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).


Sunil Mukhi said...

Rahul, I think you are perfectly right to be bothered by the Delhi police's new-found efficiency leading to their "completely solving" the blasts case.

In recounting their past (non)achievements, I'm surprised that you failed to recall the time they shot dead two innocent businessmen sitting in a car in Connaught place. They were (much later) nailed for it, the operation was revealed to be a total botch-up, and ten policemen were convicted a decade later. Moreover, and this is highly pertinent to the present case, the cops thought they were firing on one Mohammad Yaseen, which they had decided to do as he was an "alleged gangster". They had also decided to plant a weapon on his body and claim that he fired first. In the event, they killed Pradeep Goel and Jagjit Singh by mistake and then tried to plant the weapons on them anyway!

So anyone who is out there cheering the Delhi cops at this stage has a very very poor memory indeed.

To a rational (and historical) observer, all possibilities are currently open, ranging from the possibility that the people they've caught (some of whom they've killed) were totally innocent, to the other extreme that they were totally guilty. How will we know? The only way is to wait - from one to ten years - before the story, whatever it is, unravels.

In fairness to the Delhi police, even in the worst case scenario they are not particularly worse than the London police who shot dead Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes in a subway train by mistake, a day after a set of failed bombings in London.

One doesn't know what more to say. If it's a mistake, it's not justifiable (though even in the London case there was an attempt to blame the incident on the terrorists behind the failed bomb plot!). And yet it remains a fact that it was the terrorists who set off bombs in Delhi, killing innocent people, who put the police into a panic.

Personally there is only one organisation on whom I am willing to heap my wholehearted contempt and distaste in this affair, and that is the BJP. These people just wait with bated breath for some terrorist act to take place and then proceed to beat the government with it.

They count on the pathetic memory of the press and the people about such BJP-era events as the Indian Airlines 814 hijack where the plane was allowed to leave Amritsar due to bungling and then Jaswant Singh released three terrorists to the hijackers.

Compared to these vultures, for whom "national interest" and "bi-partisan effort" are non-existent notions, even the Delhi police might after all be given credit - at least they get out of their armchairs.

Rahul Basu said...

I am impressed Sunil, at your memory of Delhi Police's various acts of omission and commission, as the bureaucrats call it.

The usual argument made by the 'macho-men' of the Sangh Parivar (macho-women too - one should not forget the Sushma Swaraj's and the different-party-same-ideology Uma Bharati's) as well as by their fellow travellers in the media like India Today, regarding our views is to accuse us of being more concerned about the terrorists' lives rather than the lives of the innocents who died in the bomb blasts.

What I fail to understand is how they come to this conclusion. Do these brainless pinheads think that by arresting and torturing (if not killing) some blameless person, they are going to reduce the attacks on these innocents about whom the Parivar seems so bothered.

AMOK said...

Then of course there was one Mr. Bush. Under pressure from his politics, his "police" attacked another country -- which continues to suffer the consequences today. The idea is to DO SOMETHING because otherwise you are SURE to be accused of DOING NOTHING. So you are right -- with the current state of the Indian police intelligence, the DO SOMETHING is bound to be wrong. Would be good to get an IPS officer's view on this blog. Maybe Kiran Bedi.