It is perhaps the politically correct thing to mutter cliches about the bravery of our fallen men-in-arms, how they died gallantly in service of their country, and what outstanding people they were. Those of you who know me will not be surprised if I refuse to do so. The police officers and soldiers who died did not wish to die – as the American General said, patriotism is about making the other dumb bastard die for his country.
Let us look at the Bombay tragedy and the Indian response closely. First, the complete and utter failure of intelligence needs to be recognised. Second, the lack of an intelligence service should be addressed. Third, we must consider that perhaps India deserves what happened, given the kind of leaders WE elected into office. Fourth, the media element – who in blazes covers security operations against terrorists LIVE?
I am fully aware that terrorism in its nature seeks to attack where unexpected and with indeterminate force. It is NOT possible to stop ALL terror attacks. That, however, should not be our excuse for not stopping any, or handling situations once they have been presented ineptly. Part of the blame goes to the great Congress Party for this debacle. Repealing POTA was perhaps among the most treasonous things it has done (along with socialism, the war with China in 1962, and the Mandal Commission). This hampered what little effort Indian police were capable of putting into counter terrorism. Secondly, India needs to wake up to a new beast – international terrorism. So far, we have fought limited battles over Kashmir with them, and the regular bomb blasts around the country aimed more at communal disharmony than destablising the entire nation. Of course, there are exceptions, but by and large, India’s terrorist problems have fallen under one umbrella – Pakistan. What we witnessed was a far more sophisticated form of terrorism whose roots go not just to Pakistan’s ISI but to al Qaeda. The meticulous planning surpasses anything the Pakistanis have yet done and the support, logistics, and supplies implicate a far more able adversary. India is now – in terrorist eyes – like any other Western power or Israel.
In the face of this new threat, it is worth mentioning that India does not have an espionage agency as most other nations do. The IB, RAW, CID, and other departments all fall under the jurisdiction of the Indian Police Service. There is no agency in India that conducts espionage and counter-espionage that is responsible only to the Prime Minister’s Office and Parliament. I am nt sure what his is an outgrowth of, but it certainly smacks of turf wars. It is a pity that protecting one’s turf and budget is more important than the country, but that is exactly the message that is being sent to the Indian people by the government bureaucracy. Unless this is rectified, we cannot expect better performance than what we have seen. India certainly has the technology to deploy spy satellites that keep an eye on our enemies’ moves, intercept their communications, and such – so why are we not doing it?
Later stories revealed unparalleled corruption and nepotism among the rank and file of the intelligence services. According to a DNA investigation, within days of taking over as R&AW chief, Chaturvedi ordered the agency to hire his own private flat in Noida, on Delhi’s outskirts, as a safe house. As R&AW chief, Chaturvedi has almost autonomous control of over the agency’s annual budget of over Rs. 1,000 crore. Sources spoken to by DNA said that R&AW may also have provided financial assistance to Chaturvedi’s son based in Europe from discretionary funds meant for intelligence operations, but no documentary evidence on this was available. However, other sources confirmed this allegation. Chaturvedi’s detractors also talk of the R&AW chief’s house being staffed by over two dozen agency personnel. Among them: staff to look after his dogs, two cooks, almost half a dozen telephone operators and four gardeners.
The Bombay Police were not far behind in claiming their share of the Government largesse. Senior ministers had repeatedly stressed that the force would be modernised and equipped with machines that would allow it to return terrorists’ firepower. But most of those promises have remained on paper, even a cursory glance at the last few years’ budgetary provisions reveal. Records show that the government has spent Rs 940 crore on “modernisation” in the last eight years. But most of the money has been used for construction of new police stations, administrative buildings and buying luxury sedans for senior IPS officers. “We had adequate funds but never upgraded our firepower to tackle terror attacks. That was why we were helpless when terrorists attacked Mumbai,” a senior IPS officer said, adding that 60% of the Rs 940 crore was spent on buildings and cars and very little on improving mobility or upgrading weapons and ammunition.
