Even for a country experiencing the widest possible variety of terrorist attacks, alarmingly recurring at shorter intervals, the terrorist blitzkrieg on Mumbai has chillingly numbed and outraged the nation. The anger, revulsion, distress, disgust, shame and initial helplessness, rising to a crescendo of revenge, have all been captured in images that will continue to torment each one of us. The display of selfless courage and valour in defeating the terrorists will, likewise, evoke salutes of pride, raising the bar of patriotism higher.
Clearly, there is a need to overhaul the entire system and rid ourselves of the perennial weaknesses in our intelligence gathering and security apparatus that permit such terrorist attacks to take place. On previous occasions, many suggestions to strengthen and modernise our security forces, and an improved coordination between various agencies involved, have been discussed in this column. Alas. Nothing substantial has happened despite a plethora of reports and recommendations. These were reiterated at the post-Mumbai all-party meeting convened by the Prime Minister. It is only hoped that these will now merit the urgency that is required.
At a time when the country should have demonstrated its united will in battling terrorism, it is unfortunate that the BJP refused to be party to any common declaration of such resolve at the all-party meeting. Recollect that after the terrorist attack on the Parliament, the country rose as one in denouncing and declaring the determination to defeat terrorism, despite serious differences over the manner in which the then Vajpayee government was handling matters of internal security. The BJP, however, choosing to utilise this terrorist attack for improving its electoral fortunes by sharpening communal polarisation, refused to join the rest of the country in condemning and combating terrorism.
Make no mistake: if the Hindu-Muslim divide deepens, then the terrorists have succeeded to the extent of destabilising our society. Seeking an electoral dividend by deepening this divide only emboldens terrorism further. In fact, terrorism and communalism feed off each other. Recollect that the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (the lone surviving terrorist, in Mumbai, admitted that he belongs to the LeT) had, on the eve of the 1999 elections, stated: “The BJP suits us. Within a year they have made us into a nuclear and missile power. Lashkar-e-Tayyeba is getting a good response because of the BJP’s statements. It is much better than before. We pray to God that they come to power again. Then we will emerge even stronger.” (Hindustan Times, July 19, 1999). India cannot afford to be thus sandwiched.
Have al-Qaeda and the Taliban reached Indian shores? Do these outfits now see India as a US ally? It appears so. If the government has decided to go ahead with the nuclear deal, and emerge as the preferred partner of the US in this part of the world, shouldn't costs of such an alliance have been assessed in advance? Should not have India been prepared for what it means to be seen as aligned with US strategic interests in the so-called ‘war against terror’? Why should civilians be victims of this not having been thought through, and of internal security not having been beefed up?
From all information furnished by the government, these terrorists had come by sea from Karachi to execute a carefully prepared, diabolically planned attack. Foreign territory and facilities have, obviously, been used to mount these attacks. Soon after 9/11, the UN Security Council adopted a unanimous resolution (Resolution 1373) against terrorism. Accordingly, all countries are obliged to deny “safe havens to those who finance, plan, support, or commit terrorist acts”. The UN also created a committee to monitor the implementation of this resolution. The decision that all countries are obliged to prevent those who commit terrorist acts from using their respective territories against other countries and citizens must now be invoked by India. This is required for marshalling international support to advance in our struggle against terrorism.
Much is being talked about the manner in which the US had dealt with 9/11. Remember that after images of the second plane plunging into the twin tower, the next set of images the world saw were of Ground Zero. There was no live telecast of blood, dead bodies, rescue operations etc. The nation dealt with the tragedy with dignity. Even the fiercest champions of freedom of expression cannot condone the competitive rival live footage of the details of the movement of security forces, which facilitated the terrorists' assaults. We all will have to put our minds together to arrive at an acceptable solution in such situations (which mercifully would not be allowed to recur) in the future.
Finally, these attacks took place on iconic symbols of modern India in Mumbai — a hotel and hospital, properties of Parsis, another hotel, the property of a Sikh, a home owned by Jews and the busiest railway station — the property of all Indians. This was an attack on India’s syncretic civilisational ethos. This can be defeated only by India united in its diversity. Any cynical effort to draw political mileage and electoral dividends by perpetuating a communal divide can only give a further lease of life to such anti-national terrorists.
Sitaram Yechury is Rajya Sabha MP and member, CPI(M) Politburo.