Friday, November 28, 2008

The Mumbai Massacre , an analysis too soon

The massacre , thats what the attack in Mumbai is being called.  An apt definition, considering the defenceless of a city of 20 million people in the face of what appears to heavily armed well trained madmen, who numbered approximately 12.
There will be statesmanly like calls saying "This is not the time to point fingers" , "Its time for us to stand united".  You can't argue with that kind of sound logic. But I can, and I must.
Candle lit vigils are not going to stop the people who perperated the mayhem in Mumbai.
Mumbai has been hit by terrorists more often than most cities, starting 1993.
One would imagine that its police would have evolved to handle terrorist threats by now.
Whenever an incident such as this happens, the first to be blamed is "intelligence failure".
All manner of sins are swept under the same rug.
Intelligence failure or no intelligence failure, it was a general policing failure.
Exhibit A.:2 Heavily armed men enter the biggest commuter railway station in Mumbai, start shooting up the place. But no cop in the vicinity are able to get a shot off.
Exhibit B:The terrorists hijack a police van no less , and proceed to shoot at bystanders. This goes on for atleast a matter of hours. 
Exhibit C: Heavily armed men attack the Taj and the Oberoi, and enter the hotels unchallenged.

I am willing to accept that the attack , its scale and planning were unprecedented.
What I am not willing to accept , is that the terrorists proceeded unchallenged.
I am willing to accept that putting an operation together to take out well entrenched terrorists takes time.
What I cannot accept is that NSG commandos had to be flown in from Delhi.
There should be a permanent detachment of commandos in Mumbai.
There is no good time or bad time to accept ones short comings. The only way we can prevent or atleast have a chance to prevent another embarrassing and emasculating attack, is to learn from our mistakes and work towards correcting them.
As a force the mumbai police force has been stretched to the breaking point. 
The force is not equipped or trained to tackle terrorist threats of this magnitude.
Raising an ATS is not enough, since an acronym is not enough to stop bad men in their tracks.
Mumbai needs to raise/maintain a commando team for any such operations. Training for such eventualities is a full time occupation, not a course you take once in your 20 year career.
You need both the investigators as well as the whip hand.
Hemant Karkare the chief of the ATS, was a fine police officer by all accounts, but he was not the whip hand I am talking about.
Finally the backbone of the force, the lower rung, needs to be trained and equipped with handguns. A lot of the force, patrols the streets unarmed, that has to change.  
A similar incident in New York city would be unfathomable, since every cop has a gun and knows how to use it.  
Finally its easier to say all these things and do them. But do them we must. As a people we have a right to life, and if history has taught us anything, we have to stand up and be counted.  Ironically as the whole world celebrated the end of George Bush's reign and he beginning of Obama's I can't help but wonder , if India would have been better of with a little more of Bush's single minded arrogance than the Mr Nice Guy image we have worked so hard to cultivate.

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