DC Debate: Whether India is ready to tackle any terrorist attack

Published Nov 22, 2015, 6:33 am IST
Updated Mar 27, 2019, 12:46 am IST
The terror attacks in Paris and in Mali have raised many questions in India
Christian community members of Bhopal Archdiocese taking out a candle light vigil in solidarity with the victims of terrorism in Paris and Mali. (Photo: PTI)
 Christian community members of Bhopal Archdiocese taking out a candle light vigil in solidarity with the victims of terrorism in Paris and Mali. (Photo: PTI)

We have to be proactive

Law is supreme in any democracy, and India scrupulously adheres to law. So are the others — be it the US, France or the UK. But when it comes to combating terrorists, the responses are not uniform. We in India still stick to archaic methods and depend only on the police force, whereas in the other countries they involve everyone including the armed forces.

The fallout of the armed forces’ involvement in the Amritsar attack perhaps haunts our leaders, and they are adopting a cautious approach in dealing with terror. The final results are therefore delayed. Let us take the examples of terrorist violence in Mumbai on March 12, 1993 and compare it with what has happened in Paris.

In Mumbai, powerful RDX bombs were planted at 13 commercial and crowded areas, of which 10 exploded causing 257 fatalities. About 1,400 were injured and properties worth over Rs 100 crore damaged. Audacio-usly, the terrorists brandished deadly weapons and indiscriminately threw hand grenades. Within days, intelligence agencies were sure that Pakistan and its military intelligence ISI were behind the mayhem. Bombay police and their teams acted with alacrity and investigators arrested over 150 persons, but many were found absconding.

Subsequently, CBI stepped in to establish the role of Pakistan and its ISI, and nailed over 130 persons in their 18 chargesheets. The effort of these police forces led to the trials, which were protracted. Finally, by 2015, the Supreme Court has found them guilty and they were sentenced to jail terms. One mastermind was hanged, and at last one don, Chota Rajan, has been brought back to India this month.

Let us now look at what happened on November 13, 2015 in Paris. There were simultaneous terrorist attacks at three places. Equipped with deadly weapons, gangs set about on their rampage. Within no time, 129 were dead and 4,000 were taken to hospitals. Within moments, the French government stood up like a bruised giant and acted with fury and speed. A state of Emergency was declared, giving unbriddled powers to the police. Terrorists were identified. And investigations began in right earnest. Soon, the Armed forces were called into play. The Air Force bombed 160 localities in the Islamic State areas in Syria, specifically targeting Raqqa. As high as 5,000 officials, including those from the police, the judiciary and Customs were brought in to work together. The government also decided to throw many radical Imams out of France. These actions followed  160 raids within France.

Things have happened at lightning speed. The terrorists have been neutralised. The trial process may not become necessary. But the government is not complacent with this achievement. A purging process is on. Even the rest of the world, including America and Russia, has joined hands.

Comparisons are always odious. Yet, we need to do it. In India, although the police officers might have acted promptly, our system is lethargic. Mostly, our leaders are bombastic only in their language.

Although we now have NIA for investigating terrorist-related cases, we have elite forces to handle such situations. We have had some successes in the Parliament attack case, Delhi bomb blasts and the Somnath incident. Yet, all in all, our response stands nowhere compared to what the French government is doing. We must learn lessons from these.

N. Dileep Kumar, The writer is a retired special commissioner, Delhi Police
Take all intel leads seriously

The terror attacks in Paris and in Mali and the threat of ISIS to launch attacks in Washington and New York have raised many questions in India too as to whether we can deter a similar attack on Indian soil. There is need for more alert and more action if we have to raise our safety levels.

In the global terrorism index, India ranks sixth among the most-affected countries. While dealing with terrorists, one is dealing with unknown enemies who are operating in a stealthy manner. We must be alert. We need to promote inter-community relations and ensure inclusive governance to tackle this menace. We need to make sure no untoward incident occurred in ways as to create social and communal disharmony.

In addition to this, a large number of factors affect or influence the fight against terror. A few cases from the past would reveal what’s wrong and what needs to be done. On March 12, 1993, Bombay witnessed the first of its kind of serial-bomb-blasts in the world. In a single day, serial blasts killed 257 people and injured 717. The cases underwent trial for 20 long years. In March 2013, the judgement was delivered but the two main suspects, Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon, are still at large. This case itself shows the serious flaws in the Indian system.

Lesson No 1: We do not take intelligence leads seriously. Three days before the Bombay bombing took place, a smalltime criminal arrested over communal riots from Mumbai slums revealed to the Mumbai police about the Pakistani plot. He told the cops that he had been to Pakistan and that he was trained there in use of arms and bomb-making. He had also said a plot was hatched in Pakistan to bomb major locations in India. The police didn’t pay any attention and suspected that it was a mere bluff. Police will need to take such leads more seriously.

Lesson No 2: Those who were involved in the blasts were on police records and had been arrested for some or other offence in the past. But there was no regular follow-up as to where they went and what they did after release from jail. The police requires to do more of surveillance. The courts must also look into these cases with great detail before granting bail.

Lesson No 3: RDX was, for the first time, smuggled into India through Maharashtra from Pakistan. As high as 3,000 kg of the lethal stuff came in 57 gunny bags and they landed illegally at Shekadi in Raigad district. Four customs officials, four constables and one sub-inspector knew about it, but they took bribes and allowed the bags to go. Collusion of corrupt officials often enables terrorists to thrive, and this was a great lesson learnt from this case.

In July 2008, there were 21 blasts that rocked Ahmedabad within a span of 70 minutes and 50 people were dead and 200 injured. Till date, there has not been any headway in the investigations. We are clearly lacking in our efforts. Even in the case of Rajiv Gandhi assassination in May 1991, though all 26 convicts were given death penalty by the state court in 1998, the Supreme Court gave capital punishment to only four of them. All the four are still in detention as the necessity of capital punishment as such is being reconsidered. It is very important for the government to have access to social media files, as terrorists are using internet to their best advantage.

K. Padmanabhaiah, The writer is a former secretary, ministry of home affairs