India caught in a ring of terror

The September 7 bomb blast outside the Delhi high court, which killed 13 people and left more than 90 injured, has shaken the entire nation. I don’t really know how to react but, as a former internal security minister, I can only express my extreme disgust at our politicians’ attitude towards those who are guilty of terror and death.

We can have endless debates on news channels blaming the security forces, intelligence agencies and the fact that the aam aadmi is being ignored while VVIP security is increasing. But this blame game ignores a crucial question: Do we, as a nation, have the will to fight terror; do we have the stomach to punish the guilty?
Our security forces do their jobs well. Look at all those who perished with Rajiv Gandhi, and those who died defending Parliament. But what have we as a nation done with those who perpetuated these ghastly acts and those who gave them sanctuary? We have not even been able to come up with stringent laws to deal with sleeper units for fear that these laws may be abused for political gains. Which law in India is not abused? Should we do away with all? Our criminal system takes three to five years to deliver a verdict and then another five to 10 years lapse as the President takes time to consider the mercy pleas of those on death row. And, when a decision is taken, regional politics takes over. All those who were killed in terror attacks, and their families, are conveniently forgotten; it seems that medals and cash compensation is all that the state can offer to those who fell in the line of duty.
Terror attacks will take place again, maybe even incidents like 26/11 because India is perceived as a soft state when it comes to dealing with terrorists. We will hear the usual sermons from those in authority, but these are empty words uttered from the relative safety of VVIP security. If we don’t see action on the ground soon, resentment levels will grow, as evident on Wednesday at RML hospital.
Why did no terrorist attack take place in the United States after 9/11? We can be critical of the methods deployed by the Bush administration, and the stringent laws in place, but the US acted in public interest and saved lives.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said “we will not succumb to terror”. Such rhetoric should set the tone for follow-up action. It is time for him and the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs to act on pending decisions within an acceptable timeframe.

The cash-for-vote scam — which took place during the crucial confidence vote in Parliament in 2008 on the Indo-US nuclear deal — has claimed its first victim. Former Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh has been arrested and sent to Tihar Jail. But this scandal will not go away easily. Many leaders with impeccable integrity are already under a cloud because of the decisions they took to please coalition partners and stay in power.
The Reddy brothers have also been arrested for their alleged role in the illegal mining in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Fresh evidence of financial links between Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy and former Karnataka tourism minister Gali Janardhan Reddy has exposed the vicious grip financial interests have on the political decision-making process. According to reports, former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, along with his son, graced the foundation-stone laying ceremony of Mr Janardhan Reddy’s Brahmani Steels in Andhra Pradesh’s Kadapa district in 2007. We may be looking at `100,000 crore literally looted from the treasuries of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
There will be very little sympathy for anyone involved in this criminality. And given the rising public anger against Delhi politicians, both the BJP and the Congress may be decimated in the elections in the short term. But these exposures have forced party leaders to initiate a “clean up” process.
In Bihar, we saw how the mafia was rendered powerless when confronted by the rule of law and good political leadership. We do not have a Nitish Kumar in Andhra Pradesh or Karnataka. It is time both the Congress and the BJP let the new generation of leaders take charge.
We will go through a painful process of change as all those who have vested interests will fight back. This may lead to violence but the political system is fighting for its existence and credibility. My sympathies are with Dr Singh and others who have been my friends over the years. Each of them is living the life of a “hostage” for no fault of theirs — it is lack of transparency in party funds that has brought things to a head.
But now that the system is correcting itself, I am very optimistic about the future. While every crisis has a loser or two, we also see new entrants in the power circle. For example, in the Congress, I see a greater role for Jyotiraditya Scindia in Madhya Pradesh, for Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan, Sandeep Dikshit at the Centre or in Delhi, Salman Khurshid, R.P.N. Singh and Jitin Prasad in Uttar Pradesh. Every party should put their best talent on display during important debates in Parliament and also in interaction with the media. BJP veteran L.K. Advani plans another “yatra” on the issue of corruption but will himself face several question on the events in Karnataka and other BJP states like Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.
Meanwhile, WikiLeaks has caused the Uttar Pradesh chief minister a great amount of discomfort. According to leaked US diplomatic cables, Ms Mayawati sent her private jet to pick up a pair of sandals from Mumbai. While Anna Hazare would like to send Digvijay Singh to the mental asylum, Ms Mayawati would like to send WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to a similar facility in Agra! I am not surprised at the harsh words expressed by Ms Mayawati as this has become her style. But I am shocked by Anna Hazare’s comments on the Congress general secretary. Is a certain amount of desperation creeping into the movement led by Team Anna? We will find out shortly when the battle over the Lokpal Bill resumes.
In Gujarat, governor Kamla Beniwal appointed a Lokayukta without consulting chief minister Narendra Modi. The matter is now in the high court and Mr Modi, who will be aiming for his fourth straight win in the Gujarat Assembly elections, will get additional support from the people as the governor’s action has given the impression that attempts are being made to subvert electoral verdicts. The Congress has not been able to challenge Mr Modi with a political alternative.

Arun Nehru is a former Union minister

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