Saturday, July 26, 2008

Do we have what it takes?

I didn't know how to react initially to the serial bomb blasts that struck Bangalore a few days ago, followed by even more deadly attacks on Ahmedabad yesterday. My reaction was that of an 'Oh Shoot, another serial bomb blast on another city in India'. See, we Indians are "trained" (read: used to) to treat these things as not earth-shattering but something that's inevitable and part and parcel of "life". While I was shocked it happened not as shocked as I was on say, 9/11.

And there in lies the problem of Terrorism in India. Let's recount the terrorist attacks in India since 9/11:
Number of people killed in Terrorist attacks in India since 9/11: 601
Number of people killed in Terrorist attacks in US since 9/11: 0

Wonder why? The answer lies with how everyone treats these attacks. We, that's right, we, treat them as a law and order issue, whereas here in the US it is treated as a National Security issue. I think that the only way these attacks can be stopped is to have a fundamental change in how we, the citizens, the politicians, the law enforcement and the government treat these attacks. So here are my suggestions on I think we need to do to tackle this grave national security issue:
  1. Establish a single nodal agency/department National Counter Terrorism Cell (NCTC) which would be responsible for the collection and dissemination of Intelligence information from and to all the law enforcement agencies in the country.
  2. Pass a comprehensive law (not, POTA, which was primarily used by politicians to put their personal enemies in jail) that gives more powers to the above mentioned NCTC in wiretapping, conducting searches etc, a la Patriot Act in US but with proper provisions for obtaining warrants from a judge before conducting any of these searches/wiretapping.
  3. And for the life of me, I cant understand why the local police and its commissioner should jump to conclusions two days after a terrorist attack. They should all just shut up and ask the 24/7 news channels to go cover what Amitabh, Aish & Abhishek are upto. There has to be a single person giving updates on the investigation to the whole country, preferably from the above mentioned NCTC.
  4. And finally establish a National Counter Terrorism Tips Phone Number (How about 300?) where any citizen can call (or even SMS) any suspected activities that they encounter. Who best to keep a vigil on the coutry than its citizens? This call/SMS must be automatically routed to the local Police Station which should keep a record on each call (whether its relavant/irrelevant) and investiage/act on the tip right away.
  5. Oh one more thing: Educate and inform the public about what they should do in case of a terrorist attack. A lot of people get injured in the chaos that follows an attack. Crowd Control and Crime Scene Preservation should be of utmost importance. And of course, find and prosecute those who spread rumors following a terrorist attack, which are spreading like wildfire in the country now.
The terrorists have declared war on India and its citizens and it's about time that we, as citizens, and government take them on. The question is do we have what it takes to do that?

Update: Looks like the Home Ministry is already thinking along these lines. That's good. Let's see if anything comes out of it.

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