Tuesday’s serial bombings in Jaipur are chilling reminders of how dangerously unprepared we are to prevent terror strikes and the tragic loss of life they leave in their wake. Scores of people were killed and hundreds injured when seven blasts tore through crowded markets in the Pink City, while bomb disposal squads defused an eighth explosive. From all accounts, the perpetrators left the bombs in parked bicycles, rickshaws and cars before escaping. They probably triggered the explosions within minutes of each other in a coordinated attack. The intent was clearly to inflict heavy casualties by triggering blasts in crowded places and traumatise the local population.
Although it is too soon to hazard guesses as to who carried out the attacks, the way the explosions were synchronised clearly bears the hallmark of jehadi groups who have used similar means in earlier outrages elsewhere in the country. It is no secret that extremist groups in India — with help from across the border — constantly try to use their sleeper cells in various states to stoke sectarian tensions by carrying out mindless attacks like this. These terror modules obviously have a wide geographical reach and close-knit networks. Gathering this intelligence remains one of the greatest challenges for intelligence agencies. While it is not always possible to prevent attacks on ‘soft’ targets, our security apparatus must develop adequate technical intelligence capabilities to monitor the activities of all suspect networks within the country. Only constant vigil can reduce the chances of the next attack, and if people have to put up with some inconveniences — extra checks at entry and exit points etc — then so be it.
The current security measures in most places would hardly deter amateur thieves and vandals, let alone determined terrorists. Authorities should also stop selling ‘small improvements’ as giant steps forward. This only lowers the guard of the average citizen and builds a misplaced sense of confidence. Terrorism is not a law and order problem and security agencies must give up their fire-fighting tradition of combating terror to work out more preventive measures. Only then can we achieve security in a way that is effective and manageable.