As another chain of blasts killed more than 70 people in Assam on Thursday, pushed hundreds of lives into painful survival and left complete devastation in its wake, there were signals from the security establishment that India — and Indians — would have to learn to live with terrorist attacks.
“It does not sound right but the bitter truth is that we have to learnt to live with such attacks, till we get our basics right,” said a senior Home Ministry official.
The bad news, he suggested, was that even as terrorists get smarter and better organised, the government appeared to be getting meeker and weaker.
Terrorists have modernized their arsenal over the last decade but we are still trying to police 21st century India with a 20th century police force.
“The tragedy is that we still have not seen the writing on the wall… Every blast triggers demands for scapegoats or a law that is not the real problem in the first place,” the official said. “But there is no political commitment to spending more on security.”
It is a point that security experts like Ajai Sahni, executive director of the Delhi-based think-tank Institute for Conflict Management, have been making.
Sahni advocates building huge capacities by adding more people, changing the profile of the entire police force and re-training it to be alert to threats from terrorism.
We have 126 policemen per every lakh of population in India whereas in the developed world, the ratio is 250 to 500 policemen per lakh and their forces are backed with the latest technology and work satisfaction.
Assam has about 175 policemen per lakh population if you count every man in khaki in the state.
The serial blasts in Delhi had spurred the central government to fast-track all security-related proposals at the Centre. “But the state police forces are still the same,” said a security official.
If India is not losing the war against terrorism, it is clearly not winning this war either.