Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Congress talks about a special anti-terror law ..

The recent attacks (bomb blasts) in Delhi that killed 10's of people seem to have finally made the Government realize how its hands are being burnt with respect to having an anti-terror law. Over the past many years, most observers have come to the realization that any policy change in India happens only for political reasons, and the same is true with respect to having a much tougher anti-terror law.
When the BJA (NDA) Government was in paper, it had brought in the tough POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) that curtailed many civil liberties and made it easier for the security agencies and the police to keep people in custody whom they believed were important for their investigations. It is also doubtless true that there would have been cases of misuse of this law, and such instances (and many other accusations) would be more true in the case of the Muslim community in India. Consequently, the law was soon proclaimed as against minority interests, helped by the fact that the 'anti-Muslim' BJP was in power. Any party wanting to court the Muslim vote would have to adopt a policy of anti-POTA, something that the Congress party adopted, and they quickly fulfilled this pledge after they came to power.
Fast-forward a few years, and the UPA (Congress) Government is on the mat in terms of internal security; bombs go off as if the terrorists just have to pick a place and they can cause numerous explosions, the security agencies make almost public appeals that they need a stronger law, and the Congress Home Minister (Shivraj Patil) is seen as a very weak and incompetent minister. The Congress seems to have even weathered the continuous bomb blasts in Bangalore and Ahemdabad and the many other bombs found in Surat (and many other bomb blasts earlier, including Jaipur); they were criticized and the Gujarat Chief Minister embarrassed the center by getting his police to quickly arrest some of the alleged conspirators.
However, the media by now had taken to savaging the Government's political driven need not to bring in a more enhanced anti-terror law, and it were the Delhi blasts (in open places and prominent locations) that seemed to have currently broken the political will of the Government. The Congress seems to have realized that they are being taken as weak on internal security, and for the first time, the Prime Minister seems to be talking about intelligence failures and other measures:

In the wake of continuing terror attacks in the country, the UPA government has mooted a "tougher-than-Pota" law. Although the recommendation has come from the Administrative Reforms Commission, the timing of its release — when the government is struggling to shake off a "soft on terror" tag its rivals have sought to pin to it and ahead of state polls — is seen to be loaded with significance.
Implementation of the law is not going to be easy because the Congress has not just opposed Pota, it has campaigned for its repeal. It will also have to contend with allies who remain opposed to a special anti-terror law. More crucially, special terror laws have been a fraught issue evoking strong negative vibes from the minority community, which has maintained that these have been used to frame innocents.

It is very much possible that the Government is seeking to dissipate some of the current pressures on it by talking about a law, and will slowly let all this talk slide when the situation seems to come under control, and there are non-bomb related other issues that occupy the attention of the country.
The BJP also uses the refusal of the Central Congress Government to sanction a Gujarat special anti-terrorism law based on similar lines as the current Maharashtra one. The BJP argues that the Congress is doing it for political reasons, and it really does not care about the security of the country, a trap that the Congress wants to avoid as we draw near to elections.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 2:33 AM