Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Terror and Beyond

Yet another terrorist attack, yet another bloodbath and yet another debate. The much brandished claims about Mumbai’s resilience and yet another crowd crying for some political heads to roll. The scenario has now acquired an eerie familiarity.

Yes, there is reason to cry, to weep. But once that is done with, there is even greater reason to think deep. “When will this stop? How can we stop it from happening again & again? USA learnt a lesson from 9/11 and prevented further terror attacks. When shall we be able to do it?” To all these questions, one answer pops up in my mind, “When we stop spitting on footpaths!”

It may seem a comic answer to some gravely serious questions. But think about it and it may provide some answers. We do not spit in our drawing rooms, but merrily do so in public places. We do not care enough for our shared resources. There is no feeling of ownership when it comes to public property. We burns buses in Mumbai while protesting overcrowding of our city by North Indians. In retaliation, Biharis burn down railway stations in Bihar. This is seen as an accepted form of expressing public anger. More people die every day in traffic accidents and riots because we think that our own rights outweigh our responsibilities.

Then why so much hue & cry when some outsiders come to our city and deface our iconic hotels?

“Terrorism has no religion”, says everybody. But the terrorist sentenced to death penalty for attacking our parliament merrily lives on in our prison because the ruling party fears losing its minority vote bank, if he is hanged. On the other hand, another terrorist outfit suddenly gains political support just because its members happen to be from a majority religion. My blast is holier than thou!

A predictable outcome of the Mumbai attacks is seen on TV. The media is telecasting “common man on the street” blaming the politicians for the attacks. This is not totally untrue. But my dear “common man on the street”, YOU are to be blamed for these politicians!

Politician-bashing although popular among media & public, is useless and unnecessary. Although they are not a very lovable lot, we can't really throw all our politicians into Arabian Sea. Who will rule the nation then? Military? MNCs? Changing the Home Minister or Chief Minister or even the Prime Minister won't help much. What track record does the opposition have in preventing terror attacks, when they were in power? But now they shamelessly demand resignations from the ruling party. The ruling party too did the same, when they were in opposition. The Blame Game is played out elaborately on such occasions. That is politics, India style.

I have seen people demand that security provided to politicians be withdrawn immediately. This is not good. Important leaders need to be protected. Some of them may be corrupt. After all they represent people of this nation! But we can’t let them be soft targets for such attacks. We have lost our national leaders to terrorist attacks before. And that was not a good thing for our national pride.

Another disturbing thing is the cry for military action against Pakistan based terror camps. Let us be realistic. Pakistan is not Afghanistan and India is no USA. When USA fired missiles on Kabul, they did not have to worry about retaliation at their borders. Taliban could only send small groups of terrorists to target specific locations in USA and after 9/11 USA did well to foil such attempts till now. But we share a long border with Pakistan. If a nuclear war breaks out in the region, our hope of growth as a superpower in foreseeable future is lost. We have to tackle this problem with some caution.

It can safely be concluded that irrespective of his political affiliations, no leader can stop terrorist attacks without a proper infrastructure in place. Just blaming somebody and crying for heads to roll is not going to solve the problem. We need concrete steps to be taken to prevent future attacks. I suggest some of those steps here. Somebody somewhere has to take the decisions. I hope that these thoughts reach the ones who will be taking those decisions. Feel free to add your suggestions.

1. Create elite commando bases in all metros. Give them the best equipments, weapons & training. Also helicopters, speed boats, fast cars & bikes. They all shall be under a central command at Delhi but shall be free to act speedily at any emergency. Post some of them on watch at important places in cities, round the clock. (Why just metros? -Terrorist organizations don't have enough manpower and finance to carry out widespread attacks in smaller towns. They want big publicity and maximum damage with minimum investment. So they will attack the soft targets in metros. However, if need arises, the commando units can easily be sent to interior places.)

2. Stringent Federal Law to deal with terror is needed. The commando units should be able to take unilateral action in case of emergency without waiting for state administration’s call for help.

3. Special courts to try all terrorists under the new federal law. Prosecution to be handled by legal wing of the elite commando units. Trials should be over within few months after collecting evidence. Appeals to be allowed only in a special bench of Supreme Court which will decide the case within weeks. No mercy petition allowed.

4. Have a constellation of geostationary satellites scanning the entire coastline and a dedicated ground center that will collate the info and watch for suspicious activity. Issue "identity radio tags" to all fishing & commercial boats of the nation. Feed their courses into a powerful computer and let the computer point out any aberrations.
5. Regular policing should also be improved with better equipment, weapons & training.

6. Create a separate wing of commandos to protect politicians. Personal protection needs a different kind of skill set that that is required in the situations we have witnessed in Mumbai.

7. Build up overwhelming and verifiable evidence of Paki involvement in the terror strikes. Call a meeting of ambassadors of all nations & hand over the evidence publicly. Give Pakistan fair chance to cooperate. If they don't, put the evidence before UN and ask the world to declare Pak a terrorist nation. Press USA to launch a joint action against Pak based terror bases. Mount an economic embargo against Pak.

8. Stop spitting on footpaths, breaking traffic signals, burning buses and railway stations.
If we can do this and put the infrastructure in place, we will not have to worry about such attacks in the future; whatever party or politician is ruling.