Physician Heal Thyself
Terrorism is a virus, which is spreading in India. Most state governments behave like a pigeon who closes his eyes in the hope that cat cannot see him and so he is safe. Another problem is that the fight against terrorism gets mixed up with politics, especially when the elections are close by. Bihar is one state, where terrorists have struck twice this year in a big way. First they attacked Bodh Gaya temple in July 2013 for alleged attacks on Muslims in Myanmar. Now, there were serial blasts in Patna, minutes ahead of BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s rally in Patna on October 27, 2013. According to one report, the mayhem of killing six persons and injuring over 83 was perpetrated by Indian Mujahideen terrorists. This was alleged to be in retaliation for communal riots in Muzaffarnagar.
But as usual, the Bihar government was more indulgent to the terrorists, when it refused to take action against the dreaded terrorist Yasin Bhatkal, on the ground, that it had no case against him. Probably, the party in power did this, as it was keen to display itself as defenders of the minority vote bank, rather than of India. The state police works under the state government and is not an independent body, despite the orders of the Supreme Court, on September 22, 2013, to have limited reforms for the police like fixing tenure from SHO to DG of state police. Incidentally, no state, including Bihar, has implemented it.
There is hardly any state from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, where terrorists have not struck. In any case, the protection of citizens or dealing with terrorism is definitely not the priority of either Uttar Pradesh or Bihar, as the following Government of India information, given in the Lok Sabha, reveals that “India has a police-population ratio (number of police personnel per one lakh of population) of 134 as compared to minimum United Nations norm of 220. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have the worst ratio of 63 and 74 respectively”.
Data compiled by the Union Home Ministry, in December 2012, shows that the actual strength of the police force in the country, as of December 2011, was 16.60 lakh as against the sanctioned strength of 20.86 lakh The 55,000-strong police force in Bihar also lacks access to modern weaponry like anti-landmine vehicles, bullet-proof vests and bomb disposal equipment or even equipment.
According to the Bihar Police Association, a majority of about 300 police stations, 92 police pickets and hundreds of police outposts in the Maoist-affected districts are facing severe infrastructure shortages. As per the United Nations norms, the strength of Bihar Police is just 25 per cent as against it norms and less than 50 per cent of the average police strength at the All India level.
The Union Home Minister said that intelligence input had been passed on to the state about the likely terrorist strike during the rally of BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate. First the state denied it and assuming that what the Bihar government says is true, it is legitimate to ask a question as to what was its own intelligence doing. Without men being in position, how do you expect police to do a miracle?
According to the latest figures (till Jan 1, 2012), released by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) of the Ministry of Home Affairs 14,842 VIPs in the country enjoy state protection and are drawing more than what they are entitled to by way of police escorts.
Out of the total of total 55,000 policemen in Bihar, about 10,000 are deployed on VIP security in the state. We can say that 20 per cent force is protecting VIPs. Surprisingly, the list of VIPs that includes ministers, judges, MLAs, MLCs and other VIPs may not cross the figure of 1500 but who are the other VIPs? They include political workers, contractors and businessmen mostly close to the power According to a report released by the Home Minister P Chidambaram, manpower for protected persons is drawn from available resources generally without corresponding increase in sanctioned strength for the purpose. This has strained the already limited manpower resources of the state police
There are a few standard excuses trotted on any incident or mishappening or terrorist incidents, by some politicians or governments. First it is a conspiracy, second it is false, third is that its objective is to malign the government in power. But nobody says a word about the competence of the instruments, who have to deal with any given situation. There is a law on every subject, except on subversive or anti-national activities, in which the onus lies on the government or its agencies to prove a case in the court of law. In a case like the terrorist act, which has killed more than half a dozen citizens and injured scores of them, where do you find witnesses, who would identify the perpetrators of ghastly crime, when everybody would be more than keen to run away and save his or her skin. In such crimes, the objective of the terrorists is to do meticulous planning, and, if possible, be miles away from the scene of crime. Their intent is to cause as many deaths as possible and if possible assassinate the VIPs, who may not be killed by bombs. Police or for that matter anybody in the government does not have a magic wand, so that by waving it, you can trace the accused and get evidence. Of course, every incident cannot be prevented. But with depleted and inadequate police, which is ill equipped, ill trained and ill treated in the words of Home Minister Chidambram, nothing much should be expected from the police.
Bihar government, despite fully well knowing the fact has done nothing to have a strong police, which can deliver the goods, as improving the police would not win them any votes. If there is no manpower, how will any situation be handled. But our politicians have found another way of making brave speeches and painting rosy pictures. Remember the case of food poisoning in mid-day meal scheme, wherein a government minister had claimed that it was a conspiracy hatched to malign the state government. But the investigation by Bihar Police proved only negligence and charge-sheeted the functionaries of the school. Obviously, the lies are more convenient, when truth and reality is unpalatable. Truth is irrelevant. What is relevant is whether the people on whom it is focused will believe it or not.
The biggest flaw in dealing with terrorism is the multiplicity of power centres. There has to be one commander-in-chief for fighting terrorism. Some states have anti-terrorism squads and others function under the director general of police, who has to take orders from the state chief minister and other politicians. Politicians are more concerned with their vote banks than in eradicating terrorism, lest the sympathizers of the terrorists get annoyed with them. States requisition central para-military forces and then treat them shabbily or not use them. In Kashmir, the state government ordered that para-military forces would carry only lathis and not lethal weapons, thus rendering them not only vulnerable, but also impotent and sitting ducks. There is no uniform policy in the states for dealing with terrorists, except to give cash and government jobs to the next of kin of the killed victims, as if the state was salving its conscience.
Nowhere in the world has terrorism been overcome with words, whether it is in the form of appeals or brave statements. And this is the only weapon, which our leaders use. True that law and order is a state subject, but the defence of the country, whether from within or without, is a central subject, on which there should be no compromise. Unfortunately, we, as a country, are being governed by the politicians and not statesmen. Hilary Clinton once rightly said: “The difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician thinks about the next election while the statesman thinks about the next generation.”
By Joginder Singh
(The author is former Director, CBI)