DISAPPEARING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sitting on a powder keg?

As many as 20 bombs were found and defused in Surat – one right where the chief minister had been during his tour – in two days, ending 30th July. This after several bombs had gone off in Ahmedabad causing mayhem and death. Before that bombs had gone off in Bangalore, too, causing, mercifully, only one death and minor damage.


Surfeit of bombs in Surat raises at least two questions. One, despite the red alert having been sounded, the Central or the state Intelligence outfits did not have so much as a whiff of the massive terrorists’ plans to blow off the “diamond city”. Planting of as many as 20 bombs at various places – sensitive or otherwise – in the city must have been a sizable operation involving scores of people. And, yet the Intelligence outfit of the state had no clue. This is surprising, as also depressing, pointing, as it does, to its utter ineffectiveness. True, the Police virtually in every state have become ineffective, mostly because of being thoroughly politicised. Yet, this has been a failure of Himalayan proportions. Obviously, there is something basically wrong with our intelligence outfits. Either their “sources” have dried up or their informers, if any, are plain duds. Clearly there is no “humint”, i.e. intelligence gathered from human sources. Bomb after bomb was recovered and defused and yet the Police or its Intelligence wing had no information. But for the alertness of the general public Surat could well have been devastated.


The other issue that stands out is the facile ease with which the terrorists – home-grown or foreign – are able to acquire or import the deadly materials, transport them from one place to another, assemble the stuff taking shelter in the safe havens of collaborators/sympathisers or of “sleeper cells” and then plant those using local foot-soldiers at places selectively chosen. The organisation and methods of the operations and the secrecy with which they are conducted are remarkable. Worse, the terrorists – widely dispersed as they seem to be – are able to issue threats to all and sundry in various parts of the country, which virtually has been held hostage by their terror. Clearly, with its leaking borders, inept internal security establishments, apathetic general public and, above all, soft and ineffectual politicking governments at the Centre and the states, this country is harbouring within its confines hundreds and thousands of dedicated men whose sole aim is to inflict on it “thousand wounds” and to destroy it from within. Uncannily, this is precisely what the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants used to shout from house-tops in Assam not too long ago.


It is such a sorry commentary on our governments and their governance. Despite scores of bombings in recent years in various parts of the country things have not improved. The systems considered necessary have all been put in place at great cost to the public exchequer; but, these never function, more so, in crunch situations. Every time the innocents have to pay with their life.


If we do not put our house in order and run no-nonsense, businesslike governments at the Centre and in the states, giving no quarter to the pervasive chalta hai syndrome, this country is going to implode sooner than later. We seem to forget that we are surrounded by enemies, whose agents move in and out of the country with great facility to commit acts of violence, killing our people and destroying our public and private property. Unless we put our act together it is they who one day will prove to be our nemesis.

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