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  Repealing POTA would prove to be a suicidal act  


By: Ganesh Sovani
October 29, 2004

In the history of Indian democracy 22nd September, 2004 would go down as one of the ‘saddest days’, when the Indian President issued an ordinance repealing finally signed an ordinance repealing ‘The Prevention of Terrorism Act – 2002’ (POTA) upon the recommendation made by of the Union Cabinet to do so. With this a legal arm to counter the growing menace of terrorism stands amputated by the government of the day , The constituents of UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government in New Delhi have fulfilled their political pledge, given to their respective vote banks during the course of the fourteenth Parliamentary election campaign, of repealing POTA.  

The bill repealing POTA could not be introduced in the budget session of Parliament which ended on 26th of August, 2004, due to persistent recalcitrant attitude adopted by the Opposition parties of disrupting the proceedings of both houses of Parliament on the issue of ‘tainted’ ministers.   

Now with the ordinance repealing POTA has issued by the President of India, a sigh of relief is already being heaved by those who were deadly against the introduction of POTA, when the need to introduce such a stringent enactment arose couple of years ago, as the terrorist activities had substantially increased not only in the perennially affected Jammu & Kashmir, but also in the much neglected Eastern parts of India, like Assam, Mizoram and Nagaland., etc.     

It may be recalled that even before the incumbent Congress (I) led UPA  government came into power on 22nd May this year, it’s constituent parties  forming the UPA had declared during the election campaign in no uncertain terms of their intention to repeal POTA, should they were voted in power. Therefore, it was no surprise when Dr. Manmohan Singh, the incumbent Indian Prime minister pronounced his party’s resolve to repeal POTA after assuming the office, even before he was sworn in.  

Although, India’s present opposition parties combine forming the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) had declared their intentions to oppose government’s move to abrogate the POTA, the bill repealing POTA could have easily been passed without any rumblings, had it been introduced in Parliament, given the comfortable arithmetic majority which the UPA enjoyed over the NDA.  

How POTA was evolved?  

The much debated POTA was introduced initially as POTO (The Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance – 2001) by the President of India by way of an ordinance, as contemplated under Article 143 of the Constitution of India, on 24th October, 2001, when the right wing BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) led NDA government was in power. However, it was with a great difficulty the bill introducing POTA was passed in the joint sessions of the Indian parliament on 26th March, 2002, on the backdrop of its defeat in the Upper House for want of majority, notwithstanding its initial smooth passage in the Lower House of Parliament.   

The NDA government had vehemently defended introducing the ‘anti-terror’ law not just in response to rise in the terrorist activities in the northern state of Jammu & Kashmir, but also in furtherance it’s commitment in response to United Nations Resolution No. 1373, which was passed in the aftermath of 9 / 11. By virtue of that resolution, every member country of the UN had committed itself to introduce or promulgate an anti-terror legislation in an attempt to thwart the terrorist related activities.  

Sufficient opportunity was given to all sections of the society to air their views by the NDA government before the POTA was introduced, as is evident from the fact that the Law Commission of India had organized two mega level seminars in 1999 and 2000 in Delhi which were attended by the communists inspired PUCL (People’s Union of Civil Liberties) Chairman Kannabiran and his paraphernalia as well.  

After the repealing of TADA (The Terrorist & Disruptive Activities Act) in 1996, by the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao government, that too for the political considerations, the police machinery all over the country was finding it increasingly difficult to handle the terror related crimes and complete the investigation in the successful manner. When the TADA was in force, there were several instances, when both, the prosecutors and the judges who were specially appointed for the conducting of TADA related trials were manhandled and also attacked in Punjab and also in Jammu & Kashmir. No witness was coming forward to depose on behalf of the State against the terrorists during such trails, as a result of which many trials became meaningless, thus resulting into mass acquittals of those persons who were charged under the anti-terror law.  

While participating in a debate during the joint sessions of Parliament, when the POTA bill was introduced by the NDA government, the then law minister Arun Jaitley had empathetically stated that barring the states of J & K and Gujarat, the percentage of accused happening to be the member of the minority community was less than 4.5 %.  

