At this rate, rest assured, your number will come

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Terror struck the World Trade Center in New York on 9/11 and a few other  places same day. That was in 2001, seven years ago. A couple of thousand people were killed. Since then how many times has terror of that magnitude hit the United States?

Terror has hit the London. Terror has hit Madrid. And some half-a-dozen places around the world. In almost all these places it has never been repeated since, and definitely not of the scale when it happened the first time. Not even in Indonesia’s Bali Island, a predominantly Muslim state.

How is it in these countries the police and the security agencies are able to keep tabs on every aspect of militant groups, known and new?

How is it that the authorities in those contries are able to track the movement of terror gang  members, their bank transactions, their purchases?

How are their intelligence agencies able to intercept communication between members of different terror groups or with other groups and make preventive arrests?

Only such vigilance has helped these terror-struck nations to keep a step ahead of the terrorists and thwart their plans even after militant organizations declared their intentions to strike. Israel is a leader amongst countries which routinely stays ahead of terrorists.

Even when there is an attack, Western countries seem to be in a better position to keep their relief and rehabilitation efforts focused.

First, there is no blame game between various political parties. Medical emergency relief is arranged in quick time. The investigation proceeds without too much hindrance, with fervour, without any favour. Those that are found guilty face punishment strictly as per law of the land. Factors such as higher commands to ‘protect’ anybody on grounds of religion or ensuing election don’t come in the way or are not allowed to come in the way of investigation.

Can we say the same of India?

Why is it we fail again and again to thwart the next bomb blast in a temple, railway station or a crowded market?

Malegaon, IISc Bangalore, local trains in Bombay, the Sankat Vimochan temple in Benares, the Akshar Dham temple in Ahmedabad, the Sarojini Nagar market in Delhi, the Gokul chat centre in Hyderabad, the Mecca masjid in Hyderabad… the grisly showpieces” in our ‘Terror Gallery’ is overflowing.

Jaipur was three months ago. Now, it is the turn of Bangalore.

Even as we write this, it can be safely said that somebody somewhere is planning for the next serial blasts.

So far, we have not caught any terrorist alive so far, convicted any, nor have we sent any one to jail (apart from the 1993 serial blasts in Bombay which took more than 20 years to be cracked). On the other hand, we have the dubious record of having sent an external affairs minister (Jaswant Singh) to accompany terrorists to their safety.

Is there hope at all?

How do we fight terrorism in India?

Aren’t we following a sickening pattern in the way we ‘fight’ terrorism?

Let’s take a look.

1. Intelligence in any form doesn’t seem to exist. It is not present even after an incident has occurred. Otherwise how can we explain so many bombings all over India in markets, temples, buses and moving trains and have no clue at all before and even after the incidents? Members of terror organizations seem to freely move around with their timers, wires, crude bombs, etc, buying cycles along the way, planning their next target taking the help of local goons right under the nose of ‘intelligence’ wings’ of our Police departments. And they have ability to strike at will.

2. We seem to think that if no incident occurs on Independence Day and Republic Day in Red Fort and on Vijay Chowk, democracy is safe and kicking. No effort is spared in converting the one square km in that area filled with ministers, their families, bureaucrats and their families into another fort with a Z-category security blanket thrown in for the entire area. Meanwhile, Pappu and family in Benares, Jain and family in Hyderabad, Shinde, Arthi & Aziz travelling in a Bombay local can all be blown to pieces. Never mind! We seem to think “We, the people” are safe if the CM or Governor are safe.

3. A day after the bomb blast, the Home Minister warns still unknown terrorists, that India ‘will not succumb’ to the evil designs of terrorists. The Prime Minister wonders aloud after more than 20 years of bombing in most major cities whether we should have ‘a federal system’ to tackle this menace. Meanwhile photographs of the place where bombs were planted are shown whole day, with commentators boasting that ‘terrorists cannot stop the people from going about their jobs’ as if they had any alternatives!  Sketches are drawn and redrawn and released with great fanfare. Suspicious people working / living are rounded up and questioned long after the perpetrators have escaped from the very nose of police looking for vital clues.

4. The debates in Parliament end in a farce with both members of government and opposition “trading charges”, accusing each other of playing politics amidst such a ghastly tragedy. Reports pile up on bombings as well as the sympathy statements which suspiciously have the same tone of cyclostyled sheets kept ready to be used as and when a need arises which happens with monotonous regularity.

Meanwhile, experts rush to issue statements to the media that the latest bombing must have been the handiwork of Lashkar-e- Toiba which is pooh-poohed  by another expert who swears on God it is the work of  Harkhat-e-Azhm. A third one feels it could be a “Bangaldeshi outfit” or “Naga Insurgents”. More conjecture, mostly irrelevant , follows.

5. VIPs starting from chairperson of ruling party, heir-apparent, opposition party chief decide to visits the place and gather ‘First hand information’ from victims, their families and  eyewitnesses. Half the police who are supposedly on the ‘hot trail’ of terrorists’ are removed from the duty and ‘redeployed’ for the visit of VIP leaders.

6. Intellectuals are invited in hordes to various TV centres to give their opinion. Intellectuals, real or pseudo, do not condemn the anti-social elements in their community or their brethren across the border even when a militant organization has taken responsibility for bombing the place. The same applies when a Hindu organization or individual is involved. The only difference is across the world the ratio seems to be 1: 1000+ bombings as claimed by Muslim militant organizations themselves.

One can easily make out what’s happening. The government spokesman, with eyes set firmly on the next election, blames the Government in western countries for not having a dialogue with Muslim fundamentalists.

Leading Muslim organizations and personalities in politics, filmdom, press, though in majority, seem to lack the will to form a cohesive force and fight the handful militant organizations that is hell-bent on creating a perpetual divide between both communities.

If these groups come out openly against the negative elements in their community, it could be a starting point for a fight against the terrorism which cripples citizens of every community.

Finally, the media, especially the electronic medium, builds up frothy sound bytes as ‘Breaking News’ and drums up enough clamour whenever a bomb blast occurs, only to lose interest as the next wave of ‘breaking News’ appears.

With a limited span of interest, they do not want to go deep into the topic and nail the government as to what they are doing about the repeated bombings. For whatever reason, they seem to be playing safe. Where is the ‘investigative’ journalism here to unearth future blasts and sound intelligence agencies?

It looks as though terrorism has come to stay in India, mainly because there is only half-hearted attempt to prevent, investigate and punish the perpetrators. There is lack of political will to formulate policies because it will eat into vote banks, to enforce stricter laws.

Perhaps because of these factors even police and other agencies are lax in their approach. There is a sense of betrayal among population that the government cannot even ensure their safety.

Is there no hope for an Indian of any community in a shopping mall or in a local train or a restaurant or a temple or a mosque?

Do we have to live in a perpetual state of fear thinking ‘Mera number kab ayega /gi’?