I was 16 and it was my mom’s birthday. All of us were waiting for Papa to come home so that we could go out to Juhu beach followed by dinner at the Evening Post, a restaurant where prices were a wee-bit higher than the usual ones and the waiters were also dressed in starched whites bowing and nodding frequently, thus making it a special place fit for birthdays and anniversaries. Post afternoon, I was standing outside our home and I noticed something quite out of the place, nervous people were rushing hither-thither and one could spot a motley group talking quite animatedly.
It had not been much time, since the city of Mumbai had witnessed the worst kind of communal violence after the demolition of Babri Masjid, we were all edgy and worried, fearing and scared about the worst. It was then that we came to know that a series of blasts had rocked the city of Mumbai. Rumors were flowing thick and thin, the news on the television or the radio was not much of help. Some were saying that there were 15 blasts and some claiming it to be 5. With every passing moment, I would hear of a blast at some another location, Air India Building, Zaveri Bazaar, Sea Rock, Sebi, Centaur, Passport Office. I was extremely worried about Pa, this was the time before mobile phones become ubiquitous, so there was no way to reassure self.
Standing outside my home, I remember looking to heavens in utter helplessness, pleading with the divine powers to take care of my pa, many promises were made, many bribes were offered. What else could a puny teenager do in the wake of these circumstances? Fortunately for me, the gods were kind. Pa missed one of blasts by a whisker, so as to say. But that wasn’t the case for hundreds of poor individuals who on March 12, 1992 met a horrific death. For so many hundreds of teenagers like me who lost their parents on that day, life would never ever be the same.
There have been quite a few bomb blasts post 1992, even another serial blasts in suburban Mumbai trains and every time my blood curdles up. What really pisses me is the impunity with which these bastards commit the crimes and get away with it. It is as if, there is little that we can do to really protect ourselves, it is so easy for these gutter-snipes to place a bomb or two where they wish and never for once does our administration wake up. Every time, I see or hear about a blast, I remember my mom’s birthday, the day I was imploring and pleading with gods to take care of my Pa. So, when I heard and saw the news on television about the blasts in Jaipur, I felt like screaming, shouting, hitting out at somebody, anybody, I felt like crying. I needed to do something, and the piece below was written in angst and in pain. I just wish I didn’t have to return to that day in 1992, again and again.
Jaipur blasts: A bloody soft state
The real answer to terror could come from hardware and software, and nothing else
Blood was splattered on the soiled ground; there was single leather shoe with singed laces; cycles, bicycles, handcarts all twisted horrifically out of shape; shattered glass everywhere; somewhere afar one could discern the silhouette of a human form – life snuffed out, and in the neighborhood, wails intermixed with groans, for the dead and for the living.
And looming large over everything was silence, an overpowering silence, a defeated silence — a helpless one. Yet again, terror had come calling and yet again we were helpless and weak in front of it.
The only thing that had changed this time was the location: instead of a train or bus in Mumbai, or the Parliament in Delhi or instead of an open air theatre in Hyderabad, or a temple in Akshardham, or a mosque in down south, it was the beautiful Pink City of Jaipur.
In 12 minutes flat, 7-8 RDX bombs changed so many lives that it will be hard to account for all of them. Official figures put the casualty at over 60, with more than a few hundred injured. These statistics are not only symbolic of our helplessness but also of the sheer callousness of the administration.
Indeed, the jamboree has already started; fingers have been pointed towards the usual suspects, LeT, the HUJI, SIMI, ISI and the lot. Of course, one cannot so easily blame Pakistan (considering the mess it, itself is in), so there is Bangladesh (but then the poor state has been in a constant mess since the time it was carved out in 1971).
Leaders in Delhi are talking tough, “We will not tolerate these kind of actions…strict action will be taken…the perpetrators would be punished,” and so on. In the next few days be ready for a few ‘terrorist encounters’, where a few of the so-called LeT or HUJI terrorist will be gunned down and on their bodies will be found maps of different temples and army headquarters.
But all these claims by ministers and administration is just hollow posturing because the people who live with their families under X,Y,Z security categories and move around in a cordon of bullet and bomb-proof cars are completely inept to handle terror.
The question that begs an answer is why isn’t the government doing something conclusive about it? When we can send a capsule to the moon or simultaneously put 10 satellites in geo-synchronous orbit, why are we not able to detect the sleeper cells of these so-called terrorist outfits within the country? Why even after so many terror strikes has our intelligent gathering mechanisms not been modernized?
Look at the way US has battled terror. 9/11 brought terror to the American soil for the first time in history. A couple of thousand died in the twin towers itself. In the aftermath of the event, US invaded Afghanistan, later Iraq, made enemies across the Middle East. The US was much feared before 9/11, after 9/11 it was much hated.
And yet, there hasn’t been a single terrorist strike in nation after that catastrophic event even though its enemies have multiplied manifold. Simply because it learnt from the event, it strengthened its intelligence gathering apparatus, virtually everything has systematized. Land in the US, there are multiple times your fingerprints are digitally captured, every traveler into the country resides for eons on the servers of the FBI or the NSA.
Even for those not in the US, there is no guarantee that National Security Agency (NSA) is not keeping a tab on them. It is said that the agency, scrutinizes every call or email that goes in or out of the US. There are hundreds or even thousands of spy satellites up in the sky looking at every square inch of land. America shackled the beast of terror with technology.
The US is increasingly relying on GPS as a crime-fighting tool; India on the other hand took a strong stand against BlackBerry ‘to stymie’ terror. And terrorists use mobile phones to trigger explosions in India, leaving innocents still, silent and slain.
Fortunately or unfortunately, we can never be like the US. But surely we can at least learn from the all these calamities, if there was ever a time to act, it is right now. There is an urgent need to disband all the portly officials from RAW, CBI, and the intelligence Bureau and put in place a hi-tech network.
The real answer to terror could come from hardware and software, and nothing else.
If a private company in India can build world 4th fastest computer, EKA, surely we can have a hi-tech apparatus in place, which can monitor all those calls and emails and discern patterns.
A super computer has more chances of finding a sleeper LeT cell, than a whole police apparatus of a state. If Indian software engineers can help design software for NASA and the likes, why can’t their talents be used here in India? The question is not of capability but of will.
Are the people who run this country, capable and competent to understand the dynamics of this new warfare against us? Or they simply going to live in their cocoons and ‘share our grief’ and do bloody nothing? How many more Mumbais, Hyderabads, Delhi, Jaipurs, are needed to shake them out of their lethargy? How many more lives of poor helpless Indians need to be sacrificed on this altar of indolence?
Or is it that, we are destined to be a bloody soft state that can hardly do a thing when dastardly terrorist strike at will and shame us over and over again.
Meanwhile, all we can do is look to the heavens and beseech the lord to have mercy on the poor citizens of the charming Pink City and give them the power and wherewithal to tide over this crisis.