The visibility of Indian counter-terrorism must be heightened. Especially on the ground
Much of the point of terrorism — and counter-terrorism — is to make one’s presence felt. The low intensity explosion that took place in Varanasi on Tuesday evening claiming the life of a two-year-old girl and injuring some 25 people was a reminder not only of the continued existence of deranged extremist groups but also of the unresolvable nature of their bile-filled grouses. The banned outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM), purportedly behind the serial blasts in Jaipur in May 2008, in Ahmedabad in July 2008 and in Delhi in September 2008, has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack on crowds congregated for the evening ceremony.
It has cited in an e-mail sent to the media that the Varanasi blast was in retaliation to what it perceived as the ‘biased’ Babri Masjid verdict earlier this year. Sounding like a demented editorial, the e-mail has gone on to castigate the Indian judiciary and, just to gather as many ‘reasons’ as possible, also cites the Special Investigation Team (SIT) giving a clean chit to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in his role during the Gujarat riots in 2002, as well as the “recent heckling against Kashmiri activisits” in Kolkata and New Delhi. Clearly, the IM and its ilk choose to unleash their violence on the softest of targets first and then shore up ‘reasons’ for their action.
But while terrorism has ‘terrified’ again — the first attack since the blast at the German Bakery in Pune in February this year — counter-terrorism has kept a low profile. No one can prevent each and every act of terrorist violence, but one of the key elements of countering terrorism is to be seen being active on this front.
While the BJP and opposition parties are quick off the block to blame Tuesday’s heinous ‘breach’ on the central government being ‘soft’, the relative invisibility of counter-terrorism is less because of political shuffling and much more because of an apathy at the ground level.
With December 6 being the day of ‘alertness’ having passed peacefully, evidence points to security being lax ‘as usual’ the day after. It is during the time in between such tragedies that a system and culture of security should be inculcated. It doesn’t take a Varanasi attack to tell us that basic security norms such as actual alertness at security posts and barriers are woefully absent. This is not to say that there can be a fool-proof method to stop every bomb. But there has to be a basic procedure and a visibly functioning one at that.
As for the sectarian politics that has in the past fuelled such attacks and counter-attacks, it is heartening to see that the IM is operating from a tight corner. Muslim leaders behaved maturely after the Babri Masjid verdict. ‘Hindu’ leaders have shown similar sobriety after Varanasi (the Togadias simply sound like jokers these days). So it becomes more essential that anomalies such as the IM be snuffed out by every means possible.