In an open letter to the Prime Minister, Dr. Omkar Goswami says our governments have created a state that is completely unprepared to deal with growing terrorism.
Dear Prime Minister
On 13 January 1898, Emile Zola wrote an open letter to the French president in a major daily titled J’Accuse (I Accuse). It accused the government of anti-Semitism and the unlawful jailing of Alfred Dreyfus for espionage. The letter caused a stir and forced the re-trial of Dreyfus, in which he was cleared of all charges. Since then, J’Accuse has been used to publicise charges against the powerful and the mighty.
I don’t expect that piece will change anything. Yet, after witnessing 60 hours of carnage in Mumbai which cost the lives of at least 200 innocent women, men and children, it is my duty as a citizen to state what many millions of us believe but have not said.
I accuse the state of becoming soft on terror. On the UPA government’s watch, I have collated 16 episodes of terrorist attacks on Indian soil.
- October 29, 2005: New Delhi, the pre-Diwali blasts. 62 people killed.
- March 7, 2006: Varanasi temple blasts. 20 killed.
- July 11, 2006: Mumbai train blasts. 187 killed.
- November 6, 2006: Guwahati blasts. 11 killed.
- February 19, 2007: Indo-Pak Samjhauta Express blasts. 68 killed.
- May 18, 2007: Hyderabad mosque blasts. 11 killed.
- May 26, 2007: Guwahati blasts. 7 killed.
- August 25, 2007: Hyderabad blasts. 43 killed.
- November 24, 2007: Lucknow, Varanasi and Faizabad blasts. 16 killed.
- May 13, 2008: Jaipur blasts. 80 killed.
- July 25, 2008: Bangalore blasts. 2 killed.
- July 26, 2008: Ahmedabad blasts. 45 killed.
- September 5, 2008: Malegaon blast. 5 killed.
- September 13, 2008:New Delhi shopping centre blasts. 21 killed.
- October 30, 2008: Assam blasts. 80 killed.
- November 26-27, 2008:Mumbai hotels, train terminus killings. At least 200 killed.
That’s over 850 innocent deaths under the UPA. The list is not complete and doesn’t account for those routinely killed in Kashmir, or by the Maoists in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Since 2004, India has the distinction of suffering the brunt of more terrorist casualties than any country in the world, except Iraq. It has everything to do with the government’s softness on terror.
India is the soft underbelly of terrorism. To the west, we have an anarchy called Pakistan whose government has no control over militant jehadis — who wage war on their own country no less actively than they do on our soil. To the east lies Bangladesh, another nation rife with militant Islamist groups, operating with the knowledge that the government has neither the inclination nor the ability to do anything. To the north lies the porous border of Nepal, from where terrorists and Maoists move as they wish.
Given that we are encircled by terror, what has been the response of the government? First, the quality of intelligence. How many of the 16 episodes given above were accurately anticipated by the nation’s intelligence agencies? I don’t mean vague signals. I mean solid actionable intelligence that clearly expects a specific city to be hit on or around a specific date. And if we had such intelligence, what did the state governments do with it? Should not the relatives of the dead know whether the state genuinely tried to protect their lives, but failed? Or that it just didn’t care sufficiently enough?
Second, coordination between different agencies. We know that the National Security Advisor had repeatedly warned the coastline states of terrorist attacks from the sea. Yet, there was no coordination between the various intelligence agencies, the Coast Guard, the Navy and the Mumbai police. Every law enforcement agency worked in silos — each loath to share information with others.
Third, equipment and morale. The Mumbai police was woefully equipped. No proper Kevlar vests; no real weapons — just pistols and 303 bolt action rifles; no night vision equipment; no stun grenades; no real anti-terrorist training; nothing that could give them an upper hand against these well-armed terrorists who were determined to kill and die. Instead of equipping the police properly and backing them to the hilt, they are told that their major challenge lies in “restoring the faith of the people, especially those belonging to religious and ethnic minorities and the weaker sections” and that “many are convinced that the police is less than fair… even when policemen die in their line of duty.”
Fourth, the centrality of Delhi to the neglect of all other metros. The NSG is located in Delhi. Why? Because our nation’s leaders live there. In the last decade, what has prevented us from having battalions of NSGs being posted in Mumbai, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Guwahati — ready to move at short notice to meet terrorist threats? The denouement: 10 hours for the NSG to reach South Mumbai, by which time the terrorists had established their killing fields.
Fifth, our disgraceful political stance on terror. Terrorists are killers. We don’t care whether they are Ram, Rahim, Rupinder or Richard. They are killers, and must be killed before they kill. Yet, to protect ephemeral vote-banks, we can’t call a Pakistani or Simi-trained terrorist an Islamist. Just as L K Advani won’t call Hindu bomb-throwers terrorists. Our political discourse on terrorism is vitiated to the point of impotence. Any sensible citizen of India will agree that our squabbling leaders have failed to put national security above partisan politics.
If the government wishes to rise above vote-bank politics and tackle the terror, it has to do much better. It must admit that terrorism is public menace number one; that it will go after it single-mindedly, irrespective of the consequences; that it will not distinguish killers by their religion; that it will not allow vote-bank politics to come in the way; that it will never fight shy of wielding force; that it will accept collateral damage if need be; that it will give our intelligence, our cops and our armed forces all the resources that they need. And will walk the talk.
Will you? And instead of yet again rejoicing in Mumbai’s spirit, can you and other politicians first save its citizens?
The author is chairman, CERG Advisory Private Ltd. Views expressed here are personal
A professional economist, Dr. Goswami did his Masters in Economics from the Delhi School of Economics in 1978 and his D. Phil (Ph.D) from Oxford in 1982. He taught and researched economics for 18 years at Oxford, Delhi School of Economics, Harvard, Tufts, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Rutgers University and the Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi.
In March 1997 he moved away from formal academics to become the Editor of Business India, one of the country’s prestigious business magazines.
From August 1998 up to March 2004, Dr. Goswami served as the Chief Economist of the Confederation of Indian Industry — India’s premier apex industry organization. Dr. Goswami has served on several government committees. He was the Chairman of the Committee on Industrial Sickness and Corporate Restructuring in 1993, which recommended revamping India’s bankruptcy laws and procedures; member of the Working Group on the Companies Act; the CII Committee on Corporate Governance; the Rakesh Mohan Committee on Railway Infrastructure Reform; the Vijay Kelkar Committee on Direct Tax Reforms; the Naresh Chandra Committee on Auditor-Company Relationship; the N.R. Narayana Murthy SEBI Committee on Corporate Governance Reforms, etc.
Dr. Goswami has been a consultant to the World Bank, the IMF, the Asian Development Bank and the OECD. Other than his regular columns for newspapers and magazines,
Dr. Goswami has authored three books and over 70 research papers on economic history, industrial economics, public sector, bankruptcy laws and procedures, economic policy, corporate finance, corporate governance, public finance, tax enforcement and legal reforms.