Death As Deterrent?


The death penalty carried out the other day on the sole surviving member of the 26/11 attack squad is neither the “strong message” it is supposed to be, nor compensation for the myriad sub-continental flaws which leave it so vulnerable to such outrages. As pointed out by those who know, Britain and France, which do not have the “deterrent” of capital punishment to deal with this mindless and sense violence, are second to none in thwarting terrorist attacks, perhaps more capable than the United States which still subscribes to the death penalty. The subject here, however, is the phenomenon of terrorism whose comfortable definitions may have passed muster for some time, but now increasingly appear to be nothing but clever formulations devised by lickspittle experts to serve as an alibi for their masters – the instruments of world hegemony. Even at the purely practical and operation level, the definitions no longer apply, especially in India and Pakistan where political leaderships have an unsurpassed genius for adapting the more unsavoury of international practices to their own specific needs.

The killing of ordinary, innocent people in repeated bomb and other forms of attack in  India  prompts a few words on the massive con-game the country’s leaders and media call politics and governance.  The question of the nation’s institutions functioning to protect common people is entirely hypothetical; it does not even have academic value in a climate shaped by Indira Gandhi who had turned the country’s premier investigating arm, the CBI, into a tool to settle scores with her political opponents. With the law-enforcing arms of the state having been turned into petty satrapies of politicians to shield, and share, their shady deals – often involving underworld links – India does not have the institutional strength to combat terror.  

It neither has the character: it is a nation whose leaders cannot summon the nerve to order a supervisor of mass murder and rapine to at least step down from the seat of chief minister; it is a nation whose prime minister once shrugged off mass slaughter virtually at his doorstep with a callous quip –when a big tree falls, the earth shakes; it is a nation which was split down the middle by a leader pitting faith against the constitution, and still regards the architect of that divide as its highest patriot.  These glorious milestones of Indian nationhood, preceded by a long series of bloody communal riots engineered by politicians, are topped by drivel about the “law taking its own course,” with the nation’s servile media discussing prime ministerial fortunes for some perpetrators.

The lack of national accountability for such leaders, and fallacious nitpicking over the definition of terror, do not make for the sinew and moral fibre required to develop agencies and organs efficient and committed enough to pre-empt bloodshed as witnessed such attacks. No amount of breast-beating by India’s political masters over the carnage can convince anyone about their concern for the life of a common Indian. There, after all, are nearly half-a-billion of them, of voting age, ready to cast their ballot for an Advani who promises a Temple of Ram, and sheds rivers of blood in the process. Or throw their weight behind the Congress dynasty which says that the aam aadmi too is a human being. A few hundred lives lost to terrorists are just a drop in the ocean.       

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