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Too much to ask of people

india Updated: Jul 14, 2011 23:12 IST

Nothing could be more insulting to the people who have lost their lives and those who have lost family members and friends than to say that the ‘Spirit of Mumbai’ will get them up and running again immediately after an alleged terrorist attack.

People have to live with the pain of loss and injury and there is nothing that can help them get over their grief other than the certainty that this kind of outrage will not happen again. Can anyone, never mind the government, assure that?

After 26/11, the government had put in place several measures, including the setting up of a national investigation agency to ensure that such planned attacks would be pre-empted. The fact that this has happened again and that, too, in crucial places in Mumbai suggests that our intelligence operations are not working as they should.

Mumbai, as anyone can figure, should be the last place on Earth that such an attack should come as a shock. And yet, we tend to be surprised — not at the attack by the enemies of the State but at the unpreparedness of the State whose job is to protect its citizens.

In the past, we have said that our intelligence failure has taken place because we have not had enough by way of interpreting the chatter that we hear on a daily basis. Home ministry sources say that “no intelligence does not mean an intelligence failure”. But perhaps, that is not what we need to hear.

What we need is human intelligence, not a very difficult proposition, in the tiny gullies and alleys in which these kind of atrocities take place. Last heard, the Government of India and its ears are competent information-gatherers.

So what we need is more boots on the ground in the form of local police and more effective functioning on their part as well as people who can process the information that lands on their laps. Such attacks can come from within or from outside India. It is always easy to blame the latter for this kind of atrocity.

But the fact remains that such kinds of attacks suggest a weakness of the Indian State — not only in terms of gauging the danger involved but also about how to deal with it.

India has prided itself on being an emerging economy. Such attacks will do little to bolster its stock. But the real tragedy lies in the fact that many people who have lost their lives in bomb blasts have got no closure.

The American example may hold some lessons for us.

After the ghastly attack on 9/11, America has not been hit again by such an outrage. We should ask a simple question: what does it take to scare people in the same way? To depend on the spirit of a city to lift itself from the debris of terror is to ask for far too much from anyone.

And, frankly, it’s another way to say: deal with your tragedy.