Let’s not go the Beirut way
Appalling as the events of the last 24 hours may be, what is most disturbing is the way many of us have become cynical about such events. Years ago, while studying in the US, a Lebanese friend of mine told me that in Beirut as kids, they would walk to school while gunfights and shelling would go on in the adjacent streets. And he used to say that they were not too worried, taking the whole thing in their stride. I always felt that it was insensitive of him.
After watching the TV coverage of what happened in Mumbai, I went out for dinner at around 11.45pm on Wednesday. And my biggest irritation, tragically, was not the mayhem but that my favourite diners were ordered closed by the police (I did not know about the firing inside Cafe Leopold). I wonder whether we are becoming insensitive enough to be going the Beirut way.
Officers and gentlemen
As I try and make sense of all these thoughts, I have spoken to several police and paramilitary officers across the country. One opinion came across clearly. The Mumbai Police has shone brightly in this hour of crisis. While the police in other cities and states watched while their cities burnt, the Mumbai Police led from the front.
I wonder if you can recall two powerful movies, ‘Black Hawk Down’ and ‘SWAT’. In both these movies, you can see the officers sitting in control rooms watching the action on several video screens while the men put their lives in danger. Indian police officers have always led from the front—and Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte, Sadanand Date and Vijay Salaskar were epitomes of the idea of an officer.
They led from the front. They, along with their colleagues, placed themselves in harm’s way instead of sitting in the control room. And they paid for their commitment with their lives. They swore to serve and to protect, and they did just that.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
I think this episode also reflects on the politicians whom we love to hate. Maharashtra home minister R.R. Patil ensured that the best team was at the helm of Mumbai Police: Hassan Gafoor, K.L. Prasad and Hemant Karkare. As much as we like to revile politicians, in this one case, they put in place the best team available for Mumbai.
When the history of this dark hour is written, let it not be forgotten that this was the Mumbai Police force’s finest hour.
Also Read: Responses to the terrorist attacks in Mumbai
When you go about your daily life, spare a thought and a prayer for the brave men who laid down their lives so that we may all sleep safely tonight. God bless them all.
Politicians, rise to the occasion
How many more lives will be sacrificed? How many more innocent people will we let die without any reason? It is time political parties stopped vote bank politics and the war of allegations against each other. It’s time to act for the safety of the nation.
Without making unnecessary statements, let us fight united to find a way to free the holy soil of our motherland of terrorism. The government should not exist to make statements after terror attacks. It is the duty of the government to assure the people of this nation that they are safe and secure. The home minister should resign soon due to his incapacity and laxity (the minister has since resigned). The security agencies of this nation need to wake up and act for the safety and sovereignty of this nation.
Anjan Kumar Samal
Work with CIA and FBI
While we grieve for the victims and the wounded of these wretched acts, we must not falter in preparing for such situations in the future.
With the latest attack in Mumbai, terrorism in India has entered a new phase. There is no harm or loss of pride in working closely with agencies such as the US Central Intelligence Agency, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and British intelligence—to learn how they deal with terrorism.
We are moving into a world where terrorism is becoming a facet of daily life, and must learn to deal with terrorists ruthlessly and mercilessly.
Rajendra K. Aneja
We too are responsible
I fail to understand why all of us forget where we, the citizens of India, are in this whole macabre existence.
We always blame others—the government, business houses and so on.
But what about each of us, who, as individuals, have at some point or the other done something to weaken the system? Are we not to introspect and do our duty of changing things around us?
Each time we pay a bribe to any government official, pass on black money, we engender corruption. Each time we do not go out to vote and each time we fail to hold responsible our elected representatives, we too are responsible.
We have to be part of the change
The veil has been shattered. We have watched terror attacks on TV, read analyses on websites and discussed over coffee 9/11, the 26/7 London bombings and the attack on Madrid. Bad things were happening out there and we were shocked and sorry. But it was always out there and others that got affected. It was always terror in third person.
It changed last week. The attacks were at locations that were close to our hearts; at locations that were painfully very familiar to us; locations we might have been at that evening.
The rooms, restaurants and banquet halls of the Taj and the Trident were our haunts. We smiled cynically at the metal detectors and security checks at the entrances. What an irritant, we thought. We felt we were out of reach, safe and above terror. Wednesday changed it.
I hope it stays changed. I hope we don’t “bounce back”, as journalists put it. I hope we don’t go back to thinking we are impervious. It is our callousness, this bouncing back, that strengthens our enemies. It is our indifference that prevents us from demanding tough action.
