Even if the bomb blasts had not happened at Dilsukhnagar in Hyderabad on Thursday evening, Andhra Pradesh police would still have been busy. Its focus for the last two weeks or so was on how to handle the rasta roko called by the Telangana Joint Action Committee on the Hyderabad-Bangalore National Highway on 24 February and the Hyderabad-Vijayawada National Highway on 2 March.
Interestingly, the geographical location of Dilsukhnagar – it leads to the Vijayawada Highway and one can also access the Bangalore Highway by passing through it – meant the area was being closely looked at to create an alternate route for commuters on the two days.
Over the last four days, there has been a furious debate over whether the police did not act on intelligence inputs – generic or specific – to neutralise the terrorists. Fact of the matter is that the Andhra Pradesh police does spend quality time in collecting intelligence. Except that it is mostly political in nature.
Andhra Pradesh is not an exception. It is the way ruling parties in all states have always used their police force. In Andhra Pradesh, the Telangana agitation, Jaganmohan Reddy rebellion and the MIM trouble has meant the establishment is always interested in knowing what its political rivals are up to. So snooping on politicians (who met who and where, when, why and how) gains priority over gathering intelligence on those who are plotting sinister terror attacks. The Counter Intelligence Cell which is entrusted with the task of gathering intelligence related to terror suspects, finds itself under a cloud after the twin blasts.
Even when intelligence inputs are passed on to the cops on the field, it does not necessarily translate into action. With the state frequently in agitation mode, cops are forced to do tiring bandobast duty. During the communal skirmishes in the Old city area of Hyderabad in November for example, city police commissioner Anurag Sharma conceded that every last constable was deployed.
The State Intelligence Bureau (SIB) is totally focused on combating Maoist activity. Which in effect means doing nothing much, since Maoism in Andhra Pradesh has been steadily on the wane since 2005, barring a few pockets in Andhra-Odisha Border (AOB) zone.
It is a criticism the police force is unwilling to accept. Senior officers point out that if Hyderabad has not seen a terror attack since August 2007, it is also because the counter intelligence machinery is up to the task of neutralising sleeper cells and keeping tabs on suspicious movements. Chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy has been batting for his cops and points out that arrests carried out in Bihar, Delhi or Karnataka could not have taken place but for critical intelligence provided by Andhra Pradesh policemen.
But there are other issues with the way the Home department functions. The appointment of Sabitha Indra Reddy as Home minister is seen as mere tokenism – a woman minister from Telangana – as she is like a fish out of water in the tough world of modern-day policing. She is not in the P Chidambaram mould, someone who can contribute to the efficient working of the police force. As a result, it is the Chief Minister’s office that already has enough on its plate, who the top cops report to.
Security analysts point out that there is an urgent need to relook at postings because not many young officers who would have the aptitude to understand hi-tech gizmos used by terror groups and connect the dots technically have been posted in critical wings of the police.
The police force also has seen turbulence at the top in the last one year. DGP Dinesh Reddy and another DG rank officer Umesh Kumar have been lodged both in a war of words in and outside court. The legal battle that has seen them accuse each other of filing false affidavits, forgery and corruption has not brought any credit to the prestige of the office they hold.
The sound of the blast at Dilsukhnagar was so loud that it is feared that at least 40 of those injured would suffer loss of hearing. For the sake of the safety of the people of Andhra Pradesh, one hopes the sound is more of a wake-up call for the state police force.