Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Israel's New Year Gift

Israel's New Year Gift
By Mubasshir Mushtaq

Israel, the world's only country with no internationally-declared borders, has begun the deadly dance of death and destruction in Gaza city which is located in 1.5 million strong Gaza strip, the world's most densely populated area. As Israel prepares for a long haul with tanks massed along the Gaza after the aerial strikes, the official silence of Egypt and Jordan has resulted in mental agony for the hapless Palestinians. Palestinians have been betrayed not only by Israel alone but by their "own" people. This fact can be gauged from Egyptian government's decision to seal its border along the Gaza strip at Rafah Crossing thus aggravating the humanitarian crisis fuelled by a country whose does not believe in human rights. Israel is the only country in the world which has violated the maximum number of United Nations' resolutions since it came into existence in November 1948 with the help of a United Nation's resolution!

Israel's history of complete disregard to human rights and international law will put any human being to shame. Five years ago, Rachel Corrie, an American human rights activist with International Solidarity Movement was crushed to death by an armoured Israeli bulldozer as she was protesting against the destruction of Palestinian homes in Gaza strip.

The current situation was propelled by an economic blockade by Israel two months ago as a response to what it says "rocket and mortar fire" by Hamas, the ruling militant organization in Gaza strip. An Egyptian-brokered peace truce between Israel and Hamas was broken ten days ago. This situation was exploited by Israel to intensify an already existent economic blockade thus making ordinary life miserable. Just a day before the Israeli offensive, Rami Almeghari, a lecturer of Islamic University of Gaza could not find bread in Gaza! An empty stomach has a right not only to hunger but anger as well. It is in this context that Hamas rocket attack into Southern Israel must be interpreted.

BBC reported on November 13 that "Gaza may be without United Nations food aid from November 15 after Israel has refused to allow in emergency supplies." The Israeli blockade was not merely economic but academic as well. 27-year old Belal Bedwan, a resident of Nuseirat Refugee Camp in Central Gaza told BBC that he had twice missed the chance to study abroad since he was not allowed to move out of Gaza although he had got admission in Malaysian University as late as July 2008! "The Israelis stopped me leaving Erez in the north and the Egyptians stopped me at Rafah in the south," he had told BBC.

A Palestinian noise is never heard through voice. Al-Qassam rockets are the only means to draw the world's attention.Shifa hospital, where most of the injured are being treated does not have adequate medical wares. Laila El-Haddad, a Gaza-based journalist wrote that medical supplies like face masks, surgical gloves, gowns etc. are in short supply.

She wrote that the heading in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz 'Over 50 targets by 60 warplanes' sounds like a "movie tagline or a game." She sarcastically termed the Israeli offensive as "Neatly packaged war in a gift-box."

Among 300 dead bodies, there are at least 20 children. Perhaps this war is the Jewish states' New Year gift to a Palestinian mother. Israeli has lost one war against Lebanon's Hezbullah in 2006. Israel will lose this war against democratically-elected Hamas again because the days of age-old saying 'Might is right' are dead. Israel may win this battle but it will lose the war. An increasing number of non-Muslims are raising their voice against the Israeli barbarism.

An American Christian had this to say in a letter to a Palestinian:

I apologize for what is happening to your people and your family. I wish the U.S. were coming out more strongly in condemnation of the Israeli violent actions. I have called the U.S. Secretary of State office and expressed my concern and my desire that the U.S. more strongly condemn today's Israeli actions. I sent an email of condemnation to the Israeli Foreign Ministry. I also sent an email to the American Jewish Committee, and expressed very strongly my disapproval of that organization's statement today in support of the Israeli action.With the ongoing global recession the downfall of Israel's biggest ally has already begun. Empires don't fall overnight; first comes the decline and then fall. The Mughal Empire's decline began after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707. But the fall came 150 years later in 1857. At present America is sinking in a sea of debt. Afghanistan and Iraq wars have severely wounded the backbone of America's economy. Israel is heading the same path of destruction. It is digging its own grave.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Terrorism Game!

The Terrorism Game!
By Seema Mustafa

India and Pakistan have stepped up the rhetoric to a point where the terrorists have been given the key to conflict between the two nations. One act of terror now will leave the UPA government with no option but to declare war, with Pakistan having already taken itself into battle mould with fighter jets flying over key cities and the army amassing at the borders with India.

