Where's the will to break India's cycle of violence?

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 September, 2011, 12:00am


Like the Bourbons, Indians never learn anything. Bombs keep exploding - the latest being at Delhi High Court last Wednesday in which 13 people died - and the same incompetence and somnolence emerge.

In the horrific carnage of the 2006 Mumbai train blasts, it transpired that the wings of the intelligence services didn't share information, the station metal detectors didn't work, and it took 10 hours for the National Security Guard commandos based in Delhi to reach Mumbai because no plane was available. The Mumbai police were reduced to playing Keystone Kops with bullet-proof jackets that proved not to be bullet-proof (a report published last month by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi says they still can't afford to buy the jackets).

People expected the politicians and civil servants to make sure they were better equipped for the next terrorist attack. They should have known better. In India, people love enunciating opinions and plans. They think talking is as good as doing. After all the hot air, nothing happens. Then it's all forgotten.

The grounds of Delhi High Court has no CCTVs. The plan to install them has been mired in meetings and paperwork for years. Numerous residents' associations in the capital have installed CCTV systems in their neighbourhoods to curb crime, but not the Indian government.

Of course, the cameras could not have precluded an attack but at least the culprits might have been identified. With no video footage of the grounds where the bomb went off, Delhi police put out a pathetic sketch of the two suspects; they looked like half the men in India.

Nor were metal detectors at the court working, just as they don't work at New Delhi railway station.

The intelligence gathering, if it happens at all, is very weak and unco-ordinated.

Until the Indian government starts valuing its people, the country will be condemned to repeat this cycle of death, carnage, grief, and parents cremating their children.

And maybe the public and the media also need to learn how to keep up the pressure. No newspaper, TV channel or citizen's group in Mumbai has, for example, forced the government to tell if they have acted on their promises.

They need to ask: where are the faster patrol boats to protect Mumbai's coastline, the better intelligence, the arrangements for a faster response, more walkie-talkies, and an extra police presence at busy places - all the promises that were made in the wake of the train bombs. And maybe also: how high does the death rate have to go before you feel any urgency? Five hundred? A thousand? Five thousand? What will it take for you to act?

Amrit Dhillon is a freelance writer in India