The deadly assault on Mumbai and slaughter of innocent civilians, directed by serving officers of the Pakistani armed forces, will not be the last outrage against India. It is therefore important for ordinary citizens, unable to exercise direct influence over politicians and officers of the Indian State, to understand why there is little effective response to such episodes of war against them. However, ordinary citizens cannot escape all culpability for the dire situation that has overtaken India. It is the citizens of Maharashtra who have voted back to power the very politicians who demonstrated utter incompetence in relation to 26/11. And it is they who have stomached the restoration to office of the extraordinarily arrogant Home Minister in Maharashtra that presided at the time. The crass Chief Minister himself, who seemed to regard the tragedy an opportunity to promote his son’s acting career in Bollywood, suffered the briefest chastisement for indecent haste, but was quickly elevated to even higher things at the Centre.
Widow Vinita Kamte’s courageous campaign to expose the failings of the Mumbai police are guaranteed to fail and she will undoubtedly be consigned to obscurity when her news value diminishes, as it must shortly. There are complex professional and technical reasons why the police reaction was so shameful, notwithstanding the personal bravery of individual officers, which is a story repeated again and again in India. Nobody in authority seems truly interested in approaching the very serious problem of terrorism with professionalism and ruthless efficiency. It would provide a measure of enhanced security for India, despite the intrinsic difficulty of interdicting determined killers, ready to commit suicide, besieging multiple points of porous territory. At bottom, an irredeemably bankrupt political class and an essentially amoral, fun-loving middle class engaged in enraptured navel gazing lead India. It is a mystery why so many ordinary security service personnel repeatedly lay down their lives for these benighted citizens of India. Yet, the police service seems quite unable to learn from past experience and prepare for the terror assaults that have bedevilled India for more than two decades; indeed, longer if Maoist violence is included?
The first and most obvious reason seems to elude India’s overpaid celebrity commentators, thronging the airwaves with coiffured self-regard and serial non-sequiturs. The Indian police and allied security forces actually do a good job, indeed a very good job. But their job is not normal policing as the average citizen presumes, which would be to investigate criminality as well as organise and arm to prevent the kind of terrorist atrocity frequently suffered by Indian cities. In fact, their real job is to keep politicians happy by harassing anyone identified by the latter, do their bidding in general and that includes gathering intelligence useful to political incumbents. Otherwise, why would India’s national intelligence organisation busy itself trying to predict election results? And this is also why senior police officers are invariably screened by politicians and rewarded accordingly when the political master is pleased. Yes, the police do investigate crime and even resolve them on occasion, though by resorting to third degree methods of interrogation rather than forensic scrutiny. They also show up to deal with public order tasks, which seems to involve the lathi charge, tear gassing and rarer episodes of firings to quell supposedly unruly citizens. In the end though it is the political master’s specific personal requirements that have to be catered for and that is the task in which a policeman has to excel in order to advance and prosper. This is the reason why the most egregious procedural failures in investigating the gruesome murder of a Delhi dentist’s teenage daughter, which allowed the killers to escape justice, did not prevent the subsequent promotion of the police officer responsible for oversight of the case.
The brave widow Vinita Kamte’s error of judgement has been to question how the bullet proof jacket worn by her husband, which evidently failed to fulfil its purpose of deflecting bullets and keep her husband alive, was apparently mislaid. In doing so, she has threatened a major underlying rationale of Indian officialdom, affecting every layer of its functioning. Public sector contracts must allow for kickbacks, which override the real supposed rationale of any government purchase. Thus, road tarmac needs to unfailingly deteriorate, so that repeat contracts to restore the same stretch of road facilitate recurring kickbacks, despite enormous cost to the taxpayer. And even major purchases of hardware for the nation’s armed forces regularly reveal shocking deficiencies that are paid for in blood by India’s armed forces and endanger the security of India. This is why criminal malfeasance in the purchase of substandard bulletproof jackets by the Mumbai police cannot be investigated. In this criminal misappropriation, through kickbacks, the police and their political masters are both beneficiaries and India is their country and they will always prevail. As a footnote it might be alluded that if some wily politicians are tempted to occasionally scapegoat a police officer in order to divert public attention they are constrained because the police have enough intelligence on their misdeeds to sink them. President John F. Kennedy’s inability to get rid of the very knowledgeable FBI chief, Edgar Hoover, comes to mind as an infamous example of this relationship between a political master and a knowing security service employee.
Yet there are deeper reasons in India for the failure of the political class to deal with the threat of terrorism on the war footing it deserves. One can only understand the failure by focussing on the very specific interests of the political class. The foremost reason for the callous insouciance of the political class towards repeated assault by Pakistani jihadis is the indifference of the electorate, though watching middle class, urban audiences on television programmes might create a misleading impression of public anger. It amounts to an infinitesimal intrusion into actual electoral politics, as recent election results emphatically confirm. In fact politicians themselves have quite shamelessly misappropriated tens of thousands of highly trained Special Forces for their own protection. Second, political parties benefiting from the votes of minority communities have cynically calculated that terror outrages mobilise them and elicit votes in favour of politicians who seem to offer some guarantees of protection from a backlash against them that could conceivably emanate from a frustrated majority. A third reason is that responses to terror necessitate hard choices and the spilling of blood. And that threatens to lead into unknown political territory, which in the context of the political salience of India’s calculatedly hysterical human rights crusaders, often fronts for global terror organisations, politicians are anxious to avoid. Finally, the US and the UK are holding a gun to the head of India, with enough dirt on compromised senior politicians to end political careers and ruin personal reputations. This is the reality that has been destroying Indian independence in the aftermath of late Prime Minister, Narashima Rao and his two illustrious predecessors, both mother and son. The rule of political skeletons has since reared its terrifying head to rob India of political autonomy.
One final cruel twist to the sordid tale has been laid bare by revelations in the aftermath of the horrifying execution of so many innocent people in Mumbai. India’s television channels turned the tragedy into a spectacle by providing live broadcast of the entire security force response to the siege. The Pakistani handlers of the terrorists were able to keep the assassins inside Nariman House informed of the movements of the commandos, warning them, for example, that they were poised on the roof by simply monitoring Indian television channels. Disastrous policing failures were ultimately responsible for the farce, but the primacy of TV ratings and the fate of celebrity anchors in India triumphed over sanity, articulating a profound moral decay of India and its people. There is no nation, no national interest no ethics of a mutuality of concern amongst its people, only amoral private greed. In a final dénouement, one Maharashtra government Minister, cowering trapped in the Taj, still managed to give an interview to the media from his cell phone, eagerly announcing the numbers hiding and their location within the hotel. It prompted the triumphant handler in Pakistan to proclaim that God was on their side since he had put three ministers and several senior bureaucrats within reach inside the Taj. God had evidently forgotten India and its people.