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It's yet another major failure

There has been very little progress on streamlining our intelligence agencies.

india Updated: Aug 21, 2012 22:41 IST

If there is one question that everyone must be asking about the crisis due to which Northeasterners have had to flee various cities and their own native homes, it must be how the government has been caught so woefully off-guard. We have a number of intelligence agencies from the Intelligence Bureau to R&AW to the National Investigation Agency to Natgrid, all of which are meant to provide inputs aimed at preventing untoward incidents. It was only after the fateful 26/11 attacks that we learnt that much chatter on the planned outrage had been picked up but that the various agencies had got their lines crossed and, therefore, were unable to prevent the ghastly incident.

Now that the exodus of northeasterners is in full flood, the government has thought it fit to crack down on bulk SMSs. It would now appear that many of the rogue messages were from groups like the Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami (HuJI) and the Popular Front of India (PFI), both of which are meant to be under surveillance given their past alleged involvements in terror attacks. It also now transpires that 60 million messages were sent on one day alone. Surely, these must have been picked up. Instead we get news that the government is zeroing in on several groups which are planning post-Eid violence. If ever there was a case of shutting the barn after the horse has bolted, it is this. For as long as we can remember, we have heard constant complaints that there is little coordination among our intelligence agencies. Yet, despite being faced with constant terror attacks both from within and outside, there does not seem to have been any progress on streamlining these intelligence gathering operations. We may make much of the curtailing of freedoms, but it is noteworthy that after 9/11, the US has not faced a single severe threat to its internal security. The case of the northeasterners is even more poignant in that they are being forced to flee from places across their own country thanks to the machinations of either external agencies or, as the case may turn out, internal saboteurs.

The fact that Pakistan has asked for proof for the fact that some of the subversive SMSs originated from that country is par for the course. Pakistan is still asking India for evidence of the 26/11 attacks when there is no more doubt left as to where it was masterminded from. But, we cannot afford to have such internal disturbances simply owing to the fact that we are suffering from a colossal intelligence failure. This crisis which has thrown the country into such disarray should at least get the home ministry to sit up and take notice. The new home minister should act and be seen to act to instill confidence in ordinary Indians that they are not at such risk. Compiling evidence to send to Pakistan is all very well but is not likely to provide a sense of confidence among the thousands who are uncertain about their future.