No state in India, other than the J&K, has experienced as much ravages of terrorist strike in last 13 years as Maharashtra, and the woes of the common people of the state seem to be never ending. It is time to analyse the reasons why Maharashtra of all states is being targeted time and again by Islamic terrorist outfits?
Over 13 years after the deadliest terrorist strike in Mumbai on March 12, 1993, killed 257 people, the designated Mumbai court has started convicting the foot soldiers of the terrorist squad with the likes of Mohammed Shoaib Ghansar, found guilty of parking an explosive-laden scooter in Zaveri Bazar. Eleven out of the 123 defendants have died since the trial began in 1995, while the two masterminds, namely Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon, are still at large, probably under the sheltering care of Pakistan. There has been no let up in explosions in Mumbai or Maharashtra, thanks to incompetent enforcement and slow, cumbersome judicial process.
By contrast, well within five years of the worst terrorist strike in the USA on September 11, 2001, which killed over 2700 people, the American court sentenced Zacarias Moussaoui on May 4, 2006, to consecutive life counts. Next day after the strike, the American flag was visible everywhere in a show of spontaneous unity and patriotism. On October 26, 2001, the USA Patriot Act, conferring wide power on the enforcement authorities, was passed in the Senate by a vote of 98 to 1, and in the House by a vote of 357 to 66. It was renewed on March 2, 2006 with a vote of 89 to 11 in the Senate, and on March 7 with 280 to 138 in the House. According to June 2005 statement of President Bush, out of the 400 accused, charged as terrorists, more than half were convicted.
The above reaction of the people and the US administration explains why there has not been another 9/11, constant threat of Osama bin Laden'sAl Qaeda notwithstanding. The passivity of the enforcement authorities and political leaders in India on the other hand largely account for the series of terrorist attacks rocking Maharashtra over a decade.
It defies logic why India cannot have stringent anti-terrorist laws of the type of the USA Patriot Act of October 2001 that substantially amended immigration laws, banking and money laundering laws and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in the interest of national security. It is also repugnant to logic why top enforcement officers in Maharashtra are not held accountable for their non-performance. It does no credit to Indian intelligence to take six long years to discover through an Al Jazeera TV documentary that Laden threw a lavish party in honour of his close acquaintance Maulana Masood Azhar in 1999, soon after he was released from an Indian jail in exchange of the hijacked IC 814, thereby revealing his nexus with Al Qaeda. Such failure of intelligence at the national level to unravel the nexus of Pak-sponsored terrorists in Kashmir with notorious international terrorist groups like Al Qaeda was no doubt responsible for the barrage of terrorist attacks experienced in Maharashtra,
Why is it that fundamentalist organisations like Lashkar-e-Toiba, Harakat-ul-Mujahideen or Jaish-e-Mohammed must target Maharashtra each time they want to send a message of terror to India? Is it because Mumbai, the financial capital of India, happened to be the traditional forte of the mafia raj from the era of Haji Mastan to the time of Dawood Ibrahim? Is it because of the close nexus between the law enforcers and some political leaders on one hand and the cash-rich drug Mafiosi on the other? Or is it the weak government and the failing system that are primarily responsible for the ongoing holocaust? Dr Pasricha, Maharashtra'sDirector General of Police, hinted at political linkage to the recent train serial blasts, but he was obviously brow-beaten into silence as nothing further came to light.
The solution obviously lies in collective determination of the people, the overhauling of the system on the US line, and total transformation of the State Police Department. As for collective determination of the people of Maharashtra, it is time for them to raise their level of awareness as also preparedness to resist terrorism without depending entirely on the government machinery. As regards overhauling of the existing system, it is primarily for the central government to re-visit anti-terrorist laws to arm the enforcement authorities with larger power like what has been done under the US Patriot Act, and also to simplify and expedite trial procedure so as to administer prompt justice.