After terrorists, their apologists strike (2)

Fact-finding civil society teams and their predictable findings

One would have thought that the death of the leader of the police team involved in the shootout with terrorists in New Delhi’s Jamia Nagar would silence the predictable apologists for who every “encounter” is a false one.

It turns out that Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma’s death was not sufficient. No sooner had the shootout ended than civil society teams had already launched ‘fact finding’ teams that pronounced the predictable verdict. The encounter had been staged and innocent Muslims had been targeted. Why, a Coordination Committee for Indian Muslims was formed (an unfortunate nomenclature, for the separatists in Jammu & Kashmir have their own Coordination Committee), and one of its leaders boldly announced that “it is pretty clear that Sharma was killed by his own men at very close range from behind. It was the mistake of the police to rush 2500 policemen into the narrow lanes of Batla House.” So here we have a bunch of sundry political activists and university lecturers acquiring the competence and authority to offer definitive opinions on how police conduct their operations. [See Retributions]

What is worse, such presumptuousness goes unchallenged.

The abjectly communal reaction of these worthies—from self-appointed fact-finding teams to office bearers of the Jamia Millia University—not only damages the prospects of a united, national battle against the radical Muslims who are resorting to terrorism. It also damages the interests of the Muslim community itself. Ajai Sahni is right when he says that “there are grave dangers for the country’s future in this.”

The argument has been put forward that ‘innocent Muslims’ are being targeted in the spate of recent arrests – but no evidence has, at any point, been cited, to support the thesis, other than an undercurrent of sustained denigration of the Police. Crucially, the responses of enforcement agencies are increasingly being held hostage to an irrational media backlash that follows both the failure to act and effective action.

There has been a constant clamour about investigative failures to solve the major terrorist attacks over the past over two years. But when a case is actually solved, there is immediate and unverified uproar over the ‘targeting of innocent Muslims’, and altogether bizarre conspiracy theories abound. Worse, it is more than evident that enforcement agencies in India have simply failed to acquire the skills and acumen necessary to deal with the intrusive, increasingly frenzied, and overwhelmingly ignorant media, and this has only further fed a rising panic in public perceptions.

The institutional paralysis is deepened manifold by opportunistic and unprincipled political responses – variously based on tactics that seek mobilisation through appeasement or escalation of tensions between communities – as well as through strategic advocacy by a number of sympathetic communal formations. [Outlook]

That civil society groups should involve themselves in fact-finding is a good thing. It is a good thing regardless of the fact that it is selective—for few civil society groups found it necessary to conduct fact-finding missions to investigate bomb blasts and terrorist attacks. But before their conclusions are amplified by the hyperventilating media it is necessary to subject them to intense scrutiny. In an environment where conspiracy theories and narratives of victimisation create more terrorists—a fact that even the Coordination Committee member concedes—an credulous, undiscriminating airing of ‘facts and findings’ is more dangerous than merely irresponsible.

Related Post: An earlier edition