patrons
this time. What resilience, enough is enough, said Pranoy Roy's channel on the left side of
the channel spectrum. Same sentiments were echoed by Arnab Goswami representing
the right wing of the broadcast media whose time is now. Can Rajdeep be far behind in this
game of one upmanship over TRPs? They all attacked resilience this time. They wanted
firm action from the government in tackling terror.
The same channels celebrated resilience when bombs went off in trains and markets
killing and maiming the Aam Aadmis. The resilience of the ordinary worker suited the rich
business class of Mumbai since work or manufacture or film shooting did not stop. When it
came to them, the rich shamelessly exhibited their lack of nerves and refused to be
resilient themselves. They cry for government intervention now to protect their private
spas and swimming pools and bars and restaurants, similar to the way in which Citibank,
General Motors and the ilk cry for government money when their coffers are emptied by
their own ideologies.
The terrorists have learnt that the ordinary Indian is unperturbed by terror. For one whose
daily existence itself is a terror of government sponsored inflation and market sponsored
exclusion, pain is something he has learnt to live with. The rich of Mumbai and India Inc
are facing the pain for the first time and learning about it just as the middle classes of
India learnt about violation of human rights only during emergency, a cool 28 years after
independence. And human rights were another favourite issue for the channels to whip at
times of terrorism. Arnab Goswami in an animated voice wondered where were those
champions of human rights now, not to be seen applauding the brave and selfless police
officers who gave up their life in fighting terorism. Well, the counter question would be
where were you when such officers were violating the human rights of Aam Aadmis. Has
there ever been any 24 hour non stop coverage of violence against dalits and adivasis of
This definitely was not the time to manufacture consent for the extra legal and third
degree methods of interrogation of police and army but Arnabs don't miss a single
opportunity to serve their class masters, this time the jingoistic patriotism came in handy
to whitewash the entire uniformed services.
The sacrifice of the commandos or the police officers who went down dying at the hands of
ruthless terrorists is no doubt heart rending but in vain in a situation which needed not
just bran but also brain. Israel has a point when it says the operations were misplanned
resulting in the death of its nationals here.
Khakares and Salaskars would not be dead if they did not commit the mistake of traveling
by the same vehicle. It is a basic lesson in management that the top brass should never
travel together in crisis. The terrorists, if only they had watched the channels, would have
laughed their hearts out when the Chief of the Marine commandos, an elite force, masking
his face so unprofessionally in a see-through cloth, told the media that the commandos
had no idea about the structure of the Hotel Taj which they were trying to liberate. But the
terrorists knew the place thoroughly, he acknowledged.
Is it so difficult to obtain a ground plan of Hotel Taj and discuss operation strategy
thoroughly for at least one hour before entering? This is something even an event
manager would first ask for, if he had to fix 25 audio systems and 50 CCtvs for a cultural
event in a hotel. Would not Ratan Tata have provided a plan of his ancestral hotel to the
commandos within one hour considering the mighty apparatus at his and government's
disposal? Are satelite pictures only available for terrorists and not the government
agencies ? In an operation known to consume time, one more hour for preparation would
have only improved the efficiency of execution. Sacrifices become doubly tragic in
unprofessional circumstances. But the Aam Aadmis always believe that terror-shooters
do better planning than terrorists. And the gullible media in a jingoistic mood would not
raise any question about any of these issues.
They after all have their favourite whipping boy - the politician the eternal entertainer for
the non-voting rich classes of India.
Arnabs and Rajdeeps would wax eloquent on Nanmohan Singh and Advani visiting
Mumbai separately and not together showing solidarity even at this hour of national crisis.
What a farce? Why can't these channels pool together all their camera crew and reporters
at this time of national calamity and share the sound and visual bytes which could mean a
wider and deeper coverage of events with such a huge human resource to command?
Why should Arnab and Rajdeep and Barkha keep harping every five minutes that this
piece of information was exclusive to their channel, at the time of such a national crisis? Is
this the time to promote the channel? If that is valid, the politician promoting his own
political constituency is equally valid. And the duty of the politican is to do politics, his
politics. It is for the people to evaluate that politics. And terrorism is not above politics. It
is politics by other means.
To come to grips with it and to eventually eliminate it, the practice of politics by proper
means needs constant fine tuning and improvement. Decrying all politics and politicians,
only helps terrorists and dictators who are the two sides of the same coin. And the rich and
powerful always prefer terrorists and dictators to do business with.
Those caught in this crossfire are always the Aam Aadmis whose deaths are not even
mourned - the taxi driver who lost the entire family at CST firing, the numerous waiters
and stewards who lost their lives working in Taj for a monthly salary that would be one
time bill for their masters.
Postscript: In a fit of anger and depression, I sent a message to all the channels, 30 hours
through the coverage. After all they have been constantly asking the viewers to message
them for anything and everything. My message read: I send this with lots of pain. All
channels, including yours, must apologise for not covering the victims of CST massacre,
the real mumbaikars and aam aadmis of India. Your obsession with five star elite is
disgusting. Learn from the print media please. No channel bothered. Only Srinivasan Jain
replied: you are right. We are trying to redress balance today. Well, nothing happened till
the time of writing this 66 hours after the terror attack.
Why the United States got it wrong
It is worth learning this: Al-Qaeda was the biggest beneficiary of the "response" of the
United States to 9/11 alongside U.S. corporations. America's "War on Terror" produced
far more terrorism in the world than there had been prior to that response.
Of all the arguments making the rounds after the appalling slaughter of 180 people in
Mumbai, the worst is this: that India should learn from the United States about how to
respond to such terror. "Look at the USA," goes the refrain, "after 9/11 has there been
another attack on U.S. soil?" In short, Washington's measures after that tragedy were so
effective, nobody ever bothered them again. This knocks at the doors of insanity. The U.S.
" ;response" does stand out as worth learning from. There is very little it did not get
Around 3,000 people lost their lives in the dreadful attacks on the World Trade Centre in
New York on 9 /11. America's response was to go to war. It launched two wars, one of
against a country that had not a single link to the events of 9/11. Close to a million human
beings have lost their lives in that response. That includes 4,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and
nearly 1,000 in Afghanistan. That is apart from several hundred thousand Iraqis losing
their lives. Countless Afghans die each month, as one of the world's poorest states sinks
deeper into devastation. (Afghanistan, for U.S. liberals, is "the good war.") Millions have
suffered dislocation and deprivation in the region.
$ 3 trillion-war
Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz estimates that the Iraq war is costing the United States $ 3
trillion in all. (About three times India's GDP.) Good news for American corporations that
make a killing every time there is large-scale killing, but not of much use to ordinary
Americans. With the U.S. economy in awful crisis, those costs are haemorrhaging. The
war in Iraq was launched with "intelligence" findings on "weapons of mass destruction
(WMDs)" being stockpiled in that country. And on the ground that Baghdad was linked to
9/11. This was the excuse for the "response." Both claims proved false. At the time, the
US media played a huge role -- its response -- in planting fabricated WMD stories. That
helped launch perhaps the most destructive conflict of our time. American costs also
include tens of thousands wounded, injured and ill soldiers. With over 100,000 US
soldiers "returning from the war suffering serious mental health disorders, a significant
fraction of which will be chronic afflictions." (Stiglitz: "The Three Trillion Dollar War.").
Besides, the war meant huge spending cuts at home. At the time of writing, California, the
largest of American states, is mulling massive cuts. "Its budget deficit is around $ 11
billion," says journalist and analyst Conn Hallinan. "Just about a month's worth of war
costs in Iraq and Afghanistan."
By late 2006, a little over three years after that "response" began, over 650,000 Iraqis
were estimated to have lost their lives. A survey by researchers at the Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland and the Al Mustansiriya
University in Baghdad put it bluntly: "As many as 654,965 more Iraqis may have died
since hostilities began in Iraq in March 2003 than would have been expected under prewar
conditions. The deaths from all causes — violent and non-violent — are over and
above the estimated 143,000 deaths per year that occurred from all causes prior to the
March 2003 invasion." Iraq's overall mortality rate more than doubled from 5.5 deaths
per 1,000 persons before the war began to 13.3 per 1,000 persons by late 2006.
Many more civilians have died since then, an extension of the USA's "response" to 9/11.
Pre-war Iraq was the Arab country most ruthless towards Islamic fundamentalists.
Today, the latter wield enormous power in a country they had no base in.
Fundamentalism harvested new recruiting fields — fertilised by U.S. violence. It's worth
learning this: Al Qaeda was the biggest beneficiary of the "response" of the United
States to 9/11 alongside U.S. corporations. America's "War on Terror" — produced far
more terrorism in the world than there had been prior to that response.
There are other lessons in the U.S. debacle. Almost every week now, the U.S. bombs
some part of Pakistan — its firm ally of decades. Civilians are routinely killed by this, and
if Mr. Obama's campaign promises are to be kept, this will go up. So will the appeal of
fundamentalism amongst the affected.
This is Islamabad's reward for decades of faithful support to American military
adventures in Afghanistan. A lot of Pakistan's distress arises from the very kind of
strategic ties with the United States that India's elite would so love to have themselves.
Also, the resultant undermining of Pakistan, is bad news for India. More
fundamentalisms, more militancy, and worse, both sides of the border.
The media too, have much to learn from the response of their U.S. counterparts. The
"embedded journalism" that disgraced some of America's leading media institutions.
Regardless of a bleating anti-war editorial, The New York Times will never live down its
WMD stories. The very media that now mock George Bush propped him up at the time.
Now they report how unpopular the war is, how silly he was. But the "war for ratings"
had already done damage hard to undo. It's both pathetic and funny: the very forces in
the United States that saw only external and foreign reasons for all that had happened
— now advise India exactly the opposite. Not to rush to any such conclusions. "In
coming days," says the New York Times for example, "India will have to look inward to
see where and how its government failed to protect its citizens."
The damage of whipped up hysteria as part of the "response" occurred within the United
States, too. Sikhs in America became the targets of vicious hate crimes across the
country after 9/11. Why? The demonising for years of anyone with turbans and beards
made them targets of "retaliation." One Sikh body says it has logged over 300 hate crimes
against Sikhs after 9/11. These include torching of a home, vandalising of Gurdwaras,
vicious assaults and one death by shooting. This is the model to emulate?
Curbing of civil liberties
Globally, the barbaric prison camp at Guantanamo, from where several prisoners have
been released as innocent after years of brutal torture, has been a widely criticised part of
the American "response." Inside the United States, the curbing of civil liberties — a vital
9/11 response — was at its worst since the McCarthy period. The Patriot Act was just one
symbol of these. And Mr. Bush now ranks among the most despised U.S. Presidents of all
time. (Though he did succeed, in another constituency, in bringing more popularity to
Osama bin Laden than Al-Qaeda's leader could have dreamed of.)
There is a need for a strong and vigorous response to the appalling outrage in Mumbai.
Parts of what that should be are obvious: bringing the guilty to book, revamping the
intelligence networks, overhauling a range of security agencies, being more prepared. It
is no less vital, though, that the immediate response also be to deny the authors of the
outrage the success of their goal. To ensure that further polarisation within Mumbai
society along religious, sectarian lines does not occur. To make sure that innocent people
are not killed or terrorised in the "response." To dump the notion that shredding civil
liberties and democratic rights helps anybody in any way. Shred chauvinism and jingoism,
not the Constitution of India. To strongly counter those attempting to foment communal
strife, regardless of which religion they belong to. To see there is no repeat of 1992-93
when close to a quarter of a million people fled the city in terror. That would a great reply.
But to learn from Mumbai's events that we should emulate America's response — at the
very time Americans are figuring out how poorly they were served by it — would be to
repeat history both as tragedy and as farce.
The monster in the mirror
The Mumbai attacks have been dubbed 'India's 9/11', and there are calls for a 9/11-style
response, including an attack on Pakistan. Instead, the country must fight terrorism with
justice, or face civil war
We've forfeited the rights to our own tragedies. As the carnage in Mumbai raged on, day
after horrible day, our 24-hour news channels informed us that we were watching "India's
9/11". Like actors in a Bollywood rip-off of an old Hollywood film, we're expected to play
our parts and say our lines, even though we know it's all been said and done before.
As tension in the region builds, US Senator John McCain has warned Pakistan that if it
didn't act fast to arrest the "Bad Guys" he had personal information that India would
launch air strikes on "terrorist camps" in Pakistan and that Washington could do nothing
because Mumbai was India's 9/11.
But November isn't September, 2008 isn't 2001, Pakistan isn't Afghanistan and India isn't
America. So perhaps we should reclaim our tragedy and pick through the debris with our
own brains and our own broken hearts so that we can arrive at our own conclusions.
It's odd how in the last week of November thousands of people in Kashmir supervised by
thousands of Indian troops lined up to cast their vote, while the richest quarters of India's
richest city ended up looking like war-torn Kupwara – one of Kashmir's most ravaged
The Mumbai attacks are only the most recent of a spate of terrorist attacks on Indian
towns and cities this year. Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Guwahati, Jaipur and Malegaon
have all seen serial bomb blasts in which hundreds of ordinary people have been killed and
wounded. If the police are right about the people they have arrested as suspects, both
Hindu and Muslim, all Indian nationals, it obviously indicates that something's going very
badly wrong in this country.
