Upper House in turmoil over internal security

New Delhi, Nov 27 | Updated: Nov 28 2006, 08:53am hrs
The internal security situation of the country was discussed in Rajya Sabha on Monday amid uproarious scenes. The Opposition blamed the government for 'appeasement of minorities', while members of the ruling coalition asked them not to highlight religious community of terrorists. They claimed that 'terrorists do not belong to any religion'.

Replying to a short duration discussion on the issue, home minister Shivraj Patil condemned the efforts to target anyone on the basis of caste, creed or religion as it would only widen the already existing divide in the country and stressed that terrorists have no religion.

Setting off the debate senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley accused the government of abject failure in tackling terrorism and indulging in vote bank politics.

He also blamed the government for accommodating a Rajiv Gandhi assassination case accused in the council of ministers. Jaitley said that in the past two years, the government had been unable to fulfill the public aspirations fully.

There had been criminalisation of ministers, the Prime Minister's dignity had been lowered and the prestige of foreign policy had been affected, he said.

He charged that since the UPA government took over, terror had gone up, vital installations were attacked and attacks carried out in Mumbai, Ayodhya, Varanasi, Bangalore and Nagpur. "Internal Security is not the priority of this government," he said.

Jaitley said the Centre was pursuing 'vote bank politics'. for the state of affairs, the BJP leader said the government was trying to save the perpetrators of the terror attacks such as Afzal Guru.

Senior Congress leader and noted Supreme Court Lawyer Abhisek Manu Singhvi contended that seeking compulsory appeal against capital punishment is as bad as compulsory hanging. The government could not be hustled into taking 'expeditious' decision on the issue, he said.

"Under Article 372 of the Constitution, Afzal has every right to make an appeal against the capital punishment awarded to him by the court," Singhvi said. Reminding the opposition NDA that its government had sat for years on a similar petition by the killers of Rajiv Gandhi, he said, "We are not dictators but rather a vibrant democracy, and all the legal aspects of the case have to be dealt with. Let the President decide."

Mr Singhvi also referred to a recent observation of the Supreme Court that it had the final word on the review of all clemency petitions, and there was no reason for the opposition to get exercised over the issue.

Speaking on the issue, Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi charged the government and the Congress party of indulging in appeasement of minorities and said that this was causing internal disturbances in many parts of the country.

Mr Joshi also charged the government of having faulty policies and said that POTA was repealed for 'political reasons'. He demanded the government make effective laws to curb Islamic terrorism and Maoist insurgency and provide modern weapons to police to tackle these insurgents.

On this, the home minsiter said that the government has cleared its opinion that "whatever is required under law would be done." He said that under the Constitution, the matter has to be decided by one authority.

CPM's Prasanta Chatterjee asked the people to be cautious of those creating communal tensions in the country thereby weakening the secular fabric of the society. He also urged the government to make the situation clear on the Indo-US security collaboration.

Charging the BJP of using the death penalty to Afzal for political gains, he pointed out that at present, 22 mercy petitions were pending before the President and in no other case, had the BJP demanded immediate action.