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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 the world.

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)





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