Passing the Buck



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26/11 Mumbai attacks are still fresh in our minds. Nobody has forgotten those heart wrenching scenes that were telecast live or numerous documentaries that are shown time and again. The media has still not forgotten the issue and rightly so. The recent confession of the 49-year old Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley for his involvement in the terror attacks has shocked India even more. Not that we didn’t expect him to be guilty but, there being a possibility of him neither getting a death penalty nor life imprisonment has appalled everyone. Once again, the media, online discussion forums, chat rooms, blogs, social networking sites etc are abuzz with our discontent over the situation.

The common man blames the government for their inept handling of our case with the US and the government in turn blames Pakistan for breeding terrorists. Pakistan says that it is also a target of terror activities and is innocent. This way the blame game goes on. This seems to be the simplest way of fulfilling one’s responsibilities – passing the buck dialogue after dialogue, discussion after discussion. However, all of us need a reality check.

Have we ever looked at ourselves to see where we are lacking? What steps has the government taken to ensure that such attacks do not re-occur? Or, how has the common man helped the government do this? What are the attitudinal changes that we have brought about in us?

Here are a few lessons that we ought to have learnt from the Mumbai attacks. The government needs to safeguard our porous borders. The terrorists responsible for the attacks came from the sea that are still as unguarded as they were in November 2008. Rules and regulations related to media coverage of such information-sensitive events need to be tightened. The terrorists inside the hotels or the Nariman House we constantly updated by the ones outside via mobile phones about the plans of our security forces. The mobile companies too need to follow stricter security measures. Had they been able to tap the conversations of the terrorists on a real-time basis, a lot more lives would have got saved.

The common man needs to bring about a change in his attitude. We should not complain when we have to undergo thorough security checks at hotels, cinema halls, airports etc. In fact, if this is not done then we should inform the authorities. If we see any suspicious activity or any unclaimed object lying around us, we should immediately inform the police.

The politicians too need to act responsibly. It was because of a telephonic interview of a hostage politician to a radio station that helped the terrorists trace the location of over a hundred hostages that could have otherwise been saved.

Our emergency services like the fire brigade, hospitals, police etc need to be better equipped. The terrorists were better armed than our police force that was still dependent on dated rifles. Who can forget the faulty bullet-proof jacket of the martyr, former Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare?

Post the attacks we came to know that our intelligence agencies had forewarned about the attacks in Mumbai and that the five-star hotels were a possible target. This is the saddest part. Had the agency or the Maharashtra government or the hotels acted more responsibly, probably this attack could have been averted. Unfortunately, the lives of those who lost their near and dear ones would never be the same again because of the mistakes of a bunch of people.

Above all, is it plausible to believe that a group of 8-10 terrorists could have recced our turf and executed the entire attack without any help from our very own people? Though there is no evidence to prove this, but it does make logical sense. Whether this was true or not, it should not happen in future. As citizens of our country, it is our responsibility to ensure that nobody divides us and then rules us again. We have already paid a huge price for this in the British Raj and we definitely cannot afford another such mistake.

The government claims to have taken sufficient steps to ensure that such attacks do not recur. However, they do not realize that the terrorists are working at a much faster pace than us. They are better trained and more tech-savvy. It is not that we don’t have the expertise with us. It is just that we are not able to channelize our energies in the right direction. We have hardly made any progress 16 months after the attacks. There have been no fresh attacks in Mumbai, not because we have prevented the terrorists from doing so but because the latter have chosen not to attack us. The recent blast in Pune is indicative of that. If someday the terrorists decide to attack Mumbai or any other part of India, there would be little to prevent them from doing so.

We all should remember that whenever we point a finger at someone, three fingers point at us. It is high time that we stand up and take responsibility for our lives. Only when we all contribute to the firewood can we hope to build up a strong fire.