The drill was gone through after Tuesday's bomb blasts in Mumbai too. So much so, that day before yesterday flights from Delhi were inordinately delayed consequent to unprecedented security checks.
Yesterday, there was a news item on wire services that Delhi airport had returned to normal. It wasn’t clear whether those elaborate preemptive security drills had all been give up. Looked like.
This is classically referred to as ‘knee-jerk reaction’. How absurd it is, if security is tightened only after major attacks, and, presumably, lax at all other times.
The explosions in Mumbai were among the worst terrorist attacks in India. True, India has grown up with terrorism. Only difference is, earlier we wept alone; today we have Bush, Blair and the rest of the world to weep along with us.
After 9/11, the US totally overhauled its security apparatus, at the risk of even going overboard. It's better to err on the right side, they thought. Loopholes were plugged. Security drills, in fact, became so invasive that people grumbled at first, but gradually came to terms with their inevitability. The US hasn't slackened one bit since then.
After our 7/11, it's déjà vu. Copy-book, stereotype reactions. Pakistan, SIMI, Lashkar, Kashmir, Nepal, Bangladesh, blame game, the arrests, unearthing of plots and circumstantial evidences... it's the same old stories all over again.
Not quite surprising. Our planning and strategizing aren't so much different from the way we have been trying to remove poverty ever since we got Independence; or the way we have been trying to uplift the downtrodden and discriminated. So clichéd.
When a man-made calamity of this magnitude takes place, besides the relief and succor for the victims, what is of paramount importance is for the Government of India to stamp its authority. There were emergency cabinet meetings and an address to the nation by the PM day before yesterday. With all due respects to the intellectual eminence of Dr Manmohan Singh, I must say that if one watched his body language, it was anything but one that conveyed the Stamp of the State's Authority.
One reason for this seeming lassitude, perhaps, is a certain amount of weariness brought about by our prolonged exposure to terror of various magnitudes. Lack of civility, discourtesy, rudeness, corruption, constant disruptions to law and order in our society: we are cohabitants of terror.
Among the post-blast stories are how our politicians occupying positions of power have been acquiescing radicalism, militancy and fundamentalism. As shocking as Tuesday's explosions is our governmental inertia. Firstly, political flirtations with fundamentalism have to stop forthwith. A thin stream of oxygen it may be at best, but political nod for violent militancy is what sustains disruptive ideologies.
This is where our pride of being a great democracy falls flat. If you ask anyone why day before yesterday, our former defence minister and present chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Mulayam Singh Yadav exculpated SIMI, that is currently under security official’s scanner, pat comes the reply: for votes. Even if Yadav has his soft corner for the arraigned outfit, doesn't discretion warrant that at least he keep his mouth shut. Quite expectedly, yesterday, he says he never referred to SIMI in that manner.
It’s three days since the tragedy. Yet there is no relook at our national security apparatus; no meeting of chief ministers or state police chiefs to review policing methods; no new strategic initiatives to make the common persons’ lives safe; no move to outlaw parties or politicians proclaiming sympathy to terror outfits. (Incidentally, a week or so back, a new hi-tech equipment was installed at Karnataka chief minister's official residence to scan incoming vehicles for explosives.)
It is fine to talk of Pakistan's involvement. We show our bravado by telling Pakistan that we won't talk until they smash the terror network operating there. I don’t think the foreign secretaries’ meeting will take place. That's fine. But that is only a part of the solution. What are we ourselves doing to make our lives safer? Pretty little.
Our intelligence gathering network has to be strengthened and the authority should ruthlessly come down on suspects. SIMI has been implicated but not one person has been charged, much less convicted. Most of our convictions are on confessions rather than incontrovertible evidence. Where are our detectives and undercover agents?
Unless the State exercises its authority in no uncertain manner, chances of luck favouring us always are all too bleak. Pessimistic, perhaps; but realistic, I believe.