Monday, Jun 27, 2022

'"Hot Pursuit", "Pro-Active Measures", "End Of Tolerance" ... What Do They Mean

Pranab Mukherjee's response to the home minister Advani's statement read out in the Rajya Sabha on 18th Dec. by external affairs minister Jaswant Singh.


Since we met last, on Friday, to express our respectful homage to the brave security forces, who not only saved our lives, but also saved the honour and dignity of this great nation by sacrificing their own lives, we have been getting the information through media that the Government would come out with a statement to be made by the hon. Minister of Home, revealing their action plan to the Parliament.  After going through the statement, as read by the hon. Minister of External Affairs, we find that out of the 10 paragraphs, the first paragraph deals with the sequence of events which took place around 11.40 a.m. on the 13th of December.

The next three paragraphs deal with the outcome of the investigations, most of which have already been revealed at the Press Conference by the Police Commissioner of Delhi, after the arrest of Professor Gilani.  What happened subsequently?  In the remaining three paragraphs, it is almost a reiteration of the Government's stand that Pakistan is responsible for it.  And, finally, in the concluding line -- quoting from the Prime Minister's broadcast to the nation -- the hon. Home Minister has said that the nation will firmly and unitedly stand to confront the terrorist menace.  There is no one in this House, or outside, who will disagree with the resolve to fight the terrorists. 

There is no one; not to speak of the Congress Party which had to sacrifice its various leaders, starting from Mahatma Gandhi to Indira Gandhi, to Rajiv Gandhi, to Sardar Beant Singh, and a large number of several other leaders who sacrificed their lives, because they refused to compromise with the demands of the terrorists, secessionists, who dared to strike at the root of national unity and integrity. I can assure the hon. Members belonging to the Treasury Benches that in this resolve, you will not find us wanting. 

At the same time, as a responsible Opposition, and also having had the experience of running the administration in this country for forty-five years, having learnt the lesson from our experience as to how bitter, how ferocious, a terrorist attack could be, we feel, certain legitimate questions which emerge, must be debated.  They cannot simply be brushed aside.  It is said, at this moment of crisis, we are trying to find fault.  This is not the intention of the Leader of the Opposition.  He started by observing that 'we are one with the Government on this issue; we have the highest regard, and we are proud of our Security Forces' contribution.' 

But, at the same time, hon. Members will recall that at the beginning of this Session, when the Leader of the Opposition raised the issue, in a substantive motion, of the situation in our neighbourhood, including the U.S. attack on Afghanistan or the anti-terrorist coalition's attack on Afghanistan, a very legitimate question was raised :  How our concerns of fighting terrorism -- because of which we are suffering for the last 20 years and for which a large number of people have sacrificed their lives -- in Jammu & Kashmir alone, more than 70,000 people have died; and, in Punjab, not less than 30,000 people, innocent men, women and children, have lost their lives, -- going to be addressed by the action of the United States and the Alliance against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan?  And, what was the response of the Government?  The response of the Government, as articulated by no less a person than the Leader of the House, the hon. Minister of External Affairs, is this.  Sir, if I remember his words correctly, he said that the institutions run by the Taliban are nothing but factories for producing terrorists.

And if those factories which are producing terrorists are destroyed, surely India is going to benefit from that action.  Taliban regime has collapsed.  The words of the Leader of the House are still being echoed on the floor of this House, but we have not been relieved from that.  Therefore, we shall have to work out our own strategy. 

Even if you read today's newspapers, not one, but most of the national dailies have pointed out that the Home Minister is going to take both the Houses of Parliament into confidence explaining the strategy and action plan against terrorism and terrorist activities in this country after the terrorist attack on Parliament.  Where is that action plan?  We have heard some phrases like hot pursuit, pro-active measures,  end of tolerance.  What do they mean?  Of course, the Leader of the Opposition has raised this question and I do expect the Home Minister or the Minister of External Affairs would address that question.  I understand the sentiments of some of the Members of the ruling party, who are urging the Government that you take pro-active action and try to destroy the camps located in the other side of the border by crossing the border.  They said, you take pro-active action even by crossing the Line of Control.  I do not blame them.  I can understand their anguish and their feelings.  But what is the response of the Government? 

