Not very intelligent, Mr Chidambaram

Not very intelligent, Mr Chidambaram

By M.J. Akbar | 11 September, 2011
Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram arrives at the Delhi High Court blast site in New Delhi on Wednesday. PTI

Calm down, everyone. Relax. Our invaluable Home Minister P. Chidambaram has finally found the answer to terrorism. Indeed, he did so on 13 July, after the Mumbai blasts.

It isn't his fault if this magic prescription has not quite worked, and death has returned to Delhi. Nothing is ever his fault. And anyone who thinks otherwise has to be either a fool or an enemy agent (which means of course an agent of Jayalalithaa or BJP).

Why doesn’t this torrent of intelligence include information of planned attacks? The infallible Chidambaram has the answer. It is because terrorists work “in a very clandestine manner”. The next time the chief of Lashkar e Taiba gets ready with a bomb he should send a detailed letter to Chidambaram.

On 13 July, Chidambaram explained that the blasts were not the "fault of intelligence agencies". They might have been to blame in those bad old days when the comb-loving Shivraj Patil (now condemned to life under chandeliers in some Raj Bhawan) was Home Minister of India. But no longer. These days the cops get intelligence every hour, every day. Maybe under Patil they got intelligence only every second hour, and never on weekends. But that slipshod era is over. It's all clockwork now.

So why haven't the terror attacks stopped? Why doesn't this torrent of intelligence include information of planned attacks? The infallible Chidambaram has the answer. It is because terrorists work "in a very clandestine manner". Eureka! Of course! Those dastardly cowards! How dare they remain clandestine! The next time the Lahore-based chief of Lashkar e Taiba, or any extremist villain in India, gets ready with a bomb he should send a detailed letter to Chidambaram, preferably by courier since normal mail cannot be totally trusted.

And then, based on incontrovertible evidence, a pot-bellied policeman can trot off to the sites, defuse the bomb, hold a press conference and start a nationwide agitation for the promotion of Chidambaram to the next job on the ladder of upward mobility.

Chidambaram has been a brilliant lawyer, and no one believes that his IQ is inadequate for his present job. Why then does he make silly remarks? Does a crisis bring out the worst rather than the best in our ministers? Do our ministers believe that the Indian voter is devoid of common sense, and that inane excuses of the clandestine sort are sufficient to ward off public rage?

The Indian is patient. He is not unreasonable in his expectations. He does not believe that there is some magic wand that will eliminate this scourge with a whoosh. But he is not a fool. The luminaries of this government, most particularly Rahul Gandhi, got evidence of what the voter thinks when he was heckled during his courtesy visit to the hospital to meet victims.

Sadly, even as terrorists get more brazen police get more complacent. They know nothing will happen even if they do nothing. What has happened after the July Mumbai incidents apart from tokenism? But the knee-jerk motions continue after each outrage.

May I be permitted to publish an appeal on behalf of The Learned Society of Common Sense to our police officers? Please do not continue to indulge in that sorry hoax called a computer-generated likeness of suspects. The truth is that police are clueless and these images are planted on the front pages of newspapers to simulate a sense of urgency in the hunt that has absolutely no relationship with reality.

If police had a clue, the bombs would not have gone off. The justification is that the images are a composite of responses from survivors at the site of the attack. How does anyone in that unfortunate crowd know who placed the bomb? The terrorist put some distance between his weapon of destruction and himself or he would be dead too. The Delhi outrage was not the work of suicide bombers. Is there ever any eventual resemblance between these images and actual suspects, if any are discovered?

Dropcap OnThese images are more likely to be the outcome of imagination propelled by fear among the people and cynical prejudice on the part of the police. Check: these instant images will almost always be adorned with a beard. This is institutionalised communalism, and not very subtle either, against Muslims. Forty eight hours after the Delhi incident the Home Minister said that leads were promising but not very conclusive. As far as the public sentiment is concerned, however, judgement has already been passed.

A long face is obligatory when anyone in establishment, government or opposition, delivers a sermon on terrorism and advocates the need for a bipartisan offensive. The problem is not one of intention. That is good enough. The worry is that our police system is riddled with inefficiency, a fact that is not lost on those working so meticulously to damage India. The question that should give sleepless nights to Parliament is stark: has terrorism in India become risk-free?

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