The Criminal and the Callous

The Criminal and the Callous

By M.J. Akbar | 17 July, 2011
BJP workers carry an effigy of Rahul Gandhi during a rally to protest his remarks on Mumbai serial blasts, in Bhopal on Friday. PTI

There is no category of criminals as brutish and barbaric as terrorists. The depravity of their intention is matched only by the perversity of their actions. Their target is the innocent citizen, the non-partisan, the individual, the nameless child who might have been drawn to death by the accident of circumstance, or the misfortune of destiny. The terrorists who attacked Mumbai on 13 July were cowards, hiding maliciously behind anonymity. Since we live in an age increasingly stripped of values, whether in war, peace or the indeterminate grey in between, a brave city like Mumbai has adjusted to the fact that terrorism is part of the price of urban density. But Mumbai will not reconcile itself to either the inefficiency or the alibi that politicians trot out to protect themselves from the whiplash of accountability.

The Chief Minister of Maharashtra Prithviraj Chavan can think of nothing more original than passing the buck. It was his Home Minister R.R. Patil's fault, he said, before he did the next thing that politicians are brilliant at: the somersault. Acrobatics cannot explain why the entire police wireless network that evening was jammed, among other things. There is, in fact, nothing more to be said on Mumbai's security after the Times of India's brilliant page one photograph on Saturday morning. It showed a beached high-speed boat, one of the seven with bulletproof cabins and deep sea radio reception that had been purchased after the attack by Pak-trained terrorists on 26 November 2008 to protect Mumbai's coastline. The dead boat was lying face down on Versova beach; the other six were anchored, and idle, behind it because of a lack of trained policemen. More astonishingly, the government did not provide enough fuel. Each boat got just enough petrol to function for an hour a week. Who is responsible for this colossal inefficiency? The Maharashtra government? Delhi's home ministry, which is astute at seizing credit if any is due, and transferring blame when anything goes wrong?

Rahul Gandhi’s rather facile argument that this attack represented the “1%” that had succeeded rather than the “99%” who had failed is the sort of excuse that cannot survive marginal scrutiny.

Will any minister be held answerable within the Congress-NCP governments in Mumbai and Delhi? No. You can be sure of that.

Politicians often run out of excuses. That constitutes a mere problem. When they run out of words you know that they are entangled in a full-blown crisis. The man designated to keep Indians safe from terrorists, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who is usually good with words, lost track and traction when he asserted after the Mumbai blasts that as far as suspects go, he was ruling no one out, and ruling no one in either. That probably explains why the Maharashtra police immediately picked up two members of the Indian Mujahideen and seven Naxalites from Mumbai, and 10 Maoists from Pune. They have clearly expanded their circle of the usual suspects.

Just in case this has not confused you sufficiently, Chidambaram added, "When there is no intelligence on a particular incident, it does not mean failure of intelligence agencies... There was no intelligence of an imminent attack in Mumbai." So that's all right, then. If you were merely ignorant, you haven't failed. Terrorists really should be more considerate towards Chidambaram and telephone him first. How long must we live with gobbledygook?

Dropcap OnOne retired police officer who has spent most of his career in intelligence, and retired at the head of his service, told me a simple truth: that the only reason we are not attacked more often is either luck, or that there was no threat.

Rahul Gandhi repeated — in fact, read out from a piece of paper — the rather facile argument that this attack represented the "1%" that had succeeded rather than the "99%" who had failed. This is the sort of excuse that cannot survive marginal scrutiny. Where is the evidence of attacks being thwarted? If the police had succeeded in preventing an attack, then they should have a suspect and a story of what had been planned by the suspect. There has been none from the Mumbai police.

The Mumbai citizen has a simple query: is Mumbai protected as securely as Rahul Gandhi, or any other political VIP, is? If not, why not?

In fact, if the Mumbai police looked after the citizen even with as much concern as they bestow on the welfare of the brother of Dawood Ibrahim, our most wanted accused on the terror list, Mumbai would be grateful. Ibrahim the Younger continues to thrive in Mumbai. Mumbai police do not play favourites. They are also very kind to his underworld rival Chhota Rajan, without any noticeable harm coming to either don. Rajan is so comfortable that he happily gives interviews to newspapers from his lair; his hideout is not very hidden.

There is a rational collective consciousness which understands that you cannot eliminate terrorism in these troubled times, but if government cannot eliminate a callous response, then it will be eliminated in the next election.

 

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