We read in the newspapers that the US Secretary of State has almost given a certificate that the Pakistan President has taken action against the terrorist-based organisations in Pakistan.  Does the Government of India share this perception of the US Secretary of State?  If we raise this question, are we digressing?  Are we diluting the resolve of this nation to fight against terrorism?  No.  But, we must know about that, because you had been told again by that country that dealing with Talibans in Afghanistan was the first priority, Kashmir is the second priority.  The terrorist attack on the US World Trade Centre and Pentagon buildings are to be addressed first and killings of innocent people in Jammu and Kashmir or in Punjab or in the North-Eastern States can be taken care of later on.  We agreed to that.  Fine, you deal with Talibanism first.  But you consider that Pakistan is perpetually abetting and aiding terrorists despite our protestations, despite our peace talks, despite the bus ride by the Prime Minister.  Pakistan is continuing to support the terrorists despite that fact.  If that country becomes the front-ranking State in the overall strategic requirements of the US, I do not mind that, but what about me?  I must have my place somewhere so far as the question of the world community and their resolve to fight against terrorism is concerned.

Most respectfully I would like to submit, through you, to the Government, the time has come when they have to decide. If it is our own battle, tell the people of this country that it is our battle that we shall have to fight ; and people have the guts, have the courage and conviction to fight. If we could fight against the mightiest colonial power of the world, simply some blatant violators of human rights, some mad caps cannot cow down this nation of 100 crore people.   We may be half-starved, we may be half literate , but we love our country. We are proud of our heritage. We know how to protect it. But who is to lead? You are to lead. The Government of the day has to lead. The Government of the day must have a clear vision as to what they want to achieve. Let us understand very clearly. I do want to know your game plan. I do want to know your action plan. The Government of the day has to formulate its strategy. There are classified information which I do not want you to share with me. But, at the same time, except rhetoric, I would like to know whether you have something in concrete.

Merely raising an accusing finger and saying, "You are standing in the way of the POTO and that is why these things are happening" is of no use. Where  would it lead you? You can accuse me. You can abuse me. You can raise an accusing finger towards us. But please don't forget that three fingers are pointing towards yourself.  Merely accusing is not going to help you. I may have differences of opinion. But the fact remains that the POTO has been there from 24th October, 2001. Till six weeks, till the Parliament Session is over, it will continue to be there, whether I like it or I do not like it. If I say that it did not prevent the attack, does it mean that I am diluting our resolve to fight against terrorism? No. I am not diluting it. We are firm in our resolve,  we are united to fight terrorism. But you  are the Government of the day. People have entrusted this responsibility to you. You have all the inputs. You have all the information; and some of the information you can share with us at this critical hour.

Mr. Foreign Minister and the hon. Leader of the House, you are an erudite scholar, you might be knowing that after the immediate fall of  Dunkiark, during the Second World War, the first thing the British Prime Minister did was to have consultations with the Leader of the Opposition. Had there been one such meeting now in this country? There is a recognised opposition. If you consider it necessary to have a discussion, share the perception with the Leader of the Opposition on this issue, "Let us decide what can be done."

The situation has changed. In fact, we did not wait. The Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Manmohan Singh,  himself took the initiative by discussing it among the opposition leaders. To support the Government, yes;  we have our own perception on certain issues. But we will request the Government of the day which is responsible for running the House; this is not an occasion to divide the political opinion of the country. It will not serve any purpose. If we could  show to the whole world that despite the fact that terrorists were within 100 yards away from the place where we are sitting,  Mr. Ahluwalia was imagining a scenario where we could have become hostages.......

But my imagination is a little different.  If two persons stood on both the sides of your seat, Mr. Chairman, Sir, with AK-47 assault rifles, I think the entire political establishment, at least a part of it, would have been wiped out in less than one minute, starting from Mr. Jaswant Singh--if the Prime Minister was there, from him--Dr. Manmohan Singh, myself, Arjun Singhji and a whole lot of us. But, fortunately, our brave security people protected us from that.  But despite that fact, thereafter, we must come out. 

There are certain occasions when you must rise above your partisan considerations.  We decided.  What did we decide?  Why was the House paralysed for several days, 11th, 12th and 13th?  We are not raising that issue today.  Because we thought, "This is the time, this is the occasion, when the nation should tell the world community that despite the terrorist attack on Parliament, the next day, Parliament could meet;" and, after the short recess over the week-end, Parliament has met; Parliament is transacting its business; Parliament is expressing its solidarity with the nation, with the people of this country, to fight against this biggest menace." 

