Thursday, September 25, 2008

How low can a 'national' party sink

Another day and another master mind arrested. This is exactly how NDTV announced the arrest of the 5 alleged terrorists, one of whom, 'Sadiq' is supposed to be the mastermind. This is to be distinguished from 'Atif' whom the Delhi police killed in an encounter, who is also a mastermind. If terrorist ranks are full of masterminds, who does the actual dirty work? Or does each police force want to outdo the others in claiming that they have the mastermind! However, despite my scepticism, it's perhaps best not to pass judgment at this sensitive stage. No, in fact this post is about something else. It's about how low, how partisan, to what pathetic levels the BJP can sink in trying to prove they are tough on terror. Ravi Shankar Prasad of the BJP has insisted that the respected Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) vice chancellor Mushirul Hasan be fired for wanting to provide legal help to the students of his university who have been arrested for their alleged terrorist links. It is rare indeed to find a vice chancellor who is willing to stick his neck out and take a clearly unpopular stand to do the right thing by his students. The BJP which is the fount of all that is retrograde, reactionary and contemptible, wants to stand all jurisprudence on its head by claiming that the culprits are guilty until proved innocent. It is up to the courts to decide that fact, not for Mr Rudy and his miserable cohorts to pass judgment either on them or on the VC. Given the conviction rates under TADA and POTA (it was 0.89% under TADA, much lower that what I said in my earlier post, see Rajinder Sachar's article here) this is all the more important in our country and in the present charged atmosphere. (Incidentally and for what it's worth, the VC's decision has been cleared by the Ministry of Human Resource Development). I realise that the BJP has its own agenda, its own ideology and its own constituency to worry about. But just as one wonders at the kind of environment that breeds the terrorist mindset, where do you have to be born to develop a saffron sheen? Tailpiece: "It is heartrending to note that day in and day out we come across news of blood-curdling incidents of police brutality and atrocities alleged to have been committed in utter disregard and in all breaches of humanitarian law and universal human rights as well as in total negation of the constitutional guarantees and human decency..." This is not the loony-left-liberal talking, people whom the BJP holds in contempt. It is the Supreme Court of India, quoted by Rajinder Sachar in the article I quoted earlier.


AMOK said...

Well you can't really blame the police for finding masterminds in every criminal, after all they start from a very low bar, their own selves.

Thanks for speaking out in support of the JMI VC's actions. A very commendable action by a brave VC. A bit odd that his actions have to be cleared a Ministry.

Anonymous said...

It is quite appalling to note that people of good academic standing and high repute criticize a national party for its tough stand on terror. I feel that security comes first and human rights next. Also, it can be shown that it is a simple problem in probability and there can be a few errors while differentiating a terrorist from a non-terrorist.

It makes no sense to associate everything wrong with BJP just because they are strict against terrorism and they don't yield in to phoneys like Justice Rajendra Sachar.

PS: It is nowhere mentioned in the statute of Jamia Milia that legal support can be provided to students. Doesn't that mean that VC can be arrested?

Rahul Basu said...

Mr Jatkesha: First of all, my or anyone else's academic standing has little to do with the issue.

Secondly, yes, we need to take a tough stand on terrorism. But we need to identify the terrorists first. By mis-identifying them, we are not making the country safer. The real culprits are still at large and one is probably radicalising those who are being falsely accused, thereby adding to the terrorists's rank.

As I have argued in my previous post and Sunil Mukhi has commented, the record of Delhi police is not the highest in this regard. Their credibility is really low, and what with pressure on them to show 'results' it's quite possible that many of those arrested are for 'showcasing'. Let me stress that I don't say that all the arrests are false. I would just like to see the evidence.

AMOK said...

Dr. Basu -- I am afraid I must agree with Mr. Jatkesha. The BJP is innocent -- until proven guilty. This will be decided by the courts, where we trust due process is being followed. By the same token, the alleged "terrorists" are also innocent until proven guilty through due process.

Mr. Jatkesha, I admire your views and your strong defense of due process for the alleged terrorists, who you agree may quite well be innocent, as per your probablity explanation. You are correct in your statement that national security and human rights are the top priorities that you should be, and are, supporting.

However I must differ from you on one small point. In a free, secular society one does not have to check "is it explicitly allowed in the statutes". If it is not explicitly disallowed, it is implicitly allowed. Certainly it does not require a punitive action by the government.