If you were watching television you may not have heard that ordinary people too died in
Mumbai. They were mowed down in a busy railway station and a public hospital. The
terrorists did not distinguish between poor and rich. They killed both with equal coldbloodedness.
The Indian media, however, was transfixed by the rising tide of horror that
breached the glittering barricades of India Shining and spread its stench in the marbled
lobbies and crystal ballrooms of two incredibly luxurious hotels and a small Jewish centre.
We're told one of these hotels is an icon of the city of Mumbai. That's absolutely true. It's
an icon of the easy, obscene injustice that ordinary Indians endure every day. On a day
when the newspapers were full of moving obituaries by beautiful people about the hotel
rooms they had stayed in, the gourmet restaurants they loved (ironically one was called
Kandahar), and the staff who served them, a small box on the top left-hand corner in the
inner pages of a national newspaper (sponsored by a pizza company I think) said
"Hungry, kya?" (Hungry eh?). It then, with the best of intentions I'm sure, informed its
readers that on the international hunger index, India ranked below Sudan and Somalia.
But of course this isn't that war. That one's still being fought in the Dalit bastis of our
villages, on the banks of the Narmada and the Koel Karo rivers; in the rubber estate in
Chengara; in the villages of Nandigram, Singur, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Lalgarh
in West Bengal and the slums and shantytowns of our gigantic cities.
That war isn't on TV. Yet. So maybe, like everyone else, we should deal with the one that
There is a fierce, unforgiving fault-line that runs through the contemporary discourse on
terrorism. On one side (let's call it Side A) are those who see terrorism, especially
"Islamist" terrorism, as a hateful, insane scourge that spins on its own axis, in its own
orbit and has nothing to do with the world around it, nothing to do with history, geography
or economics. Therefore, Side A says, to try and place it in a political context, or even try
to understand it, amounts to justifying it and is a crime in itself.
Side B believes that though nothing can ever excuse or justify terrorism, it exists in a
particular time, place and political context, and to refuse to see that will only aggravate
the problem and put more and more people in harm's way. Which is a crime in itself.
The sayings of Hafiz Saeed, who founded the Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Pure) in 1990
and who belongs to the hardline Salafi tradition of Islam, certainly bolsters the case of
Side A. Hafiz Saeed approves of suicide bombing, hates Jews, Shias and Democracy and
believes that jihad should be waged until Islam, his Islam, rules the world. Among the
things he said are: "There cannot be any peace while India remains intact. Cut them, cut
them so much that they kneel before you and ask for mercy."
And: "India has shown us this path. We would like to give India a tit-for-tat response and
reciprocate in the same way by killing the Hindus, just like it is killing the Muslims in
But where would Side A accommodate the sayings of Babu Bajrangi of Ahmedabad, India,
who sees himself as a democrat, not a terrorist? He was one of the major lynchpins of the
2002 Gujarat genocide and has said (on camera): "We didn't spare a single Muslim shop,
we set everything on fire … we hacked, burned, set on fire … we believe in setting them on
fire because these bastards don't want to be cremated, they're afraid of it … I have just
one last wish … let me be sentenced to death … I don't care if I'm hanged ... just give me
two days before my hanging and I will go and have a field day in Juhapura where seven or
eight lakhs [seven or eight hundred thousand] of these people stay ... I will finish them off
… let a few more of them die ... at least 25,000 to 50,000 should die."
And where, in Side A's scheme of things, would we place the Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh bible, We, or, Our Nationhood Defined by MS Golwalkar, who became head of the
RSS in 1944. It says: "Ever since that evil day, when Moslems first landed in Hindustan,
right up to the present moment, the Hindu Nation has been gallantly fighting on to take on
these despoilers. The Race Spirit has been awakening." Or: "To keep up the purity of its
race and culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic
races – the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here ... a good lesson for
us in Hindustan to learn and profit by."
(Of course Muslims are not the only people in the gun sights of the Hindu right. Dalits have
been consistently targeted. Recently in Kandhamal in Orissa, Christians were the target of
two and a half months of violence which left more than 40 dead. Forty thousand people
have been driven from their homes, half of who now live in refugee camps.)
All these years Hafiz Saeed has lived the life of a respectable man in Lahore as the head of
the Jamaat-ud Daawa, which many believe is a front organization for the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
He continues to recruit young boys for his own bigoted jehad with his twisted, fiery
sermons. On December 11 the UN imposed sanctions on the Jammat-ud-Daawa. The
Pakistani government succumbed to international pressure and put Hafiz Saeed under
house arrest. Babu Bajrangi, however, is out on bail and lives the life of a respectable man
in Gujarat. A couple of years after the genocide he left the VHP to join the Shiv Sena.
Narendra Modi, Bajrangi's former mentor, is still the chief minister of Gujarat. So the man
who presided over the Gujarat genocide was re-elected twice, and is deeply respected by
India's biggest corporate houses, Reliance and Tata.
Suhel Seth, a TV impresario and corporate spokesperson, recently said: "Modi is God."
The policemen who supervised and sometimes even assisted the rampaging Hindu mobs
in Gujarat have been rewarded and promoted. The RSS has 45,000 branches, its own
range of charities and 7 million volunteers preaching its doctrine of hate across India.
They include Narendra Modi, but also former prime minister AB Vajpayee, current leader
of the opposition LK Advani, and a host of other senior politicians, bureaucrats and police
and intelligence officers.
If that's not enough to complicate our picture of secular democracy, we should place on
record that there are plenty of Muslim organisations within India preaching their own
So, on balance, if I had to choose between Side A and Side B, I'd pick Side B. We need
In this nuclear subcontinent that context is partition. The Radcliffe Line, which separated
India and Pakistan and tore through states, districts, villages, fields, communities, water
systems, homes and families, was drawn virtually overnight. It was Britain's final, parting
kick to us. Partition triggered the massacre of more than a million people and the largest
migration of a human population in contemporary history. Eight million people, Hindus
fleeing the new Pakistan, Muslims fleeing the new kind of India left their homes with
nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Each of those people carries and passes down a story of unimaginable pain, hate, horror
but yearning too. That wound, those torn but still unsevered muscles, that blood and
those splintered bones still lock us together in a close embrace of hatred, terrifying
familiarity but also love. It has left Kashmir trapped in a nightmare from which it can't
seem to emerge, a nightmare that has claimed more than 60,000 lives. Pakistan, the
Land of the Pure, became an Islamic Republic, and then, very quickly a corrupt, violent
military state, openly intolerant of other faiths. India on the other hand declared herself
an inclusive, secular democracy. It was a magnificent undertaking, but Babu Bajrangi's
predecessors had been hard at work since the 1920s, dripping poison into India's
bloodstream, undermining that idea of India even before it was born.
By 1990 they were ready to make a bid for power. In 1992 Hindu mobs exhorted by LK
Advani stormed the Babri Masjid and demolished it. By 1998 the BJP was in power at the
centre. The US war on terror put the wind in their sails. It allowed them to do exactly as
they pleased, even to commit genocide and then present their fascism as a legitimate
form of chaotic democracy. This happened at a time when India had opened its huge
market to international finance and it was in the interests of international corporations
and the media houses they owned to project it as a country that could do no wrong. That
gave Hindu nationalists all the impetus and the impunity they needed.
This, then, is the larger historical context of terrorism in the subcontinent and of the
Mumbai attacks. It shouldn't surprise us that Hafiz Saeed of the Lashkar-e-Taiba is from
Shimla (India) and LK Advani of the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh is from Sindh
In much the same way as it did after the 2001 parliament attack, the 2002 burning of the
Sabarmati Express and the 2007 bombing of the Samjhauta Express, the government of
India announced that it has "incontrovertible" evidence that the Lashkar-e-Taiba backed
by Pakistan's ISI was behind the Mumbai strikes. The Lashkar has denied involvement,
but remains the prime accused. According to the police and intelligence agencies the
Lashkar operates in India through an organisation called the Indian Mujahideen. Two
Indian nationals, Sheikh Mukhtar Ahmed, a Special Police Officer working for the Jammu
and Kashmir police, and Tausif Rehman, a resident of Kolkata in West Bengal, have been
arrested in connection with the Mumbai attacks.
So already the neat accusation against Pakistan is getting a little messy. Almost always,
when these stories unspool, they reveal a complicated global network of foot soldiers,
trainers, recruiters, middlemen and undercover intelligence and counter-intelligence
operatives working not just on both sides of the India-Pakistan border, but in several
countries simultaneously. In today's world, trying to pin down the provenance of a
terrorist strike and isolate it within the borders of a single nation state is very much like
trying to pin down the provenance of corporate money. It's almost impossible.
In circumstances like these, air strikes to "take out" terrorist camps may take out the
camps, but certainly will not "take out" the terrorists. Neither will war. (Also, in our bid for
the moral high ground, let's try not to forget that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the
LTTE of neighbouring Sri Lanka, one of the world's most deadly terrorist groups, were
trained by the Indian army.)
Thanks largely to the part it was forced to play as America's ally first in its war in support of
the Afghan Islamists and then in its war against them, Pakistan, whose territory is reeling
under these contradictions, is careening towards civil war. As recruiting agents for
America's jihad against the Soviet Union, it was the job of the Pakistan army and the ISI to
nurture and channel funds to Islamic fundamentalist organizations. Having wired up
these Frankensteins and released them into the world, the US expected it could rein them
in like pet mastiffs whenever it wanted to.
Certainly it did not expect them to come calling in heart of the Homeland on September
11. So once again, Afghanistan had to be violently remade. Now the debris of a reravaged
Afghanistan has washed up on Pakistan's borders. Nobody, least of all the
Pakistan government, denies that it is presiding over a country that is threatening to
implode. The terrorist training camps, the fire-breathing mullahs and the maniacs who
believe that Islam will, or should, rule the world is mostly the detritus of two Afghan wars.
Their ire rains down on the Pakistan government and Pakistani civilians as much, if not
more than it does on India.
If at this point India decides to go to war perhaps the descent of the whole region into
chaos will be complete. The debris of a bankrupt, destroyed Pakistan will wash up on
India's shores, endangering us as never before. If Pakistan collapses, we can look forward
to having millions of "non-state actors" with an arsenal of nuclear weapons at their
disposal as neighbours. It's hard to understand why those who steer India's ship are so
keen to replicate Pakistan's mistakes and call damnation upon this country by inviting the
United States to further meddle clumsily and dangerously in our extremely complicated
affairs. A superpower never has allies. It only has agents.
On the plus side, the advantage of going to war is that it's the best way for India to avoid
facing up to the serious trouble building on our home front. The Mumbai attacks were
broadcast live (and exclusive!) on all or most of our 67 24-hour news channels and god
knows how many international ones. TV anchors in their studios and journalists at
"ground zero" kept up an endless stream of excited commentary. Over three days and
three nights we watched in disbelief as a small group of very young men armed with guns
and gadgets exposed the powerlessness of the police, the elite National Security Guard
and the marine commandos of this supposedly mighty, nuclear-powered nation.
While they did this they indiscriminately massacred unarmed people, in railway stations,
hospitals and luxury hotels, unmindful of their class, caste, religion or nationality. (Part of
the helplessness of the security forces had to do with having to worry about hostages. In
other situations, in Kashmir for example, their tactics are not so sensitive. Whole
buildings are blown up. Human shields are used. The U.S and Israeli armies don't hesitate
to send cruise missiles into buildings and drop daisy cutters on wedding parties in
Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.) But this was different. And it was on TV.
The boy-terrorists' nonchalant willingness to kill – and be killed – mesmerised their
international audience. They delivered something different from the usual diet of suicide
bombings and missile attacks that people have grown inured to on the news. Here was
something new. Die Hard 25. The gruesome performance went on and on. TV ratings
soared. Ask any television magnate or corporate advertiser who measures broadcast time
in seconds, not minutes, what that's worth.
Eventually the killers died and died hard, all but one. (Perhaps, in the chaos, some
escaped. We may never know.) Throughout the standoff the terrorists made no demands
and expressed no desire to negotiate. Their purpose was to kill people and inflict as much
damage as they could before they were killed themselves. They left us completely
bewildered. When we say "nothing can justify terrorism", what most of us mean is that
nothing can justify the taking of human life. We say this because we respect life, because
we think it's precious. So what are we to make of those who care nothing for life, not even
their own? The truth is that we have no idea what to make of them, because we can sense
that even before they've died, they've journeyed to another world where we cannot reach
One TV channel (India TV) broadcast a phone conversation with one of the attackers, who
called himself Imran Babar. I cannot vouch for the veracity of the conversation, but the
things he talked about were the things contained in the "terror emails" that were sent out
before several other bomb attacks in India. Things we don't want to talk about any more:
the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, the genocidal slaughter of Muslims in Gujarat
in 2002, the brutal repression in Kashmir. "You're surrounded," the anchor told him. "You
are definitely going to die. Why don't you surrender?"