TADA, was a Congress creation !  

As a matter of fact, the maiden anti-terror law TADA was introduced by the Congress (I) government in 1984, when it had 99 % majority in Parliament, initially to control the growing terrorist activities taking place in the state of Punjab, where some disgruntled elements had embarked upon for the creation of a separate ‘Sikh’ state called Khalistan. At that time, hundreds of Hindus in Punjab were killed by the extremists who were enjoying an open support from India’s neighbour, both in the form of cash and ammunition. These separatists groups too were getting an overt support from some self proclaimed leaders like Dr. Jagjit Singh Chauhan from Canada. 

Quite strangely, when violence was on rise in Punjab in mid-eighties, the Jammu & Kashmir was relatively peaceful. Millions of India’s inbound tourist used to regularly travel to J&K, which is was then regarded as the Switzerland of the Asia, even when Punjab was witnessing a blood shed.   

Although the TADA was essentially introduced to contain the terror related activities in Punjab, this Act continued to last for seven to eight years more, even after the demise of Khalistan movement in late eighties.  

The Khalistan movement lost it’s momentum after the operation ‘Blue Star’, during which the Indian army was compelled to enter into the holiest Sikh shrine on the earth, the Golden temple to flush out the terrorists, who were hiding over there in thousands. Their leader Jairnail Singh Bhinderwale died in the shoot out along with his tens of associates in the underground chamber of the temple. The operation ‘Blue Star’ virtually cracked the backbone separatist movement in Punjab. The bloody bath in the sanctum sanctorum of Golden Temple considerably pained the Sikh community not only in India, but all over the world. 

Animosity started brewing up after Golden Temple incident and it finally culminated when two Sikh body guards of the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi opened fired on her on 31st October, 1984, when she was strolling on the lawns of her official bungalow after finishing off her interview with the famous Swedish film maker Peter Ustinov.    

The failure of the Indian government to come out with a reasonable solution on Jammu & Kashmir, resulted in increasing terror activities in J&K, and the terrorist outfits in the state started getting substantial amount of help in terms of arms and ammunition from the ultras in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), who in turn getting support from the Afghan Mujahadeen.   

However, after the repealing of TADA in mid-nineties a need was increasingly felt to introduce such law which will not only help the Indian law enforcement agencies to put on the terrorists on trial, but also help them in trailing or detecting their movements in more effective manner, even before the commission of crime. The provisions of ‘interception of communication’ , be it by telephonic, fax, e-mail or of any other kind, which was ultimately incorporated in the POTA, have considerably helped the security agencies to foil the nasty designs, when they are at preparatory stage.     

Aftermath of POTA  

Although the POTA was introduced with a great fanfare, the terrorist related activities continued to take place with a regular frequency. Barely inside the two months, when the original POTO was introduced through a Presidential ordinance, India witnessed the most dreadful attack on it’s sovereignty when the Indian Parliament was attacked on 13th December, 2001 around 11.40 AM, when the proceedings of both houses of Parliament were about to begin. A group of well trained Pakistani born terrorists entered in the precincts of Parliament by wearing the police uniform and by making use of a supposedly police vehicle.       

The heavy exchange of gun fire between these ultras and the Indian police, who were posted for Parliament security, resulted in gunning down of all the intruders, who were all Pakistani nationals. (The Pakistan government refused to claim their dead bodies). However, it also resulted in the loss of as many as dozen Indian security menBarely in a fortnight, the Delhi police claimed to have made a break through in detecting this crime and four persons, including one female rounded in Delhi and Kashmir.  

Delhi police trailed them based on the recovery of some mobile phones and SIM cards, which were found on the bodies of some of the terrorists who were gunned in the precincts of Parliament.  These SIM cards enabled the police to trace the out going calls made them and also incoming calls received by them, prior to the incident. Based on that, some specific telephone numbers of suspected persons were kept under surveillance, which resulted in the tracing of these four terrorists, who were instrumental in harbouring, aiding and abetting the attackers on the Indian Parliament.     