There seems to be little concern in either capital about the consequences of the war rhetoric. Senior leaders in Delhi are heard saying that it will not come to a war, "because the Americans do not want a war as it does not suit their interests." The question that then does not get an answer is, " have we lost the ability to think and act for ourselves?" And is it in India's strategic interests to go in for a war with Pakistan, or is now our policy determined just by US interests?
The confusion in the Congress camp is evident. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently spoke of war not being an option, but this is not ruled out by the Congress whose spokesperson virtually contradicted Singh the very next day by declaring that all options were on the table.

Minister of external affairs Pranab Mukherjee is also currently of this last point of view, with the fast approaching general elections determining the tone and tenor of his rhetoric. He is clearly happy that the Congress has, for the moment, stolen the thunder from the BJP and is determined to cash this to the utmost.

The Pakistan establishment is also making the most of the situation. After the initial hesitation by President Asif Ali Zardari, Islamabad realized that war talk was the best way to unite a fractured nation. And has done so in a manner that today the army is back in the lead with the quiet General Kayani leading the "we will hit back" sentiment while the politicians and civil society quietly fall in line.

The Pakistan army, under attack from its own citizens for its aggressive role in the US led war on terror, is suddenly finding itself with support again. It has also realized that it can use the threat of war from India to move operations from the Afghan border to the Indian border, and thereby regain some of the lost popularity with its people. Its basic constituency that includes the jihadi groups and the Taliban were fast becoming its enemies, and the army clearly hopes to stem this tide by awakening the borders with India. Given the Pakistan army's traditional links, the statement by Baitullah Masood that he and his men will fight alongside the Pakistan army against India is no doubt being seen as a major step forward.

For the past couple of years the attention of Pakistan had shifted from Kashmir and India, to Afghanistan and the US. The strong anti-US sentiment that had virtually engulfed that country was evident during the February elections when the people voted Musharraf out with a vengeance. Not because he was an army general, though that was part of the campaign of the political parties, but because he was seen as a US stooge who had forsaken Pakistan. The army was virtually put in the dock with Kayani issuing instructions to pull back officers from civilian positions. The terror attack in Mumbai and the strong response from Delhi has been strategised into a real war threat in Pakistan, with the country uniting in the process. Experts who had told this correspondent that Pakistan was facing a real threat of disintegration are now wondering at an Indian strategy where even the Baluchis, almost at war with Islamabad, have expressed their support for the Pakistan government and army.

The US is worried but is hoping to make use of this opportunity to bring in a new cooperation ---preferably military---between India, Pakistan in Afghanistan. Although there is no indication of this in American journals at the moment, there will also be a sense of some relief that the Pakistan anger has been diverted to India, that the army which is an extremely important tool for the US is regaining some of its lost luster, and short of a war the crisis can be converted into an opportunity. Needless to say the Americans have started looking at the crisis afresh, and this is evident in some of the recent statements that have emerged out of Washington. For instance, the US joint chief of staffs Navy Adm Mike Mullen told reporters after a key meeting in Islamabad that the long term answer is a regional strategy that includes Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and other Central Asian nations. The nations must improve relations among one another so attacks like the one in Mumbai don't escalate closer to conflict. He was of the view that military to military contacts can help lessen tensions among the countries of the region and put in place a structure for resolving problems.

So clearly both Pakistan and the US are strategizing the fall out of the Mumbai attack in what each perceive to be their own national interests. What about India? What is the strategy here? If it is war, how does it help India short of demonstrating a macho ability that has not gone well for even the US in Iraq and Afghanistan? If India attacks, Pakistan will certainly retaliate. What then? Will we wait for the US to separate us, or go into a full escalation? If the first, what will be the terms and conditions that India will have to agree to in return for peace? If the latter, what happens if some moron in Pakistan decides to go nuclear? Strategically, neither of these two options can benefit India and will actually have disastrous results.

Peace is the only option. As it gives governments the space required to develop and implement a strategy that protects Indian interests. The UPA government could have opted for hard diplomacy as one had suggested earlier in these columns. It could have used its international clout this time to ensure the economic and political isolation of Pakistan. This time several foreigners have been killed, and the world capitals have realized that the terror attack was as much on their citizens as on the Indians. The pressure could have been revved up to a point where Islamabad would have had to take action against the terrorists. The threat of war has instead united Pakistan, and silenced even those who had been writing and campaigning against the terror industry being nurtured by the Pakistan establishment. Well thought out diplomacy with a step by step approach would have paid India rich dividends but the opportunity has not been seized by politicians who cannot see beyond their nose.

