Somewhere down the years, the question at the turn of the century “Is India a soft State when it comes to terrorism?” has become a statement of fact. At a time when the world is shoring up its resources to check the spread of terrorism, India continues to waffle, high-sounding rhetoric aside. Terror attacks are addressed in a frustratingly ad hoc manner and at the end of the day, there is no movement to suggest that matters are going to change much in the near future. Successive governments do not seem convinced that a strong proactive policy is essential to tackle domestic terror groups — Naxalites are still considered disadvantaged fringe elements, as are many outfits that lend themselves to pan-Islamic terror programmes. We do not even have a central database of terror suspects. Centre-state coordination is sloppy and lethargic.
The attacks on Lumbini Park and Gokul Chaat in Hyderabad were neither unexpected nor unavoidable. Intelligence failed, and policing was slipshod. Worse, both appear to be a result of a fatalistic mindset that refuses to offer any real opposition to terrorist attacks. No wonder India’s response to terrorism has no real spine. Without a multi-pronged, multi-level, trained security system, any anti-terror body would be a mere paper tiger. Within hours of the Hyderabad attack last Saturday, Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul Jihad Islami (HuJi), with close relations to the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and al-Qaeda, was identified as the prime suspect, yet this information will almost certainly remain speculative, with wafer-thin chances of any action on it.
The US government’s National Counter-terrorism Center reports that India is second only to Iraq in terms of terrorist incidents and deaths between January 2004 and March 2007. More hand-wringing, more passing the buck — Centre to state, and back again. From hijackings to hostages, from porous borders to post-terror investigations, policy eludes. The little that is there, like the India-Pakistan joint initiative on terror, are fractured entities with little purpose beyond serving political ends. The country’s so-called anti-terror mechanism and its mechanics are obviously in as much disarray as the aftermath of any terror attack. Such a display of weakness by the State can only serve to make things easier for terrorists.