“We are all gathered here to pay our last respect to our beloved TADA whose premature death had left a great void in the nation,” began the Master of Ceremonies in a grave voice.
Buglers sounded the last post and 21 guns boomed in salute as the mortal remains of the Terrorist and Disruptive (Prevention) Act (TADA) were buried in the family cemetery, amidst such illustrious forebears as PDA—Preventive Detention Act, DTR—Defence of India Rules and MISA—Maintenance of Internal Security Act.
A police guard of honour consisting of contingents from Punjab, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat, presented arms and then rested arks in homage to TADA at an impressive ceremony attended by a galaxy of VIPs and the police top brass.
The Chief Executive of Punjab said TADA’s loss was a national loss. Paying rich tributes to TADA, the CE of the state for which it was originally created in 1984 in the wake of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination, said: “TADA ji was like an elder to us. We were all under its protective chhatar chhaya. What would we have done without it? It not only helped us to come to power, but also to maintain our hegemony.”
“Without the help of TADA, we would not have been able to contain terrorism in the state. It was a beacon of hope during the dark days of terrorism and it became an invaluable asset in the enforcement of the state’s writ.”
Nothing that its influence spread much beyond its originally envisaged, somewhat-limited role, Gujrat’s CE said: “Though we did not face any visible terrorist threat, TADA ji was invaluable to us. It was only with the help of this great law that we were able to keep as many as 19,000 mischievous elements firmly under lock and key.” He lamented that it would now be very difficult to do so under the normal laws.
“As it is, the courts, even designated courts especially meant to try TADA offences, found reasons to let go as many as 95 per cent of the persons who were apprehended under the Act. Without TADA, keeping such mischievous elements in check would become more difficult.”
As could be expected, the response on the news of TADA’s demise came from various sections of the society:
The Joint Opposition Working Group, in a Press note said: “TADA was an instrument of torture and aggression of democratic activists. May it rest in peace. Forever.”
A public prosecutor lamented the pressure which would now fall on an already overburdened judiciary. “There are 65,000 persons who had been detained in designated courts. Now these cases will shift to ordinary courts,” he said.
“But there is another problem. Now we will have to prove the guilt of those who were imprisoned under TADA. Life was much simpler when they had to prove that they were innocent,” added another, morosely.
A large wreath was laid by the president of the All-India Ruling Parties Confluence, who praised TADA’s role in “maintaining an equitable balance of power amongst the ruling cadres and the subjects,” adding that it was most useful in keeping mischievous elements, like opposition workers and the minorities, in check.
A representative of the Film Makers Association said: “TADA ji made us all some together, Amrish Puri, Salman Khan, Saif, the film producers, directors, extras all of us. It united the industry as had never done before. We owe a great deal to TADA ji.” He refused to react when he was reminded that he had earlier said that TADA “terrorised film stars and disrupted film schedules.”
A spokesperson of Human Rights Pvt. Ltd. was severely castigated by others at the gathering for carrying a placard which said: “Good Riddance—it was a Terrible And Dangerous Act.”
As a leading commentator put it: “We get what we deserve. Indians needed TADA and they got it. But the situation in the country has in no way changed substantially from the time TADA was enacted and used. What will happen now? There are some who say that there will be total anarchy.”
Echoing his sentiments, a police officer revealed that there was anarchy even in the force which was now “engaged in fruitless endeavours like investigating crimes, gathering evidence, etc., instead of simply rounding up the suspects and throwing them in jail” under TADA. “And now they won’t even admit the confessions we extracted from TADA detenues,” he lamented.
“Don’t worry. What if we have come to bury TADA. The ceremonial send-off shows its importance. It was more important than anything detunes any government official. Why it was more important than even the basic principles of jurisprudence.”
“Stop! Stop!” shouted an official messenger, running up to the grave. “We were all wrong. We were burying TADA prematurely. The Home Minister has just announced that TADA will not be repealed.”
“TADA ji is not dead. Long live TADA, he roared.”
Hear! Hear! echoed others.
This middle was published in The Tribune on September 10, 1994