The terrorist atrocity in Jaipur that left 63 people dead and more than 150 injured clearly shows that India is unable to contain domestic terror. The problem is more complicated than merely putting strong laws on the statute book. That has been tried. It has not worked.
Under ordinary circumstances, the solution should be simple: special laws to tackle terrorism such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act. This should lead to a quick investigation, a speedy trial and sentencing followed by appeals, if any.
As everyone knows, there is nothing ordinary about it. Terrorism blended with competitive politics that exploits its presence has vitiated the mechanism meant to tackle it. Terrorism no longer falls in the class of crimes that can be controlled by law alone. It has become a device for electoral mobilization at both ends of the political spectrum. The result is that either the law is not implemented or, if it is, it causes more damage. Gujarat shows how easy it is to subvert such laws and destroy any notion of justice. Equally, the United Progressive Alliance, especially the Congress and the Left, is loath to admit that there is a serious problem at hand, one that calls for special laws. One party promises to be “firm” with terrorists, while another argues against the “miscarriage of justice”.
As a result, political parties bear a major share in creating the problem. As a first step, they should stop trying to get political mileage from terrorism. This may not be easy. Any emotive electoral mobilization device is difficult to dismantle. Once an appeal for votes in the name of containing terror is made, it only inflames passions among communities that are branded as harbouring terror. This, in turn, gives opportunities to parties which promise “justice” to these communities. In the midst of grievances, real or imagined, terrorists find a way to kill and maim citizens.
This kind of politics also sends a cue to the security bureaucracy, which then becomes selective with what it does or becomes complacent, as the current situation demonstrates. Fixing such a bureaucracy is more daunting than fixing a broken law. This is the combination of problems that India confronts while tackling terror.
What is needed: stronger laws or stopping politicization of terror? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org