In the news channel CNN-IBN Sunday last, there was a debate on TERRORISM. The positions of the participants which impelled me to write this blog are the reasoning given by Javed Akhthar (Hindi cinema script writer and poet in Hindi) and the objection raised by Ravi Shankar Prasad( former minister in the BJP govt.)

The position taken by Javed was that not only persons who indulge in wanton bomb blasting shud be charged under the relevant laws of Terrorism , but even when persons indulge in communal killings they shud be tried under the same laws. Ravi was of the opinion that merely because javed wanted both to be treated equally it cannot be done as there is no rationale warranting such similarity of treatment.

There is some element of truth in both the opinions. But how?

The persons who are targeted by the terrorist is not known to him. The terrorist does not hold any personal grudge against the individual, who turns out to be the ultimate victim. Yet he hurts and harms recklessly a group of people who are found in that place where he had planted or got the bomb planted. I’m sure, so far, no terrorist has planted a bomb in a place where he worships, or a place so dangerously close to his own habitation etc. In effect, even though he shows recklessness, he is sure that the persons whom he cares for are not found in the place/plane/train/ship/building where he plants the bomb. In conclusion, he plants a bomb to explode in a place where he avoids the presence of persons he cares for but does not care for the innocence of the ultimate victims.

Whereas, a person who indulges in communal violence is clear about the property that he wants to destroy and the victims he wants to offend.

This is not where the differences end. The beginning of the difficulty arises with the way the law treats the perpetrator of the aforesaid crimes and the way the majority of the country views the perpetrator and the community to which he belongs.

Not so long ago, Dean Jones the cricket commentator called the bearded cricketer a TERRORIST. Co-incidentally, the person thus called was a Muslim by faith. Of course, we all know that Dean had to apologize for that Freudian slip. If educated, empowered and enabled persons could harbour such sentiments, it is no news that the deprived & uneducated persons could be also influenced to hold opinions against communities based on flimsy perceptions and not on the principles of HUMANISM.

Thereby, here we have a swear word TERRORIST, which is an insult and when used against a particular community it gains much ring of truth.

It is this stigma that Javed was objecting to, but he missed the point.

As per section 153A of the Indian Penal Code, the maximum punishment prescribed for the commission of the offence mentioned therein, at a place of worship would be 5 years. The offences committed by the communalists are brought under the ingredients of this section. Moreover the victim is clearly defined and not nebulous like in a terrorist attack.

Whereas in a terrorist Act, there is a sudden loss of faith by the common man on the capacity of the Government of the day to maintain Law and order, which in turn leads the prosecution to invoke provisions which are tantamount to WAGING WAR WITH THE NATION ( Sec.121 IPC), which prescribes a max punishment of DEATH.

So the law treats the persons who created the same effect differently. Herein lies the CRUNCH.

The law is to view not merely the act, but circumstances, the culpable mental state of the perpetrator and is prohibited from indexing the EFFECTS created by the act per se. Therefore the communalist who has a rationale- however warped- and a defined target cannot be slapped the nomenclature of a TERRORIST. He has to be dealt with only under the section 153A of the IPC.

What Javed wanted was, to treat both the perpetrators at par. Unless the law is amended and the punishment enhanced, there appears to be very less scope of treating them at par-of course except thru a preventive detention Act.

Our Ravi Shankar Prasad just doesn’t want this to happen – a law equating both acts whether the intended victim is innocent or not; whether there is a rationale or not etc. He appears to be against it, as it may lead to the dilution of the stigma attached to the term TERRORIST, which presently is attached to a particular community which suits his hue.

May OUR country treat dangerous objectives that offend the basic structure (esp.secularism), with stringent laws, so that we remain united and meet our objective of GROWTH thru ACTION.