Terrorists have struck again in Hyderabad. The attack, in the wake of the hanging of Parliament-attack accused Afzal Guru, underlines that militants can orchestrate and time a strike in India almost at will. Home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has said there were intelligence inputs that such an attack was being planned. This is supposed to be solace to families who have lost their near and dear ones.
If Shinde is to be believed, the government failed to pre-empt the bomb strikes despite efforts. The truth is that New Delhi did not have a clue.
Intelligence inputs to state governments lead nowhere. Most warnings are too general to be acted upon or taken seriously. There has been a beeline of VIPs, including the Prime Minister, to Hyderabad.
They fly in and fly out without making any difference except further straining the already stretched administration. Across the country policemen have set up road blocks and barricades that serve no other purpose than cause massive traffic jams. Some cops hang about looking bored or play cards.
At other times, they glare at regular folks inside vehicles headed for the office or elsewhere expecting to catch Dawood Ibrahim.
With no such success and under pressure to do something, they pick a commuter at random to harass about improper car or bike papers until paid a bribe. It is a favorite and lucrative pastime. The security people can be efficient if they want to.
Try packing a laptop or an expensive cell phone with check-in baggage on a flight. The security-loader mafia will sniff it out in jiffy and the gadgets disappear for good. India’s security deployment is skewed – enormous resources, including state-of-the art technologies, are used to protect a few important and mostly unimportant people, some key installations, but mostly big bungalows of the VIPs.
(READ MORE: Opinion: The dubious hanging of Afzal Guru)
The heavily politicized intelligence agencies are misused to conduct political witch hunts and keep tabs on electoral prospects of the party in power. Counter terrorism suffers. Heavily armed jehadi militants almost managed to storm the Indian Parliament in 2001 and succeeded in raiding 5-star hotels in Mumbai 26/11, 2008 killing at will. Meanwhile, contingents of orderlies, factotums, round the clock armed guards, personal security officers, bodyguards protect and run errands for ministers, politicians, officials and their families.
Manpower is wasted and underemployed. The well buffered VIPs move about bullet proof red beaconed vehicles, while basic policing to safeguard common citizens is abysmal. Here, security personnel are overstretched and thinly spread.
The lower level semi-literate constabulary, the key to tackling crime, is saddled with multiple responsibilities — checking, investigating, pre-empting, preventing heinous crime, robbery, rape, road accidents, eve teasing, molestations, burglaries, riots, dowry, attacks on senior citizens – the incidence of each in India is among the worst in the world. Then there is terror.
When the police are unable to tackle regular crime, why expect any difference in taking on terrorism. The inefficiency is systemic.
A police constable in India is like a cricketer who is the lead bowler, batsman, spinner, wicket keeper, night watchman, captain – all the same time, day and night, earning a salary that can hardly support his family.
The challenges are impossible and inhuman. Indian policing is associated with all that should not be – corruption, prevarication, non-registering of cases, shoddy investigations. The first response at any police station is to deny the crime and shoo off the complainant. Such a pretense cannot sustain.
It is demolished when terror strikes or a woman is gang raped and killed in a moving bus in South Delhi. Crowded markets, places of worship, railway stations vulnerable to repeated terror attacks are completely unguarded with minimum or no deployment.
Terror groups, including local variants such as the Indian Mujahideen, use rudimentary improvised explosive devices that can be easily assembled locally, packed in pressure cookers or tiffin boxes to escape detection. They pick crowded areas to inflict maximum human casualty.
In the past they have attacked the Mumbai local trains, bustling Delhi markets Chandni Chowk and Sarojini Nagar, Benaras, Guwahati, Ahmedabad any other city of their choosing. The injuries and deaths within a short range are due to shrapnel that fly about like fiery bullets at high velocity.
The victims are disfigured and maimed forever. If a vital organ is hit, it causes instant death. Others lose their limbs and left to fend for themselves after the VIP’s fly back to their cocooned existence in security citadels. India’s war on terror needs a major overhaul.