Wednesday, May 22nd

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To hang or not to hang

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By Sidharth Mishra

Todays’ notebook doesn’t intend to debate whether there should be Capital punishment in India or not. In fact, there was not much debate over this pertinent issue even as the Supreme Court stayed awake presiding over the fate of Yakub Razzaq Memon. What really formed the keynotes of the whole composition was the politics of vote.
Not surprising that the whole debate has vanished into thin air in less than a fortnight of the hanging. Memon was incarcerated for more than 20 years. He had been on the death row for quite some time. His mercy petition was rejected by the president last year. The inevitable in the matter was delayed for reasons of politics rather than that of the law. There were polls across the country, which was soon to be followed by polls in Maharashtra. A disoriented Congress did not want to risk incurring the wrath of the minority vote by carrying out the death sentence. 
Thus it was left to the BJP-led NDA government in Maharashtra, which was fully backed by the Narendra Modi government at the Centre to get the death warrant issued by the TADA Court and executed on schedule despite the unprecedented ruckus. 
The lead in making a political cause out of hanging of Memon has not been taken just by parties like Asaduddin Owaisi’s Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) but also by the “parokars” (advocates) of the cause of minorities in the Congress and the Samajwadi Party. While a shrewd politician like Mulayam Singh Yadav was quick to clamp down on Memon sympathizers in his party, the Congress failed to show the same effectiveness.
There is no doubt in my mind that the elucidation by the likes of Owaisi and Digvijaya Singh must have left the majority of the Muslims in the country embarrassed rather than making them see any devious design on the part of the Narendra Modi government in the hanging of Yakub Memon. Unfortunately, no articulation of keeping the religion out of terrorism was done loudly enough by any Muslim voice of significance.
Not surprisingly those from the BJP stable justified the hanging; however it goes without saying that they do not really represent the “minority sentiments”. The fact that the nation stood in unison in paying respects to one of its most loved sons APJ Abdul Kalam, who was buried the same day as Memon was hanged, did not come for appreciation from the Muslim intelligentsia either.
While there was no denouncement of Kalam, there was also no counterfactual to the running down of the former president by a group of secular intellectuals who tried to depict him as a “Sangh Mascot”. This gave an opportunity to obnoxious elements within the Hindu community to carry out an unsavoury comparison asking as to for whom the collective Muslim heart was beating more – Memon or Kalam?
In frivolously wasting time by comparing Memon and Kalam, the urban intelligentsia, however, is missing out the predominant mood in the nation which is certainly against terrorism. Mumbai did not witness any anxious moments all through the bringing of Memon’s corpse to his burial. No discord or discomfort over his hanging was heard either from the communally sensitive states and cities.
However, the greater evidence of the strong anti-terror mood is in the way the people and the civilian police rose to the challenge of terrorism in the two states of Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir in the past fortnight. In Gurdaspur, the 12-hour-long operations ended in glory for Punjab Police, which fought the terrorists to redeem their pride.
Members of the Special Forces of the Indian Army - some of the most skilled, hardened and well-equipped soldiers in India were deployed to Dinanangar, but the Punjab Police made it clear they would lead the operations. So India’s best-trained troops were asked to restrict their role to cordoning off the area, a task usually assigned to the police.
In fact when KPS Gill was handed over the charge as Director General of Punjab Police to fight the scourge of terrorism at its peak, the super-cop had said that fighting terrorism was the civilian’s job and it was the Punjab Police which would have to rise to the challenge. The rest is history. The fact that after nearly 20 years, Punjab Police retains the same resilience speaks volumes for the fact that people in Punjab would no more cede space to terrorism in any form.
Similarly in Udhampur, the way villagers came out in large numbers on hearing the gunshots which finally lead to the arrest of a Lashkar-i-Toiba operative again reiterates the sentiments witnessed in Punjab.  If the people of an area stand up to the scourge of terror, there is no way it can thrive. If it has survived in Kashmir Valley all these years, it has largely because sections of the local population have sustained it.
The anti-terror sentiment is being witnessed right across in North-East too. While carrying out its hot-pursuit inside Myanmar, the Indian state on the one hand has made its intention clear to fight terror. On the other hand, by signing the Naga Accord with NSCN (I-M) it has sent a clear and lucid message to engage those who wanted peace. In fact, the very next day after the accord was signed papers in Guwahati were full of stories about Ulfa leader Paresh Baruah also wanting peace.
In such a situation, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s nit-picking vis a vis the Naga peace Accord and her stating that her chief ministers were not consulted would not cut much ice with the general public. The mood of the nation is for peace and development, and ending terror, even if it comes due to the impropriety of not consulting the Congress chief ministers.
(The author is Consulting Editor, Millennium Post)

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