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Terrorism-Plus-Something Politics

By Mustafa Khan

28 December, 2008

Though the newly appointed home minister P.Chidambarum has laid to rest any doubt anybody, let alone AR Antulay, might have had regarding the killing of ATS chief Hemant Karkare, there are still some loose ends that need to be tied. One is the minister's conception of "terrorism-plus-something politics." Can anyone claim honestly that our fight against terrorism is qua fighting terror and terror alone? If people impute oil as motive for the US fighting terror in Iraq, or hunting the big gun Saddam Hussein was supposed to be making, his so called WMD, or hunting down al Qaeda that was not there and fool the world for so long, can the questioning spirit be atrophied in the name of the national consensus?

There is need to acknowledge Antulay for a seminal contribution to Indian politics: his coinage of the epithet "terrorism plus something". For that has been the case of the quintessence of politics in the country since the ascendancy of BJP. That is more or less true of the US since the ascendancy of George W Bush as BJP emulated the Americans par excellent. In the so-called war on terror we follow the US.

Better to quote him. On December 17 barrister Antulay had told: "Karkare was a very bold officer. I know his acumen was great. He had vision and was prepare[sic] to lay down life for country[sic] at any time. Now how come instead of going to the Taj (Hotel) or the Oberoi (Hotel) he went to such a place where there was nothing? He was also making an independent investigation. (in which) he found that there were non-Muslims who were terrorists. Whether he was just a victim of terror or something (else), I don't know. I knew him personally; I salute him." Later in the Parliament he made a nuance in words but not in substance: "Who had sent them to Cama Hospital (where terrorists struck). What were they told that made them leave for the same spot in the same vehicle. I repeat what I had said. I had not said who had killed them but only questioned who had sent them there (Cama Hospital) in that direction," He also made a subtle hint when he qualified himself about the slain as to who had "sent them in the wrong direction."

The last clause is the most crucial instead the unnecessary focus on the faith of either the minister or the accused in Malegaon blast case. Antulay says that anyone familiar with the locality of south Mumbai would wonder at it. His statement would imply that Cama hospital and the streets around are deserted even on ordinary nights let alone at such a terrific time as the attacks of November 26. ( Antulay like Salman Rushdie would like to believe that the tragedy overtook Bombay and not Mumbai, VT and not CST, locale that the two should be quite familiar with atavistically).

A leading newspaper described him "Gone rogue" and came out with a column called Geography challenges Antulay theory. Kasab and the other terrorist were fleeing from the CST and came across the car and shot the officers dead or as another version would have it, the two terrorists were hiding behind a hedge plant too skimpy to hide. Anyway they killed the policemen. But of all the people the wife of the slain officer Karkare raised doubts about the direction her husband was sent and what for since he was investigating officer and not in charge of direct action. Somebody else must have been handling the overall fighting against the terrorists that was taking place. A part of why the minister raised doubt must be this misgiving of the widow.

The other part was that on Tuesday December 16 the new anti terrorism laws were introduced in the parliament and the minister was seized of cases of how many innocent people were languishing in prisons across the country against whom no evidence was found even after months or years of imprisonment. Many of them incidentally happen to be Muslims. Another aspect is the extent of terror. Communal riots are also acts of terrorism and hence those who perpetrate them must be described terrorists and must come under the purview of the new laws. Though this might not have been discussed and codified into the new laws but the truth is undeniable. Insurgency, militancy and left wing extremism are not the whole gamut of terrorism. Finding no headway to make the legislators heed all these Antulay might have been frustrated with a portfolio that cannot function materially in a field which is its central concern. Therefore those who do not take the full import of all these can also be playing terrorism-plus-something politics. And so the need to keep the questioning spirit alive.

Fight terrorism we must. But it needs to be fought on all fronts. Those who are made to waste youth in jails even when their guilt is far from proved are also victims of terrorism. Khwaja Yunus's brutal murder at the hands of the police calls for restitution, for justice. The most vocal in fighting terrorism are also ready to give ticket to Sachin Vaze to fight election on their party ticket. Unfortunately there is no way to give ticket to the dead to fight election from their grave but Sadhvi Pragyasingh Thakur behind the bars has been offered ticket from a right wing party. We seem to be fighting all kinds of terror with all kinds of weapons, even extrajudicial murder! If anything the questioning spirit would help the people to know what constitutionally sanctioned and justified ways of fighting terror are. Once that becomes our habit terrorism would cease to exist.

Mustafa Khan
Malegaon, Maharashtra

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