Urgent need to implement laws better
There is little that distinguishes the
serial explosions in Delhi, apart from operational specificities, from
the succession of comparable attacks across India that have occurred
with sickening regularity over the past years.
There was, however, a noticeable improvement
in the emergency responses, as ambulances and police arrived quickly
in the targeted areas and cordon and relief operations were relatively
better managed than, for instance, the manifest chaos of the October
2005 serial blasts in Delhi.
The Indian Mujahideen (IM) has claimed
the latest Delhi bombings — the fourth terrorist attack claimed under
this identity after Ahmedabad, Jaipur and the Uttar Pradesh courthouse
explosions. Cumulative evidence derived from past cases indicates that
the IM is nothing but the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).
The repeated attribution of attacks
to the IM suggests that SIMI is seeking to establish this identity for
its terrorist operations, even as it continues to make a bid for the
removal of the ban on its own activities before the courts and with
the support of sympathetic political parties.
If such a strategy is eventually successful,
SIMI could re-establish its overground networks for mobilization and
advocacy of its brand of extremist Islam, while its cadres graduate
to terrorist activities under the independent IM banner. This would
create great difficulties for enforcement agencies, confronted with
an apparently legitimate political movement, formally distanced from,
but backed by an underground terrorist group — a model that several
terrorist organizations have adopted in democratic countries across
It is evident that India possesses no
effective defence against soft target terrorist attacks, and the Delhi
bombings will certainly not be the last in the ongoing sequence. It
is crucial, in this context, to expose the dishonest and diversionary
political debate on strong anti-terror laws and pseudo-solutions like
the proposed Federal Investigative Agency (FIA).
The reality is that, unless an effective
machinery for implementation exists, no laws, strong or weak, have any
relevance whatsoever, and India’s justice system — from policing, through
investigation, to the judiciary — is on the verge of collapse.
As for the FIA, there are dozens of
dysfunctional central agencies already in existence and the Centre has
not even been able to meet the manpower requirement of 3,000 additional
personnel approved for the Intelligence Bureau in February 2001. It
is not clear how the Centre proposes to create a new, fully formed,
efficient agency in the case of the FIA, when its own past institutional
record is utterly abysmal; nor is it clear how an investigative agency
would prevent terrorism.
The overwhelming emphasis on special
forces, special laws and special institutions ignores the most fundamental
reality — you cannot have a first class counter-terrorism response in
a third class policing system.
(Published in Times of India,
New Delhi, September 15, 2008)