The government and the National Human Rights Commission are heading for a showdown over the new bill to deal with terrorism. It is a piquant situation in which neither can the governments view be rejected nor can the NHRCs plea be ignored. In fact, the Union Cabinet will have to work out a formula balancing both aspects. The new law should neither be as barbaric as TADA was nor should it merely be a bundle of recommendations by human rights organisations.
I disagree with NHRC Chairman Justice J S Vermas argument that the present laws are sufficient to deal with all kinds of terrorism. If the current laws in the Criminal Procedure Code and the Indian Penal Code were sufficient to control terrorism, then where were these laws when Minister for External Affairs Jaswant Singh took three dreaded terrorists on a special aircraft to Kandahar in exchange for the Indian Airlines passengers?
It is only because of the current laws that dreaded militants like Maulana Azhar put on weight in Indian jails for several years. A senior Punjab police officer committed suicide because of an overdose of human rights activism! Everybody knows that if then Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, his then director general of police K P S Gill and other officers had not made extra efforts (encounters), there would never have been peace in Punjab. Why didnt Justice Verma make the same observations then?
If the honourable NHRC members took into consideration the views of the superintendents of police fighting militancy and terrorism in Kashmir, Punjab, the northeast, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, they would not have taken the current position. Our security forces are doing a commendable job in these areas. The present laws are not at all enough to curb terrorism, militancy and the foreign-sponsored proxy war. The SPs, district magistrates, commandants and commandos slogging day and night in these areas are fed up with our laws and are crying out for change.
I do not say there should be a law similar to TADA. No doubt, it was a draconian, inhuman law framed by ruthless people. The provisions in TADA were so stringent that even a sub-inspector had the power to imprison just about anybody for a couple of years. As a result, a number of innocent people suffered rigorous imprisonment. There were cases where the punishment meted out was not in accordance with the nature of the crime. For example, actor Sanjay Dutt spent almost two years in jail for a small crime.
I welcome the abolishment of TADA, but unfortunately it was not repealed because of its human rights aspect. TADA was withdrawn because of the Muslim vote bank, under the pressure of some political parties. If the Muslim factor was not involved in TADA, no government would have repealed the Act. This is a queer aspect of our democracy where every decision is taken with vote banks in mind instead of going by the interests of the nation and society.
In this situation, I strongly believe there should be a new law against terrorism without the draconian provisions of TADA. At the same time, there should be enough safeguards so that no terrorist can escape.
I will go one more step ahead by recommending that if somebody is a proven terrorist like Azhar Masood, there should be a provision to kill him in jail. No human rights organisation should object to this. Similar punishments should be given to people like Dara Singh who torched Graham Staines and his two children. The benefit of human rights should not be and cannot be given to those who have already violated human rights by killing innocent people.
I would like to appeal to certain human rights activists sitting in huge bungalows, with sprawling lawns in posh localities of metropolitan cities to keep the agony of our jawans and the victims of terrorism in mind before making a hue and cry over such issues.