Ever wondered why, while attacks in Mumbai keep happening, another 9/11 has not happened in the US?

Mumbai has become a living example of how terrorists can come at their will, kill hundreds of innocents, destroy property worth hundreds of crores, instill a state of perpetual fear in those who manage to survive and thereby blatantly spit on the face of Indian sovereignty, time and again. And the best that we can do is offer condolences for the aggrieved, and wait for the next blast to happen. No doubt, we have attained a state of shameless vulnerability and have almost epitomised it. And that is the reason why since the last few years, the incidence of terror attacks has not only seen an unprecedented surge, but has become increasingly blatant, gory and on the face. It is as if a blast or two a year has almost become an annual ritual. And every such blast also blows away into pieces the resolve that our government had taken during the previous attack – calling it a bold step against terror. And the saga continues...

The matter of the fact is that today, not only do we lack political will and stringent comprehensive laws to counter terrorism, our law enforcement agencies don’t even have a proper clue about the same. So much so, the terrorists are better versed about the loopholes in the existing anti-terror laws and abuse it to the hilt. And why shouldn’t they – not only are our laws old and crying to be updated, but they are also laden with loopholes. In spite of trapping the actual culprits, these laws have been used more to settle political and personal scores. Take for instance the Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act, better known as POTA, which was used by law enforcement agencies more to arrest people who were innocent rather than actual terrorists. The abuse and misuse of the law was so rampant that the law, for sometime, had to be repealed. For the uninitiated, this law was on the lines of UK’s Prevention of Terrorism Act and America’s PATRIOT Act. However, unlike our law, their laws strengthened the anti-terror operations and aided the counter-terrorism cell.

The same can be reiterated for the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which, in spite of providing huge strength to counter insurgency operations, failed to reap any fruitful results; on the contrary, the act was seen being abused by police officers in the north-east region of the nation. The next in line is the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act of 1987 (TADA). This anti-terrorist law allowed police to prosecute criminals who have testified to their crime. Out of more than 50,000 people detained under TADA (by 1992, after which the law was invoked on only a few occasions), only 0.80 per cent were actually convicted. The new modification made in these laws post 26/11, and introduction of section 43A has, rather than making the law comprehensive, given more power to police forces. Every time we bring a new law assuming in good faith that the police or the army will use it for the right reasons, we see them misusing the same laws with impunity. Each of these laws, therefore, should come with stringent punishments meted out for their misuse as well.

A recent report by the US State Department released in May 2011 finds that “India’s counter-terrorism efforts were hampered by its outdated and overburdened law enforcement and legal systems.” The report further blames our slow, laborious, and corrupt judiciary for delays in closing terror related cases. Even media reports have quoted IB statements that prove how “modules in Kerala are always on standby and prepared for major operations. They say that there are several self-motivated modules in the state which can carry out terror attacks. Major outfits like the IM are aware of this and they have never tried to set up their own modules.” Given the fact that serial blasts, like what was executed in Mumbai last week, does not cost more than a lakh or so of rupees; the execution and mobilising of resources are not only easy but quite hassle-free too. Talking about India’s explosives law would be a matter of further shame. Our explosives act is 127 years old having little or rather no guidelines that can keep a track of the movement of bomb making ingredients. In the US, much personal information, including finger-prints of all individuals dealing with explosives, is maintained and regularly updated.

Thus, wherein we have three major laws related to counter terrorism that are outdated, laden with loopholes and are ineffective and misused, countries like US have arrays of laws covering almost all current and future probable dimensions of terrorism. Legislations like the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995, US Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Executive Order 13224, PATRIOT Act clubbed with the Financial Anti-Terrorism Act, Homeland Security Act of 2002, Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act (SAFETY Act) of 2002, Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, REAL ID Act of 2005 and Military Commissions Act of 2006 leave no space for a terrorist to escape or dodge the system. Probably that’s why the US has never seen another 9/11 again.

Do I need to say any more?

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