For all engagements of the PM, protocols are prescribed in detail, which have to be implemented in a stringent manner.
It is quite heartening to know that at least in matters pertaining to the security of the Prime Minister, the professional agencies are impervious to any outside interference. The reference is to a recent news report where for the Prime Minister’s election rally at Khargone in Madhya Pradesh, attempts were made to change the orientation of the rostrum so as to make it “vaastu” compliant. The security establishment, as it is learnt, had the last word in the matter and resisted all pressures successfully.
For all engagements of the Prime Minister, especially for large public rallies, protocols and rules are prescribed in detail, which have to be implemented in a very stringent manner. Naturally, while framing or revising such rules, experts give their best advice to ensure that all possible contingencies are taken into account. The age old adage attributed to George Santayana, an American philosopher, that “those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it” appears to be quite relevant in the context of the security of the Prime Minister. As such, for any security establishment, in the historical perspective of other cases, it would be extremely important to analyse the weaknesses, if any, in the system and systematically upgrade the skills of personnel to meet the challenge of the rapidly changing security environment.
As far as drawing lessons from history is concerned, the assassination of Prime Minister Nawaabzada Liaquat Ali Khan of Pakistan at Rawalpindi in 1951 is a case in point. He was killed while addressing a public meeting from a wooden stage (takht) of a low height of four and a half feet only. This perhaps became the weakest point in his security arrangement, as while speaking from a standing position with a microphone in front but without a speaker’s lectern, he was fully exposed. The audience was also seated not far from the stage. In the given scenario, the assailant had little difficulty in taking a shot at the Prime Minister from a close range. The height of the stage was so low that after the shooting, the panic stricken crowd was able to climb over it to make a quick exit.
Soon after Independence, our own Prime Minister, as can be seen from some old photographs, also used to address public meetings from a platform of a very low height. This rendered him extremely vulnerable and exposed to multiple threats. It is obvious that at some stage appropriate conclusions would have been drawn after the assassination of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, rules would have been revised and requisite changes made. In due course, the low-height takht type of stage gave way to a rostrum of sufficient height, while also maintaining some distance from the public. Such a scheme has withstood the test of time over the decades and has continued with minor modifications keeping the current threat perception in view.
On the other hand, if one goes to the Diwan-e-Aam (hall of public audience) in Delhi’s Red Fort, one cannot miss the area where the Mughal king was supposed to be seated. It is located at a convenient height, but which would avoid a direct assault by a sword or a lance, the only weapons which could possibly be available inside the hall. In addition, the king had a separate point of entry and exit from behind a wall, away from the public gaze. Such an arrangement met the basic requirements of security and was apparently based on innate common sense and experience.
Thus, in the overall scenario as it prevails today, it would be extremely important that the security protocols and drills as prescribed are considered sacrosanct and implemented in a most stringent manner without any tinkering.
Dr K.K. Paul served as Governor of several states after retiring from the IPS as Delhi Police Commissioner.