As the 60-hour ruthless ordeal in Mumbai at the Hotel Taj, Trident Oberoi, and Nariman House finally came to an end, some sense of normalcy and tranquility seems to be gradually creeping back in the terror-struck city, which was held under siege by a group of 10-12 meticulously trained terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). What baffles in this entire terror episode is the sheer negligence and dereliction of duty by the political and administrative machinery, in spite of repeated admonitions from the intelligence bureau and other sources. However, the most striking aspect, which is also the most ludicrous, is the lack of proper and stringent security measures at Hotel Taj and Trident Oberoi. It is totally unimaginable to think that a band of terrorists are just able to walk into such reputed five-star hotels as the Taj and Trident Oberoi – which hosts high profile politicians, statesmen, dignitaries, and businessmen from across the world – with the élan of royalty, without having their baggage checked! And something that beats everyone’s logic is the fact that a couple of terrorists were employed at the Hotel Taj as cooks two months before the entire incident happened! How could the hotel authorities hire a stranger without properly verifying the credentials and antecedents of the candidates in question?
The terrorists were all in the age group of 18-28 years, which is considered as the time to enjoy one’s life to the fullest, and not to undertake such suicidal missions that also endanger others’ lives. And, is the age between 18 and 28 an age to die?
There are many factors that are responsible for this terror attack. Firstly, several warnings from the central intelligence authorities were completely ignored by the Maharashtra government and also the central government. The President of the fisheries Union in Gujarat, Damodar Tandel, had written a letter to the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Mumbai, four months prior to the attack, cautioning of an impending attack by some anti-social elements and also about the possibility of RDX and other ammunition being smuggled into Mumbai from Gujarat. But, this warning was completely overlooked by the DCP. After the attack, when this question was raised to the DCP as to why he ignored the letter from Damodar Tandel, the DCP coolly (and quite irresponsibly) answered that he did not receive any such letter and that Damodar Tandel was indulging in opportunistic allegations against him. The DCP also refused to come in front of the camera when TIMES NOW, a national TV channel, wanted to talk to him regarding this issue. This clearly shows how responsible, accountable, and diligent our administrators are towards discharging their duties!
Earlier, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the Indian intelligence bureau, too, had warned the central government (the Prime Minister’s Office) and the Maharashtra government several times of possible terror attacks, with specific instructions that there would be a sea-borne attack in November. In fact, the latest warning came just one day before the actual attacks in Mumbai, but that was also completely ignored. This shows sheer delinquency of duty, carelessness on the part of the administrators, politicians, defense personnel (esp. police and navy), and lack of coordination between them.
After the entire melodrama, the whole city of Mumbai (and also the whole of India) vented its ire on the politicians, holding them squarely responsible for this terror attack and questioning them for their accountability. But, what made the entire incident reductio ad absurdum was the statement of the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra, R.R. Patil, who said that ‘such terror attacks keep happening in a city like Mumbai and this is not something new.’ Now, would the Deputy CM have dared to make the same irresponsible and brazen comment had he been rescued after having trapped inside the hotel, or had his wife, brother, daughter, or son died in this terror attack? The answer is obvious! Moreover, when there was mounting public pressure on the Maharashtra Chief Minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh, to quit, Patil impudently stated that there was no question of anyone resigning! The politicians seem to care two hoots for the safety or the lives of its citizens. If this is so, what right do they have to be protected by the National Security Guard (NSG) commandos?
The NSG is deployed only in Delhi but not in Mumbai or other metro cities. NSG was exclusively formed to assist in anti-terrorism and anti-hijacking operations. NSG guards the politicians and provides them complete security against terrorism or hijacking. Do the politicians who shirk from their duty of protecting the common people deserve any security from the NSG? Of what use is their (politicians’) life, which is being protected, when they can’t extend the value of that protection to its citizens who they rule? And, who will these politicians rule when all the innocent citizens die like this, for no fault of theirs, in innumerable terror attacks?
One politician remarked that there was an unnecessary ‘hue and cry’ about these terror attacks, and especially the strong criticism against the politicians was unwarranted. She claimed that the “spirit of Mumbai” was violated by such strong invectives against the politicians! What does she mean by the “spirit of Mumbai?” Is the ‘spirit of Mumbai’ in tolerating one terror attack after another patiently without any demur? Is the ‘spirit of Mumbai’ violated when the politicians are taken to task and asked for their accountability? Is the ‘spirit of Mumbai’ sustained in acquiescing the inept handling of politicians and bearing the brunt of attacks in the country every time? On the contrary, the ‘spirit of Mumbai’ is not violated when the citizens of Mumbai question the politicians, but it is violated when they tolerate the terror attacks, since tolerating terror is tantamount to encouraging it. And, I am very glad that the citizens of Mumbai have ‘truly’ sustained the ‘spirit of Mumbai’ by not tolerating such attacks anymore.
In a dramatic turn of events, the Union Home Minister, Shivraj Patil, resigned four days after the terror attacks, claiming that he owned moral responsibility for the terror attacks! Was this moral responsibility sleeping in his conscience when there were so many terror attacks during his stint? According to an estimate, about 16 terror attacks took place when Shivraj Patil was the Home Minister. And, every time there was a terror attack, he was always saved by the PM, his coterie, and the Congress party, much to the chagrin of the Indian citizens. But, this time, not even God’s grace (or rather Sonia’s grace!) could save Shivraj Patil! Sonia Gandhi was the first to take him to task, venting her anger eloquently and explicitly against the Home Minister. Shivraj Patil seemed to have played perfect politics here, too! He said he was quitting as Home Minister as he owned moral responsibility for the terror attacks. Who is he fooling here? He would have been anyway fired, had he not resigned after this ghastly and intolerable incident. If he really did have any sense of moral responsibility, he should have resigned long back and should not have waited for the sixteenth terror attack! Moreover, his resignation mattered little, as the central elections are due in less than six months time! Someone had remarked that Shivraj Patil’s resignation was too little and too late, but I reckon it is better late than never!
The politicians’ and administrators’ inept handling of the machinery and resources at their disposal is clearly responsible for this human-made horrific disaster! As if to rub salt on injury, Vilasrao Deshmukh went to the Taj and Trident Oberoi hotels to survey the extent of damage, accompanied by Ram Gopal Varma (RGV), the film producer. Perhaps, the Maharashtra CM got a bright idea and felt that RGV could turn this incident into a commercial movie! This was the height (nay, the depth) of disgust and ridiculousness! Besides, when the funeral ceremony of Hemant Karkare, the Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) chief, took place in Mumbai on November 29, the police officers were saluting the martyr, while the CM just stood erect and silent without saluting! Either the CM had forgotten how to salute or was in a different world altogether, thinking about the repercussions and whether he would be able to retain his CM post! This shows how serious the Maharashtra CM was towards this incident and what respect he had for the great martyrs of India!
There is an exigent need to bring about a revolution not only by the people of Mumbai, but by the entire citizens of India against the erring, delinquent, and apathetic politicians, who are turning a blind eye towards terrorism every time, treating it as a common phenomenon. The resignation of Shivaraj Patil, the Home Minister is not enough. The Prime Minister, the Chief of Navy, the Home Minister and the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, the National Security Advisor, the Deputy Commissioner of Mumbai, and the Union Home Secretary – all have to quit, besides being accountable to the people of India. I am very glad that Indian citizens have, at last, woken up, like never before, from their deep slumber, thanks to the unprecedented 60 hour ordeal! Didn’t someone say that whatever happens, happens for the good, and something good always emerges from something bad?
© 2008. P. Mohan Chandran. All Rights Reserved.