“Time for introspection, stop blame game”

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Instead of finger-pointing, all sections have to do some introspection on why the prospect of routine terrorist attacks is staring India in the face, legal activists and journalists said.

With the former Chief Justice of India, A.M. Ahmadi, in the chair, they gathered at the Institute of Objective Studies here to give their perspective on the issue that is consuming the nation’s attention.

Senior journalist M.J. Akbar advised India’s Muslim community to look within. He pointed out that the Urdu press, especially, was still day-dreaming and taking refuge behind far-fetched conspiracy theories.

A society reaps what it sows. After decades of prosperity and little accountability, the upper middle class elite in the country wants increased security after their favourite haunts in Mumbai — the Taj and the Oberoi — were targeted by the terrorists on November 26, said journalist Pankaj Pachauri. “If we sow the seeds of babool [a wild and thorny tree], we cannot hope to pluck sweet mangoes,” he said, lambasting the cry comparing India’s security set-up with that of the United States, where not a single terrorist attack took place after 9/11.

“The U.S. spends $ 69 billion on homeland security. Are our rich and famous prepared to cough up the money instead of asking the government for tax holidays such as that enjoyed by the booming information technology industry? Some of the high-end “fashionwallahs” were now lighting candles in Mumbai, after having evaded taxes most of their lives.

Price for past doings

“There is a price to pay for what the country and its people have been doing — a thoroughly corrupt police force, a criminal justice system that has all but collapsed, no action against rioters whether they be in Meerut, Maliana and Hashimpura more than 20 years ago or Gujarat 2002, no action after the demolition of the Babri Masjid 16 years ago. There can be no stopping groups of people taking the law into their own hands and resorting to terrorism when the rule of law cannot redress grave wrongs done to thousands of victims.”

Not sparing the media, Mr. Pachauri said the electronic and print media cared mostly about Television Rating Points and to boost their own profits.

The country is very angry. Yet, this is not the time to be jingoistic, veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar warned, even as he pointed out that he had witnessed the horrors of Partition. “Hindus and Muslims have to listen to each other. Unless that happens, another bigger disaster is in the making.”

Amity between India and Pakistan held the key to communal harmony at home. This was not time to get deflected from peace as “war is not an option.”

Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan cautioned against any attempt to turn India into a police state. “There is no state where security measures were stiffer than in Israel, yet it is constantly plagued by insecurity. Security lies in addressing people’s grievances and problems, not in acquiring guns.”