Although the Special POTA trial court convicted all the four accused (defendants) under the POTA, while awarding the death penalty to three male accused and a five year imprisonment to the female accused, the Delhi High Court acquitted the two male accused and the female accused, and lowered the sentence of the third male accused. The Delhi police have challenged the verdict of the Delhi High Court, in the Supreme Court of India, which yet to be disposed off.  However, the judgement of the Delhi High Court in Parliament attack case has put a considerable question mark on the professional competence of Delhi police, who steel feel that they would prove to be right, when the matter is finally disposed by India’s Apex court. 

One of the accused who have been acquitted is Dr. S.A.R Geelani, Kashmiri born professor of Arabic, in the Jawaharlal Nehru University. The efforts are under way to bring him into the academic mainstream of Delhi. However, the right wing BJP and its allied organizations have already heckled the move and when an attempt was made by the supporters of Geelani to screen a documentary film on Gujarat riots, which took place in 2002, the event was by disrupted by the ABVP, a student wing of BJP, on 14th August, 2004 in JNU campus itself.  

Political misuse  

Although a special provision was made in the POTA to minimize the misuse of the law, at the hands of police, by way of provisions of prosecuting the erring officers (who might have allegedly misused the law), quite regrettably, this law too has been misused again by the political masters simply for the political considerations.  While Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha slapped POTA on her political rival, MDMK general secretary Vaiko on the charge that he had sympathised with the cause Tamils in Sri Lanka who are fighting for an independent State in the Island; the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati too received a flak by many for invoking POTA on Raja Bhayya her political opponent, to trim his growing political clout.   

In the first week of September, 2004, the trial POTA court in Chennai (Madras) has refused to exonerate Vaiko from POTA charges, in defiance to the findings of the review committee findings, which had taken an opposite view. With every passing day, Vaiko’s matter is getting complicated and he has resorted to all kinds of gimmicks by getting re-arrested when he undertook a march in Chennai in defiance to the propitiatory orders issued by the local police and he was detained for seven hours on the night of 14th September, 2004.  

What was regrettable that when the NDA was in power, two contradictory affidavits were filed on behalf of the Union government in the Supreme Court when the detainee Vaiko had challenged his arrest under POTA. While one affidavit was filed by the union government justifying invoking of POTA on Vaiko, when Jayalalita was a sending feeler to form a political alliance with the NDA, the subsequent affidavit admitting a wrong application of POTA on Vaiko was filed the union government, when DMK had almost threatened to walk out of the NDA.  

Though a provision exists for prosecution of a police officer, wrongly invoking POTA on the accused, it is unlikely that the police officers from Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, who were responsible for slapping POTA on Vaiko and Raja Bhayya respectively would be booked under the same law, as they had merely obeyed the orders of their political masters. Incidentally, both Jayalalitha and Mayawati happen to be the female chief ministers, who have embraced the NDA government during its six year rule, for one reason or the other.   

Horrifying consequences   

The very act of the UPA government of repealing POTA would embolden the spirit of the terrorists and it would considerably demoralise India’s already moral sapped police machinery. 

The repealing of POTA would result in reincarnation of those twenty seven terrorist organizations which were banned under section 18 of the Act. Some of these organizations include Babbar Khalsa International, SIMI, LTTE, Laskhar- e - Tayeeba, Jaish - e - Mohammad, Harqat – u l - Mujahadeen, ULFA, PLA, Maoist Communist  Centre, Al – Qaeda and Taliban. Incidentally, some of these terrorist outfits have been banned or otherwise designated both by US and UK under their respective anti-terror laws. Which means the members and the sympathisers of these organizations can freely move in and out of country, without many hassles for propagating their respective causes and ideologies. They can buy the properties, generate the funds for their organization subject to the RBI’s minor regulations in the Indian Union without the risk of their properties or funds being seized or attached by the law enforcement agencies. Their electronic communication would no longer in danger of being tapped by the security agencies under POTA, although it can be kept under surveillance under an archaic law ‘The Telegraphic Act – 1885 wherein the procedure is quite cumbersome. Incidentally, some of these Afghan or Pakistan originated organizations have already been banned by the American government after 9 / 11.  

