Yes, I am Manmohan Singh. As were atleast 40-50 people in Coimbatore day before yesterday. Watch this clip to know why I am saying this. You see in the CCTV footage, motorists at a fairly busy traffic junction watching on neutral gear a man being beaten, with his head finally smashed with a stone. By the time the police rushed him to hospital, he was declared dead. Going by the visuals, did not seem like he stood a chance.
After the terror attack in Mumbai yesterday, I find twitteratti and facebookers in overdrive, taunting, cursing, berating, spoofing Manmohan Singh, equating him with inertia, asking if he is sleeping. As if he is your Group 4 security personally employed to keep you safe. I am not saying it is not his government’s responsibility to keep Indians safe. But can we absolve ourselves of all blame?
The inertia that we display time and again, in not asking questions, in not reacting strongly and in a sustained manner, in not accepting anything less than THE RIGHT response to any situation. Both the attack in Mumbai and in Coimbatore were acts of terror. One faceless, the other in-your-face. Yet no one moved a finger at that traffic junction to save an innocent man. If your concern is limited to joining a `Fight for Mumbai’ page on Facebook or lighting a candle at India Gate, sorry, that’s not good enough. You are a Manmohan Singh too.
Just like I am.
Two months ago, when I went to a neighbourhood Foodworld supermarket in West Marredpally in Secunderabad, I noticed the mandatory metal detector at the entrance did not beep. That was because, it was merely a wooden frame with no gadget attached. When I enquired, the staff gaped and giggled as if they had just discovered that it had gone missing.
Day before yesterday, when I visited the same supermarket again, the wooden frame was still on silent mode. Nothing had changed. The supermarket was and remains a sitting duck. And God forbid, if anything untoward happens, there may not be clues on camera either because the owners have not invested in CCTVs. I touched wood as the thought crossed my mind.
That’s why I say I am a Manmohan Singh too.
Outside, I did see a couple of bored policemen. One was talking on his mobile phone, the other was playing a game on it. Too busy to be looking around for anything suspicious. And why should they? They were there not for you and me but because chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy was visiting in the neighbourhood and they would need to stand by when his convoy passes.
A friend, whose job it is to train security guards, observes India is a terrorist’s delight. And cities like Mumbai where the world overflows into the streets 24×7, even interns in the terror networks can do the job for you because we are not a security-conscious nation, except immediately after a terror attack when we find out `all izz not well’.
Despite the overriding cynicism, we must acknowledge that after 26/11, it is 31 months later that this has happened once again in Mumbai. Except one incident at German Bakery in Pune in February 2010 and three blasts in the north east, India has been largely terror-free and for that we must give credit to MMS and PC.
You may argue that the US has not seen any since 9/11. But then we don’t have sophisticated protocols, systematic security regimes, gadgetry and budgets to match what the Americans do to secure themselves. We can’t even afford it and our priorities are not similar. So a comparison would be unfair.
Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan described the terror strike as an attack on the heart of India. He obviously wanted to convey the intensity of the strike. Yes the pictures make you cringe. Disturbing as they are, the television channels and newspapers needed to bring home the shock, so we can shake out of our cynicism and make India wake up to this enemy who is no longer at the doorstep but has one foot inside your home.
So long as you are going to have policemen deployed mainly for VIP bandobast, the terrorist will laugh all his way to the next bomb. So long as you have police appointments by bribing a minister, you are taking a risk everytime you step into a crowded area. So long as the best security equipment is not put in place and entire cities wired up with an electronic safety net, someone out there can always sign your death warrant.
Coming up with pop solutions like `Hang Kasab’, as if that will wipe away terror, is so meaningless. Yes, put the case on fast track. And the next time you choose to say yeh sarkaar nikammi hai, look at yourself in the mirror and ask : Would you have done something different if you were in Coimbatore at that traffic junction day before yesterday?