Terror appears to stay one step ahead of the security agencies. That was proved again in the Church Street blast in Bengaluru on Sunday. A blast outside an eatery has claimed one life and injured three people. The worrying part about the blast is not so much the intensity, which was minor compared to past outrages, but the fact that it now transpires that the intelligence agencies had prior information that some sort of attack would take place. It is possible that this attack was not part of a larger plot but a lone wolf one, which makes it all the more hard to deal with. Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah's waffling explanations made it all the more painful. The home minister's high-level meeting can be of cold comfort to people who have been told that several public places could be terror targets in the days to come. This has become a predictable story - there are warnings of attacks picked up from intelligence chatter but the authorities are caught flat-footed when something happens.
It is nobody's case that all terror attacks can be prevented. But certainly, there has to be a much more proactive approach to this menace. The problem seems to be the complete lack of coordination among the state and central security agencies and confusing political signals. Apart from sophisticated electronic surveillance, much more emphasis has to be placed on the human factor. People who know the locality and terrain are invaluable in intelligence gathering as experience in many countries has shown. Across the world, below-the-radar movements are hard to monitor and often terrorists slip through these cracks, as was seen in Boston in the United States and in Volgograd in Russia in 2013. Given that we will have to live with the threat of terror for a long time to come, it also becomes necessary for the police to be better trained to handle such attacks. In the Bengaluru case, those gathering evidence were trampling all over the site in a seemingly directionless manner.
To provide adequate training will take time and resources, but it will be well worth it given the human and material cost of terror. The signal from the state should be that it can and will take on terrorists. Unfortunately, that is not what is being projected now. The fight against terror is never going to be easy, but it should not be made as easy for terrorists as it is today.