Terrorism is not just threatening the lives of individuals. It is the biggest enemy of human rights, the biggest violator of human rights.   There comes the question of your diplomatic initiatives. Again, Mr. Chairman, Sir, most respectfully, I would like to submit one thing from a discussion on the floor of this very House. My knowledge is very limited. I do not go into the proceedings of the other House or of the national or international parleys.  While having a discussion, while we were discussing the outcome of the Kargil war, the Home Minister claimed--the Home Minister is on record, and those words are recorded in the proceedings of this House--that our success in Kargil was greater than our success in 1971.  Of course, sitting here, I did not agree with him. I did not agree with him at that time, I do not agree with him now.  

But, nonetheless, let us assume, for the time being, that he was right, I am wrong, that their success was greater, that his Government's success in the battle of Kargil was greater, because not only they had military victory, but they had diplomatic victory.  The whole world appreciated the stand taken by the Government for restraining themselves from crossing the LoC, the Line of Control.  That was the diplomatic success they achieved.  Why don't you utilise that diplomatic achievement?  Why don't you use that success?  

When you are calling the Pakistan High Commissioner, when your Secretary is giving a demarche, when you are asking them, "Please take action against Laskar-e-Taiba, please take action against Jaish-e-Mohammad", we are hearing in the newspapers that some others are telling, "observe restraint". Are we restraining as per their suggestions or are we restraining, being satisfied that Pakistan has taken the appropriate action? To this simple question, we would like to have an answer from the Government. And, by asking this question, in no way, we are diluting our resolve to fight against terrorist activities.

The third question which, most legitimately, can be put is this. It is true, I do agree, that if there be a determined group of people and they want to sacrifice their lives, it becomes very difficult to counteract that. But, at the same time, in para 6 of the statement itself, you yourself have pointed out that while searching the hideouts of some of these people in Mukherjee Nagar, a large quantity of Ammonium Nitrate and other ingredients used in preparing improvised explosive devices, a map of Delhi, a sheet of paper carrying a map of Chankyapuri drawn in hand etc. etc. have been recovered. Forget about how did they come and how were they resisted by our people.

Nobody is denying the fact that our security personnel did the right type of things to prevent it. We are proud of them. I am sure the Government can take some credit for that also because they kept them alert. They were in a position to keep them in a state of alertness. I do not mind that. But, at the same time, if you want to take the credit, you will also have to take the responsibility that there was a failure of the Intelligence to find out what these people were doing, and as per the Police Commissioner's report, it was going on from February onwards. Despite the fact that the Prime Minister knew it, despite the fact that the Home Minister knew it, sometimes I am really at a loss to understand this thing.  

Mr. Chairman Sir, everybody knew everything except a few fools like us, who only depend on the Government source, and who do not know anything. We are told by another very important political leader that she knew it and she informed the appropriate quarter that something is going to happen on 13th of December in the Parliament. I do not know. But if the information is correct, if the statement is correct, what action has been taken by the appropriate authority? The appropriate authority should come and tell us: "Yes, these are the measures we took." 

At least, we thought that in this statement, there should have been some narration by the Home Minister that he had the information, and in order to prevent such occurrences, he did take certain measures. It may happen that despite that, some desperate group could succeed. But, at least, you will enlighten us about that. In para 10 of the statement, it has been mentioned that the Home Minister had some prior information. What action has been taken by the Home Minister after getting the prior information to protect the Parliament House Building?  Is it not the legitimate expectation of this House to know from you as to what action has been taken by you? Whether I am satisfied with your answer or not, that is a different question. But, at least, you could have been clear to yourself: "Yes, I had the information, and after obtaining the information, I took these measures." But there is no such mention. 

You did not consider it absolutely necessary to mention it in this statement, which you are making at the earliest opportunity, to take the House into confidence, because, 14th was not the occasion. Today is the occasion. If we could have given any suggestions, say that is fine, those measures are all right.  But you add to it, you supplement it. If you want to fight against terrorism, if you want the nation to be united, for God's sake, as we have to come out of our narrow partisan approach, you too will have to come out of your narrow partisan approach. Unless you come out of that, nothing will happen. 

The responsibility lies with you because you are leading the nation. You are running the administration. You are more equipped with facts and inputs to which we have no access.  Mr. Chairman, Sir, to be frank, the type of expectation which was raised, that was not only my expectation. Most of the average newspaper readers expected that some strong action plan is going to be announced in the Parliament today. But the statement, which we find, is nothing but the narration of the incident which we knew....which we read in the newspapers, the investigation outcome, up till now, which we read in the newspapers, and, except the much-repeated words, there is nothing.