There are some who have been vociferously arguing for war, maintaining that this option requires 'courage.' How is it courageous to go in for the military option without any regard of the consequences? That is what Bush did when all the embedded journalists hailed him as the new hero and now shoes are being thrown at him physically by the brave journalist in Iraq and verbally by the world. The global war on terror has not ended terrorism, just strengthened it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Malegaon blast probe is still the issue

Malegaon blast probe is still the issue
By Mubasshir Mustaq

"Hemant Karkare's loss has proved to be a severe blow to the Malegaon investigation. The main character of the script is no more. Can a script be completed without the main character? It might be possible that a film can never be sustained with the death of its protagonist but in real life things are different. Karkare has left behind footprints on the sand. Now it is the job of the directors (read politicians) to guide the new actor (read K.P. Raghuvanshi); to make sure that he follows the footprints left by his predecessor. "

The world's largest democracy is going through one of the most critical phases of its 61-year old life. We should call it India's mid-life crisis; a period of dramatic self-doubt where one tragedy is being matched or answered by a greater tragedy. It seems that competition – one of the main features of marketing – has begun to apply even in the gory field of terrorism. We are being pushed into the dirty pit of terrorism in a cyclical motion. Terrorism has begun to apply the rules of communication. Communication is a two-way process. Terrorism is increasingly following in the footsteps of communication; where 'our terror' is being answered by 'their terror' or vice versa. This phenomenon is alternatively known as 'tit-for-tat terrorism.' It is in this framework that Malegaon September 2008 blast must be looked into.

The Malegaon blast probe which made headlines all across the world was earth-shattering. Before the probe could completely unearth all the faces involved in the blast; another terror storm rocked the nation's psyche and Malegaon probe was suddenly put on hold. The worst aspect of 26/11 may be that it consumed the faces involved in Malegaon blast probe but Malegaon can not be put on the back burner. The shocking revelations of Malegaon blast can not be easily erased from peoples' memories; be it Hindu or Muslim. 26/11 may have overshadowed Malegaon, but it can never be forgotten because it has now been associated with the Mumbai carnage.

Does that sound strange that Malegaon probe has been associated with 26/11?

No. The two fateful events had one similar character: ATS chief Hemant Karkare. And whenever, people would recall 26/11, they will surely remember Hemant Karkare. And the name Hemant Karkare has become synonymous with Malegaon blast probe. There emerges a triangle whose dots will always be connected to each other.

Hemant Karkare's loss has proved to be a severe blow to the Malegaon investigation. The main character of the script is no more. Can a script be completed without the main character? It might be possible that a film can never be sustained with the death of its protagonist but in real life things are different. Karkare has left behind footprints on the sand. Now it is the job of the directors (read politicians) to guide the new actor (read K.P. Raghuvanshi); to make sure that he follows the footprints left by his predecessor.

The new actor must remember that footprints on sand don't last long.

The director (Ashok Chavan), his assistant (Chagun Bhujbhal) and the new actor know and understand that Malegaon script has already been drafted. The new players just need to complete the script. Any change or delay in the completion of the script will be detrimental. Audiences are desperately waiting to witness the climax of the story.

The people of Malegaon are not very happy with the track record of K.P. Raghuvanshi; he was the ATS chief when September 8, 2006 blasts took place. But still, we have no grudge against him; our readers will recall that Nanded blast was being investigated by Mr. Raghuvanshi himself. The ATS investigation in Nanded blast was far better than the investigation carried by CBI later. In fact, Mr. Raghuvanshi should be given a free hand to complete the Malegaon probe as early as possible.

With Karkare's departure, the once media-savvy ATS has suddenly become media-shy. People of Malegaon want ATS chief to assert himself in order to restore the faith of the people. He has not made any remark or addressed a single press conference on the issue of Malegaon probe till now. His long silence is open to misinterpretation. He must speak up his mind in order to put rumour mills to sleep.

It's your turn to speak up, Mr. Raghuvanshi! Will you please oblige?

The failing spree

The Failing Spree
By Seema Mustafa

It was a sad day for the nation when India's elected law makers rushed to push through two draconian legislations, giving the government sweeping powers and seriously curtailing civil liberties, in just a little over six hours. The amendment to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention)Act and the legislation to set up the National Investigation Agency were passed with just a few members pointing to the need for sending these to a parliamentary standing committee to ensure that effective checks and balances preventing governments from misusing this authority were brought into the bills.

