Mumbai was attacked (on 14 places) on November 26th, 27th and 28th, 2008, by one of the most terrible attacks unleashed by the terrorists. AK-47, grenades, bombs and explosives, apart from a satellite phone, were used in the attack in the most posh area and hotels of Mumbai. The encounter with the terrorists lasted for nearly three days. So far over 200 innocent people, including 14 policemen, six foreigners as well as seven staff of the hotels were killed by the terrorists and over 327 injured. The terrorists wreaked havoc on the mercantile and business capital of India. The terrorists came via sea, to Mumbai, despite the heavy presence of Navy and Coast Guard, which have obviously failed in their duties. If Mumbai sea border cannot be safe, the position will be worse elsewhere along the coast. It makes no difference, what label terrorists have, whether you call them, fidayeens, or Deccan or Indian Mujahideens or any other well-known self-proclaimed terrorist outfit. An outfit calling itself Deccan Mujahideens has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Prime Minister has said that the government will not cow down and will bring the guilty to book. He has also said that the laws will be tightened to ensure that the terrorists do not take advantage of the loopholes in the law. The security of the people will not be compromised.
It is easier said than done, if the past experience has been any guide. With the passage of time, the gravity of the crime gets reduced and with the elections around the corner, the coalition partners would not like to be seen supporting any tough measures against the jehadis. More than anything, the official laughable stand of the government has been that the existing laws are enough. The Prime Minster has more than once pointed out the gaps in intelligence. Instead of saying that there has been a complete failure of intelligence, he has used the word ?gaps?. There is no doubt that there has been a complete failure of intelligence, whether it was July, 2006 train bomb blasts in Mumbai or 2008, September, serial bomb blasts in Delhi or the latest in Mumbai.
Whatever may be the quibbling of words, there is no doubt that it is very much the responsibility of the central government to maintain the integrity of the country against aggression both from without and from within. It is a fact that the reach of the central agencies is not only wider, but also broader, as they have the total overall view of the situation existing in the country at any given time. The truth is that we do not have a clear anti-terrorist policy or strategy. What we have is only a knee-jerk reaction to the events, as they happen. Even that is forgotten, till the next incident. The standard response, reactions and even the language of the leaders after terrorist attacks can be anticipated, like it is a cowardly attack, and that innocents have been made target and that very strict action will be taken against the perpetrators. But the ground reality is that after a visit to the scene of terrorists attack, a few statements, and announcement of compensation by the government to salve its own conscience, and to pay for its failure, things are back to the square one.
All this about negligence and failure of intelligence and failure of security agencies have been said again and again and since nobody listens, it must be said again. No accountability is enforced. Intelligence agencies take shelter by sending vague, inactionable and unspecific information or guesswork, which they call or pass off as intelligence. Some of the suggested steps are the use of high technology like the use of CCTV cameras, stricter border patrolling, having a National Citizens Register and involving the Muslim community in the fight against terrorism by enlisting them in intelligence and security agencies. If there is a will to fight terrorism and create a federal agency, the Government can do it overnight by an ordinance. India is governed by the rule of law and not statements of the leaders, unless they are converted into law.
There is no tough law in place to fight and eliminate terrorism. Here in our country, the Central Government is doing the hair splitting, whether Gujarat or Rajasthan needs a tougher anti terrorist law. Not only those two States, but the entire country needs tough laws. The fight against terrorism is in the domain of the Government, as it has the manpower, intelligence agencies, however rudimentary and ineffective, and weaponry. There conservative policy of the governments is not to arm the citizens. Not one per cent crime is committed with licensed weapons. Indeed the criminals and terrorists do not need any license to bear arms and kill people. It is the innocent, unarmed people who have to bear the brunt. Licensing of weapons should be liberalised, so that if the government is not able to protect the people, the people can do so. There is a legal right to private defence to even kill those, who are attacking to kill you. But this right, in this climate of terrorists, having free run of the country is rendered null and void, because of the normal approach of saying no to any gun license application. Private security agencies should be involved in a big way, and the weapons licensed to them to protect private and even Government establishments The Government should stop giving the impression of being soft on terrorists. The real problem in the country and the government is that no question is so difficult to answer as to that, to which the answer is obvious.
(The writer is IPS (Retd.), former Director, CBI, India and can be contacted at [email protected])