[Reader-list] Attack on Indian Parliament

Shuddhabrata Sengupta shuddha at sarai.net
Sat Dec 8 01:22:34 IST 2001

Many people on the reader list might have heard by now that the Parliament 
Building in New Delhi has been attacked. News reports from the television 
here say that five people wearing military uniforms entered the Parliament 
House complex and opened indiscriminate fire.Are Four security guards, and 
four of the assialants are reported dead, one of the assailants is missing 
and there are also reports of injuries to one of the journalists present on 
the scene.

The interior minister L.K. Advani has described the incident as a "fedayeen" 
or suicide attack by terrorists. There are no reports of anyone having 
claimed responsibility for the incident as of now.

Incidentally the Parliament which is in session, is due to discuss the 
Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO) which has been tabled by the 
government in the wake of the events of September 11 and their aftermath. 

POTO which civil liberties groups here have described as one of the most 
draconian pieces of legislation ever drafted has met with stiff resistance 
even from parties in opposition (the Congress, among them) - which have 
themselves during their tenure in power  ruled with the help of very 
draconian previous legislations - such as the TADA or Terrorist and Disturbed 
Areas Act . POTO is viewed as being even more of an attack on civil liberties 
than TADA.

POTO bans a number of organisations that it declares to be terrorist. These 
are mainly separatist militant groups in Kashmir and in the North Eastern 
States of India, Islamist student groups and more recently two Maoist groups 
- The Peoples War Group and the Maoist Communist Centre.

What is particularly salient as a feature of POTO is that anyone can be 
detained in preventive custody on the suspicion of belonging to such groups, 
or of their "front organisations" or of aiding and abetting the aims of these 
groups of their members. Suspects can be held in custody without trial for a 
period of 30 days in police remand and upti six moinths in judicial custody , 
without being charged. Confessions made beofre police officers during this 
period of detention are admissable as evidence,. Leaving ample scope for the 
use of torture (especially of non invasive forms of torture) to extract 
confessions or information.

The mere withholding of information to the law enforcement agencies is deemed 
an offence, although the provision that journalists have to disclose their 
sources is being amended under political pressure from the opposition.

However, a suspect is required to furnish information, including biological 
samples, (blood, urine, etc. samples) and refusal to do so, or obstruction in 
the process of obtaining samples is deemed as being prejudical to the trial 
prospects of the suspect.

Further, POTO also makes provision for a wide variety of instruments by which 
surveillance, of all communications (telephonic, electronic, internet, 
postal) is made possible. A police officer of a certain rank may under POTO 
intercept communications in order to furnish grounds for the interecption of 
All these, and other provisions have made POTO extremely unpalatable, and 
difficult to defend, even for politicals otherwise accustomed to defending 
repressive measures as being necessary in the interests of national security 
in India

However, in the wake of today's attack on Parliament, it is unlikely that 
POTO will not go through. The opposition will find it difficult to sustain 
their protests against the attack on civil liberties that POTO represents. 
The attack on Parliament itself is too "spectacular" to ignore. In other 
words, we might as well realise that in all likelihood that the ordinance, 
will become an act.

The attacks on the world trade centre came at the right time, to allow for a 
massive deployment of military force, and the deployment of a new regime of 
security apparatuses all over the world.

Similarly, the attack on the Indian Parliament may be seen, in the long run 
as being perfect in terms of timing. Now POTO will become POTA, the 
ordincance will be an act,  and massive state repression will be given 
democratic sanction.

One might say that the designs of the state and what we are accustomed to 
hear being described as acts of terrorism are well suited to each others 

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