Saturday, November 29, 2008

India's National Humiliation - By Arvind Lavkare

•Hang your heads in shame, my India countrymen. Do it because a dozen-odd terrorists traveled 500 nautical miles of the Arabian sea from Karachi to Mumbai’s Gateway of India and proceeded to humble the city of 16.4 million into utter helplessness for over 48 hours even as over 150 civilians and some distinguished professional security men lost their lives to the hand grenades and rifle bullets of a fanatical mindset. It was a humiliation worse than the drubbing the Chinese army gave us in 1961.
•It was because our motherland, India is a soft nation, tested and proven so several times. Ahimsa, non-violence, became the motto of our motherland. So bad has this become over the last 60 years that today even killing a stray dog on the street, however vicious and sick, has become a crime, courtesy another Gandhi, Maneka by name.
•At every stage of our every “encounter” with a terrorist act, our collective national response has been reactive rather than active, defensive rather than offensive. Public statements are issued, action is promised. Period. Nothing else really happens.
•We are confused by terrorism. We are not sure whether to treat it as a law and order problem or as an act of war against the nation. The UPA government that came in 2004 quickly repealed the Prevention of Terrorist Act (POTA) which NDA government had introduced after the ghastly attack in December 2001. It was not withdrawn because of its stringent features but because it was allegedly misused against the minorities (read Muslims).
•Lt General Sinha recently disclosed that in the last sixty years after Independence the number of police stations in the country has increased by a laughable 15 per cent over the figure of 12,000 that existed then. In contrast, he says, our population has increased four times in that same period even as policing has become so much more complex than before.
• Meager Indian police force is overworked, underpaid, apart from being manipulated and exploited by their political bosses. The whole world watched Mumbai’s policemen looking so unfit, almost obese, and so blank in face. Our Intelligence force. assigned with election duties. National Security Advisor is involved Indo-US nuclear deal than National Security.
•Human rights industry and our politicians’ concern for it much beyond national interest. And there’s that impractical concern for “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” even in matters of terrorism. If cockroaches had votes and rats had a religion, our politicians would enact a law prohibiting killing of those two living species as well.
•People’s Democratic Party of Jammu & Kashmir granting pensions from government to families of slain terrorists. Imagine, the Prime Minister himself disclosing his sleepless night over the plight of the mother of an Indian Muslim held in police custody in Australia on suspicion of being involved in a bomb blast but not over the plight of mothers of thousands of his innocent countrymen killed in terrorist violence.
•Two India Cabinet Ministers oppose the ban on SIMI. One Cabinet Minister wanting all illegal migrants from Bangladesh to be given full citizenship rights, another Cabinet Minister approving of a University vice chancellor’s decision to deploy funds provided by a foreign government to be utilized for the legal defense of two of his University students accused of involvement in terrorist violence.
•When 9/11 occurred in 2001,USA enacted Patriot Act. Full name of that legislation is "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001". If a name can arouse emotions, that one certainly does. The draconian law has prevented the recurrence of 9/11. Our naïve Prime Minister calls the Pakistan chief of intelligence to share info with us.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Porous Security

I have just returned after business trip to Colombo, Mumbai, Karachi and New Delhi. All these four cities have taken the brunt of some of the brutal terrorist attacks on innocent civilians.
As I traveled to all these cities, security was omnipresent. But with the exception of Karachi Airport - I found all the places have large security gaps. At Karachi Marriott and also with other Marriott hotels, there is a sniffer dog that goes around the car. Security asks driver to open the bonnet of the car and also use mirror to check the underneath of the car. But its funny. They never ask passengers to open the bags or check the contents. Perhaps - they believe the metal detector and frisking at the main gate would serve the purpose. But car can still be parked with unwanted contents inside the car. It was the similar Case at Kandy. Dalada Maligava (temple complex where the tooth of Buddha is housed) is one of vulnerable target of LTTE. Car parking security is tough but as porous as any Marriott. They do everything what Marriott does but again no checking of contents of bags or if anyone walks in. One can easily carry bags laden with explosives and walk out.
Airports in India are another comic sight of security. Here a person at the main gate just checks the electronic printout of the ticket and let passenger enter inside the premise while x ray machine is located far away almost close to check in counter. The man on the X ray machine is often busy chatting while glancing down his screen . The boys at the other end of the X ray machine are overeager to strap the bags and put the sticker. At Mumbai airport, man on the X ray screen stopped my suitcase and asked if I am carrying any spray containers. When I said yes, he asked the lady to to do the needful. I promptly handed over her Deodorant but realized that I had few another. This was the best example of callousness. A person who watches the screen delegates it to another person to do the needful.
Security at the Karachi airport was the most efficient. Here barricades outside the main road stopped all the traffic. Police asked to stop the engine and went through the contents of every bag in addition to other checks. To their amazement - my colleague was carrying liquor bottles- something that's forbidden . But practical they were, they were smart not to drag their attention on smaller sins. So is the case with Colombo airport. But here, car was searched to great details but not passengers. I wonder if they rely on face gestures than frisking the passengers.
As I returned to Singapore and saw gory images of deadly attack on Mumbai city, all the incidents of security over past two weeks came to the fore. For Mumbai - its not an attack but a frontal war. Its a shame for Indian intelligence agencies, politicians and bureaucrats who can only react by instituting another high level enquiry. Findings of such enquiries get buried under the rubbles of another attack.