`Democracy an asset to handle terrorism'

CHENNAI NOV. 9 . The Manipur Governor, Ved Marwah, today stressed the need for special laws and special forces and strengthening of the democratic and administrative system, as part of the strategy to deal with terrorism.

Simultaneously, the people's genuine grievances should be redressed, lest society lose faith in the system, and the criminal justice system strengthened.

Mr. Marwah, a former Delhi Police Commissioner, was delivering the valedictory address to a two-day national seminar here on "Responding to terrorism: Dilemmas of democratic and developing societies".

Terrorism, which had struck root in society, was a complicated problem and there was no quick-fix solution. But democracy was not a liability to deal with the evil. In fact, it was an asset. In Punjab, a solution was found through the political and democratic process. It was here that public opinion was important.

There was a basic misunderstanding that terrorism could be wiped out with firmness. Of course, the problem had to be dealt with firmly, but the firmness had to be exercised within the legal framework. Giving the security forces a free hand or increasing the number of personnel or a policy of appeasement would not succeed.

Along with police reforms, judicial reforms were necessary. In this connection, Mr. Marwah said that in Manipur conviction in terrorism-related cases had reached zero level. There was also delay in filing chargesheets. This was so, on the one hand, and there was judicial delay, on the other. All cases relating to the `transistor bomb' in Delhi, in which the accused were caught red-handed, ended in acquittal. Worse still, the cases did not come up for trial for long.

Mr. Marwah said he was not pessimistic, but ground realities should not be lost sight of. Laws alone would not serve any purpose. The grievances of the people should be redressed by a dedicated and committed political and administrative system.

The Tamil Nadu Governor, P.S. Ramamohan Rao, emphasised that there should be substantial reforms to the criminal justice system, a federal jurisdiction to deal with terrorism and better collaboration among intelligence agencies, and an awareness should be created in civil society to assert itself against terrorism.

Drawing from his experience as Director-General of Police, he said it was generally agreed that a perceived sense of injustice was invariably at the root of terrorism — cross-border or within the country. Besides this, internal conditions such as failure of governance or breakdown of the rule of law were "very formidable factors".

While tackling terrorism within the legal framework, steps should be taken to make it adequate to meet the situation.

Mr. Rao also emphasised the need for political consensus on dealing with problems. Various parties looked at problems from their own angle at different times.

He referred to the forest brigand, Veerappan, taking a former Minister hostage, and said there was no consensus on what had to be done in such situations.

The former CBI Director, C.V. Narasimhan, said the seminar suggested that terrorism could not be solved if it was dealt with as a law and order problem; deepseated grievances of identified sections should be redressed; a special law to tackle terrorism should be enacted and there should be a strict control over availability of firearms.

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