As the funeral pyres burned in Hyderabad and scores of people battled for life in hospitals, a picture said it all—the Union home minister of the country wearing a safety mask while visiting Dilsukhnagar. Yes, it is a common hygienic practice to wear a mask in such conditions. But sometimes, a larger irony converts an ordinary object into a symbol. In this case, Sushilkumar Shinde’s mask hid a larger hypocrisy. He will go down in history as the home minister who cried wolf about saffron terror and the RSS-BJP combine training ‘Hindu terrorists’ in secret training camps, just a few weeks before Indian Mujahideen bombs exploded in Hyderabad.
What was the colour of the terror unleashed on Hyderabad’s streets, Mr Shinde? Or is it simply a case of political deuteranopia—colour blindness that cannot distinguish the difference between green and red?
In the Congress party, the comic grimness of terror has exhibited an unfortunate sartorial aspect. During the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, then home minister Shivraj Patil became notorious for changing his clothes frequently for television appearances; he was changed permanently. Both Shinde and Patil got the second-most powerful job in the government not because of their capability to protect India’s internal security but purely due to their unflinching loyalty to the Gandhi family. Of course, it may be argued that Shinde was a police inspector once, so he knows about these things, you know—like catching pickpockets and burglars, driving away illegal vendors with a magic wave of his lathi and issuing speeding tickets. And now, the poor chap has to handle the influx of intelligence chatter that keeps flowing on to his desk. Solution? Pass the buck to the states. Just a little before the blast, the place was teeming with cops because the Hyderabad police commissioner had visited the Sai Baba temple in the area; obviously he wasn’t even aware that the lethal bicycles were waiting. The Andhra Pradesh home minister had no clue that the intelligence warnings Shinde claims were sent to the state even existed.
Terrorists we fear. The incompetence of those who guard us, we fear even more.
A home minister of a country has to inspire confidence like P Chidambaram did—unfortunately, he had to be packed off to restore confidence in the economy. In India, a comprehensive national body to counter terror cannot exist simply because of the trust deficit between the Congress and the Opposition-ruled states. A department of Homeland Security cannot be created here simply because the Congress and its allies like the SP and IUML bank on minority vote politics. Last year before the Uttar Pradesh polls, Digvijaya Singh went to Azamgarh and accused the Delhi Police of staging a fake encounter at Batla House in 2008, where a decorated cop was killed by terrorists. Salman Khurshid, not to be outdone, declared that Sonia Gandhi burst into tears when he showed her photographs of the dead terrorists—which, then, he hastily denied. Since 9/11, not a single terrorist attack has happened in the US—a country much larger than India. The Heritage Foundation, the first and only organization tracking foiled terrorist attacks against America, reported that at least 40 publicly known attacks against the US had been foiled since September 11, 2001. The post-9/11 Patriot Act allows law enforcement full government support to handle suspected terrorist activity, with the courts stepping in if the line was crossed. In India, from Punjab to Gujarat, decorated cops are sent to jail for killing terrorists in “encounters”.
It is not Shinde’s fault that the Congress party, in its dying moments, is too weak to protect India. By politicizing terror, it has become its own victim. To combat terror, an uncompromising nationalist politician is needed at the helm to transform a dispirited nation into a Vibrant India.