There was a time in the 80s when people never missed checking under their seat whenever they went for a film in Delhi. Few people ever found anything remotely suspicious or dangerous. But they did check.
That was the end of innocence for Delhi. Life would never be the same again. A walk to the neighbourhood market, a trip to the local cinema or even a DTC bus ride to the grandmother’s would never be the same again. This was about the Khalistani terrorists, angels in comparison to al-Qaeda, the Lashkar e-Tayyaba and the Harkat Ul Jihad-al-Islami. The former belonging to the category of Old Terrorism and the latter to New Terrorism.
B. Raman’s book on terrorism — Old and New — is about getting to know the devil and learning to survive it since it’s not going away anytime soon. It’s a paranoid view of an incrementally unsafe world.
Terrorists are all around us. They have the backing of countries. They are heartless killers who sometimes kill without even batting an eyelid. And worst of all, they do not even ‘look’ like terrorists.
Raman covers a vast canvas — from the first hijacking (Chinese men taking control of a Cathay Pacific flight in 1948) to the Jundullah brigade to the explosion on the India-Pakistan Samjhauta Express.
His concern is mainly India and the dangers faced by it. The former senior official of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), India’s external intelligence spy agency, worries about India’s ability to fight back.
Raman frets about, for instance, Maoist terror and how to check it. The Intelligence Bureau — domestic espionage agency — is far too urban to deal with this essentially rural phenomenon and the local police are too poorly equipped.
The former spook, whose last book The Kaoboys of R&AW: Down Memory Lane was a runaway success, has a prescription for most things he worries about — the world should come together to fight this unitedly. No one country can do it alone.
But the book has little first- hand information or account of things, situations or people —which was a key to the success of Raman’s previous book. Where the last one was racy, this one plods. This is written in the all-you-wanted-to-about-but-were-too-scared-to-ask genre. This is really a ready reference to terrorism — the men, the outfits and their world; what drives these people, and how they can be stopped.
I know terrorism sells. But must it come packaged so shoddily? It may still get sold and read, but that’s not the point. If you are paying a hefty Rs 795 for a book, the least that you expect is that it is well produced. But that does not apply to the editors of this publication who decided to go to sleep. The book is full of bad grammar, spelling errors and badly structured sentences. The book needed a good editor.