Although a move is afoot to make necessary amendments, in ‘The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act – 1967’ in view of repealing of POTA, it is unlikely to have a teething effect. There is every likelihood that those political parties,  which are desperate for the annulment of POTA, would strongly oppose any such move to amend 1967 Act, as their very purpose of protecting the vote banks would be affected, should such changes are to be incorporated in thirty – seven year old law.  

Poor policing, a cause of concern     

It is also interesting to note how the police themselves have handled the terror related crimes when they were gifted with sufficient powers after the promulgation of POTA.  

The manner in which Mumbai police slapped POTA on Mohammad Afroze who had allegedly planned to bomb the British Parliament and some important sites in Australia, and subsequently withdrew the POTA charges against him, notwithstanding his confession before the Metropolitan Magistrate in Mumbai, really made the mockery of the things. To justify the application of POTA on Afroze, the then Mumbai Police Commissioner M.N. Singh, Jt. Commissioner (Crime) B.S. Mohite and DCP Pradeep Sawant under took a visit to Britain and USA for ‘serious investigation’ of the matter and returned back to country almost empty handed.  Now Afroze stands for the trial only under IPC on the charges of ‘waging a war against a country’. After deriving tons of publicity he had already made his intentions to join RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal) headed by the controversial Railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav and in all probability he will be contesting from Trombay constituency for the upcoming Maharashtra state assembly polls on RJD’s ticket.  

The scenario in the police department is extremely worrying. Ever since the introduction of POTA, no state government has made any serious effort to enlighten its officers with the niceties of the Act. There were couple of instances, wherein some of the police officers who were entrusted with the investigation of bomb blast matters, had not even a glimpse of POTA text, before  they were appointed as the investigation officers.  This shows a casual attitude and approach in the entire police hierarchy.   

One of the most disappointing features of the Indian policing is the calibre of the policing, which is abysmally low. There are lots of anomalies in the recruitment stage itself and the candidate or the recruit is never put to rigorous psychological test at all. This is true in the case of the recruitment drive for the post ranging from constabulary to police sub inspector.  

As this department is heavily politicized in the matters of transfers and postings, no serious effort is made by the police in detection of crime. As a result of which in many crimes, ranging from a petty theft to rape or murder, the charge sheet is filed by the police only at the eleventh hour or at the fag end, when the limitation period prescribed is about to expire. Due to this approach, the conviction rate in India is inside fifteen percent.  

Another disturbing feature is there is virtually no accountability within the police force and many a times the discipline of the force is severely compromised.      

The most disheartening feature thing is that the powerful law like POTA is being  repealed, when the moral of the police force is already on decline due to the political interference at various levels. With the exit of this Act, the police would become more vulnerable than ever before.  

Scars of 1992 bomb blasts  

The repealing of POTA is happening at a time, when the communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims is facing lots of rumblings for one reason or the other. The events in Ayodhya, on 6th December, 1992 wherein a sixteen century mosque built by the Mogul emperor Babar was flattened by the hard core Hindu activists, as they claimed it was the built at a place, where India’s most revered God Lord Ram was born. The demolition of mosque resulted in mass scale violence in dozens of cities in India, which resulted in the killings of hundreds of lives and an estimated financial loss of Rs. 8,000 Mn (US $  160  Mn)  

As if the damage caused by the Ayodhya incident was not enough, the country witnessed another horrific incident where in more than 700 people killed when twelve bomb blasts incidents rocked the city of Mumbai (Bombay) on 12th March, 1993, which is still regarded as a ‘Black Friday’. The man who is allegedly behind blast is Dawood Ibrahim, currently in Pakistan under assumed name according to Indian intelligence agencies and he continues to figure prominently in India’s ‘most wanted list’.  

This blast was followed by a retaliatory incidents, which witnessed massive riots in the city of Mumbai and the army was finally called in, as the local police were unable to contain the riots for weeks. Although the serial bomb blast had taken place way back in 1992,  the verdict of the TADA court on this horrendous incident is yet to be delivered, even after fourteen and half years.    

