After the blast and before
We don’t know who was behind Friday’s bomb blast in Hyderabad yet. What we do know with certainty is that the Hyderabad Police, in their infinite wisdom, thought that warnings from intelligence agencies about an impending terrorist attack was for the birds and the bees. It’s easy to go on about security lapses after a major security lapse has happened. But that still does not explain why the Rapid Action Force (RAF) was missing for the last few weeks from the area that was attacked. India is not a novice to terror attacks. In fact, much before many parts of the world worried about how to protect themselves from violence that has a global reach and base, we have been facing terrorism in its various forms and names. India, with its unenviable experience of tackling terror, should be the last place where threat perceptions should be taken lightly. And yet, a potential target — being a religious structure and, therefore, with ample potential to play the prop for sparking communal tensions — the Mecca Masjid across the Charminar was left ‘unprotected’. This, despite intelligence warnings.
The blame game on who was responsible for the absence of the RAF predictably started even as locals were trying to come to terms with the tragedy. According to the RAF, deployment of their force takes place only after the city police makes a request. In this matter, the Hyderabad Police had reportedly been keen to see RAF members, who had been manning the Mecca Masjid area till March 19, back in their barracks. Being a Muslim-dominated area, there were serious chances of any violence around the Mecca Masjid blowing up into something bigger and nastier. But the local police allegedly thought that statutory armed presence in a Muslim-dominated area would ‘send out the wrong message’. Even more strangely, the police maintain that it was the locals who had objected to the RAF presence in March.
As previous terrorist targets like Malegaon and Varanasi have shown, the aim of such attacks has been to throw a lit match into a communal cauldron. Hyderabad fitted the bill. The authorities clearly lacked a structured plan on first, how to prevent such an attack and second, react to its aftermath — the latter lapse leading to the pointless death of protestors caused by panicking riot policemen. It is imperative that those behind Friday’s bomb attack are brought to justice. But it is even more necessary that state governments know what is to be done before and after such heinous attacks are committed.