End of a law

ONE more ‘anti-terrorism’ law has been dropped in India. The Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was a law promulgated in 2002 by the then ruling party BJP to take the place of TADA (Terrorists and Disruptive Activities Act) which was allowed to lapse in 1995, following reports of widespread abuse.

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Published: Sun 19 Sep 2004, 9:07 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:51 AM

Brought by the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1987 in the backdrop of the Punjab problem, TADA gave sweeping powers to police forces in states afflicted with terrorism. TADA began to be misused so widely that the Congress regime allowed it to die a natural death. But after 9\11 in the US and 12\13 in India (13 December, 2001 — the day the Indian Parliament was attacked), a need for another law to tackle the growing problem of terrorism was felt. And in came POTA. While TADA was enacted with Punjab in mind, POTA had Kashmir in mind. But once again, with growing communalisation in Gujarat, POTA was used to arrest minority community members on the slightest suspicion. A law enacted to contain terrorist acts came to be used against many of its own citizens. Voices of protest against POTA grew, but what hastened its exit was a change of government. While India does need a law to fight terrorism, will some law that repeatedly gets misused be of any help. Ironically, while India’s case against ‘cross-border terrorism’ was heard more sympathetically after 9/11, its human rights record in dealing with insurgency in J&K left much to be desired. What spoiled its case further was the genocide-like situation in Gujarat. India, as the world’s largest democracy, must take care to see that it is looked upon as a model for the developing world. As a vast country managing its incredible diversities with a great degree of success, mainly due to its democratic ethos, it must not fritter away international goodwill by becoming hostage to extremist elements. It must isolate vested interests thriving on communal polarisation — a fertile breeding ground for terrorism.

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