Union Home Minister P.Chidambaram, never known for his commitment to civil liberties, shrugged off the few objections by saying that the legislations could be "improved" upon when Parliament met again in February. The blatant misuse of power by investigating agencies when evidence has been planted on suspects to justify illegal arrests reported from all parts of the country has actually been given full support in the new legislations with the police being given the powers now to detain innocent persons for 180 days, that is six months at a time. Currently, stringent laws allow the police to detain a person without filing a chargesheet for 90 days that according to legal experts, is more than enough to determine his or her guilt or innocence.

The minorities, in particular, are extremely worried as in the past years the community has been targeted by the administration in several states, including Congress controlled Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. In Hyderabad, for instance, the Mecca-Mumbai blasts led to large scale arrests of Muslim youth who were kept in custody by the police without being produced before a magistrate, beaten for days and nights on end, tortured with electric shocks and while some still languish in jail, others were released for want of evidence. Their lives have been ruined, they live in constant fear, and the state has done nothing to intervene and compensate them for its merciless intervention in their lives.

The government, as always, has not addressed the basic issues that led to the Mumbai terror attack. These were a complete failure of the intelligence apparatus, with RAW in particular being in a mess, ridden with factionalism and inefficiency. The inefficiency of its chief is now an acknowledged fact but for reasons best known to it, the government is unable or should one say, unwilling, to act against him. The corruption and politicization of the police force all over the state is now legendary, with the long recommended police reforms being ignored by every successive government. The poor become the victims of this corrupt, inept force that, under pressure, attacks those who are unable to defend themselves. The legislations give more power to the same instruments, with the Home Minister, his government and the Parliamentarians endorsing the laws in complete denial of the need to shake the system into becoming more sensitive and responsive to its citizens.

Indian laws are stringent, and what is required is a more coordinated approach. Instead of this, the turf battles between agencies that were evident for the world to see during and after the Mumbai terror attack have crippled functioning. The result is that the poor are further oppressed by the police and the security forces, as they have little intelligence and even lesser expertise to either predict terror attacks, or investigate the trail efficiently. It is no secret that the approach of the Indian police, whether it be a crime or a terror attack, has always been to arrest all it can lay its hands on, beat and torture, and then hope that the confessions will throw up some clues that they can follow. If this does not happen, then often the innocents are thrown into the jails as the prime accused, the masterminds, who then wait for years for the judiciary to catch up with them.

The point being made here is that Parliament should have demanded more time to analyse and discuss the new legislations, and a standing committee should have been given the responsibility to ensure that much needed checks and balances were factored into the final versions. Union Minorities Minister A.A.Antulay did raise the controversy surrounding the death of ATS chief Hemant Karkare and the other officers asking the question that has still not been answered by the authorities: why did Karkare and the other senior officers go to the railway station when they should have been heading towards the hotels and Nariman House. And how did the terrorists have prior information of their movements? Important questions that need a categorical response, starting from the time that the officers got the information, where they were, why did they travel together, why did they go on this particular route etc. It is no secret that Karkare was the target of a virulent hate campaign for uncovering the Hindutva complicity in several terror attacks in this country, and it is thus the job of any government in power to ensure that all possible doubts are ruled out by ordering a thorough and transparent probe into the incident.

The media, taking its cue from the establishment, has been strident in making comparisons between what it terms 26/11 and 9/11. Inherent in this comparison is a certain legitimacy given to the action following 9/11 and a message that India should do the same. The same what? Like the US invade Afghanistan, Iraq, kill thousands of civilians, arrest and torture on whims, and place itself in a situation where the leader---in this case George W.Bush---becomes the most reviled man in the world and has shoes thrown at him during what should have been a famous last visit to Baghdad. Is this what India wants to become?

Governments of secular, democratic and pluralistic India have the added job of ensuring that all sections of citizens feel protected and secure. This is certainly not the case insofar as the security apparatus is concerned, as the levels of corruption and inefficiency have been established over the years. It is also imperative for governments here to ensure that legislations particularly of the kind passed by the lawmakers on Wednesday have sufficient checks and balances to that the poor, the minorities, and all the smaller communities have full access to the law, and do not become its victims. This has not happened and once again Parliament has failed India.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Action call against Politicians

Action Call against Politicians
By Seema Mustafa

The UPA government is going around in circles. And this time India's ambassador to the US Ronen Sen would be absolutely right if he were to term his bosses in government as "headless chickens" as all are rushing around following the terror attack on Mumbai,adding to the cacophony of excuses and allegations, with not a plan in their pockets.

