A nationalist to the core, All India Anti-Terrorist Front Chairman Shri M.S. Bitta is known for taking a bold stand on important issues, even if it means criticising his own Congress party or its allies. Whether it be the issue of opposing clemency to Parliament attack accused Mohd Afzal, the arrest of Kanchi Seer Swamy Jayendra Saraswathi or the Sethusamudram Canal project, the former youth Congress President, who himself has been the target of several terrorist attacks, has never refrained from calling a spade a spade. In a no-holds barred interview with senior journalist K.G. Suresh for Organiser, the Punjab leader, who visited Rameshwaram recently to offer prayers at Ramsethu, took on Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi and expressed his desire to die for the cause, if the need arises.
What prompted you to join the movement against the Sethusamudram project?
I am a great devotee of Lord Hanuman. I have great faith in Him. I religiously visit the Balaji shrine in Rajasthan every month. I keep a fast on every Tuesday. I am a vegetarian and I read the Hanuman Chalisa every day. Without Lord Ram, there is no Lord Hanuman. Moreover, Lord Ram'sname finds innumerable mention in my own Sikh religious scriptures. The father of our nation Mahatma Gandhi died with the Lord'sname on his lips. So, it hurt me when it was said there was no evidence to prove Lord Ram'sexistence. My life is a bonus. I have been a target of terrorists for opposing the killing and forcible eviction of Hindus from Punjab. At Agniteertham on the Rameshwaram shores, I took a vow that following the path of Guru Gobind Singh, I will be the first to sacrifice my life if any attempt is made to demolish the bridge built by Lord Ram and his army.
In your view, who is responsible for this controversy?
I demand that a White Paper be brought out to find the people responsible for the unsavoury controversy. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, an atheist, is responsible to a great extent. He and his party colleagues want to benefit from this project. I doubt whether they are playing into the hands of the United States on this issue.
Are you satisfied with the UPA Government'sdamage control measures?
India is identified with Lord Ram. It is a blasphemy to question His existence. If it is Ram today, tomorrow it could be Lord Krishna and Guru Gobind Singh. Today, they want to build a canal by destroying Ram Sethu. Tomorrow, they may want to build an air strip by demolishing Harmandar Sahib. There should be a strong law which would deal with any politician insulting any religion as a terrorist. Even the recent Dera Sacha Sauda controversy was a conspiracy to revive terrorism and divide Hindus and Sikhs.
How do you view Karuna-nidhi'soutbursts against Lord Ram?
Karunanidhi has lost his mental balance. He needs to be medically examined. UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh take part every year in burning the effigy of Demon King Ravana. Certainly, they do believe in Lord Ram. Karunanidhi is the new Ravana and his effigy should be burnt this Dussehra. He wants to demolish Lord Ram, not the bridge. Those who try to do so will be ruined.
I also regret the tendency to dub anyone coming in support of Lord Ram as communal or belonging to the RSS and the BJP. Lord Ram belongs to one and all. I salute leaders such as Karan Singh and R.K. Dhawan, who have come out against Karunanidhi'suncalled for statements. Not only Hindus, there are Sikhs and even Muslims who believe in Lord Ram. So, let us not politicise this issue.
Do you think there is a world wide trend to target Hindu and Sikh religious icons and symbols?
All religions are under attack. We have had attacks on Akshar-dham, Raghunath temple, Ram Janambhoomi, Sankat Mochan temple, the Jama Masjid in Delhi, the Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad, the mosques at Malegaon, apart from the turban and nose stud issues in the West. We also have had a terrorist attack on the temple of democracy, the Parliament House. The people of India, irrespective of their religion, will have to come out on the streets and oppose this. Our battle will also continue till people like Mohd Afzal are hanged.
How do you plan to intensify your agitation on the Ram Sethu issue?
I will be traveling across the country and making people aware. I have already visited Punjab.
Is there any long-term measure to tackle terrorism?
Neither TADA or POTA will do. Exclusive anti-terrorist military courts should be set up which would not only protect the witnesses but also pronounce life or death sentences to the culprits within six months. Like we did in Punjab, there should be a bullet for bullet policy. Any soft policy towards the terrorists will destroy the nation. There should be no politics over dead bodies. In Punjab, all political parties came together and declared their opposition to Khalistan and the 18 year long terrorism was finished. The then Prime Minister late P.V. Narasimha Rao and the then Chief Minister Sardar Beant Singh played a key role. Even the late Rajiv Gandhi also played a positive role.
Some human rights activists are clamouring for abolition of capital punishment?
Those making such demands have neither any love for the country or any respect for our martyred leaders. They just want votes. I am a victim of terrorism. About 70 people were killed and about 95 kgs of RDX was used against me in three attacks. God has saved me. Heroes like Bhagat Singh, Netaji Bose, Chandrashekhar Azad and Ashfaqullah Khan died for the freedom of this country but today we are witnessing blatant political slavery on issues such as Ram Sethu. It is very sad and unfortunate.
What about your own political future?
I joined the Congress Sewa Dal at the age of 14. I went on to become a Minister and even President of the Indian Youth Congress but today, I find myself alone in this battle against terrorism.