Officials say the home department’s focus is on procuring luxury vehicles and accessories for top officers. Maharashtra has 22 additional DGPs and four DGPs. Every one has a luxury sedan. IGPs and SPs too have modern cars at their disposal and at least 20 such cars are at the disposal of the deputy CM himself. Some of them are used by him, the remaining are used by his staff. “Chinese-made beacons worth about Rs 30,000 had been fitted on many of these vehicles but could not be replaced after they stopped working as there was no warranty,” an official added. Officials expected the home department to draft a plan to buy bullet-proof cars for officers in sensitive posts, replace age-old weapons and procure more bullet-proof jackets for personnel. But none of that has happened. “We have no ammunition for training State Reserve Police Force officials and so most SRPF constables have absolutely no experience of using rifles. They use it when they are summoned to tackle a mob or to control riots,” the IPS officer said. A programme was drafted for getting AK-47s and replacing obsolete weapons two years ago but it was not followed up seriously. Maharashtra, as a result, is the only state in India where most cops embark on sensitive operations with old weapons. Ditto for bullet-proof jackets.
Coming more specifically to the events of the three horrific days, a huge part of the responsibility for the failure in Bombay must also be borne by the people of Bombay. They chose to send an actor (Govinda) unversed in the running of a state to Parliament and elect a criminal (Arun Gawli) to the state legislature. It is not in the least bit surprising to me that these characters have been found wanting in a time of crisis. Democracy gives us the right to be utterly stupid and the citizens of India proudly abuse this right. Today, when Mumbaikars (and Indians) look to the Maharashtra government in disappointment, let me remind them that they were the ones who chose to votes with their rears rather than their heads. An incident that really drives home my point is when Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister R R Patil kicked off a row when he said “such small incidents happen” with reference to terror attacks in Bombay. He said, scarce realising his faux pas, “bade shahron mein aise ek adh hadse hote rahte hain. Woh 5,000 logon ko marne aye the lekin humne kitna kum nuksan hone diya . (Such small incidents happen in big cities. They (terrorists) came to kill 5,000 people but we ensured minimal damage)”
The fourth and most fundamental failure was the media. Indian news anchors belong to that part of hell where stupidity and treason are both found. I have NEVER seen the media cover commando operations in progress live on national television. Any terrorist with a blackberry could have planned a response based on the feed from our own TV stations. Israel went so far as to condemn the Indian operation at Nariman Bhavan as premature and lacking. Although we are not privy to the logistical details of the NSG, I can guarantee you that one thing the Israelis were appalled
by was our brain dead media. Not only was the camera coverage shockingly lacking in common sense but so was the audio commentary. I wasn’t sure whether to cry or to laugh when I heard journalists ask their cameramen the positions of the commandos and other such blatantly retarded questions. On the rare occasion the Indian media was not conspiring with the terrorists, they were busy with the usual clichés about bravery, honour, and sacrifice. Needless to say, they have reacted angrily to Israel’s criticism of Indian operations, perhaps because Israel was criticising their role more than our commandos.
Other bloggers have also lashed out at the Indian media for doing a “pathetic job”. In his post entitled ‘Pennies Prevail Over Prudence’, blogger Veetrag called the media “irresponsible” and “sensational”. “I am watching TV channels — NDTV, IBN-CNN, India TV, Sahara Samay, Star News and many others and have realised that none of them are doing their job properly,” said Veetrag. Among the ineptness that the blogger complained about included the media’s penchant for providing sensitive information, shooting close-ups of injured people instead of helping them, and their lack of sensitivity towards released hostages in the quest for headline news. “It’s not even minutes that the lady has come out of such horrible situation and our reporter is asking silly questions… and pushing her to the point that she starts crying.”
155 dead and 327 wounded – it was a high price to pay for the public and the Indian Government to awaken. I hope in G-d’s name that these questions I raised are being seriously looked into behind the closed doors of politicians, intelligence services, and private citizens. The end of the Cold War brought an uncertain world, and an unforgiving one at that. If this is how India continues to handle its challenges, we will be left talking only of the glories of Indian civilisation 5,000 years past, for there will be no new tales to recount.