Hold those in power responsible in the fight against terorrism

The fight against terrorism can never succeed without holding people to account for costly lapses

Published - March 21, 2019 12:15 am IST

Indian soldiers examine the debris after an explosion in Lethpora in south Kashmir's Pulwama district February 14, 2019. REUTERS/Younis Khaliq     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Indian soldiers examine the debris after an explosion in Lethpora in south Kashmir's Pulwama district February 14, 2019. REUTERS/Younis Khaliq TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Terrorism has no place in a civilised world and is completely contrary to all religious tenets. Thousands of civilians have died in India in terrorist strikes. Hundreds from the armed forces, paramilitary forces and the police have laid down their lives while fighting against terrorism and protecting citizens and our democracy. No amount of gratitude is enough to acknowledge their sacrifices. But is that enough?

No accountability

What we need now is a very serious debate on how to counter terrorism in a manner far more effective than what has been done by governments so far. National security is in the hands of intelligence agencies, the police, the Army, and bureaucrats and politicians who frame and implement policies. But it is time for citizens to question all of them for a number of reasons, the primary being the virtual absence of accountability from them, which has resulted in repeated failures in preventing terrorist attacks.

In its 2014 election manifesto, the BJP had said, “We will generate ‘Kartavya Bhawna’ among public servants as lives and productivity of people is dependent on the quality and efficiency of public services.” The manifesto also said there would be no policy paralysis. It also declared that the “BJP would restore trust and credibility in the government, [and ensure] that a chain of accountability is built into the system.” Where is that chain?

By all accounts, the terrorist attack in Pulwama took place despite intelligence input about a possible attack. Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik himself said, “There was no intelligence failure because we had received inputs [of a possible attack]. But there was surely some kind of negligence. If the terrorist could bring such a big vehicle without being checked, it had to be because of failure on our part.” When roads are routinely closed for politicians, causing great inconvenience to lakhs of people, why was the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway not closed for such a massive movement of troops? Someone must be held accountable for such a serious lapse. Politicians, bureaucrats overseeing national security, the Director General of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and top officers of the Jammu and Kashmir police must be taken to task. The fight against terrorism can never succeed without holding people responsible for costly lapses. The government must act swiftly and let citizens know that it means business when it says it will fight against terrorism. It is not enough to remember the dead, hold prayer meetings, and compensate families. True homage can only be paid when action is taken against those responsible for failures.

The attacks in Pathankot and Uri in 2016 revealed chinks in India’s armour. However, apart from taking action against a few, no large-scale accountability was fixed by the Modi government. No wonder Pulwama was waiting to happen. Pakistan is responsible for the attack and it must be blamed. But again, is that enough?

This example may not be comparable perhaps, but following the Godhra tragedy in 2002, no responsible officer from the civil or police administration in Gujarat was held accountable either, for failing to save the lives of 59 kar sevaks. Even then, I believe, there were intelligence inputs of a possible attack in Godhra.

Turning failures into victories

Regrettably, political leaders are trying to turn such failures into victories by pushing their lapses under the carpet and celebrating post-attack retaliations instead. At this crucial juncture, a question confronting us is whether political parties and politicians should be allowed to ride on failures that have resulted in the deaths of brave soldiers. A debate on nationalism cannot centre around failures. It must emanate from successes in stopping terrorist strikes altogether.

How should citizens view India’s ‘strong’ Prime Minister’s handling of such tragedies? Both Godhra and Pulwama resulted in the avoidable deaths of citizens and CRPF personnel, respectively. Yet, those who could have prevented them continue to thrive in power. This is not what Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP promised while repeatedly attacking Manmohan Singh as being a ‘weak’ Prime Minister. Citizens are not naive. They demand the chain of responsibility and accountability that Mr. Modi and his party promised before they came to power.

Dushyant Dave is a senior advocate and the former President of Supreme Court Bar Association

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