How To Crush The Bloody Cult of Death

. 9/15/08

Gruesome terror attack on innocent people once again demonstrates that India’s police and intelligence services simply do not have the resources they need to confront an urban terror offensive, unprecedented in its scale and significance. In the wake of the Ahmedabad bombings, the Central government did move to address some of the most pressing constraints crippling India’s counter-terrorism response. For example, the Multi-Agency Centre, which maintains counter-terrorism databases, received long-due funding for hiring several hundred new staff. But the action comes far too late, and is too little in scope to solve the problem. India is still years away from possessing a system for real-time intelligence sharing across States, or an online national crime database. Not one State government affected by the recent bombings has so far invested a single rupee in upgrading its police forensics facilities, hiring counter-terrorism experts, or creating teams of specially trained investigators.

A successful counter-terrorism policy also needs to address a far larger problem – a problem no number of well-equipped police officers can solve. In many areas scarred by the appalling communal violence, SIMI is seen as an armed militia defending a besieged and vulnerable community — not as a criminal organisation that must be crushed. While this perception is profoundly misplaced, its existence points to the wellsprings of rage fed by India’s depressing failure to act against the perpetrators of Hindu fundamentalist violence. Central and State governments have, for the most part, failed to ensure the equity promised by the Constitution to Muslims, a reality driven home by actor Shabana Azmi’s pained reflections on her inability to purchase a home in Mumbai. No great intelligence is needed to see that the terrorists are working against the interests of India’s 180 million Muslims. Terrorism, as the cleric Mehmood Madani pointed out in a recent interview , threatens to snuff out the hard-won gains of a new generation of Muslims who have defied the odds to emerge as successful entrepreneurs and professionals. But the stark fact is that there can be no peace without justice — a proposition civil society, administrators, and policy-makers must reflect and act on if India is to win the war against terrorism.

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