Politicians in India can stoop to any level when it comes to settling scores with their rivals or gaining political mileage from sensitive national security issues like the blasts at Mahabodhi Temple - the Holy Buddhist shrine - in Bihar’s Bodh Gaya.
Even before investigators could achieve any breakthrough and identify those behind the blasts, the political fraternity jumped to their own conclusions. The slugfest between the two main political parties, the Congress and the BJP, which was later joined by some others of their ilk, led to deviation in focus from the most important issue in the discourse - national security.
It is unfortunate that at this crucial juncture the political parties, instead of showing a united front against terrorism, are wasting their energy and intellect in targeting each other with their own political interpretation of the serial blasts at the revered religious site. Clearly, vote bank politics and fast approaching elections are the main reasons why the political parties appear keen to take advantage of a serious situation like a terror attack.
And it’s not only the terror-related incidents over which we have seen the political parties playing pity politics, some of our publicity-seeking politicians resorted to cheap politics over rescue operations in Uttarakhand after torrential rains and landslides resulting in massive destruction and loss of lives.
At a time when the international community has stressed on the need for giving a tough response to terrorism of all kinds, I fail to understand why the Indian politicians continue to ignore the long-term consequences of their actions?
Why are we soft on terrorism and look at it through the prism of vote bank politics? Why do we lack the courage to condemn terrorism – be it the Islamic Jehad, the right-wing terrorism, the Sikh militancy or any other – in strongest term, irrespective of any religious bias?
Inarguably, all political parties in India have played politics over terrorism for vested interest. Be it the execution of Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru, the execution of Balwant Singh Rajoana, who has been convicted by the court for assassinating former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh or the sentencing of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins, vote bank and politics of appeasement have created obstacles in the judicial process.
We have repeatedly ignored the dangers of vote bank and appeasement politics, which has lead to slow weakening of our political system and our resolve to tackle grave situations such as terror attacks.
In the aftermath of the 26/11 terror attacks, the government of India felt the need to create a National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) - a proposed federal anti-terror agency modelled on the lines of National Counterterrorism Center of the USA.
The intelligence and operational failures that led to the mayhem in Mumbai necessitated the need for a federal agency with real time actionable intelligence inputs to foil terror attacks in India. However, the proposal has met with much criticism from the Chief Ministers of various states who see this as a ploy by the UPA government to weaken the federal structure.
The fallout of opposition to NCTC has come to the fore in Bihar, a politically significant state, which has witnessed a terror attack for the first time.
Till now, intelligence agencies had thought Bihar was just as a transit point and not a safe base for terror outfits. It may be worth recalling that after the 26/11 attacks, many terror suspects were picked up for questioning from Darbhanga, Madhubani, Sitamarhi, Purnia and Kishanganj districts of Bihar.
However, the fears that Bihar is turning to be a safe base for terror operatives seems to have not bothered the state government much, which vehemently opposed the central agencies’ move to arrest innocent Muslims youths on grounds of suspicion. Last year also Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar made much noise over the arrest of Kafil Akhtar, a terror suspect from Darbhanga believed to be involved in the Chinnaswami cricket stadium blasts.
It is not surprising that 13 of the total 14 Indian Mujahideen (IM) operatives arrested in the past few years were from Darbhanga district alone, which prompted the investigating agencies to coin the term ‘Darbhnga module’.
During the recently concluded meeting of the state chief ministers on internal security, several CMs including Nitish Kumar, who has attacked Narendra Modi’s secular credentials, opposed the move to create NCTC. Instead, he suggested measures to strengthen the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Also, post the split between JD (U) and the BJP, there has been a race between the ‘secular’ parties to appease Muslims and secure their support.
The appeasement of a particular caste or a community for political gains is not a new phenomenon in India, but what is appalling is the fact that political parties have seriously weakened the secular fabric of the nation while doing so.
In the name of safeguarding the interests of a minority community or championing the concerns of the majority or vice versa, our politicians have ended up ignoring everyone.
It is high time our political fraternity understands that vote bank and appeasement politics will do no good to the nation in the long run and will only weaken our secular and democratic set up. Why can’t we look up to America, which despite political differences makes no compromises on the issue of national security?