A book ‘The most dangerous man in the world  - Dawood Ibrahim’ written by Gilbert King, published by Chamberlain Brothers, Penguin Group (USA) , bares the enormity of the empire built up by him in the span of last two decades with the help drug money and the crime syndicate. Although the Indian agencies suspect him to be involved with the terrorist groups in Afghanistan, they have not been able to get a concrete proof to that effect.  

Despite the innumerable requests made by the Indian government to their counter parts in Pakistan, for extraditing Dawood Ibrahim and his associates, who are wanted in 1992 Bombay bomb blast, the Pakistan government has turned her Nelson eye to this demand.    

Dawood’s younger brother has created a flutter, by revealing his intentions to contest Maharashtra legislative elections (which are slated to take place on 13th of October 2004) from Muslim dominated Central Mumbai and this move is going to create hell of a problem. This is how the criminalization of politics is gathering momentum in India and it is extremely worrying thing to happen.  

New modus operandi    

The city of Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) also witnessed terror crimes, when couple bomb blasts took place in December, 2002 when the fully packed bus was ripped apart by a plastic bomb kept underneath the back seat of the bus resulting the death of a dozen persons, injuring tens of others. Thereafter in a subsequent incident, in a compartment of a running local railway train was torn apart by a powerful bomb near Mulund, a suburb of Mumbai, resulting in the deaths of nearly twenty passengers and wounding many. The bomb was planted in this train, before it reached the starting point at CST (Victoria Terminus) station.  

Similarly, on 25th July, 2003 two powerful bomb blasts took place, when the car laden bombs went off, which were set with the help of timers, resulting in two dozen casualties and serious injuries to scores of people at two different crowded places in Mumbai. The accused, who were subsequently caught included four persons, which included one female, a wife of one of the three accused. All happened to be Indian citizens staying in the shanty colony of Mumbai suburbs of Andheri.   

The extensive interrogation of these accused indicate, the Modus – Operendi worked out by them. It reveals that substantial number of uneducated persons  are first taken to Dubai (UAE) in the Middle – East by Air, under the guise of an employment. From there, they are flown to Pakistan, where they are trained for a period of four to six weeks. 

After completing a rigorous training, they are flown to Kathmandu (Nepal), where they stay in the local hotels, by assuming some Hindu name and thereafter they enter into India through the official Nepal – India border. As no passport or visa formalities are required for the citizens of India and Nepal while travelling to each other’s country, their (re) entry into India is never suspected.   

Dangerous portends  

The strategies adopted by these accused after their arrests by the police in bomb blast cases, are sufficient to indicate how Al - Qaeda training manual has been rigorously followed by them. Majority of the accused give   confession before the police, which are recorded before the police officer having a rank of Superintendent of Police. After a gap of few months,  they retract their statements while alleging the police coercion them. Quite strangely, these accused never make any such complaint or a simple grievance about  police or intimidation for giving confessions, when they were produced before the Special Court at least half a dozen times earlier. Now after making the allegations against the police, they have started expressing their ‘no confidence’ in the trial court judge. 

In the last week of July, 2004, a Special Court Judge AP Bhangale was compelled to tell the accused to approach to the Supreme Court of India, should they desire that their trial be conducted by another judge. However, suggestion made by the judge was not pursued by the accused for the reasons best known to them. 

As if this was not enough, the trial of December, 2002 bomb blast in Mumbai being held in POTA Special court Mumbai, once again came into lime light, when the advocates representing accused made allegations of religious bias, rather Hindu bias, against the Special Public Prosecutor, Rohini Salian. The duo of advocate Amin Solkar and Shahid Azami repeatedly caused the interruptions during the trial when the prosecutor was conducing the examination in chief of witnesses. Ms. Salian, who is having an impeccable track record and known for her character and integrity was short of tears and declared to withdraw from the trial, as the repeated interruptions and accusations of bias were made against her by the defence lawyers beyond her tolerable limits.  