I look forward to your continued support of Dr. Basu's views and this blog. Feel welcome to add more comments to display your support.

Sunil Mukhi said...


In 1999 the nation watched on TV as Jaswant Singh released dreaded terrorist Maulana Masood Azhar to hijackers. I quote from Wikipedia: "The release of Masood Azhar by the Indian government led to strong outrage among the Indian public. The freed Masood Azhar's outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed later went on to carry out a string of deadly attacks against Indian targets, including the attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001 that brought India and Pakistan to the brink of a full-scale war."

I hope this refreshes your memory nicely about the BJP's "tough stand on terror".

As for your "simple problem in probability" - a mother on having her innocent son killed by the police is unlikely to say "well it was all worth it for national security". Come to think of it, you are unlikely to feel that way either when it comes to your near and dear ones. Indeed all human beings have the same feelings and the same rights.

Also when the wrong person is targeted, security is coming last rather than first. For in such a circumstance, it's precisely the guilty party who gets off scott free!

I can't help pointing out that your latest blog posting goes: "Dear God, why on earth can’t people be logical? Why do they have to be illogical all the time?". Good question indeed!

Anonymous said...

@Respected Prof. Mukhi,

May I please ask you why the NDA government agreed to release Maulana Masood Azhar during the hijacking of IC-814 in Kandahar?

Landing at Amritsar:
After landing at Amritsar, the flight crew were hoping that they will get some assistance and the hijacking would end. They asked for a sniper or a sharpshooter to go along with the browser and shoot at the tires to disable the aircraft. But, for unknown reasons that didn't happen. The local forces at Amritsar were told to wait for the National Security Guards.

The hijackers asked for the plane to be refueled. At first the Indian Government did not agree, but after the hijackers stabbed a passenger named Rupin Katyal, they agreed to refuel the plane in order to gain some time to formulate a strategy. However, for reasons unknown, the plane was not refueled. The hijackers threatened the crew that they would kill everyone on board if the captain did not take off within 30 seconds. The Indian special force National Security Guards were nowhere to be seen. Later on it was revealed, much to the embarrassment of Indian Government, that the elite commando units were stuck in traffic near Amritsar. Nevertheless, the Airbus A300 took off for Lahore with almost no fuel.

When the aircraft reached near Lahore the ATC did not allow the plane to land. Instead, lights and other navigational instruments were switched off. This act was criticized by many nations including Russia, USA and the UK for being cowardly. As the aircraft approached Lahore the pilot could see a straight row of lights and started descending the aircraft; on descending further, the co-pilot noticed that it was not a runway but a road. The aircraft managed to gain height in time avoiding a crash, and after this incident, the ATC gave the permission to land in Lahore, where the IC 814 eventually managed to land safely.

A few seconds after touchdown, the right engine of the aircraft flamed out due to fuel starvation. The plane was quickly re-fueled and took-off, bound for Dubai, UAE. Katyal died from exsanguination on the way to Dubai. In Dubai some 25 passengers were released along with Katyal's body. From UAE the plane headed for Afghanistan, then under the Islamic regime of the Taliban which was sympathetic to the hijackers.

Link:Initial landings at Amritsar, Lahore and Dubai

The Taliban authorities initially refused to cooperate with Indian authorities to secure a release of the hostages. They also emphatically refused to allow Indian commandos to storm the plane. They refused the request to let Afghan commandos storm the plane, as well. Their plea was that they wouldn't allow a foreign military outfit to operate in Afghanistan and they themselves are not capable to undertake such an operation. (It has since been confirmed that this hijacking was carried out with the official support/complicity of the Taliban and the Al Qaeda). The Taliban encircled the plane with tanks and heavily armed militia in a bid to stop any forceful storming by Indian Special Forces. Negotiations opened up between the Indian embassy officials and the hijackers.

The Indian Negotiation team Plane also had some well armed equipped soldiers but they were not shown

It was only after a week had passed that the Indian government sent its special crisis group to Kandahar for serious negotiations. By that time the media outcry in India was so great that a quick resolution to this crisis was needed as a political face-saving exercise.

As a result the government accepted the demand to release the following terrorists in exchange for the release of the passengers and crew of flight IC 814.

* Maulana Masood Azhar
* Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar
* Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh

The erstwhile Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh went personally to Kandahar to deliver the prisoners over to the hijackers and receive the passengers back in exchange for a safe passage to the hijackers.


