The law enforcement agencies go on an overdrive to detect persons responsible for the terror attacks initially and then lull themselves into complacency till another terror strike occurs
The twin blasts in Dilsukhnagar last Thursday point to several inadequacies in the functioning of the law enforcement agencies, primary being the will to put in place a security plan to prevent such blasts.
Terror attacks are not new to Hyderabad. In the last one decade, the State capital witnessed a blast near Sai Baba temple in Dilsukhnagar (2002), a suicide bombing at the task force office (2005), Lumbini Park and Gokul Chat blasts in 2007 followed by the blast in Mecca Masjid the same year. Indeed, a disturbing pattern is discernable. More worryingly so is the pattern of post-blast responses from the law enforcement agencies.
The initial ‘terror tourism’ of political leaders of different parties to the scene of terror attacks is invariably followed by their visits to the hospitals where the injured undergo treatment. The law enforcement agencies would go on an overdrive to somehow detect the persons responsible for the terror attacks. There would be several assertions to ensure that those responsible would be given stringent punishment. And then all agencies lull themselves into complacency till another terror strike occurs.
In this annoyingly repetitive cycle seen every time a terror strike occurs, what becomes glaring is the inability of the security agencies to institutionalise the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for post-terror strike responses.
As a senior officer analysed, there is a lack of willingness on the part of security agencies to initiate procedures whose guiding principle is to prevent such terror attacks in future. The focus would be only on somehow detecting the case rather than initiating steps to ensure that such things would not happen again.
What could the police do to prevent terror strikes? This question comes into sharp focus in the backdrop of reports that intelligence agencies had already issued warning about the impending attacks. While the ‘actionable’ intelligence inputs about movement of terror suspects or about an impending strike would help the field-level officials to take specific measures, the ‘general’ alerts are ignored to a large extent for the simple reasons that measures initiated on these general alerts are taken up with an air of casualness.
But the crucial component of any anti-terror initiative, the people’s cooperation, seems to have been given a low priority by the law enforcement agencies, more conspicuously in the latest blasts. A section of police officers argue that while alerts which have ‘actionable inputs’ must be kept secret and worked on, the general alerts must be publicised so that people become aware of the possibility. Though such a tactic could trigger some insecurity feeling among people, at least they would report any suspicious looking objects or look out for those moving in suspicious manner.
After the Lumbini and Gokul Chat blasts in 2007, the city police took up a systematic drive to sensitise people on terror attacks. Right from using the police website, which had a dedicated page on terror (http://bit.ly/YVqW1u) listing out the ways of identifying a suspect to the procedures to be followed, if something had happened. The police did indeed put their soul into the education drive – the caller tune of all mobiles of police department were changed to messages asking the callers to be cautious about suspicious looking objects left on roads. Specially made documentaries were mandatorily screened in movie theatres and TV channels requested to show the clips. At every traffic junctions, traffic policemen blared anti-terror precautions to be taken. The special branch and task force officials regularly conducted mock drills, began checking up lodges and periodic ‘naka bandi’ and cordon and search operations were taken up.
The sub-inspectors visited houses in their sectors to verify the antecedents of tenants and the continuity of all these measures created a situation where every citizen was primed to look out for trouble, even if it had made people xenophobic to some extent. But over a period of time, this experiment was abandoned, though many other cities replicated the ‘Hyderabad Initiative’.
The best example of such heightened awareness is that of a municipal sweeper who noticed a packet abandoned near Lingampally railway line on November 9, 2007. She opened the pack and had just seen two wires. A packet with some wires was indicative of a bomb and she promptly alerted her employer who called in police. Indeed it turned out to be a bomb. And that was detected because of the awareness of an illiterate woman. This awareness was possible because of an intense education drive, which is missing now.