The case of Hizbul Mujahideen operative Syed Liaquat Shah proves that the Jammu & Kashmir Government's rehabilitation policy for militants is deeply flawed. It is a threat to national security
There is an old saying: “You are damned if you do, and damned, if you do not”. This is exactly the position of the police when it handles cases of terrorism. If there is a terror attack, the police is accused of negligence and intelligence failure. If, after the attack, some terrorists are arrested or killed in an encounter (in which policemen may also be killed), there is a crescendo of voices claiming that innocents have been killed or that the encounter was fake.
The British left India more than 65 years ago but we are still working under laws that they had put in place in the 1860s. After Partition, it was hoped that communal riots in India would be contained with the creation of Pakistan. These hopes have been belied by a small section of our population which, due to its misplaced loyalties, indulges in terror activities. This problem is further aggravated by vote-bank politics which is indulged in by almost all political parties, most of which do not hesitate to sup with the devil.
The present laws are not only grossly defective but also inadequate to deal with terrorism and other such crimes. Then Governor of Bombay, Sir John Malcolm had once said: “With the extension of the new laws, it had become very difficult to establish a system of good policing… The task of seizing the most notorious criminal is easy compared to that of proving their guilt, according to the principles and the forms of our courts of justice. There is seldom that full evidence they require”. This was a comment made more than 100 years ago. Yet, successive Governments in post-Independence India have been sleeping on the issue. It is no surprise then that even today there is, for instance, no comprehensive law against terrorism.
Earlier this month, Delhi Police arrested a Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist of Kashmiri origin, Syed Liaquat Shah, who had left his home State back in 1989 to train in Pakistan on how to carry out terror activities. Shah’s objective, along with that of his six accomplices, was to launch a major terror attack in Delhi around Holi. However, since his arrest, the Jammu & Kashmir Government has claimed that he was returning to India after 24 years, under its rehabilitation policy for former militants.
But the policy itself is clearly flawed as neither the Union Government nor the State Government has any information about the ‘connections’ or ‘motives’ of such rehabilitated people. How do we know that terrorist groups in Pakistan are not pushing them back into India so that they may spread mayhem and violence here? Yet, the Government of Jammu & Kashmir is outdoing even the Opposition in that State when it comes to taking up the cause of people such as Syed Liaquat Shah.
The Union Government knows well that Islamists have gradually taken over Kashmir. Most cinema houses and beauty parlours have been shuttered, music has been banned in the name of Islam and calendars listing days of strikes and protests are issued by the terrorists. This is apart from the ethnic cleansing of 3.70 lakh Kashmiri Hindus and Sikhs from the Valley.
Interestingly, as part of the Jammu & Kashmir Government’s rehabilitation policy, a monthly pension will also be given to the homeward-bound who, let us not forget, went to Pakistan to join terrorist groups. This is a gross misuse of Indian taxpayers’ money.
But the State Government alone is not at fault. New Delhi too is to be blamed for being soft on terror. Consequently, terrorists have even found themselves safe havens in the national capital. Just think of the major terrorist attacks that have shaken Delhi in recent times: From the 1997 bomb blasts in Red Fort, Karol Bagh Market, Rani Bagh Market, Shantivan, Kauria Pul and Kingsway Camp, to the 2001 attack on Parliament, the 2005 pre-Diwali bombings and the 2011 bomb blast at the Delhi High Court. In other words, terrorists trained in Pakistan have for long been cocking a snook at India, by attacking the very heart of the nation, killing hundreds and injuring thousands.
As per the statement of the Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, Mr Omar Abdullah, issued last month, no terrorist or militant had officially returned from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to India through identified routes. Yet, according to other sources, as of February 15, some 241 former militants have indeed returned illegally along with their family members. Incidentally, there are four officially designated entry points, but none of them has been used.
This brings us back to the curious case of Syed Liaquat Shah. Jammu & Kashmir Police says that, when he was arrested by Delhi Police, Shah was returning to India under the rehabilitation policy. But if this was the case, then Shah should have come via the approved channels. That he tried to enter India illegally through Nepal exposes yet another chink in India’s national security.
But the Government of India remains unperturbed, preferring instead to stick to its old policy of letting sleeping dogs lie. This is precisely why our fight, be it against terrorism or Maoism, is a non-starter. The Government should have a clear-cut policy that, once an Indian has left the country with the express intent of training as a terrorist, he or she will automatically lose his citizenship. India is for Indians, irrespective of caste, community or religion. But it is definitely not for those who seek to destroy it.
The Government should also make sure that nobody who has sought to harm the country gets the benefit of security in India. The Union Government has reportedly spent over Rs9.4 crore to provide security cover to separatist leaders in Kashmir in the last 12 years. What else can be more perverse than the fact that Indian taxpayers’ money is being spent on those who seek to dismember the country? The Government should not politicise terrorism and allow law enforcement agencies to do their work. But the way it is dealing with terrorism, reminds one of what the American political satirist PJ O’Rourke once said: “Giving money and power to Government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys”.