I hope the same Wikipedia answers your question as to why the terrorists who were languishing in Indian jails released. They were released in order to save lives of innocent passengers on board IC-814. I should also remind you that the reputation and the future of our aviation industry would have been at stake.

What would any other party have done in this situation? What would you have done had you been the Prime Minister of this country?

Regarding, the next part of the question a person is innocent until he is proved guilty. You cannot start an investigation without arresting people. Only guilty people are being convicted. Other people are being arrested and after inquiry they are being let go scot free. How can you investigate into the matter without arresting people, without taking them into custody? Why is that only Muslims are being arrested even during the Congress regime? Isn't the current Government at the centre supposed to be secular?

As for your argument on the "simple problem of probability", a mother on having her innocent son killed by a terrorist who pleads innocence until proved guilty is unlikely to say "well it is worth it for human rights. Let him be free for a while. He is innocent until he is proved guilty*". Come to think of it, you are unlikely to feel that way either when it comes to your near and dear ones. I really don't think Delhi Police are naive enough to go on the street and pick up cricket playing 'innocent' kids. I would also like to bring to your attention that the people arrested in connection with IISc Blasts in 2006 were also 'innocent' when they were first picked up from Hyderabad. I would also rather hear one mother crying about her 'maybe innocent' son than hundreds of my and your mothers cry about losing their sons and daughters in a terror act committed by that 'innocent' son during those 5-10 min when he lost his 'innocence'. So, I would really think twice before saying I have sympathy for that one suspected terrorist's mother.

*According to what you and Dr. Basu feel.

I still totally stick to what I said on my blog. Some people are pretty illogical at times.

And for those people who feel human rights are more important than tough laws against terrorism, here is a link. I don't know how true it is but, it drives home a point.

AMOK said...

Mr. Jatkesha, Clearly you are in favour of sacrificing unknown innocents on the off-chance that this will further national (ie, your) security or goals. Terrorists are willing to sacrifice unknown innocents on the off-chance that this will further their agendas. Being "tough on terrorists" is not enough. One falls right into their hands. Witness the great contributions of Mr. Bush. A much more savvy approach is needed. More logic, less animus.

Sunil Mukhi said...


Thank you for the Wikipedia information.

I am aware that the BJP government acted out of multiple compulsions when releasing terrorists and I do (and did at the time) sympathise with the bind they found themselves in. I would not have wanted to be in the position of Jaswant Singh.

What is illogical (even unethical) is that they lack the ability to understand that another political party is under similar compulsions. Instead they pick these terrible moments for the country to indulge in one-upmanship and take digs at the party in power (which is just as much in a mess due to incompetence, corrupt police, traffic jams and every other thing, since after all they're running the same country).

So it's the BJP's rhetoric about the Congress being "soft on terrorism" (as well as your rhetoric about ditto) that motivated me to bring up this point. I also would like to ask how the BJP would have reacted if (under identical compulsions) the Congress had released the very same terrorists and one of those had then carried out an attack on parliament.

About the other issue, perhaps I was not clear enough. Mothers crying about their sons should not deter the police from making arrests, if the police have genuine reason to believe the arrested parties may be guilty. What worries me greatly (and I'm sorry if I failed to say this explicitly last time around) are the extra-legal activities, including pressure on lawyers not to defend the accused, and the documented tendency of police to shoot accused people dead and plant weapons on them later. Both of these are ways (the second more serious than the first) of hijacking the democratic process and they are not acceptable even in times of terrorism.

As for the link you provided, it is a fraud dating from 2002 (the original US context was changed to a Canadian one along the way). Please see this link.

It does of course drive home a point, but I'm afraid you might have missed it.

Animesh said...

Came here through Abi's blog. Great post, and great discussion.

My answer to the question in your title:

"As low as its core constituency will let it sink".

As a career politician, all that one needs to be aware of is how to win the next election. If your voters are OK with you doing crazy acts to differentiate yourself from the next party, you will do it. Why shouldn't you?

My personal problem with the BJP-worshipping right-winger's has been the same as my problem with the republican's in USA --- their willingness to cut tons of slack to their own party, and none to the other side. This hypocrisy is what ails the system, and prevents the parties from changing their ways. If their constituents will be ever-forgiving in the name of 'patriotism', why change?