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Friday, November 28, 2008

A Wednesday

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Wednesday, a recently released Bollywood movie was a fictional story where in an average Mumbaikar, takes revenge for the Mumbai serial train blasts. Ever since watching that movie, I had a feeling somewhere from within that the next attack would happen on a Wednesday. It might well be a co-incidence that the latest attacks on Mumbai happened on a Wednesday.

I am writing this article even as the rescue operations still continue after over 48hrs since the attack first began. These attacks are perhaps the biggest ever attacks, ever bigger than the 1993 attacks. This attack raises important questions on our security establishment:

* Terrorist used loopholes in India’s coastal security which were not plugged even after 1993 attacks
* The political leadership was indecisive and NSG was called in very late. This delay would have allowed the terrorists to take proper positions at the hotels.
* Further time was lost in briefing of the commandoes about the internal layout of the hotels.
* Initial reports claimed the number of terrorists to be between 25 and 30. However, adding up the terrorists killed so far and those holed up inside, the number is nowhere close to 25. So it seems that a lot of the terrorists managed to escape after creating mayhem in the hotels.
* Shivraj Patil’s mis-handling of the home ministry has been well documented. Another chapter to it was added when he accidently helped the terrorists by giving prior information about the movement of the Commandoes from Delhi.
* No Helicopters weren’t used on Thursday. Opening up a second front could have speeded up the process as it would have easily diverted the terrorists’ attention that would have to fight on two fronts now.
* All this is quite reminiscent 1999 Kandhar hijackings where the terrorists were allowed to leave the country from the Amritsar airport.

The Congress Govt in the last five years of its rule has done little to counter terrorism which meant that the attacks have more daring day by day.

* The Congress has always been keen to stick to its secular image. What is unfortunate is that being secular has lately meant tolerating everything what the minority community does even if it is against the larger interest of the country. So even if BJP raises the issue of terrorism, it is often labeled as communal by the so-called secularists (Congress and the Left)
* Bangladeshi refugees have continued to stay in the country and pose a grave danger to the country’s security. Many of them have even obtained voter id cards. The NDA did take some initiatives to fan out these illegal immigrants. But such issues of grave national importance have continuously been politicized. During the NDA regime several Left leaders raised the issue stating that only Muslims were being transported back to Bangladesh easily ignoring the fact that over 83% of the population of Bangladesh is constituted by Muslims.
* It has always opposed Uniform civil code and reforms in the Muslim society which are absolutely necessary to prevent any outburst by the Indian muslims who could become easy recruits for the Lashkar and Jaish.
* Even in the past it came under the pressure of the fundamentalist and India became the first country to ban Salman Rushdie.

At a time when Hindu fundamentalism is on the rise and has even managed to take shape of terrorism, it would be grossly naïve to ignore the Muslim extremism, which still remains a much bigger danger. However, the political leadership seems to be more interested in scoring brownie points and trying to equate both forms of terrorism. The so-called Hindu terrorists do not receive the kind of military support that Islamic militancy gets. There may a few mis-guided Hindu youth backed by some retired military officers. But this is still no match to the Islamic terrorism who have the audacity and the capability to carry out attacks of this scale like that in Mumbai.

The US after 9/11 attacks enacted ‘The Patriot act’ to counter terrorism, an act that in some ways compromises with personal freedom but aims to keep US and its citizens safe. However in India with its diversity in religions, it is unlikely that such a consensus is possible. The BJP ofcourse has been repetedly demanding that POTA be brought back, which was repealed by the UPA soon after it came back to power. Merely bringing back POTA may not bring back peace.

As Vinod Sharma points out in his blog, “ Laloo Yadav, India's Railway Minister, has in fact, been openly calling LK Advani a terrorist. He himself was openly moving around accompanied by an Osama Bin Laden look-alike during the elections in Bihar to get Muslim votes.”

All this has happened just a couple of days before the Capital is set vote for the Assembly elections and the ruling party is bound to suffer heavy losses because of this. In my earlier article, I had said about the possibility of a Third Front govt. led by Mayawati. But that is all set to change with the events of the last three days. So far, the BJP has exercised restraint and not really started politicizing the issue, but it hard to say how long that would continue. The NDA could be a major beneficiary of these attacks and given the new political dynamics where in it has the momentum going into the polls. It is now quite likely that it may also be able to convince some of the regional parties who are yet align with any of the fronts.

It is often said that a week is a long time in politics, well it is still more than 3 months for the general elections and hence anything can happen. For now, its advantage BJP.

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