Wednesday, 20 July 2011

IF ONLY...

By Prabal Atreya

I would like to start off this column with my deepest condolences for the lost lives and injured lots in the LATEST Mumbai carnage; may Almighty provide strength during this time of crisis to the family members of the victims. Just a day after the blasts, I was having a regular conference call with my business partner sitting in US, and he started off the discussion with a condolence note and asked me about the ground situation there in Mumbai. I, in a quick response, based on what is shown by our very RESPONSIBLE media, described him a brief and ended up saying that “Mumbaikars are known for their resilient characters and they would bounce back to normalcy in a day or two” with a very casual tone. And then we continued with the regular stuff. But then, just after the call, as I replayed the discussion, something bothered me. With the casual tone and the content of what I said, saw me rating myself very low in my moral ME. It also reflected the attitude I possess for lost human lives, maybe because it happened with someone else and not with me. But then, when I put my thoughts a little deeper on to the victim’s families, I went into a more emotional crisis. Perhaps like me, many others in this country, rest of the country to be very correct, began to assume that Mumbai roads are bound to have traces of RDX, Ammonium Nitrate and Nitro-glycerine, among others. That this might just be a part of life for a Mumbaikar and we all have to deal with it, and offer our condemnation and condolences every time and move on with our respective lives.

As expected, the political gimmick started with verbal stone pelting on the government from its opponents. Media got into action. Social Networking sites did not lag behind, with the high emotions running among FBians and Twitteratti, expressing themselves in their destructive best. Some again glorified the event with being the birthday of Ajmal Kasab (which BTW, is totally untrue) and ran campaigns like ‘Hang Kasab’ all over again. Mr.Arnab Goswami skinned out each of the spokesperson of different political parties. Padmashri Barkha Dutt, with her drenched self, covered the aftermath in rain, with utmost flair doing justice of why she is an awardee from the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association, from ground zero Zaveri Bazaar. Then there’s Mr. Pritish Nandy, whom I closely follow, started bashing the government, covering all aspects of leadership, not even sparing the Rajas and Marans, well acknowledged by readers (going by the comments given) in one of his regular columns. Although I disagree on many counts on this occasion, I don’t blame him, the discussions about terrorism and security are so dynamic in approach that it just dabbles around almost all aspects of governance. At this moment when I’m writing this piece is when the country is witnessing a blame-game on communal terrorism by the two leading parties of the nation, Mr. Digvijay Singh being the frontrunner.

I hail from the state of Assam, which had witnessed mass home grown terrorist activities in the 80s and 90s, which is a different subject matter altogether, but understand the lifelong pain it gives to families of victims. Although from the lower part of Assam which is less prone to such actions, I still consider it more dangerous, considering the porous borders with Bangladesh it shares, within close proximity. Recent intelligence reports does talks about terrorists flocking in both from our eastern and western neighbours through this channel, staying in these areas, meeting and planning, and then dispersing throughout the whole country to perform their gruesome acts. And while I talk about Assam and for all the wrong reasons it is known to the rest of the world, please understand that IT IS NO MORE A TERRORIST STATE, and if anyone wants to, please check the numbers and dates on recent incidents and apply intelligence. I’m currently in Bangalore, for the last 11 years, have been witnessing the Green City turning into an IT City, love just about everything that this city gave me. While the city had witnessed few low intensity blasts and mostly bomb scares, the day is not too far when Bangloreans would share similar fear factors like Mumbaikars.

Terrorism is genuinely a reality. But the question is, whether we just accept the fact and move on with life? Whether we talk about resilience and character of people bouncing back to life aftermath and keep applauding the fact? Is it enough by just blaming the ruling government? Would we just regret intelligence (or no) failure of our country and only talk of collaborations with global intel agencies? That we keep portraying our vulnerability to the external forces unknown to us? Or we’d play the Hindu/Muslim communal terrorism card just like our political class? Would the strategic experts talk about port mortems and not about designing new methodologies? And we the people just bash the people in power in our everyday ‘chai’breaks, SN sites, blogs?

IF ONLY. If only the government, in fact all future governments, put together immediate short-term and long- term goals on terrorism and security, not to forget the timeliness associated to be reviewed and met. If only there could be separate and sufficient allocation of funds for internal security separate from defence funds, regularly seen in annual budgets. If only, we could expedite all pending and future requests on ammos and accessories associated with internal securities, anything from CCTV to sniper rifles. If only, we could strengthen the BSF; educate and exercise greater polity among commoners sharing borders and beyond not to encourage infiltration. If only, the right and the left wing (and if I may add, the south wing, given the world of coalition govt. we live in) unites in decision support on these matters with the ruling party for the security of the same people they represent. If only, the chemical manufacturers and their distribution channels are more vigilant on their processes from raw materials to finished goods. If only, we have better disaster management groups, not to take away the fact there were tall claims being made about better management on this occasion. If only, telecommunication cos. follow the right ethics in their sales functions and improve their R&D functions (considering that now terrorists manage themselves in VoIPs like Skype which cannot be tracked, considering the amount of data storage Indian users produce). If only, the legal system expedites pending cases (point noted though from Mr.Moily who, before leaving his ministry recently, conceded about significant improvement in this area) giving priority in such cases, and sending across the message of zero tolerance to the intended audience. If only, we the common people understand that putting hold on the dialogue process with our western neighbour is not the solution to terrorism. If only, we the people be more vigilant on our surroundings, use that 8MP camera on our mobiles to capture suspected behaviours around; be more knowledgeable about people staying around us within our busy lives. If only, we start treating people without any communal bias and taboo. If only, we the commoners could extract the best meaning from the everyday food for thought provided by our very democratic media, and participate and educate everyone around in terms of terrorism and security issues. And the many IF ONLYs.

If only, we the people of this country realise that it is not just for a government to tackle, an opposition to gag, an NSA to strategize, a BSF to perform his duty, an NSG to manage an attack, an ATS to investigate, medicos equipped to handle emergency, a common man to pray and move on; but a collective effort of each and every individual to fight against terrorism in our individual capacity.
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