The people are furious, and the younger generation even more so. They are furious with the politicians, be these of any party, and the media that not only sensationalized the news but also breached security in its complete ignorance and competitiveness. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi found that he might have been able to dazzle the brainwashed with his rhetoric on terrorism, but he was virtually booed out of Mumbai when he tried to strut around as the expert. Heads had to roll as the government came under tremendous pressure, and finally had to get rid of the totally incompetent Shivraj Patil and the callous chief minister and deputy chief minister of Maharashtra. Not that the replacements, at least in the state, can be credited with political sagacity but then a party with a paucity of talent can only do so much and no more.
The internet is buzzing with postings from the younger generation that has emerged as an active pressure group. NDTV and its prominent anchors are being attacked in blogs and on facebook, but unfortunately journalism as a profession has taken a beating in the process. Emails and petitions are in circulation asking the people to keep peace, to prevent the politicians from dividing their unity, to ensure that the innocent are not arrested, and that the media is made to perform its duty with responsibility and sensitivity. These are important interventions and perhaps all those who are being targeted by the public, need to step back and introspect instead of fighting petty wars that will do nothing to either secure India, or improve their respective stock with the people.

Journalists are not supposed to become the story. But in the case of our television channels, and now even in some newspapers, the anchors and editors insist on projecting themselves as central to the story. The "I", never used by professional journalists in the past, has come to dominate the news as we tell you how great we are while pretending to report the story. The complete absence of training or understanding was visible to all watching the channels during the three day drama, as young and even not so young reporters insisted on telecasting details of the operations launched by the security forces that could only help the terrorists inside. The points of entry were shown, and the number of commandos going in given by the channels in their overwhelming desire to 'beat' the other to the news. It was a sorry spectacle that has now evoked an angry response.

Of course conspiracy theories abound, but while the government is dithering on the question of war and hostile action against Pakistan it is imperative to point out that the first task should be to get the country's own act in order. Corruption and politicization has seeped into the very vitals of India, and the cleansing job will require a committed and dedicated political class that is currently not visible. But nevertheless a beginning of sorts has to be made. And the government has to explain what it has done after every terror attack in this country, apart from arresting and torturing innocents. A war with Pakistan will not stop terror, as George W Bush and Condoleeza Rice. The Americans are the most hunted and insecure people in the world, and the only reason they are secure within their own country is because of the strong system that the US administration has set into place.

The first night of the attack that was crucial to put the terrorists on the run, was lost. The state government barely responded, the police was totally inept, the NSG was stuck at Manesar without an aircraft with the result that the terrorists got a headstart of ten hours in the two hotels. This is after they had already killed over 100 people in other parts of Mumbai, including ace policemen who too did not seem to have been given any intelligence or local information about the ferocity of this particular operation. The NSG reached the venue only in the morning, and fought the terrorists without any help from the local police. The policemen were not even willing to move into the corridors, or fetch water for the NSG commandos. After the operation was over, of course, everyone rushed to give press conferences and in off the record briefings blame the other for the mess.

Nowhere was this more important than in the intelligence network, with the agencies insisting that they had given actionable information and that the Navy was at fault. Strangely enough those in charge of our national security apparatus stood back and let all this happen, regardless of the fact that the loud accusations by RAW and IB left the Navy virtually defenseless. More so, as the intelligence personnel as well as the National Security advisor M.K.Narayanan have far more access to the media that the Navy. In fact the NSA should have been the first to resign, but given his links with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the top echelons of the ruling elite as well as the media in Delhi, he has emerged out of the mess unscathed. Narayanan was too busy chasing the nuclear deal, and more recently working out the constituency by constituency political fortunes of the Congress, to be bothered about security for the common man. He has ensured that the Nehru-Gandhi family is well protected, and there are many in the Congress party who do not hesitate to point out that this is the reason for his survival.

The terrorist who has been arrested is unlikely to have only limited information, relating to just his part in the larger operation. Sources said that the information sent out by the government to foreign governments based on this interrogation was at best sketchy and did not reveal a great deal about the operation in its entirety. Even the part to do with Pakistan was badly handled by the UPA, with a not to be attributed briefing now maintaining that war was out of the question as that would amount to playing into the hands of the terrorists and their mentors.