"We die every day," he replied in a strange, mechanical way. "It's better to live one day as
a lion and then die this way." He didn't seem to want to change the world. He just seemed
to want to take it down with him.
If the men were indeed members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, why didn't it matter to them that
a large number of their victims were Muslim, or that their action was likely to result in a
severe backlash against the Muslim community in India whose rights they claim to be
fighting for? Terrorism is a heartless ideology, and like most ideologies that have their eye
on the Big Picture, individuals don't figure in their calculations except as collateral
damage. It has always been a part of and often even the aim of terrorist strategy to
exacerbate a bad situation in order to expose hidden faultlines. The blood of "martyrs"
irrigates terrorism. Hindu terrorists need dead Hindus, Communist terrorists need dead
proletarians, Islamist terrorists need dead Muslims. The dead become the demonstration,
the proof of victimhood, which is central to the project. A single act of terrorism is not in
itself meant to achieve military victory; at best it is meant to be a catalyst that triggers
something else, something much larger than itself, a tectonic shift, a realignment. The act
itself is theatre, spectacle and symbolism, and today, the stage on which it pirouettes and
performs its acts of bestiality is Live TV. Even as the attack was being condemned by TV
anchors, the effectiveness of the terror strikes were being magnified a thousandfold by TV
Through the endless hours of analysis and the endless op-ed essays, in India at least
there has been very little mention of the elephants in the room: Kashmir, Gujarat and the
demolition of the Babri Masjid. Instead we had retired diplomats and strategic experts
debate the pros and cons of a war against Pakistan. We had the rich threatening not to pay
their taxes unless their security was guaranteed (is it alright for the poor to remain
unprotected?). We had people suggest that the government step down and each state in
India be handed over to a separate corporation. We had the death of former prime minster
VP Singh, the hero of Dalits and lower castes and villain of Upper caste Hindus pass
without a mention.
We had Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City and co-writer of the Bollywood film
Mission Kashmir, give us his version of George Bush's famous "Why they hate us" speech.
His analysis of why religious bigots, both Hindu and Muslim hate Mumbai: "Perhaps
because Mumbai stands for lucre, profane dreams and an indiscriminate openness." His
prescription: "The best answer to the terrorists is to dream bigger, make even more
money, and visit Mumbai more than ever." Didn't George Bush ask Americans to go out
and shop after 9/11? Ah yes. 9/11, the day we can't seem to get away from.
Though one chapter of horror in Mumbai has ended, another might have just begun. Day
after day, a powerful, vociferous section of the Indian elite, goaded by marauding TV
anchors who make Fox News look almost radical and leftwing, have taken to mindlessly
attacking politicians, all politicians, glorifying the police and the army and virtually asking
for a police state. It isn't surprising that those who have grown plump on the pickings of
democracy (such as it is) should now be calling for a police state. The era of "pickings" is
long gone. We're now in the era of Grabbing by Force, and democracy has a terrible habit
of getting in the way.
Dangerous, stupid television flashcards like the Police are Good Politicians are Bad/Chief
Executives are Good Chief Ministers are Bad/Army is Good Government is Bad/ India is
Good Pakistan is Bad are being bandied about by TV channels that have already whipped
their viewers into a state of almost uncontrollable hysteria.
Tragically, this regression into intellectual infancy comes at a time when people in India
were beginning to see that in the business of terrorism, victims and perpetrators
sometimes exchange roles. It's an understanding that the people of Kashmir, given their
dreadful experiences of the last 20 years, have honed to an exquisite art. On the mainland
we're still learning. (If Kashmir won't willingly integrate into India, it's beginning to look
as though India will integrate/disintegrate into Kashmir.)
It was after the 2001 parliament attack that the first serious questions began to be raised.
A campaign by a group of lawyers and activists exposed how innocent people had been
framed by the police and the press, how evidence was fabricated, how witnesses lied, how
due process had been criminally violated at every stage of the investigation. Eventually
the courts acquitted two out of the four accused, including SAR Geelani, the man whom
the police claimed was the mastermind of the operation. A third, Showkat Guru, was
acquitted of all the charges brought against him but was then convicted for a fresh,
comparatively minor offence. The supreme court upheld the death sentence of another of
the accused, Mohammad Afzal. In its judgment the court acknowledged there was no
proof that Mohammed Afzal belonged to any terrorist group, but went on to say, quite
shockingly, "The collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if capital
punishment is awarded to the offender." Even today we don't really know who the
terrorists that attacked the Indian parliament were and who they worked for.
More recently, on September 19 this year, we had the controversial "encounter" at Batla
House in Jamia Nagar, Delhi, where the Special Cell of the Delhi police gunned down two
Muslim students in their rented flat under seriously questionable circumstances, claiming
that they were responsible for serial bombings in Delhi, Jaipur and Ahmedabad in 2008.
An assistant commissioner of Police, Mohan Chand Sharma, who played a key role in the
parliament attack investigation, lost his life as well. He was one of India's many
"encounter specialists" known and rewarded for having summarily executed several
"terrorists". There was an outcry against the Special Cell from a spectrum of people,
ranging from eyewitnesses in the local community to senior Congress Party leaders,
students, journalists, lawyers, academics and activists all of whom demanded a judicial
inquiry into the incident. In response, the BJP and LK Advani lauded Mohan Chand
Sharma as a "Braveheart" and launched a concerted campaign in which they targeted
those who had dared to question the integrity of the police, saying it was "suicidal" and
calling them "anti-national". Of course there has been no inquiry.
Only days after the Batla House event, another story about "terrorists" surfaced in the
news. In a report submitted to a sessions court, the CBI said that a team from Delhi's
Special Cell (the same team that led the Batla House encounter, including Mohan Chand
Sharma) had abducted two innocent men, Irshad Ali and Moarif Qamar, in December
2005, planted 2kg of RDX and two pistols on them and then arrested them as "terrorists"
who belonged to Al Badr (which operates out of Kashmir). Ali and Qamar who have spent
years in jail, are only two examples out of hundreds of Muslims who have been similarly
jailed, tortured and even killed on false charges.
This pattern changed in October 2008 when Maharashtra's Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS)
that was investigating the September 2008 Malegaon blasts arrested a Hindu preacher
Sadhvi Pragya, a self-styled God man Swami Dayanand Pande and Lt Col Purohit, a
serving officer of the Indian Army. All the arrested belong to Hindu Nationalist
organizations including a Hindu Supremacist group called Abhinav Bharat. The Shiv Sena,
the BJP and the RSS condemned the Maharashtra ATS, and vilified its chief, Hemant
Karkare, claiming he was part of a political conspiracy and declaring that "Hindus could
not be terrorists". LK Advani changed his mind about his policy on the police and made
rabble rousing speeches to huge gatherings in which he denounced the ATS for daring to
cast aspersions on holy men and women.
On the November 25 newspapers reported that the ATS was investigating the high profile
VHP Chief Pravin Togadia's possible role in the Malegaon blasts. The next day, in an
extraordinary twist of fate, Hemant Karkare was killed in the Mumbai Attacks. The
chances are that the new chief whoever he is, will find it hard to withstand the political
pressure that is bound to be brought on him over the Malegaon investigation.
While the Sangh Parivar does not seem to have come to a final decision over whether or
not it is anti-national and suicidal to question the police, Arnab Goswami, anchorperson of
Times Now television, has stepped up to the plate. He has taken to naming, demonising
and openly heckling people who have dared to question the integrity of the police and
armed forces. My name and the name of the well-known lawyer Prashant Bhushan have
come up several times. At one point, while interviewing a former police officer, Arnab
Goswami turned to camera: " and Prashant Bhushan," he said, "I hope you
are watching this. We think you are disgusting." For a TV anchor to do this in an
atmosphere as charged and as frenzied as the one that prevails today, amounts to
incitement as well as threat, and would probably in different circumstances have cost a
journalist his or her job.
So according to a man aspiring to be the next prime minister of India, and another who is
the public face of a mainstream TV channel, citizens have no right to raise questions about
the police. This in a country with a shadowy history of suspicious terror attacks, murky
investigations, and fake "encounters". This in a country that boasts of the highest number
of custodial deaths in the world and yet refuses to ratify the International Covenant on
Torture. A country where the ones who make it to torture chambers are the lucky ones
because at least they've escaped being "encountered" by our Encounter Specialists. A
country where the line between the Underworld and the Encounter Specialists virtually
does not exist.
How should those of us whose hearts have been sickened by the knowledge of all of this
view the Mumbai attacks, and what are we to do about them? There are those who point
out that US strategy has been successful inasmuch as the United States has not suffered a
major attack on its home ground since 9/11. However, some would say that what America
is suffering now is far worse. If the idea behind the 9/11 terror attacks was to goad
America into showing its true colors, what greater success could the terrorists have asked
for? The US army is bogged down in two unwinnable wars, which have made the United
States the most hated country in the world. Those wars have contributed greatly to the
unraveling of the American economy and who knows, perhaps eventually the American
empire. (Could it be that battered, bombed Afghanistan, the graveyard of the Soviet
Union, will be the undoing of this one too?) Hundreds of thousands people including
thousands of American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. The
frequency of terrorist strikes on U.S allies/agents (including India) and U.S interests in
the rest of the world has increased dramatically since 9/11. George Bush, the man who
led the US response to 9/11 is a despised figure not just internationally, but also by his
own people. Who can possibly claim that the United States is winning the war on terror?
Homeland Security has cost the US government billions of dollars. Few countries,
certainly not India, can afford that sort of price tag. But even if we could, the fact is that
this vast homeland of ours cannot be secured or policed in the way the United States has
been. It's not that kind of homeland. We have a hostile nuclear weapons state that is
slowly spinning out of control as a neighbour, we have a military occupation in Kashmir
and a shamefully persecuted, impoverished minority of more than 150 million Muslims
who are being targeted as a community and pushed to the wall, whose young see no
justice on the horizon, and who, were they to totally lose hope and radicalise, end up as a
threat not just to India, but to the whole world. If ten men can hold off the NSG
commandos, and the police for three days, and if it takes half a million soldiers to hold
down the Kashmir valley, do the math. What kind of Homeland Security can secure India?
Nor for that matter will any other quick fix. Anti-terrorism laws are not meant for
terrorists; they're for people that governments don't like. That's why they have a
conviction rate of less than 2%. They're just a means of putting inconvenient people away
without bail for a long time and eventually letting them go. Terrorists like those who
attacked Mumbai are hardly likely to be deterred by the prospect of being refused bail or
being sentenced to death. It's what they want.
What we're experiencing now is blowback, the cumulative result of decades of quick fixes
and dirty deeds. The carpet's squelching under our feet.
The only way to contain (it would be naïve to say end) terrorism is to look at the monster
in the mirror. We're standing at a fork in the road. One sign says Justice, the other Civil
War. There's no third sign and there's no going back. Choose.
Must Not Kill Democracy
By Praful Bidwai
28 December, 2008
In a season in which politicians have become everybody's punching bag and targets of
vicious media attacks, it would have been a miracle had Minister for Minority Affairs Abdul
Rehman Antulay not attracted ridicule for demanding an inquiry into the killing of
Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare and his colleagues Ashok Kamte
and Vijay Salaskar. I am no admirer of Antulay. I was among the handful of journalists
who exposed his brutal evacuation and expulsion of pavement-dwellers in Mumbai in
1983. Yet, the questions he posed about Karkare's death won't go away -- despite his own
Antulay didn't allege that Karkare, who famously cracked the Hindutva terror network
involving Pragya Thakur and Lieutenant Colonel Shreekant Purohit, was shot by one of its
members. His query was, who asked Karkare to go to Mumbai's CST station and to Cama
Hospital , near which he was killed by Abu Ismail and Ajmal Amir Kasab ?
We still don't know what motivated Karkare's team to go there without high-grade bulletproof
jackets and in violation of the norm that senior officers shouldn't travel in the same
vehicle in an emergency. Home Minister P Chidambaram's statement to Parliament
doesn't clarify the issue. According to one police account aired on television, the team
went to Cama Hospital to rescue another officer, Sadanand Date, who was injured.
According to a second account, the team was pursuing a red car carrying Ismail and
It is hard to believe that senior officers like Karkare, Kamte and Salaskar all had to walk to
CST/Cama because the police had erected barricades, and that they abandoned their
separate vehicles to get into one car while chasing the fugitives. Even the circumstances
of Karkare's killing, allegedly in a narrow lane behind the hospital, remain obscure.
If the police wireless message about the red car was meant to lure the team into an
ambush, it is vital to ask where and how the report originated. If the gunmen were firing
from the left, as Constable Arun Jadhav -- who was in Karkare's car, but survived the
attack -- said, how was Karkare hit three times in the chest while Jadhav got two bullets in
his right arm? Also, the ambush story doesn't quite hang together. The only vegetation in
the lane has wire netting around it, behind which it'd be hard to hide.
Clearly, even if one discounts all conspiracy theories, unanswered questions remain.
