Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Blasts and Arrests
Ten days in Goa meant that I had fallen way behind in work and particularly in my lectures. This is partly the reason for the long gap in my posts, a fact brought to my attention verbally, by email, by chat, by every other mode of communication! (If indeed I have so many committed readers, why do I get an average of 0.5 comments per post? ) The other reason for this long gap is that I have been meaning to write on a somewhat sensitive topic and wasn't sure how to. I have decided to plunge in nevertheless, though I should warn you that this post is somewhat more rambling, woozy and ill-structured than my usual smart, clear, scintillating posts on other subjects :-) ... This is about something that has been bothering me for some time. The Delhi blasts have happened and Delhi police, in a remarkable show of efficiency, have apparently managed to kill 2 terrorists, arrest some 8 more and a few have escaped. In the process, one of their highly decorated officers has lost his life. Now I realise that it's easy (from the comfort of your armchair) to point fingers and find fault, but this same Delhi police completely mismanaged the Aarushi murder case (to the point of throwing the girl's father in jail for no fault of his own), mismanaged the Nithari murder case, made a pig's-breakfast of the Jessica Lal murder and allowed the BMW killers to escape until sustained media pressure forced them to open the case once more and arraign one of the guilty. (As an aside, not a single one of these people is a minority). How is it that the same police not only managed to find the terrorists who planted the bomb within a week but apparently are now in the possession of clues which will help the Rajasthan police wrap up the Jaipur bomb blast case too? If indeed their intelligence is of such high caliber, how is it that it never worked earlier, nor for that matter did it work before the blast which would have saved scores of innocent lives? I am, in fact, amazed at the details of the planning that they have uncovered. For example one report, which appeared in the TOI, claims that one of the accused was running ahead of schedule and therefore stopped by an ice cream vendor to have an ice cream and finally moved only because the autodriver balked at waiting for him so long to finish his ice cream. This level of detail is truly 'impressive'. So, what am I trying to say. No, unlike a certain section of the goofy-left, I am not saying it's all fake, that it's all a plant, or Pankaj Mishra style, claim that it's the police themselves who set off the bombs. However, as anyone who has been around, and not on Mars will vouchsafe, there is a tendency on the part of the police (and other parts of the law and order enforcement machinery) to label people by their names. It is no secret that not only in J&K but even in Delhi, UP, MP, young Muslim men have been dragged out of their homes, beaten and tortured in an effort to make them confess. Large numbers of them have eventually turned out to be innocent. When just the fact that you have the 'wrong' name is enough reason to be picked up, it is only fair that we use a standard substantially higher than the norm, to decide whether the evidence against the accused stands up to the highest level of scrutiny. If any evidence for miscarriage of justice is needed, the fact that the conviction rate under POTA and its infamous predecessor TADA was less than 10% should convince any sceptic. Unfortunately there is always the BJP and the Sangh Parivar, who believe that re-imposing POTA would magically drive all terrorists away. It's heartening then that many newspapers, not just the left leaning Hindu but even the Times of India, Indian Express and others have led with serious articles, for example here and here about the alienation of the Muslim minority in this country, thanks to such heavy handed practices of the police force and the army (in J&K). As Rahul Siddharthan points out here, even if such actions radicalise only .001% of the Muslim population, that still comes to 2000 -- a number sufficient to cause a lot of damage. Perhaps indeed, for once, the Delhi police have proved that they can perform when they have to. But why is it that I still have some niggling doubts? Is it because in the country today, when after all the mayhem of looting, burning and killing in Orissa of the Christian minority by the goons of the Sangh Parivar, and also in Karnataka, just one solitary person, who happens to be the head of the Bajrang Dal in Karnataka has been taken into custody (he might even have been released on bail by the time you read this)? The UPA Government, who I sincerely believe are non-communal, are so much under pressure from the opposition BJP to take action, that it is falling over backwards trying to prove that we are not a 'soft state'. What other reason can there be for a normally reticent and sober Prime Minister to start talking of tougher laws to control terrorism, only to be contradicted by other members of the Party as well as the coalition (as indeed they should).