The government has to take an overall assessment of the security lapses where the military, the agencies, the police and the entire security apparatus comes together for a thorough brainstorming. Accusations can be left behind, as the top personnel go through the attack step by step and work out the slippages on the part of the Indian state. Right from the time the men sailed out of the Karachi port, if that is indeed where they sailed out from. After this is done, an action plan should be formulated and implemented at all the seeping points as it were, on a war footing.

The longer term measures will need another brainstorming of experts----and these must include retired officers from the military who have far more experience and knowledge than the babus who like to call the shots on everything from sewage to security----for an overall understanding of security lapses. These must be understood and plugged by raising more forces, buying the necessary equipment and tightening the system and infastructure under a single, cohesive agency.

The long term measures will lie in depoliticising the security forces, in ridding the police and paramilitary of corruption, in ensuring that merit is recognized and rewarded. The police has to be well equipped and all the reports written and recommendations made should be brought out, dusted, and implemented to bring about sweeping reforms in the security apparatus.

The list can go on and on. In short the government and its agencies have to stop looking for excuses, admit the serious lapses on its part (as the agencies, the navy, the police are all part of government) and take remedial action. The media has to realise that it is there as a watchdog, as an observer, as a reporter and not a player. The journalists reporting events like communal violence, terror attacks, war have to be trained, sensitized, and briefed before being allowed into the field by their editors or whosever it is who controls the channels and newspapers these days. They have to be pulled out if they dramatize the events, to a point where passions are inflamed and security threatened.

It is ironic that the terror attack has united the people of India with many a voice demanding action against the politicians, a plan of action and a plea to remain united (of course there are some exceptions as hosts of television shows always dressed in white); but the government is totally divided with its right arm having little idea today of what the left is doing or saying. Someone has to be in control and usually it is the Prime Minister. Today, no one knows.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Counter Terrorism-Unitedly strengthen the nation

Counter Terrorism-Unitedly strengthen the nation
By Seema Mustafa

Terror is heinous, as its targets are innocent citizens. It is remorseless, ruthless and as Mumbai has shown, it has the capacity to completely paralyse, even as it kills. And now that the long operations are over, the bodies recovered, the terrorists killed or arrested it is time for India's citizens to take stock of the events before the politicians beating their drums in the usual bid to politicize the event, and seek extra mileage.

The point to be understood by the citizens of India, who are far more mature, pragmatic and reasonable, than the people they elect is that for the moment it is not important whether the terrorists were from Pakistan, from the al Qaeda, from the Lashkar, of from this strange new outfit the Deccan Mujahideen. This is for the security apparatus to investigate, find out and take remedial action. It is not that important for the purpose of this article as this one fact, even if unearthed, will not stop the terror attacks and make us Indians more secure.

What will make us secure is a security apparatus that is alert, vigilant, efficient, skilled and highly trained. And given the politicians---be they of the NDA or the UPA or any other hue---unwillingness to ensure this, the Indian state will remain susceptible to terrorism. The terrorists that carried out the meticulous and highly sophisticated strike in the heart of Mumbai managed to expose the soft underbelly of the Indian state, made even softer by corruption and acute politicization.

The politician was predictable. The gun battles between the commandos and the terrorists were on in the hotels, but the Prime Minister of India had identified Pakistan as the mastermind of this terror attack. And had directed Islamabad to send across its ISI chief to New Delhi for talks. The BJP and its ilk had already started talking of draconian laws, with Advani and Modi on television channels as the experts in countering terrorism.

But not a single politician spoke of the real problem, that the relatives of many of the victims outlined through their tears. And the common man on the street, with his pragmatic wisdom, told the journalists who cared to interview him. There can be no change until and unless India is able to strengthen, not its laws as we have more than enough of these only, but its security network. And for this only two steps are necessary: bring an end to politicization and rid the police and the intelligence and security agencies of corruption.

Merit has long ceased to matter. Policemen now pay the politicians in the districts to be first recruited. They then pay them to get better postings. They are then paid in turn to turn a blind eye to corruption. And at the end in any city or district, the police seniors are men appointed more for their loyalty to the governments in power, than for merit. This is true of all positions, be it the diplomatic service, or the coast guards. But it becomes lethal when those entrusted to maintain law and order, and keep the citizen secure is too unprofessional to do so. Or too corrupt to care.

