Let’s face it. If one were to take a snap poll on this government’s ability to protect its citizens from terrorism today — and there’s a Delhi poll underway as I write this — only those under the hypnotic spell of the Prime Minister’s drone-like voice on TV on Thursday are likely to register confidence. Let’s just say that the Manmohan Mumble wasn’t mesmeric.
Even Home Minister Shivraj Patil’s right hand — which had started distancing it self from its owner and from the Congress’s symbol of the one-handed clap much before Wednesday night — was reportedly raised when the rhetorical question, “Are you with us or against us?” was randomly asked. While army and para-military personnel were fumigating buildings in Mumbai till late Friday night, that reaction from Patil’s right hand started fuelling intense speculation about whether the post once occupied by Sardar Patel had been sold to the lowest bidder. After Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Malegaon, Imphal, Guwahati and Mumbai this single year, we can seriously put a stop to that speculation.
So, considering that politicians in the main opposition party are also humans with chemical surges that match emotions ranging from outrage to rage, I can completely understand politics trampling over a bipartisan stand against terror. It took one day and some perilously honest-sounding sentences (“There is no government side or opposition side,” “At this time the whole country should come together”) before the BJP gave into that itch and knee-jerked its heels into the Congress-led UPA.
Thus, the front page ad on Thursday’s newspapers issued by the ‘General Secretary, Bharatiya Janata Party, Delhi Pradesh’: ‘Brutal terror strikes at will. Weak government, unwilling and incapable. Fight terror. Vote BJP.’ The inside pages of the same papers carried eyebrows-fluttering utterings from national BJP leaders lip-locking with the government in the face of a common enemy in these darkest hours for the nation. Talk about truncated foreplay.
America came together the day it was attacked. The differences of opinion, the debates and the downright quarrelling did take place. But that came later. It was first ensured that, by hook or by crook, any terrorist attack on American soil would be very, very, very difficult to make from ‘that day’ onwards. (The invasion of Iraq was about therapy, not protection.) Here in post-26/11 India, the monkey’s already run away with the cake again that the cats were fighting over.
Six months later, after we’re back to watching serials and cricket on telly, after more semantic discussions about ‘secularism’ and ‘communalism’, after trying to recall whether we did get to the bottom of the mayhem in Mumbai or not, and after we have a new government in Delhi, will things be any different from what they were before 9.15 pm on November 26, 2008?
Frankly, the ‘lack of form’ shown by our political class isn’t a big deal for me. The pre-poll mud-slinging looks bad. But so does the shit on our roads. What makes me break into a twitch is something beyond this beggar’s opera. When pundits talk about ‘asymmetrical warfare’, they never mean lathi-wielding policemen vs AK47-armed terrorists, do they? And aren’t patrols and security checks, whether along sea fronts or at the entries of malls too much of a drag to bother about day in, day out? As for bringing about more stringent anti-terror laws — or even following standard procedures of law and order and investigations — is it worth all that effort when only two things really determine how easy or hard it will be for future terrorists to attack us?
The two things: political meddling and the law of averages.
You think I’m cynical? You should meet those guys who blow us up with drop dead ease and delirious smiles on their faces.