Hindutva groups reviled Karkare for his bold, scrupulous investigation into the Thakur-
Purohit terror network. L K Advani , no less, wanted him removed from the ATS and
levelled charges, disproved after medical examination, that Thakur was tortured in ATS
custody This, and the gaps in the police account(s), make imperative a dispassionate,
thorough, high-level investigation into his killing -- in addition to an inquiry into the
intelligence failures and state agencies' inept response to the attacks.
The case for an inquiry in the Karkare case is all the stronger because many in the Muslim
community -- which has borne the brunt of excesses committed in the name of fighting
terrorism -- and other citizens too, have seriously questioned the official account.
Antulay or no Antulay, it's the government's duty to answer them. Supremely callous
colonial rulers ignore public concerns. But democratic governments' legitimacy depends
on respecting them and sharing the truth with the public in the interests of social
cohesion. A credible inquiry would help rebuild the public's faith in the government, which
has recently suffered erosion.
There are moments in the life of a nation when exemplary rectitude, transparency and
adherence to law are called for, and an effort worthy of universal respect is necessary to
reach out to those who feel excluded. Justice H R Khanna's dissenting opinion in the
Emergency case, Justice B N Srikrishna's inquiry into the Mumbai violence of 1992-1993,
and Karkare's own brilliant investigation into the Hindutva terror network, are instances
of these. In each case, State functionaries rose above pressures to harness their work to
extraneous agendas. The entire nation gained from their work. We badly need another
such effort today.
Regrettably, the United Progressive Alliance government seems to be caving in to Rightwing
pressures from the Bharatiya Janata Party to adopt a macho, national-chauvinist,
'to-hell-with-civil-liberties' stance to show that it has the will to fight terrorism. That alone
explains the deplorable haste with which it railroaded through Parliament two tough
counter-terrorism laws without serious debate. These erode federalism and infringe civil
The National Investigation Agency Act establishes a new organisation to investigate acts
of terrorism and offences related to atomic energy, aviation, maritime transport, sedition,
weapons of mass destruction, and Left-wing extremism. Significantly, it excludes
Hindutva-style right-wing extremism, which has taken a far higher toll in India than leftwing
Naxalism. It's far from clear how the NIA can secure the cooperation of other
existing agencies, rather than face turf battles and sabotage.
Unlike the Central Bureau of Investigation, which needs the consent of a state before
investigating crimes there, the NIA will supersede state agencies. This is a serious
intrusion into the federal system. The NIA, and the special courts set up under the Act, will
be vulnerable to political abuse by the Centre.
The second law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act brings back the
discredited POTA, except for admitting confessions made to the police as evidence. It
radically changes criminal procedures, extends periods of police custody and detention
without charges, denies bail to foreigners, and reverses the burden of proof in many
instances. The Act will turn India into a virtual police State.
The UPA abrogated POTA in 2004 in response to innumerable complaints of abuse against
Muslims and application to offences not connected with terrorism. But the UPA retained all
other tough laws, and also amended the Unlawful Activities Act. This increased
punishment for terrorism and harbouring/financing terrorists, made communications
intercepts admissible as evidence, and increased detention without charges to 90 days
from 30 days.
However, despite numerous recent terrorist attacks, the UPA firmly rejected the BJP's
demand that POTA be re-enacted. But now, it has shamefully caved in to the demand --
under the pressure of elite opinion and with an eye on the next general election.
The UAPA Act contains a range of draconian clauses, including a redefinition of terrorism,
harsh punishment like life sentence or death, long periods of detention, and presumption
of guilt in many cases. The redefinition includes acts done with the intent to threaten or
'likely' to threaten India's unity, integrity or sovereignty. Under this hold-all provision, the
police can arrest, search and seize the property of anyone whom it 'has reason to believe
from personal knowledge, or any information by any person... or any articles or any other
thing...' Even rumours and baseless suspicion fit this description. Also covered are
attempts to kidnap Constitutional and other functionaries listed by the government. The
list is endless.
Under the Act, an accused can be held in police custody for 30 days, and detained without
charges for 180 days. This is a travesty of Constitutional rights. Even worse is the
presumption of guilt in case there is a recovery of arms, explosives and 'substances of a
similar nature.' The police routinely plants arms and explosives, and creates a false
recovery record. The punishment range extends from three or five five years to life. This
shows the government has not applied its mind.
Under the Act, there is a general obligation to disclose 'all information' that a police officer
thinks might be relevant. Failure to disclose can lead to imprisonment for three years.
Journalists, lawyers, doctors and friends are not exempt from this sweeping provision,
which presumes guilt on mere suspicion. Besides making telecommunications and e-mail
intercepts admissible as evidence, the Act also denies bail to all foreign nationals and to all
others if a prima facie case exists on the basis of a First Information Report by the police.
POTA and its predecessor, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, were
extensively abused. They targeted the religious minorities, specifically Muslims. Some
67,000 people were arrested under TADA, but only 8,000 put on trial, and just 725
convicted. Official TADA review committees found its application untenable in all but
5,000 cases. POTA's abuse was even more appalling.
The two new laws will increase the alienation of Muslims from the Indian State given that
they have been the principal victims of India's recent anti-terrorism strategy. Many
Muslims are also distressed at the alacrity with which the laws were passed -- in contrast
with the UPA's failure to enact the promised law to punish communal violence and hate
This will make the social-political climate conducive to State terrorism, promote muscular
nationalism, and create a barbed-wire mentality. These are the ingredients of a terrible
national security State, much like Pakistan's or Israel's, and similar to the way the US is
evolving. Nothing could be worse for our citizens' safety and our democracy's health.
Handling Queries : Democratic Responses
Antuley Remarks and the Aftermath
The tragic terror attack on the city of Mumbai (Nov.2008) has shaken not only the people
of city but also the whole nation. It is not the first time that terror attacks have taken place
in this city. The first major one was seen in the aftermath of Mumbai carnage of 1992-93.
The investigation of this blast showed that the terrorist took advantage of the gross
injustices done to Muslim minority and lured a small section of them to execute their
dastardly designs. Then in the aftermath of Gujarat carnage again one witnessed the
blasts. The tragic happenings of Gujarat had incited this reaction. This time around
November 26, 2008, there is no immediate provocation, but the role of Al Qaeda type
elements is clear. What is puzzling this time around is that the attack came at a time when
the investigation being done by Maharashtra ATS into Malegaon blast was leading to
certain impeccable findings of the involvement of Hindutva elements. This was resulting
in a hostile reaction to the ATS chief who was doing a thorough professional job. He was
being abused and criticized by the people like Advani and Modi for being deshdrohi (anti
national). Pune Police had also received a death threat to him from an anonymous caller
just couple of days ahead of the terror attack.
After this tragedy many a versions of death of Karkare and his two colleagues came
forward. The first one was that he has been killed at Taj, second one saying the death
occurred in the lane near Cama hospital and the yet another one saying that he was killed
while sitting in the vehicle. In this context many doubts were raised by some social
activists and later by the Union minister for minorities Mr. A.R. Antuley. His statement that
“superficially they (the terrorists) had no reason to kill Karkare. Whether he (Karkare)
was a victim of terrorism or terrorism plus something, I do not know,” implying that a
thorough probe in to his death should be undertaken to clear the mist around his death.
This does not imply any finger pointing but a mere doubt, which is lurking in the minds of
This statement followed a vicious attack on him by many, especially by the Hindu right
wing and a section of media. While many felt that the idea was to ensure that Truth comes
out, the others felt that he should not only be sacked from his post but a case of treason be
launched against him. While few voices like those of Digvijay Singh came to support
Antuley statement and Maharashtra Assembly speaker Baba Saheb Kupekar said that
since Maharashtra Government is setting up a probe into the allegations of negligence of
the top level Police officers, that committee can very well probe the death of Hemant
Karkare as well.
The degree of hostile reaction to some doubt raised and need for unearthing truth in a
democratic society should be taken seriously. Why and who is afraid of truth coming out?
Strangely we seem to have various types of reactions which have lot of political tinge than
elements of reason. One of this is to ignore some events and facts which go against the
social common sense and the interests of dominant political streams. One such example
is the blasts which took place in Nanded in the house of RSS worker in which two Bajrang
Dal workers died while making bombs (April 2006). While some channels can work
overtime to put out the visuals of events with potential of sensationalism, this particular
incident was literally blocked by large section of media. No doubt few papers and channels
carried it but it remained a marginal story. Then the events of blasts in front of Mecca
Masjid in Hyderabad were also attributed to the usual Jehadi elements, many of them
arrested/tortured to the extreme. The blast and the tragedy was news. Later when they
got released for the lack of any evidence, that was neither news nor a time to introspect as
to why the wrong people are being caught, or to think if there is a need to review the line of
investigation in the cases of blasts? Here the media shapes popular perception and the
investigating authorities remained stuck to the old theory, terrorists are Muslims. So by
overlooking the crucial news/event, a valuable lead was suppressed, the proper
unearthing of which might have led to prevention of some attacks later.
The second form of reaction is from vested political elements and section of media which
flows with the tide. Once Maharashtra ATS could lay its hands on the motorcycle used by
terrorists in Malegaon blast, the investigation shifted to Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur,
Swami Dayanand, Lt Col Prasad Purohit and Retd major Upadhyay. This investigation
being conducted with professionalism came for scathing attack from Hindutva elements
that went to intimidate the ATS officer to the extent that he went for moral support and
counseling to the one of the most forthright police officers, Julio Reibero. Mr. Reibero in his
article in Times of India tells us the pressure Karkare was going through while doing his
professional duty. Shiv Sena not only organized for legal support for Sadhvi and Company
but also its mouth piece Saamana went on to write, “We will declare all names and
addresses of policemen on Malegaon case, the people will take action. This is nothing but
a ploy to defame Hindutva by people in the ATS who have taken supari (contract) of this.
On such officers we spit, we spit.”
In this context all those trying to strive for truth are also being labeled with choicest
abuses. Any raising of question about the investigation, the narration of incidents comes
to be branded as being pro Pakistan and anti India. One is not arguing against India or for
Pakistan, one is trying to see that the real picture of things will strengthen India. Can a
hollow shell full of falsity be the base of the Democratic Indian state? More we try to
smoothen the knots more are we will be trying to ensure that Indian society becomes
better. In this jingoism, war again Pakistan is the rash demand, quenching the instant
anger generated due to terror attack. One has to see such oppressive outburst like the
one's we have seen from Advani and company which are not in sync with the building of a
harmonious atmosphere and justice to all. All the legal provisions at our command need
to be marshaled to see that the work initiated by the likes of Karkare is not allowed to be
What does one make of the ignoring crucial leads in the first place and then reacting
angrily, with such passion to the innocuous demands of a probe? This burst of pseudo
nationalism needs to be understood. It is the one which wants to intimidate the voice of
reason and is primarily trying to stifle the democratic space. In Antuley's case he is also
being hurled abuses by the same section, labeling him as Pakistan supporter and what
not. Its time our columnists remember that in democracy the people have full right to
express their opinions and doubts. As a matter of fact those hysterically browbeating
those raising doubts are the one's who are undermining the nation's constitution.
Definitely the most befitting tribute to the officers who have laid down their lives while
protecting the society from the insane acts of terror, is to ensure that the truth of their
death comes out and that Malegaon probe goes on properly.
THE MUMBAI TERROR ATTACKS: NEED
FOR A THOROUGH INVESTIGATION
In all the confusion and horror generated by the ghastly terrorist attacks in Bombay, a
dimension which has not received the attention it deserves is the circumstances
surrounding the death of Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) chief Hemant Karkare and two of his
colleagues, encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar and Additional Commissioner of Police
Ashok Kamte. The major pattern of operations involved well-organised attacks on a few
high-profile sites in Colaba – the Taj and Oberoi Hotels and Nariman House – while a
parallel set of operations was centred on VT or CST station, Cama Hospital and the Metro
cinema, in the middle of which is the police headquarters where Karkare worked. The
latter is an area where foreigners are much less likely to be found.
Why is a Proper Investigation Crucial?
Hemant Karkare was engaged in unearthing a terror network with characteristics which
had not been seen so far. The investigation started by tracing the motorcycle used to plant
bombs in Malegaon in September 2008 to a Hindu Sadhvi, Pragyasingh Thakur; it later
uncovered a cellphone conversation between her and Ramji, the man who planted the
bombs, in which she asked why more people had not been killed. For the first time, the
Indian state was conducting a thorough professional probe into a terror network centred
on Hindu extremist organisations, this one with huge ramifications, some leading into
military and bomb-making training camps and politicised elements in the army, others
into organisations and political leaders affiliated to the BJP. One of the most potentially
explosive discoveries was that a serving military intelligence officer, Lt.Col. Srikant
Purohit, had procured 60 kg of RDX from government supplies for use in the terrorist
attack on the Samjhauta Express (the India-Pakistan 'Understanding' train) in February
2007, in which 68 people were killed, the majority of them Pakistanis. Initially, militants of
Lashkar-e-Taiba and other Islamist terror groups had been accused of carrying out the
attack, but no evidence against them had been found.
