Clueless in Mumbai
Exactly a year after serial blasts ripped through the packed trains of Mumbai killing 186 people, wounding hundreds more and leaving a country looking nervously over its shoulder, two questions need to be asked: have we come anywhere close to finding those behind the terrorist acts of July 11, 2006? And are we better protected today from such attacks than we were 365 days ago? The answers to both posers are not reassuring. Mumbai Police's Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) was very much visible, picking up the pieces in the months that followed the horrifying attacks. When 13 suspects were arrested and charge-sheeted four months after the blasts, investigators claimed it as a major breakthrough. It turned out that only four out of the 13 were alleged bombers. But what has led to cynicism about the investigations and the authorities is that the alleged conspirator behind one of the most vicious and crippling terrorist attacks, the Pakistan-based outfit Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, is still out there. Two days after the three main surviving conspirators behind the July 7, 2005 bombings in London were convicted, India still is clueless about how to bring the guilty to book.
But what is more distressing is that our authorities have not learnt any lessons from the past. With talk about Islamic radicalisation among Indians thickening the air, thanks to the failed attacks in London and Glasgow showing up an 'Indian connection' with jehadi terrorism, the global anti-terror radar has firmly been pointed towards this country. But as Britain and the US increase efforts to prepare and protect against terror attacks, India is yet to take even basic measures. A week after July 11, 2006, Western Railways installed close circuit television (CCTV) cameras at seven of the 28 suburban railway stations in Mumbai. It was decided that a total of 530 CCTV cameras would be installed throughout the suburban rail network. This has not happened yet, as mandarins continue to dither over whether it would be cheaper to hire these cameras rather than buy them.
This is just the tip of the iceberg that no one seems to be worried about crashing into time and again. As we did in the days following July 11, 2006, we'll hear more about the indomitable spirit of Mumbaikars this week. By extension that's the tragic tale of India and its general approach to terrorism: we can handle every tragedy; all we have to do is to keep calling it 'moral victory'.