Is the war really over? This is the question that most citizens ask themselves when they are shoved into wayside drains or made to freeze for the so-called VIPs to whiz past them on public highways. Every day, we have politicians' security guards waving menacingly from escort vehicles that move at breakneck speed unleashing mayhem on already congested roads. The hapless road users have to stomach all indignities and harassment in the name of VIP security, though the government boasts of having crushed terrorism about a year ago.
Threats to politicians came not from the public but terrorists, both southern and northern. The southern terrorism was wiped out in 1989 and the northern terror was brought to an end in May last year. So, why should all provincial councillors and parliamentarians be protected at all in this post-war period? Of course, there are still threats to certain political and military leaders who were instrumental in crushing the LTTE terror and the State is duty bound to provide them with maximum possible security and we are confident that the public will not oppose extra security measures to ensure their safety.
The Defence Ministry has withdrawn the military personnel who were assigned to VIP security contingents in spite of resentment of some powerful politicians with massive egos. Salutary as this move is, it is not sufficient. Politicians must be ordered to disband their private armies who have become a law unto themselves and their defiance must be dealt with appropriately. The police affected by a severe dearth of resources, both human and physical, must not be overburdened with security of conceited politicians.
Security has been a fashion for VIPs rather than a necessity. Everybody tries to be somebody by having some back-up vehicles and a gang of armed security personnel carrying sophisticated firearms. We are reminded of an interesting observation that the Delhi High Court made on VIP security on Oct. 25, 2007: "It has become fashionable and a status symbol. The more people (security men) surround these politicians, the more prestigious they feel. It is obnoxious that common men are forced to stay on the sidelines and are prevented to walk on the pavements when the politicians pass through." The Delhi HC further said that politicians were not national assets and if they felt threatened by common people, they must not be allowed to come out. "Their presence in public places itself threatens the common men. We do not know why it has become a matter of prestige for them to move with 10-15 uniformed security personnel carrying lethal weapons."
It is ludicrous that even some ex-MPs who refrained from uttering a whimper of protest against acts of barbaric terrorism and extolled the virtues of non violence in dealing with terrorists are today demanding that their security be beefed up. Whom do they fear? Is it the underworld or the government goons? If it is the former that they are scared of, then they must campaign for the decimation of organised criminal outfits so that everybody will be safe and if it is the latter, they must name their rivals who, they think, are trying to harm them. They should not be given extra protection at all on the basis of their vague claims of threats to their lives.
Ironically, the politicians who are demanding more security keep telling us that they are even prepared to die for this country and/or democracy. Why is it that such fearless men and women ready to make the supreme sacrifice are wary of venturing out without heavy security? If politicians fear for their lives, let them stay at home and avoid trouble, as the Delhi High Court rightly said. This country which has survived numerous crises and disasters, in spite of them and not because of them, will certainly fare much better without them.