Indian parliament attack — A case study

The attack on the Indian parliament on Dec 13, 2001. by five unidentified gunmen turned out to be a watershed in the tumultuous course of Indo-Pak relations. Closely following the 9/11 trauma it provided India with a much sought opportunity to present itself as victim of terrorism, qualifying her to jump onboard US-led anti-terror bandwagon with full legitimacy. The Indian spin doctors, in wake of the incident, coined the “cross-border-terrorism” sound-byte which was to become the mantra of the Indian government and media; not for weeks or months but for years to come. Without any proof of her involvement, Indian propaganda machinery went into an overdrive, charging Pakistan with official sponsorship of terrorism without a shred of evidence. The attack presented India with an opportunity bearing tremendous potential to tap and it was seized upon with a ruthless resolve. There were reports then that it was a planned charade using Taliban prisoners drawn from the Shibberghan Jail administered by Northern Alliance warlords to provide India with a casus belli. Within days Indian armed forces were fully mobilized for Operation Parakram, taking the two countries closer ever to the brink of a full-fledged war with nuclear overtones.

Parakram petered out in Oct 2002, making way for the initiation of composite dialogue process in Jan 2004 but the Indian obsession with presenting herself as victim of terrorism maintained its groove. The effort has proved rewarding; the carefully crafted ‘victim of terror’ syndrome, assiduously built in the post Parliament attack period has shaped into an effective tool for India to regulate the ebb and flow of the bilateral dialogue with Pakistan with telling effect. But even a well-fabricated farce has a life span; Parliament attack case being no exception. Notwithstanding a desire to exploit its terror thesis to the full there are indicators galore that this brilliantly conceived propaganda ploy has finally run its course. It goes to the effectiveness of Indian propaganda churning mills that they could dupe the world opinion for such a long time. Some points in this context merit consideration. Despite the fact that attack on the Indian parliament was treated by India as an act of war and the case is not fully closed, (the only convicted culprit Afzal Guru is awaiting the confirmation or otherwise of his appeal for mercy against a verdict of death by hanging), in India there is a conspiracy of silence to keep the judicial run of the case far away from the media focus.

Inexplicably the Indian government has refused to make public the evidence concerning an act of terror that prompted her within days of its occurrence to start mobilizing troops to borders. Even more perplexing is the fact that despite Indian parliament being the objective of the attack, no mainstream political party, no group and none of the influential print or visual media has ever raised the question of an inquiry. Lower rungs of Indian Judicial System too joined hands with government in suppressing the truth. It took the third judicial pronouncement on the case, by the Supreme Court of India in Aug 2004 that threw aside the charges involving Pakistan in the attack. It is a shame though that judicial pronouncement has elicited no response from the Indian media as well as political establishment; only the propaganda tirade, in total incongruity with the truth as bared by the pinnacle court, gained in momentum building up a body of opinion hostile to any prospects of dialog with Pakistan.

All the five attackers of the Parliament attack were killed in the ensuing encounter and four persons; Mohammad Afzal, a former JKLF militant who had surrendered in 1994, his cousin Shaukat Husain Guru, Shaukat’s wife Afsan Guru and SAR Gilani, a lecturer of Arabic at Delhi University, were arrested by the Delhi Police on charges of conspiracy within hours of the incident. After a year of trial a POTA court found all four guilty; the three men were given death and life imprisonment sentences while Afsan was given 5 years’ rigorous imprisonment. On appeal, the Delhi High Court, on 29 October 2003, acquitted Professor SAR Gilani and Afsan Guru for lack of any implicating evidence, while upholding the death sentence on the remaining two. Afzal and Shaukat appealed to the Supreme Court, which gave its verdict on 3 August 2004; Shaukat’s death sentence was lifted, leaving him with an imprisonment of ten years while Afzal’s death sentence was confirmed. The tragic figure of Afzal, a renegade, with his longstanding association with India’s Special Task Force, emerges as the ultimate fall guy of parliament attack case, who awaits the hangman’s noose. A fact that has largely gone un-noticed is the verdict by the Indian Supreme Court (SC), which has sounded the death knell of the India’s “cross-border-terrorism” thesis, coined in the wake of the attack. As pointed out by the Supreme Court, charges of a ‘Pakistani connection’, based solely on confessional statement of Afzal obtained by police under POTA, were simply untenable; “All these lapses and violations of procedural safeguards guaranteed in the statute itself impel us to hold that it is not safe to act on the alleged confessional statement of Afzal and place reliance on this item of evidence on which the prosecution places heavy reliance.” With Afzal’s confession set aside on legal ground, the SC verdict essentially establishes that five unidentified armed men, killed in the process, attacked Indian parliament and that Afzal participated in the conspiracy allegedly hatched for the attack. The court verdict effectively annuls the Indian prosecution’s story, repeated ad nauseam by the Indian police, argued for by the prosecution, propagated repeatedly in full colors by the print and the visual media and ratified by two courts of law viz Special Court and the Indian High Court. It is a pity though that the Indian government has taken the repudiation of its stance by its own SC in stride refusing to scale down its propaganda against Pak.

The Indian “cross border terrorism” thesis, fabricated in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and imaginatively exploited ever since has served country’s strategic ends commendably well. Through its exploitation India was able to push Kashmir issue to the back burner, degrading the indigenous Kashmiri struggle for the internationally sanctioned right of self-determination to the level of a terrorist activity. In an era marked by the US “hang them high” attitude India unleashed a reign of terror of its own in IHK, unencumbered by the human rights constraints. It consolidated its hold in Afghanistan and the wave of violence ripping across Pakistan has undeniable links with Indian presence across Pak-Afghan borders and in Fata. The Indian exploitation of the attack on the Indian parliament, remains a classic example of how an incident can be stage managed to the level of a casus belli for holding an opponent to ransom. By all measures that is no mean achievement.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/pzzIg-60

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