It is easy to be cynical on the first anniversary of Mumbai terror attacks. UPA government was voted back to power in elections where 26/11 wasn’t even a major issue. The non-performing Congress-NCP alliance won Maharashtra third time in a row. Vilas Rao Deshmukh – then chief minister of Maharashtra – is back as a Union minister. RR Patil – that “small incident” guy – is back as the home minister of the state. Sainiks – though nowhere in sight during the 60 hour ordeal – are often on streets terrorizing fellow citizens. As if Shiv Sena was not bad enough we have MNS to contend with now.
Two of the three accused on trial for the attacks were in police custody before the attacks and intelligence agencies had some prior information about the impending attacks. However there was a communication breakdown between various agencies and even though it is hard to say if the attacks could have avoided – certainly some lives could have been saved. The Headley-Rana connection wasn’t probed even after the attacks until the duo was arrested by American authorities. We don’t know if things are run any differently now.
9/11 led to a high-powered bipartisan commission that assiduously probed the circumstances surrounding the attacks. 26/11 led to the Ram PradhanÃ‚Â committeeÃ‚Â report just to investigate the “police response”. The report became a political punching bag and its contents are still unknown. The top brass of Mumbai police is busy fighting among themselves publicly. So are our MPs. And the truth – it seems – will never come out on 26/11.
Meanwhile South Mumbai didn’t come out to vote this time either. In Ã‚Â related news, it rainedÃ‚Â again in Mumbai during monsoons and the roads got clogged.
And our media still hyperventilates.
But then there are reasons to be hopeful too.
India didn’t forget. 26/11 was not reduced to just another terror attack in the country. The main objectives of the attacks – to sow communal discord among Indians – failed. To force India or Israel to re-evaluate their relationship by killing Jewish hostages failed too. Last I checked Shashi Tharoor was at Nariman House for an international commemoration of the event.
The response of the Indian government was resolute and for the first time Pakistan was forced to recognize the identities of the terrorists and the fact that the attacks were planned from its territory. Yesterday the Pakistani governmentÃ‚Â indicted Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi and 6 others for the attacks. Ajmal Kasab is being tried in an Indian court and his arrest along with decayed bodies of his 9 accomplices – without promised bodily scents or halo – would serve a grim reminder to youths looking for a shortcut to heaven.
National Investigation Agency has been formed and P Chidambaram has replaced the ineffectual Shivraj Patil as the home minister. By keeping up the diplomatic pressure on Pakistan India has successfully managed to prevent any major attack for a year. This allowed the Indian government to focus its efforts on tackling the Maoist terrorism in vast swathes of the countryside. In 2008 alone over 900 people were killed by Maoist terrorists.
Steps have been taken to better respond to such attacks. Force 1 has been constituted in Mumbai whose teams can deploy anywhere in the city within 20 minutes. NSG has now deployed its Special Response Units in the major cities of India.Ã‚Â Sophisticated arms and equipments are being procured and better monitoring capabilities incorporated. There seems to be a certain realization within the establishment that we can’t fight a 21st century menace with 20th century mindset.
The relationship between India and United States has grown stronger with the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, being invited as the first state guest of the Obama administration. The joint statement released during the visit has terrorism as it major plank and calls the Indo-US partnership “indispensable for global peace and security”. India has finally managed to get rid of the hyphenation between itself and Pakistan. The new coinage – AfPak – obviously didn’t needed one. The words of condemnation from the international communityÃ‚Â for terrorism in India are no longer accompanied with calls to resolveÃ‚Â disputesÃ‚Â with Pakistan.
A government is as good and as responsible as its citizens. MJ Akbar recently wrote, “The politician will only be as resolute as the citizen, and our sensitivities have been dulled by a culture of complacence.”Ã‚Â If we want a more secure India – we have to be a part of it. Our response to terrorism can’t be piecemeal. We need to fix the system. If we uncover some unsavory truths along the way – let it be. But never again.