The attack in London on Wednesday afternoon proves that terrorism has found a fresh conduit.
Get personal. Up close and personal and hit the unarmed and the civilian, that is where it hurts. The numbers at the end of a very frightful day were — five dead, forty wounded and only one terrorist — those are bad and frightful odds.
There is something more horrifying about the common public being hit in small numbers than the mega scenario of death and destruction where numbers mean nothing.
It is the same mental DNA that makes the human mind respond to the singular. The child on the beach in Greece. The captain’s cap in an aircrash. The sight of Kim Phuc, the child running away from napalm that stopped the Vietnam war. The shot by Kevin Carter of a vulture next to a South Sudan baby waiting that woke up a global conscience.
The new terrorist has realised that blasting buildings and transporting bombs are more 'spy who came in from the cold' stuff and passe in that the attention does not justify the effort and the expense. ..and for them the risk of being tracked.
There is the chilling realisation that everything that moves is potentially dangerous and vehicles are available by the thousands. Just do a Paris or a Berlin and you get a nation to cower in fear. What can you do? Take everyone’s car away?
Low tech terror is the norm these days and what one would call micro-terrorism has become easier to handle, requires less planning, less risk and most importantly, less use of brainwashed manpower. Also, with minimum use of the terror network the odds on tracking the perpetrators decrease exponentially. They become sleeper agents with no paper trail.
This is the fourth major vehicular attack in recent times. That it is so easy to do and is just like driving under influence with intent makes it impossible for any force to foresee the possibility and pre-empt it. That it occurs close to iconic sites adds to the panic and the sense of desolation.
What happened in London is an indicator that no city is safe. India, too, is a vulnerable nation and with terror tactics getting unpredictable, it's just a question of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Take Indian High Commissioner Yash Sinha's example. He, apparently, drove over the Westminster bridge 60 minutes prior to the attack.
Like the three French students on a study trip to the United Kingdom hit by this man and the ripple effect hitting of France. As a world we have only one defence and that is to share intelligence and get on the same page. If we do not wake up to this dimension there will be more such attacks, random and non-specific without any blowback that could lead us to the masterminds.
And every city should also take heed of the way in which the London services and systems responded and the impressive co-operation between police, medical services, the government and the public in locking down a city instantly to ensure that what happened on Westminster Bridge was not a diversion or the first link in a chain of attacks on the British capital.
Emma Barnett, for BBC Radio 5 Live, stated that the streets around Westminster were unusually quiet. It is "extremely eerie", she said quietly, "essentially its as though (London's) heart has stopped beating."
Did not quite agree with that but when terror strikes at places you are familiar with it causes a major disturbance in the community, a ‘I was there yesterday’ sensation which is devastating. We, in India, also need to have an urban blue book, one that marks the steps that must be followed and ensures the real time responses are made so that casualties are minimized.
In the sadness there has to be an awareness. While it might give US President Donald Trump and his tribe more evidence for hardcore reactions the true sorrow is that tomorrow morning every brown-skinned man woman and child especially if they are Muslim will wake up wondering if they will have to be the payback in a nation creped by fear.
Do the terrorists understand that?
Which child will pay the price going to school? Which housewife will be cold shouldered the supermarket? Which husband will be put on lighter duties or sideswiped in his job just because, you know, who knows?
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Updated Date: Mar 23, 2017 08:49:17 IST