The Tribune - Spectrum

, March 3, 2002

Effectively tackling terrorism
Randeep Wadehra

Terror and Containment
edited by K.P.S. Gill & Ajai Sahni.
Gyan Publishing House, New Delhi. Pages 368. Price: Rs. 540/-.

EVER since Independence, India has experienced various facets of terror–ideological conflicts, class and caste wars, ethnicity based violence etc. Yet, the terror perpetrated by separatists over the years has posed the most daunting challenge to our polity. Though the world has woken up to perils of terrorism after the WTC attacks, India has been at its receiving end much earlier than that. The Soviet Union’s demise turned the cold-war equations topsy-turvy. In its wake new violent impulses started pervading India and its surrounding regions. "Terrorism is at the heart of the new paradigms of covert aggression". Gill points out in the preface, "The single most critical issue for India’s developmental agenda today, and even perhaps for its long-term survival, is the crisis of internal security and the rising scourge of terrorism".

There is a symbiosis between terrorism and disintegration of social and political establishments and traditions. Says Gill: "Each terrorist movement has also met with the collapse of virtually all the institutions of civil governance and criminal justice administration in the affected areas. The oldest insurgency in India–the secessionist campaign in Nagaland–dates back to almost half a century. Yet, not even a preliminary exercise in restoring the basic functions of government in large areas has been initiated".


Arundhati Ghose points out: "Rarely have I heard a country of the North criticising another country from Europe or the US for violations of human rights. Rarely do governments get together to deal with a human rights issue in a non-political way… in almost all western countries human rights at international level are handled as a foreign policy issue rather than an issue which affects all society." She also highlights "pernicious" aspects of human rights organisations’ functioning in different parts of the world. She terms such set ups as "veritable industry". Surely, these factors hinder the tackling of terrorism in an effective manner.

Praveen Swami reveals the hitherto lesser-known aspects of the Kargil conflict. The ham-handed manner in which our political rulers and Army top brass handled intelligence inputs is startling indeed. He cites an example of Azhar Shafi Mir, a former Hizb-ul-Mujahideen foot soldier, who was pushed into India to inflict extensive damage on the Bandipore-Gurez road and Kangan-Leh road and similar other strategic locations. He confessed as much during interrogation by the Intelligence Bureau. Says Swami: "Sadly there was no effort to interpret and act on this body of information". This apathy towards crucial aspects of security is puzzling indeed, and has cost us dearly in terms of invaluable human life. Bharat Karnad outlines a new strategy for the LoC and low-intensity warfare in Kashmir.

Ajai Sahni gives details of the suppression of free speech by terrorist groups. He says that this suppression is not limited to J&K. Says he: "One may recall the chilling effect of the kidnap and gruesome murder of M.L. Manchanda, station director of AIR at Patiala in May 1992. Manchanda was decapitated, his torso thrown in Patiala, and his head, miles away, in Ambala. The killing claimed by the Babbar Khalsa, was an unprovoked, crude and effective demonstration of the terrorists’ determination to impose their ‘code of conduct’ on the government’s broadcast agencies". And Manchanda was not the only innocent to be butchered in this fashion by terrorists.

Gill asserts that terrorism recognises no limits of law and "knows no constraints of morality, of honour, of human compassion, or even of the minimal rules of warfare. Crucially, it transcends all international boundaries, and returns to consume the very systems and societies that create, support and sponsor it, even as it destroys those who tolerate or succumb to it". India will have to essentially depend upon its own resources to fight terror. Too much dependence on Uncle Sam is not wise. Going by what the United States and some of its western allies are trying to do in our neighbourhood and elsewhere, neo-colonialism is fast becoming a harsh reality for this part of the world.

Written by the most celebrated super-cop of our times, and others who have had first hand experience in dealing with the different facets of terror, and the war against it, this collection of informed essays is a must read for one and all, especially those who have arrogated to themselves the role of human rights activists.