Some of our colleagues, some of our fellow citizens and some our guests have borne the brunt of what happened last week. It might have been you and me. This is not drama in third person any longer.
I wish there were some easy solutions to this—a “framework” that we could apply, some consultants we could call in. But there aren’t. Momentous changes will be required in our country and society if we are to make life more secure, for us and our children. Each of us will have to play a part in this change.
Several reforms will be needed
There are several factors behind the terrorist attack on Mumbai that could be the direct results of several policy lapses, inactions and faulty decisions.
First, it is difficult for anyone to identify who is an Indian and who a foreigner in the absence of a central registry of people that can be publicly accessed for verification. The primary cause for this inaction is the desire of politicians to facilitate the movement of people from one part of the country (or from another country) to a particular location and thus transform the demographics of that area.
Thus, by settling 10,000 slum dwellers in my locality, you marginalize the votes of the original inhabitants. The easy availability of “false” documentation such as ration cards only complicates the situation. Almost the entire coastal area and the North-East is rife with this problem, either because of Bangladeshi immigrants or from other communities. This is a problem that has received little attention from New Delhi. Is Assam too far off to receive such attention?
Second, say several news reports, is about the brazen auctioning of police posts.
The police are compelled to collect money either to pay off the funds they had to pay to secure their jobs, or to pay off politicians who have to collect money for party headquarters as well as for personal gratification. When a policeman is compelled to look for avenues to make money, his ability to focus on security lapses gets dulled. In many cases, it even gets compromised.
Policemen need to be insulated from politicians and should be booked, dismissed and even imprisoned when found guilty of lapses or of filing improper reports that abet easy acquittal of culprits by courts.
Third, the unwillingness of the government to professionalize the police in evidence-gathering and forensic examination (why should all forensic tests not get videographed, with the victim’s representative being present as well to ensure fair play?) will further weaken the entire security apparatus.
Fourth, the main cause for violence is the common man’s inability to get justice in time. If my daughter or my mother is molested, a person is more likely to go to the local dada (tough) for justice than to the local police station, because the local dada dispenses better justice than the state does.
That is why, if the local dada stands for elections, the common man will vote for him. That is how criminalization of politics becomes inevitable and inescapable.
The only solution is to provide speedy justice, so that victims feel that justice is being done, and the time to tinker with evidence and doctor witness accounts is just not available. Unfortunately this is a commodity that is all too rare in our country.
Lastly, all this is further abetted by virtually encouraging the police to go after bar girls, prostitutes and even couples necking in parks. What this has done is to convert a team of professional policemen into a pack of peeping Toms, looking for every opportunity to be exploited for lascivious reasons.
None of the above conditions is conducive to curbing the growth of terrorism.
India cannot afford to be a soft state any longer
That India is a soft state is an old statement, which is why these attacks are taking place so frequently.
But what is shocking is the modus operandi of the fresh attacks in Mumbai. It was not the usual bombs planted in cycles, taxis, cars or dustbins. And the way the terrorists fought shows their meticulous planning. The amount of ammunition they carried, due to which they were able to sustain the fight for so long, tells the whole story. And their extraordinary violence was possible because India has not been serious enough about addressing terrorist threats and attacks. Our former home minister, Shivraj Patil, has only one thing to say after every such attack: We will maintain our resolve in the face of this terrorist threat.
Why can’t they maintain a database of terrorists, go after them, disrupt their network and make this a national priority, just as the US did after 9/11?
There is sheer lack of will to take this issue up on a war-footing. How else can it be justified that our policemen were fighting well-equipped terrorists with age-old 303 rifles that take ages to load and fire? How unfortunate that such attacks have become rituals in India. India must react to Pakistan in only one fashion: tit for tat. We cannot afford to be a soft state any longer.
The invisible Thackerays
I fail to understand the general psyche of terrorists. Either they have no brains of their own or they are a bunch of psychotic individuals. Terrorists say they fight against the wrong which has been done to them by a system which is managed by leaders and politicians. If the fight is against the system and its creators, then I wonder why these terror attacks are never made on these corrupt leaders?
Come to think of it. After the innumerable blasts that have rocked our country this year, how many tough steps have actually been taken to settle these issues by our government? I don’t think our leaders are so impotent that they cannot devise an adequate plan to curb terrorism.
And where are the Thackerays of the world who claim to fight for the rights of Mumbaikars? One needs to ask them this question: What did they do to save the lives of the men and women trapped in the terror strikes? If they really are to fight for something, even it were for their very own Mumbaikars, then it is this monster called terrorism that they need to fight against.