People participate in a silent candlelight march in New Delhi. (Photo: Reuters)
Newton’s Third Law of Motion now has nearly as neat a political parallel. Every non-state terror strike against human lives leads to an opposite and often more than equal state assault on human rights. The New Delhi blasts of September 13 have led to no different a sequel.
India has witnessed ten major serial explosions of this kind in the post-9/11 period, excluding the still mysterious attack on the country’s parliament on December 13, 2001, and militant offensives mainly targeting the army and security forces. The fallout of the calamity, which has become frequent and familiar, has been predictable every time. The reaction to terror-wrought tragedies, from powerful sections of the political spectrum and, particularly the far right, has been remarkably the same and twofold.
Every time, even before the blood at the site has dried and bodies are being counted, the far right and its friends – as well as even some of its avowed foes that are not free from its influence – hasten to point fingers at the usual suspects. No investigations are deemed necessary before “Islamic terror” is indicted, and the culprit is identified as “cross-border terrorism,” aided and abetted by local “sleeper cells.”
The second reaction, which follows within a split second, is to demand “more stringent anti-terror laws,” with less rights for the often arbitrarily accused than allowed under law for even a common criminal. Without severe curbs on human rights, it is asserted, inhuman terrorism cannot be combated.
The story has been repeated after the five blasts in crowded and central areas of New Delhi, claiming a toll of 22 lives so far and seriously injuring at least 98. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the political front of the parivar or the far-right “family,” in fact, has outdone itself on this occasion. And for a good reason. Assembly elections are coming soon in New Delhi and other states, while the country’s general election is due in early 2009.
A couple of anti-minority riots have always been the party’s preferred method of campaigning for elections. The New Delhi explosions have given it on a platter a divisive issue of its heart’s desire.
BJP leader and former deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani surprised no one by calling immediately for a stringent “anti-terror law” again. He added two riders to the demand. He upheld, in the first place, such a law passed by the assembly in the State of Gujarat as a model for the rest of the nation. The Gujarat Control of Organised Crime (GUJCOC) Bill is a brainchild of Chief Minister Nerendra Modi, whose name is written in golden letters in the annals of a grateful Indian fascism, for the grisly anti-minority pogrom six years ago. Advani shared Modi’s indignation at New Delhi sitting on the bill and stalling its enactment.