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Home » Defined: Political binaries that got here to tell Indian politics after 9/11

Defined: Political binaries that got here to tell Indian politics after 9/11


100 and seventeen Indian nationals or individuals of Indian origin had been killed within the terrorist assaults of September 11, 2001. Within the years that adopted, the lengthy shadow of the assaults touched the lives of a really massive variety of folks on this nation, and left a distinguished signature on its home politics.

The 9/11 assaults lent world credibility to the considerations lengthy expressed by India about cross-border (transnational) terror. The assaults made it simpler for the Indian state to jettison the remnants of its Chilly Warfare mindset, and to be unapologetic about transferring nearer to the US.

Internally, the political fault traces that emerged as a part of the complicated social penalties of the assaults have continued to form Indian politics in direct and oblique methods.

A few of the mostly articulated binaries of the final twenty years — secularism/ pseudo-secularism (alleged vote-bank politics), jihadist terror/radical Hindutva, nationwide/ anti-national — have been knowledgeable by assumptions born out of world Islamophobia, and the clamour around the globe for ‘robust’ or ‘powerful’ authorities coverage post-9/11.

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The insecurity and anxieties triggered by Islamist terrorism fed right into a reactionary jingoistic nationalism, and made the Hindutva rhetoric of the BJP extra interesting to extra folks. They helped increase politicians similar to Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, who would use this launchpad to spectacular impact, and ultimately reshape home politics.


Probably the most overt imprint of 9/11 was seen within the enactment and use of anti-terror legal guidelines such because the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), Gujarat Management of Organised Crime Act (GUJCOCA), and Nationwide Investigation Company (NIA) Act, and amendments within the Illegal Actions (Prevention) Act (UAPA) over the past twenty years.

POTA, India’s model of the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, was handed in March 2002, within the aftermath of the assaults within the US and on Parliament on December 13, 2001. The Congress and its allies, who had been vital of the cruel provisions of the Invoice, ensured its defeat in Rajya Sabha the place they had been in a majority — the federal government of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee then took the uncommon step of getting the Invoice handed in a joint sitting of Parliament. The regulation was repealed inside months of the Congress-led UPA coming to energy in 2004.

In the meantime, the federal government of then Chief Minister Modi had launched the GUJCOC Invoice within the Meeting in 2003, drawing from POTA and the Maharashtra Management of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), 1999. However President A P J Abdul Kalam withheld his assent, and his successors Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee despatched the Invoice again to the Gujarat Meeting.

It wasn’t till 2019, with Ram Nath Kovind, the BJP’s personal man, in Rashtrapati Bhavan, that the regulation — with some key modifications — got here into drive. Amit Shah, who had piloted the Invoice in Gujarat as junior dwelling minister after it was rejected by the President in 2009, is now Union Dwelling Minister.

Via this era, the BJP underlined the seeming binary of its personal muscular nationalism and patriotism, versus the alleged political appeasement of Muslims by the Congress, which, it was recommended, prolonged to a softness of strategy in the direction of Islamist terror.

So, when Congress president Sonia Gandhi referred to “maut ke saudagar” in the course of the Gujarat election marketing campaign of 2007, Modi hit again with barbs on the delay in hanging Afzal Guru, who had been convicted beneath POTA for his position within the 2001 Parliament assault case. “Soniaben, should you can’t dangle Afzal, hand him over to Gujarat. We’ll dangle him,” Modi taunted her, turning his provincial election marketing campaign into just about a nationwide ideological battle.

Battered politically by a string of corruption scandals, the UPA authorities did dangle Afzal Guru lower than a yr earlier than the 2014 elections — however the BJP had by then seized the initiative on the ‘nationwide safety’ situation.

Earlier, nervous in regards to the political fallout from the assaults on Mumbai in November 2008, the UPA authorities had amended the UAPA and constituted the NIA, drawing from the identical POTA provisions that it had repealed in 2004. Solely months earlier than the 26/11 assaults, the Union Dwelling Ministry had filed an affidavit within the Gujarat Excessive Courtroom justifying the refusal to grant consent to the GUJCOC Invoice.

