INDIA has been caught on the wrong foot again. It has evoked anger
over the bomb blast at Delhi High Court on the one hand and a bit of
unhappiness on the accord between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on the other. Both show the helplessness
which has become the badge of the Union government. In the case of the
terrorist attack, it is a failure of all those engaged in protecting
the nation. At Dhaka, India could not deliver on the sharing of Teesta
river water because West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was not
willing to release a certain quantum of water after having given word
to New Delhi.
The fallout of the two is ominous for the broken and battered Manmohan
Singh government. The terrorists have again dared the government which
has no clue about its perpetrators, although the responsibility has
been owned by the Harkat-ul Ansar, a breakaway group of the HuJI
In fact, as soon as the blast took place, the government sources said
unofficially that the needle of suspicion was directed towards the
HuJI which operated from the soils of Pakistan and Bangladesh. There
was little mention of the efforts that Bangladesh had made to curb
terrorism, although Manmohan Singh acknowledged the cooperation of
Sheikh Hasina. In the terrific noise that the bomb blast made, the
hurrah over the demarcation of the border between India and Bangladesh
was lost. New Delhi did not make any specific mention of the exchange
of enclaves between the two countries, pending since the freedom of
Dhaka in December 1971.
People in Bangladesh are disappointed because they had put all their
eggs in Teesta water basket. Yet the territorial exchange is not a
mean achievement. There is uproar in Assam and the BJP is livid
because it considers itself the sole custodian of ‘Bharat Mata’. It
does not seem to be realizing that the question of communal peace has
to be lifted from the plain of politics to the plain of humanity.
As for Teesta waters, the older generation in Bangladesh would recall
how long it took to bring around West Bengal to give more water from
the Farrakha barrage. Being lower riparian, Bangladesh has every right
to get water from the Teesta. The point at issue is: how much? At the
time of Farrakha barrage accord, a mature, secure chief minister Joyti
Basu headed West Bengal. The centre took time to bring him around. It
could not go ahead without West Bengal’s sanction because water is a
Therefore, chief minister Mamata Banejree, mercurial and cautious,
would need a lot of persuasion and a lot of support from within West
Bengal. According to Manmohan Singh, she was on board till the last
minute but then she changed her mind. A leader of substance became
prey to rumours and self-created doubts. She fears that the communists
are only waiting for an opportunity to pounce upon her after she had
decimated them in the last assembly election.
True, West Bengal has the last word on giving Teesta water and that
too in lean months. But the compromise figure worked out was fair and
left most of Teesta water to the state. Emotional Bangladesh has made
things more difficult because it has taken the issue to such a high
feverish pitch where the lessening of water is considered India’s
betrayal of Bangladesh which was breathlessly waiting for signatures
on the accord.
In democracies, public opinion matters. It is as much potent in
Bangladesh as in India. It takes time and needs a lot of patience and
courage the differences to narrow down the differences. Agreements
come to be evolved. The Teesta treaty will come through as the
Farrakha barrage treaty did. But by damning India no purpose will be
served. In contrast, India behaved maturely and there was no angry
reaction on the stalling of transit treaty, which was a win-win
situation for both.
Dhaka should be more circumspect while finding faults. The bomb blast
has changed India’s priorities. Its attention is focused on how to
create a mechanism which could cope with terrorism which has taken
roots in India. Inputs by Bangladesh would help. This was the
psychological moment that Dhaka should have used to hand over the ULFA
leader in detention.
No doubt, the main responsibility for security lies with New Delhi.
Ever time a blast takes place the government says that some heads will
roll. I have not seen any so far. There does not seem to be any
accountability of authorities or those who had the security system
under them. Six major blasts remain undetected. The police or
intelligence agencies are nowhere near finding the people behind them.
They have used the same material and exploded the same type of bomb
which they had planted in May outside the Delhi High Court.
Since the government has failed again and again, why not seek the
assistance of America which it has offered many a time? To the credit
of Washington, it has not allowed even a single incident since 9/11,
the tenth anniversary which the Americans celebrated with solemnity
and dignity. True, their laws are draconian. But so are ours. We too
have restricted freedom which does not go well with democracy. Still
blasts are taking place.
Something which baffles me is the attitude of political parties. The
BJP enjoys seeing Congress-led government in trouble. This is the time
when all ranks should be closed. Instead, every incident is
politicized. And there is no consensus on any point. Every party
places electoral considerations above the need of the nation. If New
Delhi cannot engage Pakistan—an obvious choice—India should be
networking with other countries which have proved that they are
stronger in curbing terrorism. The time for a serious dialogue with
the West has arrived. We must seize the opportunity. We do not have to
be taken in by their rhetoric. In fact, we can change the collusion
between the civilizations into a war between fanatics and liberals.
The tragedy is that India has no leader that has vision. They are
small time operators who go on indulging in their petty differences to
the detriment of the country. The challenge is to the polity. There is
no time to quibble over small matters. Nor is there any occasion for
yatra or fasts. They will only divide the nation further. For
political parties, things are either black or white. There is a grey
area which they should widen. This requires a sense of accommodation
and spirit of tolerance. I feel that the glue which unites the country
is drying up.