Advani calls for tough terrorism laws

Associated Press

Ayodhya, July 8:

India’s top Hindu nationalist leader pressed today for reintroduction of a tough terrorism law that would provide stringent punishment and make it difficult for defendants to obtain bail.

Lal Krishna Advani, president of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, criticised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government for repealing the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which gave police sweeping powers to detain people for months without trial. “The existing laws can’t adequately handle the menace of terrorism,” Advani told reporters in Lucknow, capital of the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Advani was speaking after a visit to a Hindu temple site in the northern town of Ayodhya which was attacked by unidentified militants on Tuesday. He also linked the need to tighten legislation to a string of bomb blasts in Britain yesterday that killed more than 50 and injured at least 700. “The ugly face of terrorism that India had been witnessing for over two decades was on Thursday evident in London and in 2001 in the United States,” Advani said.

India has been fighting insurgency in its portion of Kashmir since 1989 and in the remote northeastern region for decades. The Congress-led government revoked the terrorism law soon after coming to power in 2004, saying it was often used to target Muslims or poor people described as communist rebels or their supporters in India. The law, introduced by the previous BJP-led government, made it hard for defendants to obtain bail and laid down tough punishments including the death sentence, life terms and the seizure of property. In the attack on Ayodhya, one assailant blew himself up in a jeep, tearing a hole in iron railings encircling the complex and allowing five other attackers to enter the complex. A two-hour gunbattle with security forces left the five attackers dead and three paramilitary soldiers wounded. The makeshift shrine was built by thousands of Hindu nationalists who swarmed the area on December 6, 1992, pulling down a 16th century Babri mosque with crowbars, spades and bare hands. Hindu-Muslim riots that followed killed some 2,000 people across India.