The hostility generated by this investigation was enormous, with allegations that the
suspects had been tortured and that Karkare was being used as a political tool, and
demands that the ATS team should be changed. Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi
and BJP Prime Ministerial candidate L.K.Advani accused him of being a 'desh drohi' or
traitor, a charge that in India carries a death penalty. The Shiv Sena offered legal aid to
those accused of the terrorist attack, and an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamna
threatened that 'the people will take action' against the ATS officers involved in the
Malegaon blast probe, adding that 'On such officers we spit, we spit'. In an interview
shortly before he died, Karkare admitted he was hurt by the campaign against him. On
November 26, just before the terrorist attack, the police in Pune received a call from an
anonymous caller saying in Marathi that Karkare would be killed in a bomb blast within
two or three days.
Just as attitudes to Karkare in society at large were polarised, with some admiring him as
a hero – one Maulana went so far as to call him a 'massiha (messiah) of Muslims', an
amazing tribute from a Muslim to a Hindu – while others hated him as a traitor worthy of
death, attitudes within the police force too were polarised. For example, dismissed
encounter specialist Sachin Vaze (who with three colleagues was charged with murder,
criminal conspiracy, destruction of evidence and concealment of the dead body in the
Khwaja Yunus case shortly before the terrorist attack) was a member of the Shiv Sena
who was actively engaged in the campaign against Karkare and in support of the
Malegaon blast accused.
Hard Evidence or Pulp Fiction?
Given this background, and reports that are riddled with inconsistencies, it is not
surprising that many residents of Bombay are asking questions about the exact
circumstances of the death of Hemant Karkare and his colleagues; when A.R.Antulay
raised the question in parliament, he was merely giving voice to a small part of the doubts
entertained by many others. The earliest reports, presumably relayed from the police via
the media, said that Karkare had been killed at the Taj, and Salaskar and Kamte at Metro.
If this was not true, why were we told this? And why was the story later changed? Was it
because it conflicted with eye-witness accounts? In the early hours of the 27th, under the
heading 'ATS Chief Hemant Karkare Killed: His Last Pics', IBNlive showed footage first of
Karkare putting on a helmet and bullet-proof vest, then cut to a shootout at Metro, where
an unconscious man who looks like Karkare and wearing the same light blue shirt and
dark trousers (but without any blood on his shirt or the terrible wounds we saw on his face
at his funeral) is being pulled into a car by two youths in saffron shirts.
that Karkare 'could well have fallen prey to just indiscriminate, random firing by the
cops', and also reports that there were two vehicles, a Toyota Qualis and Honda City, from
which the occupants were firing indiscriminately.
Later we were given two accounts of the killings where the venue was shifted to a
deserted lane without cameras or eye-witnesses. The first account is by the lone terrorist
captured alive, claiming to be A.A.Kasab from Faridkot in Pakistan and a member of the
terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba. According to him, just two gumen, he and Ismail (also
from Pakistan), first attacked VT station, where they sprayed bullets indiscriminately.
(Around 58 people were killed there, over one-third of them Muslims, and many more
might have been killed if the announcer, Mr Zende, had not risked his life to direct
passengers to safety.) They then went to Cama, a government hospital for women and
children used mainly by the poor. Initially, Kasab claimed he and
Ismail had killed Karkare, Salaskar and Kamte. Later, in his 'confession,' he claimed that
while coming out of the hospital, he and Ismail saw a police vehicle passing and hid behind
according to the police,
a bush; then another vehicle passed them and stopped some distance away. A police
officer got out and started firing at them, hitting Kasab on the hand so that he dropped his
AK47, but Ismail opened fire on the officers in the car until they stopped firing. There were
three bodies in the vehicle, which Ismail removed, and then .
The other account is by police constable Arun Jadhav. According to him, Karkare,
Salaskar, Kamte, a driver and four police constables including himself were driving down
the alley from VT to the back entrance of Cama (barely a ten-minute drive) in their Toyota
Qualis to check on injured police officer Sadanand Date when two gunmen emerged from
behind trees by the left side of the road and sprayed the vehicle with bullets, killing all its
inmates except Jadhav. They then dragged out the three officers, hijacked the vehicle,
drove to Metro junction and then Mantralaya in South Bombay, abandoned it when a tyre
burst, . According to police accounts, they then drove to
Girgaum, where Kasab was injured and arrested .
These accounts raise more questions than they answer. Kasab claimed that a band of ten
terrorists landed and split up into twos, going to various destinations, he and his
companion going to VT. He said they wanted to blow up the Taj, as in the attack on the
Marriott in Islamabad; yet we are told that only 8kg of RDX were found at the Taj, and
even that was not used; contrast this with 600kg of RDX and TNT used to blow up the
Marriott: could they really have expected to blow up the Taj? Given that the rest of the
operation was so systematic, why did they plant two bombs in taxis to go off in random
locations, one in Dockyard Road and another in Vile Parle, 25 kilometres away? He said
that the terrorists planned to use their hostages as a means of escape, yet there was no
attempt at any time to do that; at other times, he also said they had been instructed to
. He says he is a labourer from Faridkot near Multan and only studied up
to Class IV, but it is reported that he speaks fluent English. Several people have pointed
out that the pictures of him in VT show him wearing a saffron wrist-band, a Hindu custom,
and police later revealed that he could not recite a single verse from the Koran, which any
child growing up in a Muslim family would have been able to do. Indeed, a thoughtful
article on the soc.culture.jewish group argued that the terrorists were not Muslims but
mercenaries, given their appearance and behaviour (especially their reported
consumption of alcohol and drugs), pointing out that they did not need to disguise
themselves, since Muslims who look like Muslims are plentiful in Bombay, and
During his interrogation, Kasab said that he and eight of the operatives had done a
reconaissance trip to Bombay a few months back, pretending to be students and renting a
room at Colaba market, which is close to Nariman House. It is extremely hard for
Pakistani nationals to get Indian visas, and they are kept under close surveillance by the
police; it is also most unlikely that the Indian immigration authorities would be fooled by
forged passports of another country. In that case, the Indian immigration authorities
would have visa applications of nine of the terrorists including Kasab, and could match the
photographs in them to those of the terrorists: Later, Kasab changed
drove off in it with Kasab
and grabbed another car
and his companion killed
fight to the death
attract undue attention
has this been done?
his story and said that the team who carried out reconnaissance was different from the
team who had carried out the attacks.
The events in VT and Cama and the back lane also put a question mark over his story.
two gunmen started firing at the mainline terminus in VT at 21.55
on Wednesday night, but at precisely the same time, according to CCTV footage, two
gunmen on the suburban terminus. If the first account is true, there
were four gunmen at the station: where did the other two come from, and where did they
go? We are shown video footage, claiming to be CCTV but without the timeline of normal
CCTV footage, of Kasab and Ismail wandering around the parking lot near the mainline
terminus. This surely cannot be before the shootout, since the station is completely
deserted; and after the shootout, Kasab and Ismail are supposed to have escaped via the
footbridge from Platform 1 of the suburban station on the other side of VT: this, again,
suggests there were four gunmen. Even if Kasab and Ismail had been shown photographs
of Karkare, Salaskar and Kamte before they embarked on their trip, how could they
possibly have identified the police officers in a dark alley in the dead of night according to
Kasab's first story? According to his later confession, a police officer got out of the vehicle
and started firing first, injuring him; how, then, did Ismail manage to kill the rest by
Witnesses in Cama hospital say the terrorists spoke fluent Marathi, and this report in two
Marathi papers (Maharashtra Times and Navakaal of 28 /12/ 2008) has been .
The gunmen killed two guards in uniform, spared a third, who was in civilian dress and
begged for his life saying he was the husband of a patient, demanded water from an
employee in the staff quarters and then killed him. They then appear to have made a
beeline for the 6th floor (which was empty) and the terrace, taking with them
. 15-30 minutes later, six to eight policemen arrived, and another employee took
them up to the 6th floor. The policemen threw a piece of steel up to the terrace,
whereupon Tikhe came running down and told them there were two terrorists on the
terrace. A fierce gun-battle ensued for 30 to 45 minutes, in which ACP Sadanand Date was
injured. Panic-stricken patients and staff in the maternity ward on the 5th floor barricaded
the door; nurses instructed the women to breast-feed their babies to keep them quiet,
and one woman, who was in the middle of labour, was told to hold back the birth; but they
were not invaded. Eventually the gunmen appear to have escaped, . If
they were Kasab and Ismail, then these two must have been fluent Marathi speakers. And
why would they have taken up positions on the terrace? Was it because it overlooks the
lane in which Karkare, Salaskar and Kamte were later supposedly killed?
The other account is equally dubious. In , Jadhav said Karkare was in the
second row of the Qualis, while in the second he was supposed to be in the front row with
Kamte. In the second account, Salaskar was initially sitting behind the driver, but then
asked the driver to slow down and got behind the wheel himself: is it plausible that an
experienced encounter specialist would deliberately make himself into a sitting duck like
this when they were in hot pursuit of terrorists? In the first account they were supposed to
According to witnesses,
began an assault
it is not clear how
his first account
be going to check up on their injured colleague Sadanand Date, but in the second were
supposed to be looking for a red car in which they had been told the gunmen were
travelling. If the report about the red car was a decoy to lure them into an ambush, it is
important to know who told them that the terrorists were in a red car. If the gunmen were
firing from the left side, as Jadhav claimed, how was Karkare hit three times in the chest
while Jadhav himself got two bullets in his right arm? In fact, the only vegetation in that
part of the lane is on the right side, and is pinned to the wall by chest-high wire netting; it
would be necessary to climb over the netting to hide behind it, and climb over again to
come out: impossible under the circumstances. Witnesses say only two bodies were
found at the spot next morning: what happened to the third officer? Who were the three
How did two terrorists manage to kill six police personnel, including Karkare and Kamte
who he said were armed with AK47s and Salaskar, an encounter specialist, when one
terrorist was later captured and the other killed by policemen armed only with two rifles
and lathis? Assistant Police Inspector Ombale was killed in that encounter, but his
colleagues survived. A DNA report on 2 December said that sub-inspector Durgude, who
had been posted in front of St Xavier's College, between Cama Hospital and the exit point
of the back lane onto Mahapalika Road, saw two young men whom he took to be students
and called out to warn them that there was firing at Cama. When they ignored him, he
approached them, upon which one of them turned an AK47 on him . If Kasab
and Ismail were there, who was firing inside Cama? Again, it is evident that at least four
terrorists, and possibly more, were involved in this operation.
There was also on 28 November saying that Anand Raorane, a
resident of a building opposite Nariman House, heard sounds of celebration from the
terrorists there when the news of Karkare getting killed was flashed on TV: isn't that
strange? The same report quoted a resident of Nariman House and a local shopkeeper
who said that the terrorists had purchased large quantities of food and liquor before the
attack, suggesting that more than two of them were planning to occupy the place for a
long time. Eye-witnesses in St Xavier's saw a man shot and lying on the pavement in front
of the college around 12.30 a.m., while about three gunmen stood over him: who was
that? Various reports said that two to eight terrorists were captured alive. Now there is
only one in police custody: what happened to the other(s)?
A careful scrutiny of all the reports available so far suggests, to this writer anyway, that
the killing of Karkare was a premeditated act executed by his self-proclaimed enemies,
some of whom had prior intelligence of the attack on the hotels and planned their own
attack to coincide with it. The operation in Cama, in particular, seems to have had the sole
objective of luring Karkare into the lane where he was later reportedly killed.
A.R.Antulay's demand for a probe into the killing was widely supported, even though the
same parties who were earlier vilifying and threatening Karkare responded by baying for
his blood. P.Chidambaram's clarification that it was by chance that Karkare, Salaskar and
Kamte happened to be travelling in the same vehicle does not explain any of the other
and killed him
an intriguing report in DNA
anomalies: Why did the terrorists go into Cama? If they were intending to slaughter
people ruthlessly as they did in VT, why did they desist – did they have a sudden crisis of
conscience? If they intended to create a hostage crisis, why did they go to the 6th floor and
terrace, where there were no patients or staff? On the other hand, if they were looking for
a getaway vehicle, wouldn't they have been more likely to find it on the road than on the
terrace of Cama? How did these Pakistanis learn to speak Marathi so fluently? And are we
really expected to believe that they could defy the laws of nature by being in two places at
the same time, engaged in a shootout at Cama while at the same time gunning down subinspector
Durgude outside St Xavier's?
The Objective: Shutting Down Terrorist Networks
These are just a few of the numerous questions being asked by vigilant Bombayites who
find themselves thoroughly dissatisfied with the information that has been doled out.
These are citizens who understand that their security depends on identifying Islamist
terrorist networks in Pakistan and shutting them down, but feel it is equally important to
their security to identify and shut down Hindutva terrorist networks in India, which have
been responsible for the majority of terrorist attacks in Maharashtra, and possibly the
whole country, in the past five years. Why are they so cynical about the possibility of a
genuine professional investigation? The answer is that we have too much bitter
experience of investigations in which innocent people (usually Muslims) are rounded up,
tortured and even killed, while the real culprits are allowed to go free. Interpol chief
Robert Noble's amazing revelation on December 23 that India had not shared any
information about the terrorists with it, despite its offer to use Interpol's extensive
resources to assist in the investigation, can only fuel the suspicion that the information
dished out by the police to the public via the media is not of a quality that would be
acceptable to a truly professional police agency. Karkare broke with this dismal record,
but now he is dead. When a person who has been vilified, slandered and threatened with
death is killed in suspicious circumstances, it is imperative that a proper investigation
should be carried out soon, before too much evidence can be manufactured and/or
destroyed. If Kasab aka Iman disappears or is assassinated like Lee Harvey Oswald, or is
executed, that could only be seen as evidence of a cover-up.
