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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Intelligence Failures after 26/11

Intelligence lapses of the investigative kind may have allowed ten or more young men with murder in their hearts. But what followed was total and complete intelligence failure on everyone’s part – the media, the police, the politicians and the public.

There is this inexplicable desire in us to measure ourselves against the West, so even the “War on Mumbai” of 26 November turns into India’s 9/11. The closest equivalent to Mumbai’s 26/11 was the Parliament attack on Dec 13 2001, where the terrorists rushed in with AK-47s blazing using explosives and grenades. The only difference was that this time it was a protracted battle with terrorists taking hostages and the army, navy and police all involved in removing them. The President who is the leader of the armed forces was conspicuous by her absence. Probably the Chiefs of Staff figured all that heat would have ruined the ‘rubber stamp’. The Prez cut short her tour only after everything was over.

The national media were fairly salivating over the incident, with the rich and famous trapped inside some for a few hours other for two days. No one even bothered to follow up on the poor who were shot to pieces at CST station. Every move, every hiccup was faithfully recorded, packages put together and regurgitated in fits and starts for our consumption. Finally one hears the NSG told the media to lay off showing live footage since the terrorists who were constantly on satellite phone to their bosses would be warned about what to expect. The terrorists wanted publicity and the media both local and international gave it to them generously. No wonder then the terrorists who were so free with flinging grenades all over the place did not lob a single grenade at the media. They wanted their 60-hours of fame recorded for posterity. Even after the last terrorist was killed and the last grenade exploded, one English channel reporter tried getting into the Taj hotel to give us an “exclusive” story but got turfed out and instead walked around the building describing in earnest throbbing tones, the shattered glass on the pavement.

One learned later that intelligence failure affected the three top cops too – ATS Chief Hemant Karkare, Vijay Salaskar and Ashok Kamte. They heard their colleague was injured at Cama Hospital after battling terrorists there. Three top cops should not have been traveling together in one vehicle, but they did. Instead of proceeding with caution, they drove openly to the hospital and the terrorists merely stepped out from behind some trees and killed them in the jeep itself. The terrorists then threw out the bodies of the three top cops on to the road, and adding insult to injury seized that very police jeep and drove off in it shooting into the crowd. There were three dead constables in the jeep and one injured one. The injured one lived to tell the tale.

Politicos had their well documented intelligence lapses with Dy CM RR Patil describing it as a small incident. Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh became a terror tour guide. The Kerala Chief Minister got all insulted when the father of the slain Major Unnikrishnan, refused to let his sniffer dogs or the Kerala CM enter his house. He made some comments which could have been misinterpreted and then turned into the typical row this 26/11 incident revels in.

Finally, candle-holding women with or without lipstick that so troubled the BJP politician Naqvi, launched into an anti-politician rally which found echoes all some of the large cities of India. That is an intelligence lapse too, because the urban vote is not important to the political class. Remember both the CM and Dy CM of Maharastra are from Latur and Tasgaon districts, both very rural. The criticism will not make an iota of difference to most politicians because the simple reason is the urban people are a small minority that does not constitute their vote bank. All that passion, those insults, those wild suggestions will amount to nothing. These clowns will be voted back the next time round. Witness Pale here in Goa. Why? Because we are like that only.

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