A Moment of Introspection DR MOHAMMAD MANZOOR ALAM (AUGUST 08, 2008)


A Moment of Introspection

Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam cogitates on random terrorist violence and the failure of intelligence agencies either to prevent it or to correctly investigate the cases and bring the perpetrators to book.

Developments over the last few days have left the nation breathless, petrified and clueless. A series of explosions in Bangalore and Ahmedabad, several people dead, many more injured, some critically.

That shows a massive intelligence failure and a consequent security breach that makes every one of us a potential target for a random attack. As usual, even before investigations start the intelligence agencies begin to name their known favourites: SIMI, HUJI and other suspected outfits.

We have seen this pattern over the last several years. A bomb (or a series of bombs) going off at public places. Within minutes of that the police and intelligence agencies announcing to the media that SIMI and a couple of allied outfits that have done it. Investigation begins only after declaring the names of "culprits". Innocent people are thrown into jails and tortured. The media uncritically parrot these off the cuff remarks.

However, after months and years of investigation, imprisonment and torture of innocents on mere suspicion, nothing is found. If only we reverse the procedure and don't put the cart before the horse we can possibly get some leeway. That is, if we investigate, come to a firm conclusion that can be sustained in a court of law, and then announce the names of the perpetrators, we would certainly be doing our work more honestly. Honest work will yield results.

The lifting of ban on SIMI by Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal on August 5 because of insufficient proof against the organisation is an indicator of how shoddily the IB and intelligence agencies in the states have been handing the SIMI affair. The Supreme Court's orders staying the ban have come as a great relief to the Union home ministry, whose officials have mismanaged everything largely because of the habit of making unsubstantiated claims.

Instead of doing some home work the home ministry has been busy parroting the same old anti-Muslim clichés invented by NDA. The tribunal revoked the ban mainly on the ground that the pith and substance of the argument against SIMI was the same as articulated by the blatantly anti-Muslim BJP, which in effect reflected the BJP-led NDA's prejudices about Muslims, mosques and madrasahs.

It is time to change course now. Already media is full of reports of innocent persons being imprisoned and tortured for alleged links to SIMI while, in fact, they have no relation to it. The home ministry under the UPA will do well to change its ways inculcated in NDA days. The innocent must never be tormented for the bogey of SIMI, whose role in terror is yet unconfirmed.

There are certain obvious discrepancies in the SIMI case. If they are such "fundamentalist Muslims" they should not be causing blasts in mosques as they are accused of doing. To clear the muddle we have been demanding the creation of a judicial commission to determine the facts behind terrorist acts of the last few years. We stand by our demand.  g

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