The present authorities has used the legal guidelines enacted by the UPA after the repeal of POTA to prosecute 16 accused within the Bhima Koregaon case. The judicial deference in the direction of the chief that’s constructed into these legal guidelines has meant there may be little reprieve to the accused no matter their age, gender, or medical situation.


The Hindutva politics of the Ram Temple and the political counter to the alleged appeasement of minorities, which propelled the BJP beneath Vajpayee and L Okay Advani, had its limitations — these had been uncovered in 2004 Lok Sabha elections that adopted the political polarisation after the 2002 Gujarat riots. The collection of terror assaults throughout the nation in the course of the Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh governments added to the nationwide nervousness. The worldwide post-9/11 Islamophobia had an India chapter; there was additionally a sense that governments wanted to be more durable on terror.

In his autobiography My Nation, My Life, launched forward of the elections of 2008, Advani wrote: “No religion condones the killing of harmless individuals and due to this fact, terrorists don’t have any faith. Nonetheless, additionally it is an irrefutable proven fact that one of the crucial virulent types of terrorism in our occasions seeks the duvet of Islam… The ideological foundation of terrorism in India has been unmistakably anti-national in its intent and pan-Islamic in its enchantment.”

Advani painted the repeal of POTA as emasculation of India’s struggle in opposition to terrorism, accomplished for the alleged political appeasement of Muslims. As dwelling minister, Advani had leveraged the provisions of POTA to ban over two dozen organisations within the nation, together with SIMI. “I used to be deeply dissatisfied over the Congress celebration’s proclivity to view POTA by means of the prism of vote-bank politics,” Advani wrote in his ebook. “Along with its allies, it had performed a contemptible marketing campaign to undertaking POTA as ‘anti-Muslim’. However what crammed me with agony was when the Congress-led UPA authorities repealed POTA in September 2004, and even marketed this blatant legislative disarming of India’s battle in opposition to terrorism to be considered one of its proud achievements.”

He went on to warning “all patriotic Indians to consider the grave safety implications of such short-sighted and expedient insurance policies, which have made India ‘a comfortable state’.”

Not like the Ram Temple, which tapped into Hindu spiritual sentiments for a political goal, the subtext of terrorism sought to make use of nationwide safety to burnish the BJP’s ideological politics. Advani’s marketing campaign slogan for his 2009 prime ministerial bid was “Mazboot Neta, Nirnayak Sarkar”. It didn’t carry Advani the electoral success he had hoped for — however 5 years later, his political protégé Modi would efficiently faucet into the craving for a powerful/exhausting authorities to unseat the flailing UPA with a historic majority.


The simplistic binary alternative formulated by President George W Bush — “with us or in opposition to us” — got here to tell a number of subtexts in home politics within the years after 9/11. The seeming desire for a decisive, centralised authorities that might hand out prompt justice with out losing time in deliberation has entered the favored psyche.

Arvind Kejriwal caught the nation’s creativeness by promising swift retribution in opposition to allegedly corrupt folks by means of his Lokpal agitation. The with-me-or-against-me political alternative he supplied got here wrapped in nationalistic symbolism — and as Kejriwal now tries to increase the footprint of the Aam Aadmi Celebration, he’s in search of to observe the Hindu nationalistic arch of the BJP.

Prime Minister Modi’s demonetisation determination of 2016, taken with restricted session, might be framed inside the paradigm of the robust, decisive chief. The surgical strikes throughout the LoC had been supposed to be a decisive repudiation of the picture of the ‘comfortable state’ that Advani lamented. Whether or not India is comfortable or exhausting in its response to the Chinese language on the LAC in Ladakh, nonetheless, stays an open query — one which the opposition has not been capable of spin sufficient to nook the federal government.

The dissent in opposition to the GST, the triple talaq regulation, the dilution of Article 370, the ban on cow slaughter, and the legal guidelines in opposition to inter-religious marriages, have all been offered by the BJP and authorities when it comes to nationwide/anti-national binaries.

(Ravish Tiwari is political editor and chief of political bureau)

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