Terrorism and Indian politics – a perspective
By Brigadier (Retd) Dr BD Mishra
Indians are one of the worst sufferers at the hands of terrorists. The casualty figure in India, from terrorist attacks, is one of the highests in the world. Many serial blasts have repeatedly rocked our motherland. Scores of Improvised Explosive Devices detonations and shootouts by the terrorists have caused havoc in the country. The victims in these attacks have been innocent/defenseless civilians, old, young, male, female, and children alike. It is, therefore, high time that the Government of India, the security forces and intelligence agencies, act tough and work out a foolproof strategy to prevent the loss of human lives at the hands of terrorists. This, however, is not possible unless the politicians render unstinted support, in unison, to counter terrorist operations, particularly in bringing the guilty to justice.
A few days back one of the leading national dailies printed a news boldly on it’s front page “Srinagar : The Jammu and Kashmir assembly will take up a resolution seeking amnesty for Parliament attack convict Afzal on September 28”. Further, it wrote, “This comes on the back of the Tamil Nadu Assembly passing a similar resolution seeking commutation of the death sentences of the three killers of Rajiv Gandhi”.
A similar report also appeared in the same paper. It was a demand for the commutation of death sentence awarded to ‘Bhullar.’ “Bhullar, was sentenced to death by the court in 2001 for his involvement in the 1993 car bomb blast outside Youth Congress Office in the capital. Nine persons were killed in the blast and 30 injured.”
Such unthinkable pleadings by our politicians do more harm than good in fight against terrorism. Do our politicians genuinely think that clemency for these terrorists will stop further terrorist attacks or is it only a vote bank politics?
Way back in 1988, I got loud and clear answer to this predicament. I was commanding an infantry brigade as part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Vavunia, Sri Lanka. Mr G Logeswaran, a Tamilian, was the Government Agent and District Secretary (equivalent to our District Magistrate) in Vavunia. The Tamil militancy in Sri Lanka was at its peak. One fine day, I received a typed note, with an enclosure, from Mr G Logeswaran. The covering letter read: “Dear Brigadier, this may perhaps interest you. Yours, Logeswaran.”
The enclosure was an extract, from an interview of the famous counter insurgency ideologue Jeane Kirkpatrick, as follows:
“………the real difficult thing in dealing with terrorists is that you can’t deal with them as though they were ….burgeois gentlehommes, with whom you can strike a deal… …….They make deal under duress and they don’t keep them if they don’t have to”.
It was a revelation. It brings out many valuable lessons to the counter terrorist force commanders. It is the deterrence of the brute force which the terrorists take note of. Mercy, clemency and reformatory approaches have no meaning for them because these are alien to their basic fiber.
The question then arises as to why so many politicians in various assemblies of our country are pleading for these dreaded terrorists?
All civilised nations in the world, which adhere to the rule of law and have concern for the safety of their citizens, have never spared the terrorists from their deserved punishment. World over, no political party and individual politician have shielded the terrorist from the punishments awarded to them by their courts.
Constitutional provisions do exist for commutation of sentences awarded by the courts. However, these are more of an exception than rule. It is done in extremely deserving cases, where the accused has an exemplary past history, is not a person of criminal mentality and is not a cold-blood killer. In such clemencies too safety, security and welfare of the citizens are of foremost consideration.
A few decades ago, it happened in Mumbai. A senior naval officer, Commander Nanavati had shot one Ahuja, a family friend, who committed perfidy by stealing affection of Nanavati’s wife. Commander Nanavati, in the due process of law, was sentenced to life imprisonment. His trial, due to the brilliant record of service of the accused, his exemplary past behaviour and the peculiar circumstances of the case, became the most talked about event in the country. A large number of people including the media started pleading to the government for clemency for Commander Nanavati. Under the circumstances, the Government of the day commuted the sentence of Commander Nanavati.
The fact of the matter is that terrorists across the board do not merit any clemency. Since their basic aim is to plunge the society into fear, misery and lawlessness any support to them from any quarters, particularly from our politicians and the political parties, will encourage them further to indulge in expanding terrorism. Let there be no mistakes, the caste, creed and religion of terrorists are purely blood shed and anarchy.