Bolstering the will to fight terror
UAPA amendment reflects the Union Home Minister’s uncompromising stand on terrorism and conviction to defend India’s national security, unity and sovereignty
The power to name an individual as a terrorist conferred on the government under the amended UAPA Bill has raised the hackles of some. This is understandable as those opposed to this particular section of the Bill have also often been at the forefront of pushing the narrative of talks with terrorists, have argued for the need to reach out to separatists and have always negatively portrayed Indian investigating agencies and armed forces.
While speaking on the UAPA in Lok Sabha, Union Home Minister Amit Shah was very clear on why the amended Bill made provision for designating individuals as terrorists. Terrorism, Shah reminded the House, is a mindset, you cannot tackle it effectively by simply banning an organisation, banning an organisation leads the concerned terrorists to immediately open another front in another name and at another location and continue operating with impunity. It was, therefore, necessary for the mindset be encountered, and to effectively do that it is necessary to also be able to designate individuals as terrorists. The fronts will not be able to act as covers anymore.
Amit Shah's stand on terrorism has been consistently uncompromising. We shall come to that but who are those who have a problem with the amended UAPA and NIA Bill? Who are those who protest that the NIA should not be conferred the power to attach property, to investigate crimes "including those committed outside India against the Indian citizens or affecting the interest of India" abroad? Who are these people who say that extending the NIA's investigative powers to investigate human trafficking, cyber-crimes and counterfeit currency rackets will be impinging on the federal spirit? Why should these networks and interest groups be concerned, why should they ask what the definition of Indian interests abroad is? Is it difficult to understand what that is? Is the memory of blasts at the Indian Embassy in Kabul in 2008 already begun to fade away from the minds of these people? Why should they oppose this will to investigate crimes committed against Indian citizens abroad? After all, should not a power aspiring to great power status and emerging as a civilizational state be, both keen and capable, of protecting its assets and citizens beyond its shores? Should it also not have agencies that are empowered to investigate crimes aimed at it and committed beyond its shores?
The answers to the above questions are simple, these are elements who have, in the past, supported or kept silent when the demand for India's dismemberment was made, who had jumped to defend the cries of "Bharat tere Tukde Tukde" and pass these off as callow or legitimate expressions of freedom of expression and dissent, these are those elements who had called any attempt to counter these demands of India's disintegration as fascistic attempts to muzzle dissent. These are those elements who tried to justify these cries despite knowing well that these originated from the stable of terrorists who have declared war against India. These are people who have comprehensively and systematically carried out a campaign in support of Naxals and Naxalism, have tried to justify the Naxal ideology of trying to overthrow the Indian state, to defile and desecrate India's democratic structures, and to destroy the Constitution.
Since the UAPA and NIA pose a challenge, among other things, to the spread of the Naxal ideology and will especially make it difficult for Urban Naxals to operate and to camouflage their acts, the hackles have been raised. The argument that the federal spirit will be impinged upon, is simply an alibi. When did those who are opposing the expansion of these powers really believe in the federal spirit?
MPS from the Muslim League, the AIMIM led by Osaduddin Owaisi, Muslim members of BSP, National Conference and AUDF's Badruddin Ajmal opposed both the NIA and UAPA Bills. Since their politics thrives on generating the victimhood narrative this was expected of them, the communist parties also opposed the Bills and walked out, they have a long record of pandering to separatism and to insurgents. This has gradually shrunk them and is increasingly making them irrelevant electorally.
Amit Shah has always been firm and consistent in his approach to tackling terrorism. The intensification of the drive to expose terror and terror funding networks in the Valley, in the past few weeks, the attaching of properties of separatists such Asiya Andrabi and others is proof of Shah's will to fight terror. For those who thrive on external resources channelised in order to generate a false narrative of India, who work to light flashpoints and to subvert India's unity these are naturally difficult times.
As Home Minister of Gujarat in the past, Shah had a similar approach to tackling terror. He always argued that the effort of counter-terrorism must never be held hostage to the narrative of human rights. For him it was essential that in this fight one had to ensure that the morale of the security agencies was never adversely affected, it was thus necessary that the fear of the security agencies was instilled in the minds of terrorists. In our newly released political study "Amit Shah and the March of the BJP", we have looked at how as Home Minister of Gujarat, Shah had also argued that the repealing of POTA would prove detrimental to our will and capabilities of fighting terror. That stand of his continues to be undiluted. In fact, we have recorded how in the immediate aftermath of the Ahmedabad serial blasts in 2008, Shah had "called for a larger debate on how terrorism needed to be tackled and eventually eliminated. "Shah had then made" very poignant but bold suggestions. He had argued that there was a need to have a legal provision to limit the debate on terrorism by non-governmental organisations and that the police's zero-tolerance against terrorism–a line that Shah had taken then and continues to take now–should not be viewed from the premise of human rights. The police's zero-tolerance against terrorism itself is people's human rights. Ultimately, the police is acting to protect innocent peoples' human rights, Shah had then said. He had cautioned that if this was not done, then in order to gain "popularity–in the absence of understanding and sometimes deliberately – NGOs were helping the motives of terrorists". He had called for stronger laws to "punish terrorists" and had opposed "any debates that would demoralise the approach of security agencies to fight them". It was this uncompromising stand of his that made Amit Shah unpopular among those separatism-championing NGOs and a section of the political class especially among the communists and the Congress party. But Shah has himself always made it clear, that when it comes to India's national security, unity and sovereignty it is going to be a tough and undiluted approach. His approach now as Union Home Minister continues to be the same.
His positions, arguments and articulations on the NIA and UAPA Bill have come across as deeply deliberated and meant to protect these fundamentals of India. There is nothing roughshod about them.
(Dr. Anirban Ganguly is Director, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, New Delhi. The views expressed are strictly personal)
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