02-Dec-2008

The aftermath - Bombay blast

The last few days have exposed the gaping holes in India’s security. No one had a clue that such large tranches of arms and ammunition were being moved along the coast. The agencies which did suspect it passed on the information to people who could act but who chose not to act. When the terrorists stuck, the Mumbai police was clearly out of its depth. It took the NSG ten hours to land in the scene of action. The media became a liability by providing information on what was happening at the three locations. Shivraj Patil in his interview to the media in the middle of Wednesday night sounded as clueless as the media about the reason behind the attacks and the scale of it. People stood around Nariman House cheering commandoes like a Trapeze artist had just finished his show in the circus and a couple of bystanders gawking at the scene in Taj actually got hurt in the crossfire.

The whole thing sounds like an unbelievable novel set in some impoverished nation in the 70s. Not like it happened in one of the world’s rapidly growing economic and nuclear powers. As a citizen of one, I would so love to kick some butt.

Why is our security not better than this?

We are surrounded by an elite crop of neighbours – Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Burma, and China. Pick any one name off this list and you cannot but wonder how we can be lax on security. What are we spending our money on if we don’t know what is going on right beneath our noses? And once hit, why is our response time so bad? While it is understandable that local cops can’t be expected to respond to extraordinary situations like this, why don’t we have specialized cops in all key places? It is not like this is a sudden occurrence. After all Bangalore, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Assam – all of them were hit just this year. What is our strategy in the face of terror attacks and hostage situations? Do we fumble around before getting our act in place? Why did we have to lose our head of the Anti Terrorism Squad in the line of fire so early on when, with all due respect, he should have been planning strategy?

The fight going in the media about the exact number of terrorists was incredulous. Central sources claimed 15. Mumbai police said 10 landed and 5 went back. I am having a tough time trying to visualize 5 young, determined terrorists training for a year coming to Mumbai’s coast and saying to themselves ‘Oh dear, I don’t feel up to it. I am heading right back to Karachi’. The hatchet was buried when the Police commissioner clarified that the number was indeed ten and all terrorists were accounted for.

What are we doing about our esteemed neighbour, Pakistan, the hotspot of terrorists?

If anyone remembers Dawood Ibrahim (from the 93 Mumbai blasts)
it is probably from his sightings at social functions in Pakistan. The man will die a natural death before we can even extradite him. Our failure in bringing to task a man wanted in one of India’s most horrific attacks certainly sends out signals that we either don’t care or are incapable. Forget Dawood, the closest we have got to his on-the-ground guy in India, Tiger Memon, is to arrest his family including his younger brother, Yakub Memon, when they finally came back to India.

The universally accepted fact is that if ever a list of best training grounds in the world for an ambitious terrorist were to be made, Pakistan would be right up there in the list.

Does that mean we go to war with Pakistan?

Certainly not. If we did go to war, where would it stop? Unlike a boundary dispute where you know the purpose of aggression, this would just be ‘we will show them’ kind of war with no end in sight. On the other hand, the time has come to gang up with other nations. If Pakistan were to make inroads into Kashmir, it becomes a bilateral boundary dispute. If Pakistan were to train people to create terror situations, it is a global problem. The time is right, with such an outpouring of support from nations across the world, including the big daddy of all, the U.S. to put pressure through cutting them off. Stop dealing with them till they manage to demonstrate that they have put an end to ISI’s training-terrorists activities or managed to get some kind of control over the apparently wild North Western frontier which acts as a freeway in the arms trade.

So what are top honchos doing?

Bickering on TV. Vilas Rao Deshmukh had nothing useful to say and sulked in his interview
outside the Trident on Friday, implying that Narendra Modi should have stayed at home. Then he decided to get some goodwill for son Ritesh by taking Ritesh and Ram Gopal Varma on a guided tour of the Trident (Note to father and son – RGV’s films suck these days. You could have bet on someone else). R.R.Patil displayed his sensitive side by making a remark that sounded like a DDLJ quote on how small things happen in big cities. Kerela CM Achuthanathan’s massive ego made him make rude remarks about NSG's slain Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan’s family. Surely, these guys are not for real?

Do we sack them?

Oh yes. Atleast Deshmukh deserves to go. I don’t believe for one minute that his likely replacement, Sushil Kumar Shinde is more competent or less corrupt than he is. What we however need to demonstrate is the minimum standards that we, as the voting public, expect from our leaders. We expect that they understand that it hurts to live in the fear of where the next bomb would go off. We are shocked by how easily the sequence of events happened. We are outraged by the general air of cluelessness and silliness. We will put up with a lot and we do put up with a lot. But expecting us to put up with incompetence that threatens our lives, is really pushing us too far. If people in charge of our security cannot deliver, then we would like to see them pay for it.

So what do we do now?

No clue. Really. Taking part in candle vigils does not work for me. I can see it is a great outlet but am not sure if it is much of a solution. Not to mention, I am worried that it may provide an attractive venue for any leftover terrorists who did not take the boat back to Karachi as the Mumbai police claimed. Not being resilient and sitting at home is not an option. I have to pay my rent and feed myself.

I don’t think that voting out a particular party is enough. My only hope is voting out specific politicians who screwed up this time. It is one thing when your party does not come to power. But it hurts at a very personal level if you lose and are faced with the threat of becoming inconsequential within your party.

I am certain that Shivraj Patil will bounce back after a while. But in the interim, I am sure the ‘perks’ and the power he will lose on account of not being a cabinet minister for a couple of years will pinch. But imagine if he just lost elections and could not even come back as a cabinet minister. Boy, that would sure keep him awake at nights the way I woke up in fits on Wednesday night, very frightened. And when he comes back, hopefully, he will keep it in mind and deliver slightly better so as to not be sacked. And hopefully, other politicians in similar jobs also sit up and take notice of how ephemeral their posts are when they don’t deliver.

I still have faith that you can use your vote to make your voice audible. Just think about what your minimum standards are.

9 comments:

L said...

Brilliantly written!! And you hit the
nail right on its head!

Lakshmi

barbadkatte said...

tiny correction. Shivraj Patil lost the election ( 2004 - Latur if I remember right) , that hasn't prevented him from being the Home minister for 4.5 yrs. So another loss & who knows he may become the Prime Minister!

Anita said...

barbadkatte - yup Latur. But my guess is it will sometime before anyone decides to bestow some ministerial posts on him. Though I agree it may be futile wishing that if one lost election can't keep a good man down, then two should do the trick

Pallavi said...

Whom do we vote for ?

barbadkatte said...

Pallavi
In my mind, voting is not as important as interacting with your candidates. Talk to them, ask them questions, give them ideas. Essentially participate in the whole process, instead of just turning up to vote.

Anita said...

Pallavi - Personally the choice for me would be the lesser of the various evils standing for elections. Expecting the political system to change overnight is utopian. And in the worst case, there is also the option of registering a no-vote.

I guess I would also expect people to know who is the candidate (a lot of people vote for the party not for the candidate) and what he/she has delivered or been found blatantly negligient about

barbadkatte - I agree on the interaction bit. But not sure where the forums are currently.

Entropy said...

Hi,
Very well-written article. Expresses a lot of what I feel.
May I run it on my blog ? Will give credit and add link to your blog.
Zen

Bharathis said...

Very well-written. Tamil writer Gnani Sankaran has written on these lines, with a different point of view.
http://www.openspace.org.in/node/808

Anita said...

Bharathis - checked out the link. really well written.