September 13th: Another wake up call

As I turn pages after pages of the newspapers; any and every newspaper; a sense of despair and hopelessness consumes my heart. On last count the death toll was 24, twenty four innocent human beings blasted off for no rhyme or reason and several more injured and maimed for life. Barely two months after serial blasts in Bangalore and Ahmadabad and four months after the deadly massacre in Jaipur, these blasts raise serious questions about not just the safety and security of citizens but also the effectiveness of anti-terror laws, and the inadequacy of Intelligence Agencies and the Government to combat terror.

Jut like the earlier four cities, Delhi too shows resilience and courage. It stands together in its fight against terror as it scrambles to get back on its feet. People were volunteering not only to ferry the injured to hospitals but also transport the bodies of the dead for cremation, thronging hospitals in large numbers to donate blood and collecting funds to help the injured and poor. Two days after 5 serial blasts rocked the Capital and two unexploded bombs further tighten the grip of terror, Delhiites were back on the streets. Although footfalls in most market places were limp and the rider ship on the Metro was low, the Delhites refused to let the incident dampen their spirit.

But at present, with the wave of terrorist attacks engulfing more and more cities, more than just resilience is needed. Four major Indian cities have witnessed terror attacks by the same terrorist outfits. This group rather gallantly sends emails forewarning of the blasts and claiming responsibility, using internet and Wi-Fi connections of unsuspecting citizens; managing twice from the same city. This group is openly attacking the government and promising to continue with this slaughter of the innocent. And yet, as city after city bleeds and trembles with fear and uncertainty, all that the government does is give suitable condolence speeches and promise cash remuneration for the dead and injured. I am sure there are easier ways to empty the coffers than let innocent helpless citizens die and then remunerate them. It is evident that Delhi is not the last in this ongoing series. And if these attacks continue with such sickening regularity even the resilience would succumb.

Hon’ able Home Minister Shivraj Patil in a press release on Monday, 15th September ruled out tougher laws against terrorism and laid emphasis on modernization of Police force and Intelligence agencies along with better implementation of existing laws. The question is, when do we plan to start this process? How many more citizens need to die and cities need to explode for the people in power to wake up and take some serious action?

Intelligence agencies have evidently failed to keep pace with the Indian Mujahideen to neutralize and identify the terror cells. The increasing number and frequency of terror attacks in India post 9/11 is an example of this. These terrorist outfits are definitely more technologically advanced and technically capable than the Investigative agencies. The absence of a dedicated task force with special skills to combat terrorism is an important set back. The centre has not even been able to meet the manpower requirement of 3000 personnel approved for the proposed Federal Intelligence Agency. The failure to stop this wave of terror from spreading can also be attributed to Political inhibitions, electoral calculations, lack of coordination at various levels of investigative agencies and failure of public opinion to pressurize the political leaders to use an iron hand to terminate this menace. Also there is very little convergence of views at the political level on what needs to be done. While the oppositions are unanimous in passing bills to increase their pay, such solidarity and unanimity is absent in the case of countering terrorism. The lack of an effective machinery to implement the existing laws hammers the final nail in the coffin.

This problem has been identified by the government yet its solution is yet to gain a sound foothold. The need of the hour is a Central investigative agency for counter terrorism to build up a force of dedicated investigation officers with required expertise and training, who will not be subject to frequent transfers at the whims and fancies of the politicians. Thus if implementation of existing laws is not backed by a stronger and more stable machinery, highly specialized and upgraded Intelligence agencies and a government more focused on fighting this organized and technologically aided form of terrorism; India would continue to witness more such deadly and destructive attacks.
Aishwarya Padmanabhan
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