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Delhi blast points to sheer apathy

 | September 9, 2011

India appears to be napping while terrorists are having an easy run.

COMMENT

The bomb explosion outside Delhi High Court on Wednesday morning that left 12 dead and about 100 injured could not have been timed at a more inconvenient period in India’s history.

The Congress-led coalition government in New Delhi has just barely managed to raise its head above water (after the Anna Hazare fast) when an explosive device in a briefcase was planted at a very strategic point on the court premises that is usually crowded. The bomb ticked and blasted out precious lives.

Later that Wednesday, it became clear that the scam-tainted government had lost people’s confidence when the Prime Minister-in-waiting, Rahul Gandhi, (Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi’s son), was shouted out of a Delhi hospital where he had gone to see those hurt in the explosion.

“Shame on Rahul Gandhi, Go back”, the assembled crowd of relatives of the dead and injured shouted.

Years ago, Rahul himself had lost his father and onetime India’s Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, to a Sri Lankan suicide bomber’s murderous assault near Chennai. Earlier, Sonia herself had only reluctantly agreed to husband Rajiv’s accession to the prime ministerial post after his mother, Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her own Sikh bodyguards.

In recent years, several bomb blasts, notably in Mumbai and New Delhi, have destroyed many lives and wounded hundreds of men, women and children. The assaults were believed to have been carried out by radical Islamic groups, and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami has said that it was responsible for Wednesday’s Delhi carnage. But there are doubts about this.

At this point in time, it seems immaterial which organisation had planted the briefcase. What is of immediate importance and concern is the fact that India appears to be napping while terrorists are having an easy run. Those in charge of security are not quite on their toes.

Let me give you one example. At our airports, I have always had this sneaking suspicion that the security personnel are not as alert or strict as their counterparts in other countries.

Travelling this time to Venice via Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport, I found that the guys there at the security gates are far stricter than those at Mumbai Airport.

And mind you, Wednesday’s explosion was not exactly a “bolt from the blue”. A news report avers that “the Intelligence Bureau had tabled its final report in July on the attempted blast outside the same Delhi High Court on May 25, 2011 and had reportedly alerted the Delhi police that the  unexploded device was no crude bomb but a more sophisticated weapon.

“The IB and the Home Ministry had also reportedly alerted the Delhi police that the May attempt could be soon followed up by a similar attack”.

Failing to act on tips

Obviously the Delhi police appears to have taken this warning either lightly or chosen to ignore it altogether. The probe into the ghastly incident has now been rightly handed over to the National Investigation Agency.

One of the most important ways to prevent terror attacks is to have an effective ground-level information-gathering system.

This is apparently flawed in India. Also, the action taken after one attack forms the basis to stop the next. The police has faltered in both, indicating a terrible and apathetic lax.

Like in this case, most of the time raw intelligence about an impending terror strike is available. But sheer inertia prevents the police from systematically following  leads and acting on tips.

An important cause of this could be that India’s counter-terror infrastructure leaves much to be desired. Shocking as it sounds, 700,000 posts remain vacant in the police and defence forces, and this in a workforce surplus nation.

Not surprisingly though, not one blast case that has occurred in the past two years has been solved – probably also underlining a serious lacuna in forensic capability.

Finally, is it not time that Indian administrators put aside their grouses, grievances, prejudices and squabbles  to get the country on its feet and running?

Gautaman Bhaskaran is a Chennai-India based author, columnist and film critic, and can be contacted at [email protected]. He is an FMT columnist.


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