What has baffled many, when the Sunday Times of India, reported in it’s edition dated 15th August, 2004 that, Shahid Azami (26) one of the two advocates representing bomb blast accused, was himself pursued by law in 1992 when he was booked in a plot to assassinate the Hindu leader Bal Thackeray in the aftermath of Babri incident.  

Azami was barely 15 years old when picked up by the Govandi police in Mumbai for allegedly indulging in violence a few days after the Babri Masjid was demolished. As the TADA did not have provisions for sending youth below 18 years of age to the juvenile remand home, as it superseded the Juvenile Justice Act of 1988. Whereas in contrast, any juvenile arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) can be sent to a remand home.

While behind bars at the Arthur Road jail from 1992 to 1999, Azmi completed graduation and subsequently obtained a degree in law. After being acquitted by the Apex Court, he enrolled himself to pursue a career in law.        

In a related development, a Sessions Judge in Mumbai awarded a life imprisonment to six accused who were responsible for the series of bomb blast carried out by them in the year 1998. They were convicted under Indian Penal Code and neither under TADA nor under POTA, as POTA was not in force in 1998. Incidentally, out of the six convicted accused, two of them are Pakistani nationals.  

It is unique judgment of its kind in the sense, that while delivering it, the judge has specifically mentioned in the ruling that the ‘life imprisonment’ awarded by him, should be construed in ‘literary sense’ and they should not be released even after the completion of the normal period of fourteen years. This means that they will be spending their entire balanced life, until they breathe last.       

Parliament attack judgement is the only judgement of it’s kind under POTA in the country and it is the first occasion, when the provisions of the POTA have been commented upon by the judiciary at the High Court level, which can be sighted a ‘case law’ any where in any POTA trial court in India.  

Be that as it may, there are very few incidents, countable on the single hand, where in the Indian police have been able to arrest the offenders, whose work was at the preparatory stage. 

 The review committee consisting of experts from the various fields is empowered to opine, if the POTA was rightly applied or otherwise. It is quite annoying to note that the Center’s review committee came into existence nearly one and half year after this law was introduced. It’s members had no premises to sit in and or operate for initial few weeks. Although the State too have powers to constitute the review committee no such committee was  formed for nearly two years in the Maharashtra state, which has maximum number of POTA cases booked against the culprits. It all shows a casual approach on the part of both the Central and the state governments. 

As if the dropping of the POTA charges on Mohammad Afroze from Mumbai were not enough, similar charges were withdrawn in case of dozen accused, who were found in possession of eighty eight crude bombs in the city of Solapur, 365 Kms. to the South of Mumbai. It occurred on the eve of a bye election in the textile town.  

Crippled police machinery  

These days, the terrorists no longer conspire in the country, where they intend to make their presence felt by carrying out their activities.  Hence, any of these outfits which wish to carry out any terror related act in any part of the world, can easily assemble in India, deliberate and make their future plans, without getting much noticed. There is a grave danger that by repealing the POTA, the law enforcement agencies would become extremely handicapped even if they decide to book the terrorists on the basis of information given by the our intelligence agencies. The police will be deprived of the powers of search and seizure, the powers of securing a police custody remand of thirty days (in contrast to fifteen day remand under Cr.P.C) after the repealing of the Act.  

 Also, the obligation to furnish information, which was incorporated under Section 14 of the POTA, would no longer be enforced upon the terror suspect. Under this section, it was obligatory on the part of the accused to furnish the information of such offence, on points or matters concerning the terrorism, if he is served with a notice to furnish such information by an officer not below the rank of Superintendent of Police. Under the POTA, failure to furnish information or deliberately furnishing false information amounted to an offence warranting a punishment of three years of imprisonment or a fine, or both.  

Moreover, the power to record confession which was vested with an officer not below the rank of Superintendent of Police and it’s admissibility under the POTA, would no longer be available to our police. Now after repealing the Act, even if a terror suspect is caught, his confession could at the most be recorded under section 164 of Cr.P.C. before the concerned magistrate. But the experience suggests that such accused normally turn hostile, the moment they are put on trial, although the magistrate does give him twenty four hours to rethink before recording such confession.  

