Opinion | 10 years since 26/11: Lessons for Indian politicians in handling terrorism
At least politicians can create common political consensus on terrorism
Do you remember that today is the 10th anniversary of the Mumbai attacks? If you don’t, pause for a moment and analyse why Indians as people tend to forget the biggest national crises and how this tendency is harming us. From Alexander till today, the success of every invader was more a function of such tendencies than the invader’s military skills alone.
While it is true that there hasn’t been any gruesome attack of the scale of 26/11 Mumbai terror strike in any part of the country in the past 10 years, no part of the nation has remained unaffected by the militants’ thirst for violence. During this period, they didn’t even spare cantonments, air force bases, religious places or courts. Last week, by attacking a Nirankari religious congregation in Amritsar, they’ve again challenged the nation’s self-respect.
After the attack in Punjab, spokespersons of all parties mouthed predictable statements about Pakistan’s involvement. While there is no doubt that Pakistani agencies want to spread instability in the country, it is also true that the politics of our neighbouring country hinges on anti-Indian sentiments. The malaise is so serious that elections are planned and contested in Pakistan on the basis of the Kashmir issue. The question is, how does India fight this unholy alliance between Pakistan’s political outfits and their intelligence agencies?
The loudmouths on our side of the border claim to have a cure for this. They declare that Pakistan should be attacked so that all its evil intentions are nipped in the bud.
This statement is substantially less effective than it sounds. Whether it was the attack by tribal intruders in Kashmir to Kargil, whenever our neighbour has attacked us, they’ve been thrashed. In 1971, Indira Gandhi even managed to divide the country into two. But they didn’t learn a lesson. The prudent say the war on the ground is just an excuse. The real decisions about victory and defeat are taken by sitting across the table.
If efforts to restore peace have to be made after every war, why don’t we do it in the first place? It isn’t as if Indian Prime Ministers have hesitated to do this. From Jawaharlal Nehru to Narendra Modi, efforts have been made to smoke the peace pipe with Pakistan, but those exercises were fruitless. Now, the only solution that remains is to diplomatically isolate Pakistan. The global community has to be convinced that even as we can’t change our neighbours, they should try to change its attitude. The incidents after 26/11 are proof that the Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) haven’t been able to achieve this in the last one decade. It is a long and arduous road ahead for our diplomats, but during this time, we could have at least made our internal security more alert and efficient. Why are we so helpless on this front?
Remember, we had set up the National Investigation Agency (NIA) with a lot of fanfare. It was assumed that it will act with a lot more alertness. Through it, we’ll be able to analyse not just old terrorist attacks, but also formulate an effective strategy for the future. Unfortunately, the NIA was also turned into another caged parrot.
If you need proof, take a closer look at the investigations into the Malegaon and Samjhauta Express attacks. How did the agency’s stand transform overnight with a change in government? Was it a victim of political pressure earlier, or is it the case at present? Whatever the case may be, the result is uniformly detrimental. India has once again proved to be a failure in dealing with the problem of terrorism.
Not just this, there is little coordination between investigative agencies. Here’s an example. There was a sensational disclosure at the time of the attack on the Pathankot air base. Gurdaspur superintendent of police Salwinder Singh claimed he was kidnapped by the same terrorists who carried out the attack. The investigators saw his statement as suspicious, but why did they choose to ignore his intelligence warning? Not just this, shocking reports emerged about the lack of coordination between the National Security Guard and the Air Force’s Garud commandos.
Governments are formed in Delhi and state capitals on the basis of dissimilar ideologies. But how can there be differences of opinion when it comes to being patriotic about the nation?
The Constitution that our politicians swear by to attain power is the same. At least they can create a common political consensus on the subject of terrorism. Unfortunately, the opposite is happening. Recently, two veteran Indian politicians, Mamata Banerjee and Chandrababu Naidu announced that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will not be allowed to investigate cases in the states ruled by them. This runs contrary to India’s sprit of federalism.
Today, it is the CBI. Tomorrow, obstacles can be placed before the NIA, the army, central paramilitary forces and other national agencies. This is a shameful attitude for politicians to espouse in a country where more than 700 Indians have been killed in terror attacks between 2005 and 2016. When the fear of terrorism makes the common man fearful even 10 after years of the Mumbai attacks, the politicians who rule the country using their votes should carefully weigh their words and actions.
Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. His Twitter handle is @shekarkahin
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