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.