November 29, 2008
The next steps
Will summoning the ISI's boss achieve anything other than him bleating about lack of evidence etc? What next, take along Pakistani army folks when we're trying to flush out terrorists, and make sure they're with the Indian army folks all through lest there be accusations of planting of passports, currency, dry fruits, hate literature, etc.?
The despicable part is that this one is called Mumbai's 9/11. The attacks of 11/9 [:)] resulted in ~ 3000 people dying that day. From around the mid-80s (Operation Bluestar) & the riots following Indira Gandhi's assassination to after the 1993 Bombay blasts, there were major terrorist incidents just about every year, whether it was a bomb on an aircraft (Kanishka) or a kidnapping of a minister's daughter (Rubaiya Saeed), assassination of politicians (Longowal, Beant Singh, Rajiv Gandhi).
After 1993, there was a lull for a few years with a few sporadic attacks. Then a massacre in Chattisinhpura, blasts in Coimbatore, an attack on J&K's assembly, Parliament, Godhra & the resultant riots, attack on Akshardham, 5 bombings in Mumbai in a period of 5 months, Diwali blasts in Delhi, attacks in Varanasi, July 11 bombings in Mumbai ... I'm running out of breath. We've had far too many "9/11s".
There is a need to inculcate an understanding of being watchful without being hyper-sensitive. CNN-IBN reported yesterday that a grocer around Nariman House told them that a bunch of folks he'd not seen in the area earlier had bought 50,000 worth provisions from him in the last few days. Things like that should make you perk up and go to the police. Do what you have to do. If the police doesn't respond, then you could choose to go to a higher authority or drop the ball altogether. But individuals must do their bit.
The political establishment needs to do something about intelligence agencies. If they're not doing a good enough job, disband it. Shivraj Patil said yesterday when asked about prior-intelligence reports "Maalomaat to hote hain, lekin aise nahin maaloom hota hai ki kahan aur kab attack hoga". Next thing he'll want an invitation sent to his home by courier 2 weeks before an attack!
We also need to have a rethink about a government's primary responsibility. To me, it is securing the borders and ensuring the protection of the country's citizens. The secondary responsibilities are bijli, sadak, pani, roti, kapda, makan, etc. Right now the political establishment has a vested interest in making the secondary responsibilities appear as the primary responsibility.
If security needs to be stepped up at airports, railway stations, bus terminuses etc. and one of the deterrents is a higher charge for visitors, then we must be ready to pay the cost associated with security, in terms of time spent being frisked or the price of platform tickets. Over-crowded stations and bus terminuses are great places for terrorists to merge in with the populace. How many times has an airport been blasted? In contrast, how many times has a bus terminus or a railway station been a target?
There also needs to be a recognition that the locally-bred terrorists are now reasonably self-sufficient in terms of human resources that Pakistan's involvement in the attacks is likely to be more of a benefactor role, including providing arms & other resources.
There're just far too many easy ways for a terrorist to attack any place in India. How many times have airline or airport authorities insisted on seeing your photo id when you're taking a flight? How many times has the railway travel ticket examiner asked you to show your photo id when you've booked an e-ticket?
People in authority get away without the normal security procedures, because they're the privileged ones. What's the penalty for violating the Indian Passport Act and taking along a woman and boy claiming them to be family? Being expelled from the Lok Sabha when the Indian Passports Act prescribes a fine of (a piddly amount of) Rs. 5,000 and 2 years in jail!
Stop having exceptions in security procedures. Everyone is the same. Enforce the security procedures properly. Have close-circuit cameras at public places. There will be a cost to the residents, builders, tenants, owners, etc. But the cost is miniscule compared with the loss of human capital caused due to terrorist attacks occuring every six weeks.
I see now that the TV channels are having a field day bringing in experts to discuss what should be done. However my fear is that we think November 26 2008 isn't going to be repeated. I fear that there's another one, just around the corner, maybe as little as a week away.
In addition, I wonder if the reaction from the public and the media would have been had the target been a place like Chennai or Kolkota, which isn't a financial capital, nor the political capital, nor an IT capital, nor a religious centre. I fear, and I suspect I maybe right, that the reaction would have been a lot more muted, mainly because this would have been the first time Chennai or Kolkota (barring the 2002 attack on the US Consulate) was impacted by this nature of terrorism.
Mostly cross-posted from my reply to Mekin's post.
Labels: india, mumbai, mumbai terrorism 200811, security, terrorism