The government and people of Pakistan have as much interest as the government and
people of India in eliminating the terror networks that have killed President Asif Ali
Zardari's wife Benazir Bhutto and thousands of others in both Pakistan and India. The
terrorists, on the other hand, be they Islamist or Hindutva, have a common interest in
destroying secularism, democracy and peace within and between the two countries. That
is their precise agenda. Pakistani politicians had offered a joint investigation into the
terrorist attacks, a far more sensible suggestion than belligerent statements by some
Indians accusing Pakistan of harbouring terrorists who are killing Indians, which led us to
the brink of war. It should be obvious that a military conflict between India and Pakistan,
advocated by the Shiv Sena, would be disastrous for both countries
economically, while a nuclear war, which might ensue if extremist forces captured power
in both countries, would have unthinkable consequences. If the Indo-Pakistan peace
process is halted, as L.K.Advani advocates, the terrorists would have won.
Indeed, without a joint investigation, the terrorist networks behind this outrage can never
be uncovered: how else could the names and addresses in Pakistan revealed by Kasab be
followed up to the satisfaction of all parties? Interpol could act as a coordinating agency,
but would not be able to follow up information about the terrorists unless it is provided by
the Indian authorities. The Indian government owes it to the memory of Karkare,
Salaskar and Kamte, who died fighting terrorism of all hues, to establish a credible
account of exactly where, when and how they were killed, and identify their killers; unlike
the well-known female TV anchor and others who berated Antulay for 'helping Pakistan,'
we do not have to agree that one has to be a moron in order to be a good Indian! The
government also owes it to us, the public, who are the prime targets of all terrorist
attacks, to carry out a credible investigation which identifies and puts behind bars all the
mass murderers involved in this and other attacks.
Terrorism, Rule of Law,
and Human Rights
Adherence to the constitutional principle of 'substantive due process' must be an essential
part of our collective response to terrorism. Any dilution of the right to a fair trial for all
individuals, however heinous their crimes may be, will be a moral loss against those who
preach hatred and violence.
From our recent experience, we have learnt that terrorist attacks against innocent and
unsuspecting civilians threaten the preservation of the rule of law as well as human
rights; and terrorism can broadly be identified with the use of violent methods in place of
the ordinary tools of civic engagement and political participation. It has become an
increasingly recurrent strategy for insurgent movements as well as identity-based groups
to make their voice heard through armed attacks and bomb blasts in place of public
dialogue. Independent India is no stranger to the problem of tackling armed terrorists and
has faced long-running insurgencies as well as sporadic attacks in many parts of the
However, in the age of easy international travel and advanced communications, terrorist
networks have also assumed cross-border dimensions. In many instances, attacks are
planned by individuals located in different countries who use modern technology to
collaborate for the transfer of funds and procurement of advanced weapons. This clearly
means that terrorism is an international problem and requires effective multilateral
engagement between various nations.
For the international legal community, this poses a doctrinal as well as practical challenge.
I say this because from the prism of international legal norms, prescriptions against
violent attacks have traditionally evolved under two categories — firstly, those related to
armed conflict between nations, and secondly, those pertaining to internal disturbances
within a nation. While the conduct and consequences of armed conflicts between nations
— such as wars and border skirmishes — are regulated by international criminal law and
humanitarian law, the occurrence of internal disturbances within a nation are largely
considered to be the subject-matter of that particular nation's domestic criminal justice
system and constitutional principles.
It is often perceived that these doctrinal demarcations actually inhibit international
cooperation for cracking down on terrorist cells with cross-border networks. In the
absence of bilateral treaties for extradition or assistance in investigation, there is no clear
legal basis for international cooperation in investigating terrorist attacks — which are
usually classified as internal disturbances in the nation where they took place. Since there
are no clear and consistent norms to guide collaboration between nations in acting
against terrorists, countries like the United States have invented their own doctrines such
as 'pre-emptive action' to justify counter-terrorism operations in foreign nations.
However, the pursuit of terrorists alone cannot be a justification for arbitrarily breaching
another nation's sovereignty. In this scenario, one strategy that has been suggested is
that of recognising terrorist attacks as coming within a new 'hybrid' category of armed
conflict, wherein obligations can be placed on different countries to collaborate in the
investigation and prosecution of terrorist attacks that have taken place in a particular
country. This calls for a blurring of the distinction between the international and domestic
nature of armed conflict when it comes to terrorist strikes.
Another suggestion that has been made in this regard is that of treating terrorist attacks
as offences recognised under International Criminal Law, such as 'crimes against
humanity,' which can then be tried before a supranational tribunal such as the
International Criminal Court (ICC). However, the obvious practical problem with this
suggestion is that prosecutions before this Court need to be initiated by the United
Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the latter body may be reluctant to do so in
instances of one-off terrorist attacks as opposed to continuing conflicts.
Yet another practical constraint that has been brought to the fore with the Mumbai attacks
has been the question of holding governments responsible for the actions of non-state
actors. While one can say that there is a moral duty on all governments to prevent and
restrain the activities of militant groups on their soil, this is easier said than done. For
example, several terrorist groups are able to organise financial support and procure
weapons even in western nations where the policing and criminal justice systems are
perceived to be relatively stronger than in the subcontinent.
Coming to the domestic setting, I must state that the symbolic impact of terrorist attacks
on the minds of ordinary citizens has also been considerably amplified by the role of
pervasive media coverage. In India, the proliferation of 24-hour television news channels
and the digital medium has ensured that quite often some disturbing images and
statements reach a very wide audience. One of the ill-effects of unrestrained coverage is
that of provoking anger among the masses. While it is fair for the media to prompt public
criticism of inadequacies in the security and law-enforcement apparatus, there is also a
possibility of such resentment turning into an irrational desire for retribution.
Furthermore, the trauma resulting from the terrorist attacks may be used as a
justification for undue curtailment of individual rights and liberties. Instead of offering a
considered response to the growth of terrorism, a country may resort to questionable
methods such as permitting indefinite detention of terror suspects, the use of coercive
interrogation techniques, and the denial of the right to fair trial. Outside the criminal
justice system, the fear generated by terrorist attacks may also be linked to increasing
governmental surveillance over citizens and unfair restrictions on immigration.
In recent years, the most prominent example of this 'slippery slope' for the curtailment of
individual rights is the treatment of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay who were arrested
by U.S. authorities in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. It is alleged that they have detained
hundreds of suspects for long periods, often without the filing of charges or access to
independent judicial remedies.
For its part the U.S. administration has defended these practices by asserting that the
detainees at Guantanamo Bay have safeguards such as appeals before military
commissions, administrative review boards and combatant status review tribunals. A
follow up to this in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (126 S. Ct. 2749 (2006) led to the ruling that the
terror suspects could not be denied the right of habeas corpus and should be granted
access to civilian courts. The rationale for this was that the various military tribunals did
not possess the requisite degree of independence to try suspects who had been
apprehended and detained by the military authorities themselves.
Even in the United Kingdom, the House of Lords in the Belmarsh decision (A v. Secretary
of State for the Home Department,  UKHL 56) ruled against a provision in the Anti-
Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, 2001, which allowed the indefinite detention of foreign
terror suspects. This ruling prompted the enactment of the Prevention of Terrorism Act,
2005, which was fiercely debated. The British Parliament accepted a 42-day period as the
maximum permissible for detention without charges, subject to judicial checks.
Evidently, the judiciary in these two countries has played a moderating role in checking
the excesses that have crept into the response against terrorism.
In some circles, it is argued that the judiciary places unnecessary curbs on the power of
the investigating agencies to tackle terrorism. In India, those who subscribe to this view
also demand changes in our criminal and evidence law — such as provisions for longer
periods of preventive detention and confessions made before police officials to be made
admissible in court. While the ultimate choice in this regard lies with the legislature, we
must be careful not to trample upon constitutional principles such as 'substantive due
process.' This guarantee was read into the conception of 'personal liberty' under Article 21
of the Constitution of India by our Supreme Court. (This idea of 'substantive due process'
was incorporated through the decision in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, AIR 1978 SC
597.) The necessary implication of this is that all governmental action, even in
exceptional times, must meet the standards of reasonableness, non-arbitrariness, and
This implies that we must be wary of the use of torture and other forms of coercive
interrogation techniques by law enforcement agencies. Coercive interrogation techniques
mostly induce false confessions and do not help in preventing terrorist attacks.
Furthermore, the tolerance of the same can breed a sense of complacency if they are
viewed as an easy way out by investigative agencies.
Need for professionalism
The apprehension and interrogation of terror suspects must also be done in a thoroughly
professional manner, with the provision of adequate judicial scrutiny as mandated in the
Code of Criminal Procedure. This is required because in recent counter-terrorist
operations, there have been several reports of arbitrary arrests of individuals belonging to
certain communities and the concoction of evidence — such as the production of similarly
worded confession statements by detained suspects in different places. The proposal for
the admissibility of confessional statements made before the police is also problematic
since there are fears that such a change will incentivise torture and coercive interrogation
by investigative agencies in order to seek convictions rather than engaging in thorough
The role of the judiciary in this regard should not be misunderstood. Adherence to the
constitutional principle of 'substantive due process' is an essential part of our collective
response to terrorism. As part of the legal community, we must uphold the right to fair
trial for all individuals, irrespective of how heinous their crimes may be. If we accept a
dilution of this right, it will count as a moral loss against those who preach hatred and
violence. We must not confuse between what distinguishes the deliberations of a mature
democratic society from the misguided actions of a few.
(This is based on Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan's presidential address at the
inaugural session of the international conference of jurists on “Terrorism, Rule of Law &
Human Rights” in New Delhi on December 13, 2008.)
Acts of Terror and Terrorising Act
Unfolding Indian Tragedy
In some circles, it is argued that the judiciary places unnecessary curbs on the power of
the investigating agencies to tackle terrorism. In India, those who subscribe to this view
also demand changes in our criminal and evidence law — such as provisions for longer
periods of preventive detention and confessions made before police officials to be made
admissible in court. While the ultimate choice in this regard lies with the legislature, we
must be careful not to trample upon constitutional principles such as 'substantive due
The role of the judiciary in this regard should not be misunderstood.
Adherence to the constitutional principle of 'substantive due process' is an essential part
of our collective response to terrorism. As part of the legal community, we must uphold
the right to fair trial for all individuals, irrespective of how heinous their crimes may be. If
we accept a dilution of this right, it will count as a moral loss against those who preach
hatred and violence.
K. G. Balakrishnan, Chief Justice of India
It is a matter great shame and concern that the amended UAPA Act which had been placed
before the Lok Sabha on Tuesday evening was passed unanimously the very next day, on
Similarly, the Rajya Sabha passed it the following evening.
This is almost a rerun of the shameful saga concerning the saga of the highly controversial
and contested SEZ Act in early 2005. There is, however, at least one crucial difference. In
the earlier case, it was a rather quiet affair, almost a hush-hush. This time it was done
amidst ugly chest-thumping. Last time, in the Lok Sabha, the BJP did not even participate
in the deliberations. This time they claimed with full gusto the credit (sic) for the passage
of the Bill overshadowing its official sponsors.
While the full details remain to be accessed and analysed, it is pretty much clear that most
of the provisions of the earlier scrapped POTA, on account of strong reactions triggered by
a history of huge misuse against the minorities, other marginalised sections of the
society, people struggling against social and political injustices and also known opponents
of those in positions of power have been brought back. Only the provision for legal
admissibility of a "confession" made in police custody is left out. But there are other areas,
where its reach has further extended. The most important aspect, however, is that the
court has to treat an accused as guilty till proved otherwise and unless the court finds the
accused prima facie innocent it won't grant any bail to the accused. In case of a "foreign
national", there is just no provision for any bail, whatever. This evidently runs counter to
the recent Supreme Court directive that during a trial granting of bail should be the norm,
and rejection an exception.
Even the BJP's start speaker in the Rajya sabha, Arun Jaitley, had to thus admit in course
of his shrill advocacy for a draconian Act while supporting the Bill:
It is obvious that an anti terror law is not a substitute for stronger intelligence and security
responses. You need a powerful intelligence mechanism which infiltrates into the enemy
camp and brings you advance information of what the enemy is planning. The intelligence
has to be coordinated and then effectively passed on to those who will take preventive
measures. Your security responses have to be fast. Your commando reactions must send
fear into the enemy mind. Obviously, an anti terror law is not a replacement of all these.
