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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 34

On a Federal Agency for Metro Terrorism

Sunday 10 August 2008, by Amna Mirza

As the dastardly fangs of terrorism appear in the bylanes of yet another Metro city, Ahmedabad, it is high time that we sit up and ponder over the dangerous fault-lines.

It needs no iteration that those who believe in killing the innocent lot to prove their prowess so as to terrorise the state apparatus have a very shaky level of conviction in humanity. The threat of terrorism cuts across all borders and the enemy is faceless. The issue of compensation and rehabilitation of affected victims need attention but the larger issue is: how long can we let ourselves be at the receiving end?

To suggest that we re-implement draconian laws like the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) would be insane looking at the delicate nature of the problem at hand. Further, laws remain passive unless implemented with a genuine thought to improve the society.

India is a federal parliamentary democracy, with a bicameral Parliament, which bears striking resemblance to the Canadian Constitution, and this can be attributed to the presence of British Rule in both countries. The unfortunate terror strikes are limited to the realm of metro cities so as to create maximum damage to the ‘Aristotelian mean’—the metros where the Middle classes are prominent, which are integral to the sustenance of democracy. Earlier it was Mumbai, now Ahmedabad; since terror strikes at a stroke, what can be done from this federal paradigm?

It was during the National Democratic Alliance rule that the idea of a federal agency was mooted, one that would cater to looking after the onslaught of non-traditional security dimensions, of which this metro terrorism is namely one. This aspect has been recently endorsed by the present Congress regime. It is high time that we ponder over the modalities of operation of a federal agency to deal with the terror situation.

It needs to be asked: to deal with anarchists like the terrorists who believe in phantom-like destruction, on what levels of efficiency will this federal agency work? The administration and police at the Centre and State levels need to work in tandem to attack the problem at hand. There must be constant dialogue between them and a search for consensus. Undoubtedly there will be synchronisation of aims as both the levels of government would consent to the regime of law and order, avoiding the blasts.

The issue of funding also comes to the fore: which level of government will bear the cost to exchequer? It is not everyday that blasts are happening; and then in the wake of a sudden blast to get into fast action, would be an unwise proposition for the federal agency. We need to define the ambit of patrolling terror in wider regular terms without involving any cumbersome hindrance for the common lot.

The issue of systematisation of the level of terrorism comes up, as not all States face the same vengeance—like West Bengal, Kerala are less prone to attack unlike Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat. So how to deal with terrorism at the pan-India level? The Naxal violence is another of its kind where the Salwa Judum has faced backlash with the people not ready to give up arms. So how to juxtapose the various forms of violence being inflicted in the nation needs to be clearly defined for the agency to work well.

The issue of special task forces like para military forces have been resented by the States in the past as it makes their subject in the State list—Law and Order—vulnerable to the mercy of the Centre. Thus the new agency should carefully gauge the sensitivities of each State before taking any action.

The subject of monitoring of terror is mandatory. Thus the agency should involve experts from the strategic field who would work in tandem with the administration to eliminate terror. We need to broadbase the efforts by raising the awareness amongst the common man about the need to maintain unity in diversity amidst the chaos unleashed by such attacks. The idea of national interest needs to the perceived in the true secular, plural ethos of the country.

The author is doing her M.Phil in Political Science at the University of Delhi. She can be contacted at amnamirza@gmail.com

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