Another most disturbing aspect of the repealing of POTA is that even if the terror suspect is put on trial on IPC, Arms Act, etc. the protection to the witnesses which was available under POTA is certainly not available under Indian Penal Code. This will terribly affect the morale of the witness and the police as well, where a police personnel himself is a witness to any incident. Also, the various presumptions which were available under Section 53 of POTA can no longer be invoked by the prosecution during the trial. The ‘burden of proof’ which normally lies on the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused, was completely shifted on the accused, under the POTA, should he be found in possession of any arms, ammunition, unaccountable money, etc.  

Nothing can be more sad than the Government of the day, curtails the powers of it’s law enforcement agencies, in furtherance of fulfilling the political promises at the cost of nations security.  

All this is happening when the UPA coalition government has just completed hundred days in office. Hardly a day passes when a Fidayeen (suicide squad) attack does not take place in Jammu & Kashmir. The events in the North Eastern state of Manipur, after a female activist was gunned down by the Assam Police Rifle for suspected being a terrorist sympathiser, have compounded the problems there. As if this was not enough, in the bomb blast took place during the Independence day celebrations in Assam, when twenty persons were killed on the spot, which included ten school children, suspected to be carried out by the banned ULFA outfit. The chief minister of Assam has already admitted a security lapse.  

The POTA is being repealed at a time, when the scenario in and around India is quite alarming. The repealing of this Act POTA would virtually amount to giving a ‘blank cheque’ to the terrorists or their sympathisers in our country, as the police machinery all over the country is in complete disarray, due to political interference at all levels.  

India is surrounded by Pakistan in the West which is also in a huge law and order turmoil. Bangladesh might become another colony of Taliban and Al – Qaeda supporters in few years to come. The ‘hate India’ campaign is in full swing in Bangladesh and the statistics suggest that nearly 25,000 Bangladesh citizens illegally enter into India per month through her porous borders.  

Nepal, the only Hindu kingdom in the world, is grappling with a situation created by the Maoist militants. Incidentally, the MCC (Maoist Communist Centre) a militant organization is banned under POTA and is significantly active in six states in India in conjunction with Naxnalites, who take inspiration from the Communists in China. The situation has come to such a pass that UN interference is being sought by many in Nepal, to contain the MCC tide.   

The day wont’ be too far when India might become a sanctuary of the terror sympathisers, if not of the terrorists themselves, given her porous borders. An estimated 25,000 people per month illegally enter into India, from Bangladesh. 

Does anyone cares for the victims ?  

It is always said that the public memory is too short. Therefore, very few would recollect that India is the bloodiest casualty of terrorism compared with any other nation in the world, as is evident from the fact that as per the Law Commission of India’s report prepared in 1999,  more than 33,000 lives were lost in Jammu & Kashmir during 1987 - 1999, more than 11,000 lives were lost in Punjab from 1981-1987 in the wake of Khalistan movement and 8,000 plus lives have been lost in the North Eastern states due to terrorism perpetrated by the militant outfits like ULFA, Bodo and also in the Naxnalite affected states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, etc.   

It is ridiculous to say that the POTA is being invoked to target the members of the minority community. How many of us are aware that even Pakistan too has promulgated an anti – terror law, and General Parvez Musharraf has been running from pillar to post in his zest to contain the terrorism in the powder keg state of Pakistan, by brining the troublesome elements in his own country to the book, albeit on the pressure of the United States. In fact, the adage ‘as you sow, so shall you reap’, is quite apparent in Pakistan today.  

Another most saddening thing in our country is that when two of her prime ministers viz. Indira Gandhi and Rajeev Gandhi were gunned down by the terrorists in the span of eight years, a deterrent law like POTA is being repealed when a member of Gandhi family like Italian born Sonia Gandhi is again at the helm of affairs!   

India could possibly be the only country in the world, where one would find the lobbyists scurrying for safeguarding the human rights of the accused, but hardly any one care for the victims or for the sorrows of their kith and kin. ?

Ganesh Sovani

(The author is Mumbai based journalist - turned - advocate having considerable amount of experience in various fields in writing. He can be contacted at

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