People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 48

December 07, 2008



Aftermath of Mumbai

IN the aftermath of the terrorist outrage in Mumbai, the country has to decide what is to be done? The three horrific days in Mumbai saw 183 people dead and 294 injured. That ten men came from Pakistan by sea is established. That there has been a dismal failure in our intelligence system is obvious. That we have no coastal security system worth the name has also been exposed. That the National Security Guard (NSG) has been more involved in VIP security duties has outraged the people.

The first task is to revamp the intelligence system and ensure coordination between the security agencies. The way different forces rushed to brief the media during the operations itself points to the lack of a single coordinating agency. The government proposes to set-up a federal investigation agency to deal with case of terrorism and other pan Indian crimes. This has so far not found favour with the states who legitimately fear that they will be kept out of sensitive security investigations. There has to be a coordinated mechanism to deal with terrorism but coordination needs to bring in the states. Can one tackle the problem of ULFA’s terrorist violence without the cooperation of police and security agencies in Assam? The second area to be taken up as a priority is police modernisation and reforms and to re-work the coastal security system. The present scheme is not practical because of various shortcomings in the matter of training for the police personnel, provision of boats and suitable equipment and patrolling by coastal police stations.

Shivraj Patil has quit as Home minister after a belated recognition of his incompetence. But this is not sufficient. The systemic problem should be addressed. The corporate media, particularly the television news channels, have begun a mindless anti-politician campaign which only covers up the systemic problems and promotes an anti-democratic, authoritarian atmosphere. The same corporate media is rooting for an American 9/11 type response. They shamelessly advocate the Bush doctrine and justify this by stating that the US has not been subject to any terrorist attack since 9/11. The rightwing BJP is not far behind. Arun Jaitley, the BJP spokesperson has stated, “What happened in Mumbai is India’s 9/11 and India’s response should be substantially closer to what US did after 9/11”.

What Bush did was to wage war against Iraq, a country and government which had nothing whatsoever to do with the 9/11 attack. The attackers came from Saudi Arabia and Egypt but they were not touched as they are close allies of America. Ten lakh Iraqis died and terrorism which was totally absent in Iraq has become a constant feature there. The reality is that terrorism has spread worldwide and not curbed by the US global “war against terror” post 9/11.

As for the argument that there have been no terrorist attacks within the US since then, it is wrong to compare the situation in the United States with the domestic scene in India. Most of the terrorist attacks in India in the recent period emanate from the internal situation. The series of terrorist blasts in 2005-08 can be traced to extremist elements within the Muslim community. The recent revelation of extremist Hindutva elements resorting to terror in Malegaon and other places is the other side of the coin. Nor should one overlook, other types of terrorist violence that exists in the country such as the ULFA sponsored blasts in Assam and the terrorist violence resorted to by extremist ethnic groups in the North-East.

The link with Pakistan of the terrorist elements who attacked Mumbai has led to a chorus of demands for military action against Pakistan. A Hindustan Times editorial called for air strikes against terrorist camps in the PoK. Calls for massing troops on the border are made. These half-baked and dangerous proposals for military action are being given a boost by the news channels and sections of the corporate media. Military strikes against targets in the PoK will be a sure way to provoke a war between the two countries. The result would be exactly what the extremist outfits like the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba want.

What should be done regarding the terrorist links in Pakistan is not to go to war with the State of Pakistan but to ensure that strong action is taken against terrorist organisations and personnel in that country. The investigations into the Mumbai attacks clearly points to links in Pakistan. The ten armed men came from Pakistan, the ship used and the telephone intercepts indicate that the organisers of the attack are located there. The Indian government has not levelled any charge against the Pakistan government or its state agencies for being responsible for the attack in Mumbai. The issue is to get the Pakistani government to act against the extremist groups who sponsored the terrorist activities both within Pakistan and in India. What requires to be done is to collect all the evidence and present it to the Pakistani government and ask them to act promptly. If they do not respond, then India should take the matter to the UN Security Council. The resolution 1373 adopted after the 9/11 attack in the United States is comprehensive. The Council resolution asks all States to “take the necessary steps to prevent the commission of terrorist acts; deny safe haven to those who finance, plan, support, commit terrorist acts and provide safe havens as well”. The resolution decided that all States shall “Prevent those who finance, plan, facilitate or commit terrorist acts from using their respective territories for those purposes against other states or their citizens;” and further “Afford one another the greatest measure of assistance in connection with criminal investigations or criminal proceedings relating to the financing or support of terrorist acts, including assistance in obtaining evidence in their possession necessary for the proceedings”.

The Mumbai attack involved terrorist elements coming from another country into India; it involved months of training and planning; the attack led to the death of 30 foreign nationals belonging to six countries. The Security Council can be requested to ask Pakistan to take necessary measures to apprehend the culprits responsible and to suppress their organisation.

Taking this step will strengthen India’s case for action to be taken by Pakistan. It will mount international pressure on Pakistan to act. This will prevent the issue being seen as only an India-Pakistan conflict but of tackling terrorism at the international level. The Manmohan Singh government would rather rely on the United States to persuade Pakistan to cooperate in the investigation. The United States has its own strategic priorities in the region. During the Kargil conflict, the US played the role of the “arbiter”. Instead of reinforcing the US role between India and Pakistan, it will be better that a multilateral effort is undertaken in tackling the problem of terrorism.

While the UPA government is legitimately in the dock for its continuing failure to tackle the menacing threat of terrorism, the BJP has fallen back on its usual game of seeking to utilise the terrorist attacks to deepen the communal divide hoping for an electoral dividend. At the all-party meeting convened by the prime minister on November 30, the BJP refused to be part of a joint resolution condemning the attack and resolving to unitedly defeat terrorism. It was more interested in putting the blame on the government. Till the Mumbai attack took place, the BJP-RSS combine was busy in attacking the Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) for its arrest of extremist Hindutva elements in the Malegaon blast case. It had vilified the Head of the ATS, Hemant Karkare for pursuing the investigation against the extremist Hindutva outfits. If the BJP sought to use the “persecution” of Hindu religious figures in the Assembly election campaign in Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, the terrorist attack in Mumbai was soon exploited for all its worth in the Delhi and Rajasthan election campaign. While it is true that the ten militants who came by sea from Pakistan were all Muslims, it should not be forgotten that at least 40 of the victims were also Muslims. At a time when the country had to be united to face the grave danger of terrorism, the BJP is more interested in creating a Hindu-Muslim divide that will weaken the country.

Above all, it must be realised that the problem of terrorism in India cannot be separated from the communalisation that has taken place during the last two decades. Communalism and religious extremism feed terrorist violence. Pogroms against minorities and the inability to render justice to the victims has helped the extremist cause within the minority community. The resort to terrorist violence on one side has provoked the extremist Hindutva elements to go down the same path. The extremist forces based in Pakistan have found congenial conditions to intervene because of this vicious cycle of communalism and terrorism in India. Fighting terrorism will fully succeed only when the forces of religious communalism are isolated and defeated. This requires not the anti-political campaign sponsored by the upper classes and the corporate media but a greater determination to firmly adhere to democratic and secular politics, which alone can keep India’s integrity and unity safe.