The politician makes money in equipment and hardware. For instance, the soldiers sent up to fight Pakistanis in the heights of the Kargil mountains did not even have proper snow shoes. Why? Because no one had thought of placing an order, as this was a small ticket item when compared to heavy weaponry, and the commission did not justify the effort insofar as the politician was concerned. Similarly, it was clear from the Mumbai operation that the city police, and even the anti terrorist force that lost some very good officers in the operation, were not equipped to fight the terrorists. The seniormost officer Hemant Karkare, in the limelight for his excellent investigation into the Malegaon blasts, was seen putting on a heavy, outdated jacket and going in for the deadly operation with just a revolver. He did not have a chance.

The police force through out the country is ill equipped. It does not have the right weaponry, it does not have enough vehicles, it does not have enough manpower, and the working conditions are absolutely pathetic, to put it mildly.

The Mumbai terror strike exposed failures at all levels. The coast guards did not detect the rubber dinghy's carrying men with huge arsenal. The intelligence agencies that should have been watching Mumbai like hawks, because of its well known vulnerability to terrorism, had no wind of the huge operation that was carried out with ease. The police was unable to deal with the crisis. The political authorities did not realise the magnitude of the attack until several hours later, leading to a major delay in requisitioning the NSG and the Marine commandos and then of course, the Army. The politicians did little but make statements and visit the spot, making it more difficult for the administration completely occupied with the ongoing operations at the time.

The government and the other political parties must not be allowed to divert attention from the real issues, to points that might give them electoral dividends but will not secure the country. The question is not of Muslim or Hindu terrorism. Today one group or the other might be on the ascendant, but only the fool will insist that terrorism and civil strife will not spread to pockets hitherto unaffected by terrorism. The terror attacks have spread out of Jammu and Kashmir to what some like to refer to as mainland India, and given the widening gap between the poor and the rich, and the growing frustration amongst the unemployed and dejected youth, strife and conflict is going to further test the soundness of Indian security.

Laws are not the solution, as the BJP has been advocating. One was happy to hear Rahul Bose on television pointing out that the US had the absolutely draconian Patriot Act in place, but that had done little to prevent Americans from being targeted across the world. The trick is to develop top level, professional security forces and free them from political meddling. The intelligence agencies are currently demoralized and frustrated. The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), for instance has been reduced to a political wing, with little to no freedom to brainstorm and take independent decisions at even the second levels of command. Factionalism and infighting has almost crippled this elite wing.

The National Security Advisor M.K.Narayanan has a lot to answer for. He has spent more time in running foreign policy than on the job for which he was selected in the first place. He spent precious weeks and months chasing the India US civilian nuclear energy agreement than in dealing with the real complaints and problems beleaguering the intelligence agencies. The result is that a group of armed terrorists could hold the country to ransom for two days without the intelligence network getting even a whiff of this earlier. Now of course, every one is claiming that they knew, and that the other had done nothing about it. This was the story in Kargil, when the intelligence agencies –civilian and military---had no idea that the Pakistani soldiers had occupied the Indian heights. This is the story every time, intelligence agencies trading schoolboy charges.

One of the tasks before the NSA and his security secretariat then should have been to put in place a fairly foolproof method of intelligence dispensation and analysis, so that intelligence failure was minimized. And failure should have heads rolling, regardless of political favourites.

Accountability has to be fixed. And this has to be fixed internally. Today it might be one country or group, tomorrow it will be another. The same excuses are being pedaled out again, the same diversions are being created, and it seems that the politician is not willing to admit that he needs to learn lessons, and to clean up the mess after Mumbai. So while there has to be one serious investigation to determine those behind the attack, there has to be another equally serious inquiry to determine who failed in their duty, when and where, and to take action. The follow up action lies in a short and long term overhaul of the security apparatus, with merit being given preference to political leanings at all levels. Of course, this is easier said than done for the politician will not allow the administration to get out of his grasp.

This is where the people of India come in. Instead of getting swayed by the divisive agenda that will be put in play by the unscrupulous men who claim to lead us, we should make it clear to them that they have to be seen to be working on the ground in strengthening the system and making themselves and their officers more accountable. Hard states are not made by stringent laws that take away our right to breathe For then the people become unhappy and open the doors that then no state can shut. Hard states are those that govern with a soft hand, but in the process ensure that the entire law and order machinery, including the security and intelligence agencies, are strengthened through merit and training. And are not frustrated but secure, not angry but accountable, not arrogant but responsive and mete out justice with an even hand. This is when terrorists will be kept out as they will not be able to penetrate the armour of Indian unity.