It is two months since July 13, the day triple explosions killed 26 persons in Mumbai. Since then, we have heard Home Minister P Chidambaram assuring the nation that the investigations are “on the right track”. The Maharashtra chief minister has assured that the perpetrators will be “brought to justice”. Even Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh reminded the nation on the Independence Day that the attacks “warn us that there cannot be any slip-up in our vigilance as far as the fight against terrorism is concerned”. While Dr Singh asserted that this is a “long battle to be fought jointly by the central government, state governments and the common man”, an overwhelming feeling is beginning to sink in that the common man has been left under the mercy of the terrorists, as the Government continues with its flip-flop policy against terrorism.
In the two months since the attack, several frivolous developments have been tried to be projected as crucial breakthroughs. First, there was the report of a scooter being traced to the blasts. After the discovery that the scooter had been stolen, police arrested the thief and hailed it as a major achievement. Nothing, however, moved beyond that. Then, there was this curious case of a Mumbra resident, who stayed in Pakistan for several years before returning to India. He was initially booked in a fake currency case, but officials subsequently indicated that he may have been involved in the blasts. The next lead was the pursue of a Ranchi resident, Manzar Imam, who is reportedly absconding. Imam’s name figured in the list of 25 youth from Ranchi in an e-mail by arrested Indian Mujahideen (IM) cadre Danish Riyaz. Danish was arrested 22 days before the Mumbai blasts and Imam’s eventual arrest is not expected to provide any breakthrough.
Latest reports, however, have indicated that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) clearly points fingers at IM’s role. The NIA investigation has concluded that the conspiracy was hatched by IM leaders, Riaz Bhatkal and Iqbal Bhatkal, now in Pakistan, along with their two key associates, Dr Shanawaz and Mohd Khalid. Shahnawaz is in Sharjah while Khalid is in Dubai. NIA’s findings were submitted to the home ministry in August.
It is beyond comprehension why the home minister so eloquent about the threat Hindu terror groups pose to the country is shying away from naming the IM as the prime conspirator even weeks after the submission of NIA, an agency he hailed as the world’s best a month ago? Chidambaram’s quotes on Hindu terror have been tweeted by his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik to underline that it is the home-grown groups, and not Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, which is a primary threat to India. It isn’t clear whether the government considers naming the Bhatkal brothers as detrimental to the ongoing Indo-Pak peace process, or its considerations are product of a strange mindset that finds it almost obligatory to highlight the threat of Hindu terror whenever the involvement of an Islamist terror group crops up.
It isn’t also clear for how long Mr Chidambaram would manage to resist naming IM as the prime conspirator, for each passing day of silence would undermine the proposed counter-terror architecture he plans to put in place for securing the country from terror attacks. Even 34 months after the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, this architecture remains a barely rudimentary structure grossly incapable of delivering results. Apart from the fact that the constitution of the proposed National Intelligence Grid and National Counter-Terrorism Centre will surely outlast this government’s tenure, the lethargic pace of police modernisation, inter-agency and inter-ministerial rivalry in addition to partisan politics continue to create serious roadblocks in the country’s quest for safety against terror conspiracies. NIA may have been able to crack majority of the 29 cases that it has been assigned with for investigation, but it’s performance continues to be hampered by the lack of cooperation from other agencies.
It is not necessary to remind Mr Chidambaram that conclusion of investigation in the minimum amount of time is crucial not just to bring the perpetrators to justice, but also to prevent similar attacks in future. On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the citizens and the Government in the US nurture the satisfaction of having kept their homeland absolutely safe from terror for the past decade. Will the people of India ever have such a sense of gratification?
This article was published by Express Buzz and reprinted with the author’s permission