You switch on the TV and find all the news channels replaying the same old scene. It happens on sports channels all the time: inspite of the huge number of sporting events going on all around the world, there aren’t enough of them to satisfy television’s insatiable appetite. But replays on the news?
Of course these aren’t replays. But it’s the same sickening scene seen again: bloody and mangled bodies being carried by hand into ambulances or police vehicles (note: no stretchers). Injured men and women writhing in agony. Wailing relatives. Cops rushing to the scene after the event, like in old Hindi films.
Special investigative teams trying to find evidence which has been trampled upon by media and curiosity seekers. Evidence, if found, will amount to nothing. The country’s home minister talking down to the media as if addressing a crowd of retards. The prime minister’s bland – and meaningless –assurances. The Opposition’s grotesquely gleeful fulminations inside and out of Parliament.
Yes, we have seen it all before and no doubt we will see it again. Chidambaram now blames the Delhi police. “We had warned them a few months ago,” he says.
We? Them? Is he talking about an alert sent to a foreign country? Or is he in Delhi, talking about the police of the state he works and lives in, and in spite of being home minister of the country, seems to have no control whatsoever? If nothing else, just for that supremely revealing comment, Chidambaram should resign.
We all know that the Delhi High Court was the venue of an earlier failed terrorist attempt. On 25 May this year a potentially lethal bomb didn’t go off: it contained 1.5 kg of ammonium nitrate which would have killed very many people, but for a faulty detonator.
The bomb was planted just a hundred metres or so at the same Delhi High Court venue as the 7/9 bomb. That terrorists would return to the scene of their failed crime should surprise no one, but it obviously surprised Delhi’s police establishment.
It will now be exactly 10 years since the 9/11 attacks destroyed the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center. But as all of us have noticed, the United States has had no further terrorist attacks, while Britain has been free of them for the last six years. Both of them are even bigger targets than India, yet it’s we who have been hit with dreadful regularity. What does that show?
Everyone is now talking about the Karachi Project; the Pakistani ISI funded and created a joint venture with the LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba). Yet it wasn’t our intelligence agencies which discovered this diabolical design: it was only when US agencies arrested David Coleman Headley that details of this conspiracy spilled out. (And, of course, we didn’t have a clue about Headley’s many trips to this country, nor his snooping around all over with the objective of identifying targets to be hit).
Are our agencies, then, completely incompetent? This is a question that needs to be asked again and again. Or are they insufficiently funded? Everyone understands that terrorist attacks of the kind that have hit us time and time again are difficult to predict because they are indiscriminate in their timing and their targets.
Yet how have the US and the UK managed to foil them? Commonsense tells me that an informer’s network would be easier to have in a poor country because there would be that many more people looking for the casual employment that this would provide. So what’s stopping us from establishing a really wide spread one?
I can think of only two reasons. The first is lack of priorities. Without doubt the nation should treat these attacks as Acts of War, and should set up a War Council against terrorism. The prime minister should quickly convene an all-party meeting to put this idea forward. Who would dare object?
Simultaneously, special courts to deal only with terrorist acts should make the death sentence mandatory with no appeal allowed to the president for clemency. Delays in dealing with these cases obviously mean that the law is no deterrent to terrorist activities. That needs to change: quick justice and severe punishments, with no exception when guilt is proved.
Another reason for our laxity is our national chalta hai attitude. After the recent Mumbai attacks in Dadar, Opera House and Zaveri Bazaar, the chief minister paid a visit to the Control Room, which is supposed to coordinate counter-terrorism measures. He found the place inadequately equipped and inadequately staffed. And this two years after 26/11!
As distressing was the surprise exercise when a boat cruised into Mumbai waters, went along the coast line and deposited its occupants on land without being challenged by the Coast Guard. We haven’t learnt a thing, have we? Will we ever? Your guess is as good as mine.