It is not necessary here to get into the utterly perverse nature of Jaitley's foundational
assumption of some perpetual enmity and a permanent "enemy camp" except for noting
that this is the central element of mobilization strategy of the Hindutva Brigade in
pursuance of its "Hindu Rashtra" project – ideological negation and physical liquidation of
"secular democratic" India.. But what is more relevant is that even he cannot run away
from the obvious fact that draconian laws are no substitute for good intelligence gathering
(to prevent acts of terrorism) and prompt and effective response to such acts when they
take place nevertheless.
A rider, a forewarning, issued by the incumbent Chief Justice of India, in a recent article of
his is extremely instructive in the current context:
(T)he trauma resulting from the terrorist attacks may be used as a justification for undue
curtailment of individual rights and liberties. Instead of offering a considered response to
the growth of terrorism, a country may resort to questionable methods such as permitting
indefinite detention of terror suspects, the use of coercive interrogation techniques, and
the denial of the right to fair trial. Outside the criminal justice system, the fear generated
by terrorist attacks may also be linked to increasing governmental surveillance over
citizens and unfair restrictions on immigration.
This implies that we must be wary of the use of torture and other forms of coercive
interrogation techniques by law enforcement agencies. Coercive interrogation techniques
mostly induce false confessions and do not help in preventing terrorist attacks.
Furthermore, the tolerance of the same can breed a sense of complacency if they are
viewed as an easy way out by investigative agencies.
[Source: < >.]
Pretty unfortunately, but rather expectedly, the entire thrust of the discourse
spearheaded by the outraged elite is to "tighten the law" to ensure "conviction" of the
accused by granting more powers to the law enforcing agencies whose performance in
stalling terrorist attacks amidst repeated claims of busting the "terror modules" and
capturing, and also "neutralising" through encounters, the (innumerable) "masterminds"
remains utterly and increasingly dismal. Highly conspicuous is any anxiety to ensure an
efficient investigation and effective intelligence gathering and making those responsible
for failures accountable for their failures.
Draconian laws, let there be no confusion, will only tend to turn the highhanded, corrupt
and lousy police force even more so and thereby further worsen the situation. Not that
there will not be more convictions and many more arrests, indefinite detentions, custodial
and encounter deaths. The continued incarceration of Dr. Binayak Sen – a dedicated
doctor of highest distinction and a human rights activist of national stature - behind the
bars since May 2007 on apparently trumped up charges despite national and global
protests, even without the aid of the newly brushed up UAPA Act, is enough of a pointer.
But that will not stop or deter terrorism, rather further aggravate. It is a great tragedy
that such measure is being sold and consumed considered as the silver bullet in spite of
clearly proven track record of gross failures. The attack on the Indian Parliament, the Red
Fort, Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar and also the hijacking of an Indian Airlines
plane to Kandahar are just a few examples. All these are, incidentally, of somewhat nature
as that of the latest attack in Mumbai.
The latest terror attack in Mumbai, which is somewhat atypical in the context of endless
terror attacks in India since the one on March 12 1993 - flowing directly from the
preceding bloodbath sparked on January 6 1993 – has, however, one common
characteristic. That is the gross failure of intelligence.
Intelligence gathering and sorting out of the same through interactions of various
agencies into actionable knowledge has various stages and levels. The gathering itself
has essentially two categories – domestic and external. The external element is of course
the charge of a very specialized agency mainly through a set of trained "spies", and tips
from other "friendly" agencies. The internal gathering process is, however, far more
varied. Even then the base, and the most crucial element, is constituted of intelligence
gathering at the grassroots level. Here the present practice is to obtain information
through paid "informers" – all sorts of shady characters, petty and professional criminals.
Given the extremely negative image of the police vis-à-vis the local communities, it could
hardly be otherwise. But this method cannot but be far less efficient than would have been
in case of voluntary and free flow of information from the common citizenry. But that
would call for a very different image of the police. A very different relationship with the
local communities. Instead of an institution symbolizing and embodiment of torture and
oppression, the police has to have a people-friendly image in order to make that possible.
But in such an event, not only intelligence gathering would be far more efficient – but that
would rather be a fringe benefit – the maintenance of "law and order" itself would be much
Nothing can be truer and more forthright than a recent assessment of the current state of
Indian policing as contained in a statement issued by the Asian Human Rights
Commission on the last December 2, in the wake of the terror attack in Mumbai.
The fact remains that the Maharashtra State Police, like any other state police force in the
country, can hardly do anything to avert these incidents. The state of policing in the
country is in such demise that it has completely severed its contact with the people. Most
police officers contact the members of the public only to demand bribes. Corruption in the
police service is at such levels that even in order to lodge a complaint the complainant has
to pay a bribe.
Police brutality is so rampant in the country that the sight of a police uniform is enough to
scare an ordinary person, particularly among the poor population. Information,
independent of its nature, has to be forced out of the ordinary people. Information
obtained under the threat of violence is tainted and cannot be acted upon. Terrorists are
different from the ordinary people in the sense that they have money, better training and
equipment at their disposal to achieve their goals. They can bribe the police and are in fact
To expect an ordinary Indian to approach the local police with information is an
impossibility in the country. An example is the statements made by the parents who lost
their children in the infamous 2006 December Noida serial murder case. The case began
after the recovery of the skeletal remains of missing children in Nithari village in the
outskirts of Noida city close to New Delhi.
[Source: < >.]
The unfortunate "unanimous" passage of the freshly amended Unlawful Activities
(Prevention) Act is only an indicator of the deep rot in the system. It is no less revealing
that during the debates no one reportedly raised the very sensible and in fact obvious
demand for a credible public enquiry covering all the aspects of widely alleged intelligence
failure, response lags and lapses, who are behind the attack and why to work out a set of
thoughtful and rational responses to make the system at least somewhat less vulnerable
the next time round; to make the reoccurrence significantly less probable;. to make such
a tragedy far less costly if it manages to happen nevertheless. We had only chest
thumping demagoguery, clamour for draconian laws and war cries all around.
Instead of helping contain terrorism, let alone eradicating, it will only further aggravate
social tensions through legitimization of corrupt highhandedness of the police force and
targeting of specific segments of the society with full protections of the law. It is perhaps
Gorky who had pronounced that if order is injustice then disorder is the beginning of
justice. Unfortunately, law itself predictably turning more and more unlawful and
tyrannical, more and more youngsters would tend to embrace that as a piece of divine
wisdom with disastrous consequences on all sides to follow.
That even the sage words of the serving Chief Justice of India stand so casually dismissed
only goes to further underscore the depth of the tragedy we have dug ourselves in.
Only an awakened common citizenry refusing to succumb to the easy lure of ugly blood
lust triggered by such disasters as the last terror attack in Mumbai and steadfastly
demanding thoughtful actions and radical reforms to prevent recurrence of such shameful
failure is the way to get ourselves out.
Our Politicians Are Still Not Listening
By Colin Gonsalves
20 December, 2008
One would have thought that after the Bombay attack and the public outpouring of
resentment against politicians, that the establishment would get its act in order. One
would expect that careful thought would go into the making of proposals to combat
terrorism and to keep the people secure. Instead what do we find? The same old clichés
and the usual attack on human rights activists.
What the people of India expected, was that the governments would give careful thought
to making the police a professional fighting force oriented towards the security of the
ordinary citizens of India rather than operating, as it does now, as the protectors of
politicians. They also expected that the police would eliminate from its ranks the use of
torture and the vice of corruption, two aspects of policing today that make the general
public both distrustful and fearful of the police.
Listening carefully, however, to the statements of BJP and Congress politicians in the
media, one can find no reference to the demands of the people. Politicians are obviously
distracted by the national lections scheduled for early next year and even such a serious
incident of terrorism as the Bombay attack figures even now in their consciousness as a
vote catching exercise.
In a knee-jerk reaction, GOI proposes to enact The Unlawful Activities (Prevention)
Amendment Act, 2008. Under section 15, the prosecution is to be granted upto 180 days
to file a chargesheet (it is a 90 day limit today after which the accused is granted bail
mandatorily), the provisions for bail are stricter, and if arms or explosives are proved to be
recovered from the accused, then the court is entitled to presume that the accused has
committed a terrorist act.
Indian criminal law provisions rank among the strictest in the world. In the US and the UK
even after the terrorist attacks in those countries, the maximum period of detention
without a chargesheet is 2 days and 28 days respectively. The provisions in India for
search and seizures are the most liberal in the world.
Supreme Court decisions to the effect that even if the searches and seizures are illegal
they may still be relied upon in evidence against the accused, has given the police a free
hand to do all kinds of hanky panky while conducting raids. Amendments have been made
in various statutes to permit interceptions of communications.
Supreme Court decisions after 2000 have watered down the criminal law protection of
accused persons and have lowered the criminal law standard of proof beyond reasonable
doubt to such an extent, that international jurists are appalled by the way in which the
Indian courts are convicting accused persons. Why then, with such strict laws and with
such a convicting judiciary, did the Bombay attack happen with such impunity? The
answer is simple. The problem in India lies not in the law but in its implementation.
This is where the main demands of the people that the police become a professional force,
that law and order be separated from the investigation of crimes, and that corruption and
violence be eliminated, becomes important. The Central Government also proposes to
pass The National Investigation Agency Bill, 2008 which will see the setting up of a
national body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences. Here
again the approach is cosmetic rather than substantial and the aim is to impress rather
than protect. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is today a national body for the
investigation of all serious crimes. The only difference between the CBI and the NIA is that
the former is required to take the permission of the states prior to acting within the state,
whereas the NIA can operate without consent. But if all the states are agreed, as indeed
they are, that terrorism ought to be fought at the national level as well, then there ought
to be no difficulty for the Central Government to consult the legislatures of the states in a
transparent manner, to obtain consent for the CBI to operate throughout the country.
All that would be necessary thereafter is for the Central Government to administratively
upgrade the CBI. THOUGH it must be said to the credit of the Union Government that they
have not succumbed to the temptation to introduce the draconian POTA provision
authorising confessions to a police officer (which rendered POTA trials farcical), the
reference to Left Wing Extremism in the Statements of Objects and Reasons is
Naxalism has deep social roots in injustice, poverty and state violence, unlike the
senseless terrorism of Pakistani agents. Like the IRA in Ireland, it must be recognised as a
political tendency and negotiated with politically. The reasons for the growth of naxalism
must be understood as requiring a radical shift from the inequities of globalisation to a
more socialistic programme where the common person is treated with dignity. In the
present political situation however, one can only see hysteria and the lack of reason.
India's New Anti-Terror Laws Draconian
20 December, 2008
Inter Press Service
NEW DELHI, Dec 19 (IPS) - Following the late November terror attacks in Mumbai,
India has passed two tough laws being seen by rights activists as potentially eroding the
country's federal structure and limiting fundamental liberties.
Parliament -- meeting under the shadow of the November 26-29 attacks on India's
commercial hub resulting in close to 200 deaths -- approved the legislations on Thursday
with no considered debate and the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) of Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh pushing them past amendments tabled by several
One law, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act, seeks to establish a new police
organisation to investigate acts of terrorism and other statutory offences.
The other, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment (UAPA) Act, radically changes
procedures for trying those accused of terrorism, extends the periods of police custody
and of detention without charges, denies bail to foreigners, and the reverses the burden
of proof in many instances.
Civil liberties activists and public-spirited citizens are appalled at the new laws, which
they describe as draconian and excessive in relation to the measures India really needs to
take to fight terrorism.
"The UAPA Act is particularly vile, and will have the effect of turning India into a virtual
police state," says Colin Gonsalves, executive director of the Delhi-based Human Rights
Law Network. "It basically brings back a discredited law, the Prevention of Terrorism Act of
2002 (POTA), except for admitting confessions made to a police officer as legal evidence."
POTA was an extremely unpopular law, which the UPA government abrogated upon
coming to power in 2004 in response to innumerable complaints of its selective and
discriminatory use against India's Muslim minority, and its cavalier and irresponsible
application to offences not even remotely connected with terrorism.
While rescinding POTA, the UPA kept in place all of India's criminal laws, which are much
stricter than those in many democracies.
In addition, it also enacted an amendment to the Unlawful Activities Act, 1967, which
increased punishment for committing acts of terrorism and for harbouring terrorists or
financing them, enhanced police powers of seizures, made communications intercepts
admissible as evidence, and increased the period of detention without charges to 90 days
from the existing 30 days.
However, this was not enough to please those who want a "strong" militarised state which
will prevent and punish terrorism by violating the citizen's fundamental rights, including
the right to a fair trial, and not to be detained without charges.
India's main right-wing political group, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has been stridently
demanding that POTA be re-enacted. Until recently, the UPA, the Left and other centrist
parties stood firm in rejecting the demand despite the numerous terrorist attacks that
India has suffered over the past few years.
"But now, the UPA has suddenly, and shamefully, caved in to the BJP's demand under the
pressure of elite opinion," says Jairus Banaji, a highly regarded Mumbai-based social
scientist. "The capitulation seems to be based on the UPA's anxiety to counter the BJP's
ridiculous charge that it lacks the will to fight terrorism, and on its political calculations
about the next general election due by May."
