The terrorist atrocity in Ahmedabad on Saturday night had claimed 45 victims by Sunday. Coming as it did a day after the Bangalore serial bomb blasts, it is sure to revive demands for stringent anti-terror laws.
Some facts are clear. The bomb attack had close similarities with attacks in other cities. In terms of the serial nature of the explosions, the attack resembled the blasts in Bangalore the day before. In using explosives tied to bicycles, the attack bore eerie similarity to the one on 13 May in Jaipur: Explosions were set off in crowded market places. In fact in one way or the other, all recent terrorist attacks resemble each other.
In the days to come, the demand for anti-terror laws will grow louder, more so as both Karnataka and Gujarat are ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party. The focus, however, should remain on a thorough investigation into the attacks in the two cities.
If terrorism is a fact of life in India, it’s equally true that poor coordination between various security forces, the lack of useful intelligence inputs and a poor conviction rate in terrorist cases are there for all to see.
Tackling these organizational shortcomings has greater potential to curb such atrocities in the future.
Enacting a strong anti-terror law, one that dilutes rules as to requirements for arresting suspicious individuals, period of detention pending trial, bail provisions and admissibility of evidence in a court, may not work. Cracking terrorist cases requires that results from investigation be blended with intelligence inputs. A strong anti-terror law does not help in this respect. The fact is that investigations of past terrorist attacks have not led anywhere close to a court conviction. At the same time the chance that the police will abuse such a law is very real.
The way out needs a hard slog. It requires a rethink on the prevalent intelligence gathering practices. Unfortunately, despite repeated attacks, this has not taken place. Some argue that terrorists have grown smart by their use of mobile phones (with SIM cards being changed after every conversation), technology and the isolated, unlinked, nature of terror cells. This is no argument. What prevents the police from getting smarter?
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