Debating India


No time for partisan calculations

Thursday 7 July 2005

The fidayeen assault on the disputed Ram temple complex in Ayodhya is a reminder that terror strikes when least expected - and it strikes to create panic. Tuesday’s terrorist attack came after a suspiciously long hiatus, in itself reason for the Government to have been cautious and well prepared. In the event, the terrorists failed in their macabre mission thanks to the quick reflexes of the security forces who risked their life and limb to save the structure; there is no estimating the mayhem that would have ensued but for the valiant effort of the men on the spot. They reached within 100 metres of the makeshift temple before they were overpowered and gunned down. Tragically, they almost succeeded in their design - which undoubtedly was to spread disaffection and ill will in the polity. The attack started a blame game that saw political parties pitching into each other: the Centre against the Mulayam Singh Government and the Bharatiya Janata Party against the Centre.

The most cynically opportunistic in all this was the BJP which pounced on the incident in the manner of a drowning man clutching at straws. The party, led by no less than Jaswant Singh, characterised the strike as an attack on "Hindu sentiments" and asked for the resignation of the Central and State Home Ministers. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal struck belligerent poses while Narendra Modi equated July 5 Ayodhya with the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the United States. Not to be outdone, Lal Krishna Advani sought a "fitting reply" to the fidayeen attack. Perhaps by this he meant a "fitting protest" and little else. Nonetheless, this kind of language was best avoided in the prevailing inflammatory atmosphere. In any event, the question arises as to what the BJP is protesting. There was a security breach in Ayodhya but the disputed shrine came to no harm. The security forces got the better of the terrorists with barely any civilian casualty, which is much more than what the BJP could claim while in office. On December 13, 2001, terrorists breached the fortress-like security of Parliament. They entered the complex through a gate used exclusively by VIPs. The September 24, 2002 fidayeen attack on the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar left 33 civilians dead and scores injured. These were greater tragedies which by the same logic should have brought a larger share of blame to the then government. Yet Mr. Advani did not offer to resign. Nor did he need to. There is an element of inevitability to any suicide mission which causes some damage even when it is not wholly successful. Which is why it is important that security strategies to tackle terrorism are accompanied by political measures as well. And one vitally important political route is to work for harmony within the country, particularly in Kashmir, and work for peace between India and Pakistan. That would call for a united resolve among political parties not to let their partisan interests get in the way of the quest for peace and order.

See online : The Hindu

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