There is something distasteful about the manner in which each terrorist attack that takes place in India has begun swiftly to be followed by a bout of political recrimination and bloodletting. So it was that the bombing of a crowded marketplace in Hyderabad on Thursday prompted Bharatiya Janata Party leaders to accuse the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre — and Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, in particular — of indifference to national security, incompetence and worse. No doubt it is the duty of the Opposition to take the government to task for its lapses and failures but statesmanship and propriety demand that the tragedy not be politicised. There is a time and place for a debate to take place on the UPA’s handling of terrorism and law and order. But given that the terrorists who planted the bombs in Hyderabad probably set out to cause or sharpen social and political divisions in the first place, it makes no sense at all for politicians to play into their hands like this. It is axiomatic that every terrorist attack is, in one way or another, an intelligence failure but that doesn’t mean it is easy, or even possible, for a government to devise intelligence capabilities that can ensure an attack will never take place. Considerable headway has been made since the 26/11 terror strike in Mumbai at the institutional level and there is much better coordination and sharing of intelligence today than there has ever been in the past. But the “last mile connectivity” — policing on the ground — remains an area of critical weakness throughout the country.
The fact that the Delhi Police had learnt last October that the Dilsukhnagar locality had been surveyed by the Indian Mujahideen terrorist outfit — and that the Hyderabad police were aware of this — prompts the obvious question of why the potential target area was not subjected to more intensive policing and surveillance. It is possible that the intelligence agencies collectively thought the alert was too general in nature but even so, the city police ought to have stepped up patrolling, strengthened its network of informants and contacts, and increased the number of CCTV cameras. Hyderabad is, in many ways, a logical target for terrorist groups. An important economic hub, its population is heterogeneous and there is no shortage of irresponsible politicians and hotheads constantly stirring up a toxic cauldron of hate. Islamist and Hindutva terrorists have struck the city in the past in the hope of triggering wider clashes but the people of Hyderabad have time and again resisted these provocations. No doubt they will do so again. But it will take more than peaceful citizens to keep the city safe. Its policing must be of a standard commensurate with the threats it faces.