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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Post 26/11


The nation is in a state of mourning.

The shock-waves that stunned the country for 62 excruciating hours are now thawing into tearful farewells and heartrending wails, making us all aware, with every passing minute, of the terrible times we are living in and the juvenile sense of security we take to our beds every night.

Like in any great crisis, this one too has had its heroes – people who couldn’t care less about their own lives while saving others’. Some of them are being consigned to the flames as I write. Yet, before the fire in their pyres are out there will be legitimate queries from various quarters questioning the longevity of our outrage, the durability of this ire. And it is my personal belief that these people are not entirely wrong in suspecting our ability as a nation, as a polity and as a people to redress with a vengeance when wronged. History shows that we have always been a nation of the “Chalta hain” sluggards when it comes to prompt thinking and prompter action.

We bypass what is difficult; we overlook what is inconvenient.

The Sunday Hindustan Times had Vir Sanghvi in his Counterpoint column noting:

“Consider the US. Nobody blamed George Bush for 9/11. And for all his faults he was able to ensure that there would be no terrorist attack for the next eight years. Or think of England. The country was shocked by the 7/7 bombings. But politicians assured people that there would be no repeat and indeed, there’s been nothing since. Think of Indonesia. The Bali bombing has not been followed by any terrorist attack on that scale.

I can think of only three countries where terrorism reigns unchecked: Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.”

Just think of the other two countries in the same bracket and you will get the picture. Over the years we have become a generous recipient of terrorism exported by our neighbors (Pakistan being our ‘Most Favored Nation’ in trade is a valid excuse, maybe), an endless sink for all the toxic spawned in ‘their’ backyards and our tirelessness in this department still doesn’t seem to be remotely disturbed. If we are playing our “war of attrition” card here, I doubt if we are winning, in any possible way.

No one denies that given a chance our politicians would never tire of milking the terror cow dry. Be it terror of any “genre” – Hindu, Muslim, separatist, revolutionary and they cannot wait to throw their hats in. Add to this scene few well-timed elections and you get the entire circus running full-steam, not ahead by an inch but in circles.

The Media also plays its part well in the greater scheme of things. Some news channels, in their rush to grab the TRPs, did not even pay heed to a Home Ministry advisory while televising the Mumbai Siege “LIVE”. Perhaps their intuition had told them that the minister himself would need advisories on post-retirement pension schemes soon. But they ended up spreading the terror for the terrorists in their wake and that didn’t help the cause in anyway. Talking of media personalities, it is better if I don’t write at length my recent disillusionment regarding some of them. People who are supposed to have transformed the news-watching habits of the entire nation by their “fire-brand, no-nonsense brand of journalism” were seen thrusting mikes at the faces of dazed victims grappling with their new found lives after a horrid ordeal. And all that for “How do you feel?” .Stray bullets come at a premium too, it seems. All the respect which I had for their sensitivity to human trauma and their courage to fight for lost causes had instantly vanished.

“ Give a big man a great job and see how small he can be ” – I remember to have read somewhere.

The Big Question then is - If TERRORISM could ever have a perceivable end any time in the foreseeable future?

If “yes”, How?

A Federal Agency to counter terror can only be effective if it is kept isolated from the ever evolving political dynamics in our country or else it will end up getting mired in filing scams and disproportionate assets – an abiding legacy of our ministers. Also, in the first place, the installation of such an agency would require amendment of the Constitution which enlists Law and Order as a State responsibility. If this agency is to focus all its resources in handling terrorist activities it would need much teeth and meddling in its affairs would only negate the initial enthusiasm and rarify its real purpose. Tackling this new brand of urban terrorism will need extensive intelligence networking and enforcement of stricter laws. A few people at the top should be made accountable for the actions of the Agency.

The promise that this much-touted Agency holds, even in its days of inception, is immense and so will be the ignominy if it fails. But, we would want ‘the powers that be’ to do anything to try and avoid another 26th November as we have just had.