The terrorist strike in Hyderabad last week claimed the lives of 16 citizens. Another 119 were injured. This should not be seen as one more instance of an intelligence failure; it reflects the continuing incoherence in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on the issue of combating terror. Its failures are systematic and demonstrate a marked weakness of will on the subject.
Much has been made of the availability of prior warnings about the possibility of a terrorist strike in the city.
The question is why was this information not processed into—to use a hackneyed phrase—actionable intelligence? If actionable intelligence was available with the Union government, what impeded its transmission to the state government and, ultimately, the Andhra Pradesh police?
Since the Mumbai 26/11 attacks, if not earlier, it has been understood clearly that India lacks the coordinating organizations that are needed to process information into intelligence and its transmission back to the consumers who need it the most—the state anti-terrorist squads and the local police stations of the areas where terrorist hits are expected. Collation of information about possible terrorist action—raw information at the ground level—and its transmission upward to organizations devoted to analysis such as the stillborn National Counterterrorism Centre (NCTC) and the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) has been politicized to an alarming degree.
Spurious debates about federalism and privacy have been allowed to derail meaningful anti-terror options. There is no need to debate these downright licentious ideas here except to say they are responsible for the terrorist mayhem seen in India every year.
At the moment there is some talk about creating a truncated NCTC and beginning operations. Truncated implies an NCTC whose domain is extended only to those states that agree to it and also taking away its powers to arrest persons suspected of involvement in terrorism. Letting the NCTC function is not a consumption decision where state governments can exercise a choice. It is a yes or no choice: either go the whole hog or let it rest where it is at the moment: in some filing cabinet in North Block. And then wait for the next atrocity.
The events since the Hyderabad blast have followed a predictable pattern. First comes the terrorist strike. This is followed by confusion at the state and Union government levels about availability of intelligence, prior warnings, etc. Then arrive the so-called solutions—beyond the confines of TV studios, that is. Finally, after the passage of 10-15 days, everything is history, until the next blast. And this is not the first time this story has been repeated.
What explains India’s inability to check terrorism? Tell us at email@example.com