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Terrorism and Indian democracy

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  • mohammad imran
    Date:30/07/2008 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/2008/07/30/stories/2008073055181100.htm Back Opinion - News Analysis Terrorism and Indian democracy C. Raj Kumar
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 29, 2008
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      Date:30/07/2008 URL:
      http://www.thehindu.com/2008/07/30/stories/2008073055181100.htm Back

      Opinion - News Analysis

      Terrorism and Indian democracy

      C. Raj Kumar

      There is a need to establish a Central Anti-Terrorism Commission under
      the PMO.

      The recent acts of terror that took place in Ahmedabad and Bangalore
      have once again brought to the forefront the problem of terrorism that
      continues to take innocent lives and shows no signs of abating. Every
      time there is a terrorist attack, the familiarity of the policy
      discourse in politics and society is deeply frustrating. No doubt,
      terrorism undermines the human rights of people. No society that
      respects the rights of its people can be silent when the most fundam
      ental right to life and liberty is violated. After this round of
      terrorist attacks, some politicians in India have used the phrase, “war
      on terror.” This is a very familiar usage by the U.S. administration
      and it is anybody’s guess as to how the so-called “war on terror” has
      failed globally. In fact, “war on drugs” failed too. The propensity to
      launch wars to solve problems fails to capture the importance of the
      problem or the need for formulating coherent legal, policy and
      institutional responses.

      In this context, it is pertinent to recollect a global policy
      perspective. The U.N. Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on Threats,
      Challenges and Change in its report “A More Secure World: Our Shared
      Responsibility” noted: “Terrorism attacks the values that lie at the
      heart of the Charter of the United Nations: respect for human rights,
      the rule of law; rules of war that protect civilians, tolerance among
      peoples and nations; and the peaceful resolution of conflict. Terrorism
      flourishes in environments of despair, humiliation, poverty, political
      oppression, extremism and human rights abuse; it also flourishes in
      contexts of regional conflict and foreign occupation; and it profits
      from weak State capacity to maintain law order.” It is important for
      the Indian state to keep in mind all these aspects while formulating
      its response to terrorism.
      Legal responses

      The Indian legal system suffers from many inadequacies and protecting
      the rule of law amidst a crisis in the criminal justice system is one
      of many that hinder the fight against terrorism. Our law enforcement
      machinery has in the past used anti-terror laws as a tool for many
      human rights violations and also to discriminate against minorities and
      other marginalised sections of the society. Any attempt to give more
      powers to the police and law enforcement machinery to fight terror
      needs to be carefully examined so that these powers are adequately
      provided with due checks and balances. Passing more stringent laws or,
      for that matter, giving more powers to the law enforcement machinery is
      not necessarily going to create a more secure environment. What is
      necessary is to have a multi-pronged systematic approach to fighting
      terrorism recognising that the the exercise should not undermine the
      basic principles of democratic governance, human rights and civil
      De-politicising national security

      India is a complex society to govern. The Central government and the
      State governments have their own jurisdictions on many matters and both
      share the power to legislate on many subjects. It is important to
      recognise that continuous terrorist attacks in India have taken a heavy
      human toll, affected the social and economic development of the country
      and more seriously, undermined the democratic fabric and the governance
      capabilities of our society.

      The politics of national security should give way to political
      consensus for developing new mechanisms to fight terrorism. Any new
      mechanism should keep in mind the shared principle of governance ,
      regardless of party in power and a responsibility to work together.
      There should be greater joint efforts among State governments as well
      as between the Central and State and governments.
      Institutional reform

      There is a need for establishing a new Central Anti-Terrorism
      Commission (CAT-COM), which should be under the Prime Minister’s
      Office. Fighting terrorism to establish a more stable and secure
      society ought to become one of the top priorities of good governance.
      The proposed commission ought to be an independent body to conduct
      investigation, prosecution, and prevention. The role and functions of
      the the commission should be statutorily determined. Besides the police
      and law enforcement officials, CAT-COM ought to have representatives
      from the media and the human rights community. This will ensure that
      there are sufficient checks and balances in the fight against terrorism
      and the approaches adopted to fight terror. It is important for the
      Central government to immediately propose a national conference to set
      up such a commission. The members of the commission should have
      sufficient representation from different regions of the country and the
      inputs from the States should be duly reflected in the policy reforms
      that need to be initiated.

      The role of civil society and religious communities in the fight
      against terror should not be underestimated. It would be foolhardy to
      think that the police and law enforcement machinery would be able to
      reach out to the entire country to create a safe and secure
      environment. Even the best of the intelligence gathering mechanisms
      will not be able to find out all the information that is sometimes
      needed in the fight against terrorism. The civil society needs to be
      empowered so that the much needed information available in the public
      domain regarding terror networks is shared with the police and law
      enforcement machinery.

      The role of religious communities should be encouraged. Religious
      leaders can play an important role in creating a better environment in
      our religious institutions so that any form of ideology that advocates
      violence can be discouraged early. In fact, it would be a mistake to
      isolate the leaders of religious communities in efforts to fight
      terror, as they would be able to provide the precious form of
      legitimacy that is necessary for any success in the fight against
      Good governance

      Another important issue that receives less attention in the larger
      framework of policies to fight terrorism is related to creating secure
      and humane societies. Our governments ought to continue to work towards
      eradicating poverty, reducing disparities of income and wealth,
      eliminating corruption and indeed formulating good governance policies.

      Responses to terrorism should not result in the government ignoring any
      of these problems, as it is important to create a society that respects
      human freedoms in all its manifestations. Since terrorism attacks this
      fundamental notion of human freedom, we should fight it with
      wholehearted commitment.

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