In its desperation to be seen to be taking a tough stand against terrorism, the Manmohan
Singh government also tabled the NIA Bill earlier this week. The new agency will
specifically investigate offences related to atomic energy, aviation and maritime
transport, weapons of mass destruction, and Left-wing extremism, besides terrorism.
Significantly, it excludes Right-wing terrorism, which has become a greater menace in
Unlike the existing Central Bureau of Investigation, which needs the consent of a state
before investigating crimes there, the NIA will not need a state's concurrence. This is a
serious infringement of the federal system, where law and order is a state subject.
Many state governments and regional political parties have sharply criticised the Act on
this count. In India, Central agencies are politically vulnerable to manipulation by New
Delhi and often used to settle scores with states ruled by opposition parties.
The NIA Act also provides for special courts to try various offences. This too has drawn
criticism from eminent lawyers such as Rajeev Dhavan, who argues that the potential
misuse of this anti-terror legislation will now "come from both the states and the union,
which can hijack the case".
The UAPA Act contains a number of draconian clauses, and is also applicable to the entire
country -- unlike the Unlawful Activities Act, which was originally not extended to the
strife-torn state of Jammu and Kashmir. This too has drawn protests from Kashmir-based
political parties and human rights groups.
The stringent clauses cover a broad range, including a redefinition of terrorism, harsh
punishment extending from five years' imprisonment to life sentence or death, long
periods of detention, and presumption of guilt in case weapons are recovered from an
The new definition now includes acts done with the intent to threaten or "likely" to
threaten the unity, integrity, security or sovereignty of India, and offences related to
radioactive or nuclear substances, and even attempts to overawe, kidnap or abduct
constitutional and other functionaries that may be listed by the government. Dhavan
says: "The list is potentially endless."
Under the Act, an accused can be held in police custody for 30 days, and further detained
without charges for 180 days, although courts can restrict the period to 90 days.
"This is a travesty of constitutional rights and the rule of law," says Gonsalves. "Even
worse is the presumption of guilt in case there is a recovery of arms, explosives and other
substances, suspected to be involved, including fingerprints on them. The police in India
routinely plants such arms and explosives, and creates a false record of recovery."
"The very fact that offences such as organising terrorist training camps or recruiting or
harbouring terrorists carry a punishment as broad as three or five years to life
imprisonment shows that the government has not applied its mind to the issue,''
Under the Act, there is a general obligation to disclose any information that a police officer
of a certain rank thinks is relevant to the investigation. Failure to disclose information can
lead to imprisonment for three years. Journalists are not exempt from this.
Besides making telecommunications and e-mail intercepts admissible as evidence, the
Act also denies bail to all foreign nationals, and mandates a refusal of bail to anyone if a
prima facie case exists, which is decided on the basis of a First Information Report filed by
POTA and its predecessor, Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA),
were extensively abused. They typically targeted the religious minorities, specifically
Muslims, and allowed for their harassment and persecution.
The TADA story is especially horrifying. Some 67,000 people were arrested under it, but
only 8,000 put on trial, and a mere 725 convicted.
Official TADA Review Committees themselves found the law's application untenable in all
but 5,000 cases. In 1993, Gujarat witnessed no terrorism, but more than 19,000 people
were still arrested under TADA.
Religious minorities were selectively targeted under both Acts. For instance, in Rajasthan,
of 115 TADA detainees, 112 were Muslims and three Sikhs.
Gujarat had a worse pattern under POTA, when all but one of the 200-plus detainees were
Muslims, the remaining one a Sikh.
The passing of the two new laws is certain to increase the alienation of India's Muslims
from the state. They have been the principal victims of India's anti-terrorism strategy and
activities in recent years.
Muslims are first to be arrested and interrogated after any terrorist incident, even when
the victims are Muslims, and although strong evidence has recently emerged of a wellramified
pro-Hindu terrorist network, in which serving and retired army officers were
found to be key players.
Muslims also distressed at the alacrity and haste with which the new laws were passed,
especially since it contrasts with the UPA government's failure to enact a law it promised
five years ago to punish communal violence and hate crimes targeting specific religious
"This will pave the way for more disaffection amongst Muslims and make the social and
political climate more conducive to terrorism," argues Gonsalves. "Even worse, it will
promote excesses of the kind associated with state terrorism. And that is no way to fight
ARE STRONGER LAWS THE ANSWER?
By Prashant Bhushan
The terrorist attack on two five star hotels in Mumbai has led to a lot of jingoism and
muscle-flexing in the media, and on the streets. “Enough is enough”, “We will not pay our
taxes”, “we must destroy terrorist training camps in Pakistan” are the kind of cries that are
heard most frequently. “Get tough on terror” is the new mantra and among other things,
getting tough means bringing tougher laws. The UPA government which repealed POTA
just 4 years ago because it was found to be draconian, misused and counterproductive,
has now used the jingoism to enact a “tougher terror law” in the form of amendments in
the already draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. These amendments were
introduced in Parliament on the 15th December and passed the next day with virtually no
debate and without any opportunity to civil society to study, digest and debate the
implications of the amendments.
Those who have been clamouring for tougher laws often do not know what makes the law
tough, and how “tougher” laws would deter or prevent terrorism. In the first place, it
must be understood that a law can only help to keep in custody and prosecute and convict
any person who has been arrested. No law, however tough or draconian, can deter or deal
with suicidal terrorists who are willing to die before they are caught. The prospect of no
bail or the prospect of being convicted is hardly likely to scare or deter the kind of
terrorists who attacked Mumbai. In fact, in Iraq, the security forces or the Army can
detain or keep in detention indefinitely or even shoot down any person at will. The police
or security forces cannot have more draconian powers than that. Yet, those powers, far
from bringing down terrorism in Iraq, have only led to conditions, which have created
more terrorists who are blowing up themselves and hundreds of people every day.
When POTA was repealed, some of its draconian provisions had been engrafted into the
Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Those, along with The Chhattisgarh Public Security
Act, whose provisions make it an offence to provide any kind of assistance to a banned
organization or a person belonging to a banned organization, have been used to
incarcerate Binayak Sen, the General Secretary of the PUCL. Sen unquestionably one of
the most selfless activists, spent a good part of his life in setting up public health clinics in
remote areas of Chhattisgarh. He has been in detention for the last one and half years on
the charge that he has “assisted” Maoists who were in jail by taking letters from them and
giving them to their comrades. It matters not that these letters he is alleged to have
carried did not contain anything subversive. The mere fact that he is alleged to have
carried letters from an alleged Maoist is enough to charge him with “assisting” an unlawful
(Maoist) organization and thus a terrorist act.
Denial of bail under POTA had only allowed the investigative agencies to keep under
detention innocent persons, against whom the investigative agencies had no evidence of
terrorism. No court would grant bail anyway to a person against there is any evidence of
involvement in any terrorist act. No government has ever come up with a case that some
terrorist act was committed by a person who was arrested earlier but released on bail
because of the absence of “stronger laws”. Similarly, everybody knows that police
confessions can be obtained from anyone by torture or under the threat of torture. They
are a totally unsafe and unreliable basis for charging or convicting any person. These
draconian provisions of POTA and its predecessor TADA had only encouraged the police to
detain innocent persons indefinitely, charge sheet them on the basis of police confessions
and then prosecute them in trials which go on for years. Once having arrested the
persons and chargesheeted them, the police claims that the case has been solved. During
this time, these persons are usually tortured in custody, and forced to confess. Their
prolonged incarcerations lead to the permanent loss of their reputation and the economic
destruction of their families. The fact that most of the persons chargesheeted under
these draconian laws were innocent, is clear from the fact that more than 98% of them
were eventually acquitted. But their acquittal came only after an enormous toll on their
reputation, health, lives and the economic survival of their families. This has not only
caused great injustice to thousands of innocent persons who have been unfairly arrested
and victimized by the investigative agencies in this manner, it is one of the major causes
of the insecurity, alienation and anger of the minorities against the police, the criminal
justice system and indeed the ruling establishment of the country.
This is indeed the finding of several People's Tribunals which have extensively heard the
testimonies of large numbers of persons who were victimized by these Acts. The People's
Tribunal on POTA consisting of eminent jurists like Ram Jethmalani, Justice Suresh,
Justice D.K. Basu, K.G. Kannabiran, and other eminent persons, opined in their report in
2004, that, “Our review of victim and expert testimony shows that the misuse of the Act is
inseperable from its normal use. It is a Statute meant to terrorise, not so much the
terrorists as ordinary civilians – particularly the poor and disadvantaged such as dalits,
religious minorities, adivasis and working people.”
A People's Tribunal on the terror investigations of the police in various states of the
country was held in Hyderabad in August 2008. The jury consisted of two former Chief
Justices, several other eminent, academics, lawyers and social scientists. They came to
the unanimous conclusion that:
“The testimonies showed that a large number of innocent young Muslims have been and
are being victimized by the police on the charge of being involved in various terrorist acts
across the country. This is particularly so in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh,
Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan, though not limited to these States.
This victimization and demonisation of Muslims in the guise of investigation of terror
offences, is having a very serious psychological impact on the minds of not only the
families of the victims but also other members of the community. It is leading to a very
strong sense of insecurity and alienation which may lead to frightful consequences for the
The amendments now rushed through in the Unlawful Activities Act undoubtedly
make it more draconian by giving more powers to the police to search, arrest, keep in
police custody and in jail persons on mere subjective suspicion even if they have no
evidence of their being involved in any terrorist Acts. The newly introduced Section 43A of
the act empowers an officer of a designated authority to search any premises or arrest
any person of whom he has “reason to believe or knows” that he has a “design to commit
an offence under the Act.
Further, police officers investigating an offence under the Act have (with the approval of
the SP), been empowered to require any organization or any individual to furnish any
information that the officer may demand for his investigation. The failure to furnish such
information has been made punishable with up to 3 years imprisonment. Such a provision
can and will easily be misused by the police to harass all kinds of activists, lawyers,
doctors and journalists who stand up for, or provide any assistance, even legal or
medical, to an alleged terrorist.
The maximum period for keeping persons in police custody have been extended from 15
to 30 days. Police custody is sought for “custodial interrogation” which we all know is a
euphemism for custodial torture. India has the highest number of custodial deaths in the
world and is among the few countries, which has not signed the UN convention on torture.
Though the Constitution provides that no one can be compelled to be a witness against
himself, yet such coercive “custodial interrogation”, is being allowed by the Courts for
months without end. Abu Basheer, the Azamgarh cleric who has been dubbed as one of
the many “Masterminds” of the serial blasts in Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Delhi, has been
continuously kept in police custody for more than 6 months now by arresting him serially
(after every 15 days) in one after another of the more than 25 FIRs that have been
registered in Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Delhi for the serial blasts.
The Code of Criminal Procedure provides that if the chargesheet against an
arrested person is not filed within 90 days, he will be entitled to Bail. This is for the reason,
that till the chargesheet is filed, it is virtually impossible for an arrested person to get bail,
even if the police has no evidence against him. The new amendments also extend the
maximum period for filing a chargesheet against an arrestee to 180 days. A n o t h e r
amendment makes bail virtually impossible even during trial. It provides that an “accused
person shall not be released on bail or on his own bond, if the court on a perusal of the case
diary or the report made under section 173 (the chargesheet) of the code is of the opinion
that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusations against the persons
are prima facie true”
These amendments make the Unlawful Activities Act as or more draconian than POTA. The
only draconian provision of POTA left out in this Act now is the admissibility of police
Far from curbing terror, we find that draconian laws used by a corrupt and communal
police, are creating conditions which will only exacerbate the problem. The normal laws of
the land are adequate to deal with terror offences. The problem lies with the police, which
is the implementing agency. The Supreme Court had issued many directions in
September 2006 to implement police reforms which several expert agencies of the
government had recommended many years ago, but which had not been implemented.
They included, setting up independent State and National Security Commissions, Police
Establishment Boards, Police Complaints Authorities and giving a minimum tenure to
heads of field police officers at all levels including Police Chiefs etc. The thrust of these
recommendations was to make the police and investigative agencies accountable to the
law and free them from the strangulating control of the political executive. Neither the
Central nor most of the States governments have implemented the directions of the
Supreme Court about the police reforms. None of the major political parties are prepared
to relinquish their political control over the police.
Implementation of reforms within the Police and Intelligence agencies should certainly
improve security and reduce terror attacks. But that will not eliminate the problem.
Israel, with the most efficient intelligence, security and police has not been able to
eliminate the problem, despite the small size of the country. They have suicide attacks
almost every month. No amount of intelligence or security can stop terrorists who are
willing to give up their lives. They can only be stopped if their motivation is eliminated.
That will require what Chomsky advised in the wake of 9/11. He said: “As to how to react
(to 9/11), we have a choice. We can express justified horror; we can seek to understand
what may have led to the crimes, which means making an effort to enter into the minds of
the likely perpetrators. …… We may try to understand, or refuse to do so, contributing to
the likelihood that much worse lies ahead.”
Eventually, understanding the motivations of the terrorists and dealing the injustices
that pervade our society, and repairing the institutions of justice, particularly the
police and the judiciary, will be a much more effective way of fighting terror, than laws
which give more draconian powers to corrupt and insensitive police organisations.