Friday, 15 July 2011

Is Mumbai a soft target for terrorists?

Why is Mumbai a terror target?Why Mumbai?
When serial blasts ripped the heart of the city in 1993, it gutted the collective psyche of a city, and a nation forever. Ever since Mumbai has been the favorite hunting ground to unleash terror with over 700 people having been killed so far.
But why Mumbai and not Delhi, India’s capital, or Ahmedabad, which witnessed gruesome riots, and why not Bangalore, after all it commands global attention.
Here’s perhaps why…

Mumbai offers anonymity
India’s most populous city cloaks most of the 20.5 million people in anonymity; migrants are plenty, allowing anyone can slip in and out unnoticed. This makes it easier for terror outfits to operate, undetected, for long periods of time surfacing only to execute their strategy. They can go under the radar and vanish like a ghost. With a population density of 20,482 persons per square kilometer, it is one of the densest regions in the world.
Former state chief secretary D M Sukhtankar pointed out that Mumbai's vastness is also its weakness: "Terrorists want to demonstrate that despite efforts to prevent such incidents they can still strike at will. Mumbai offers anonymity. It is difficult to identify someone next to you."

Carries an uneasy burden
Mumbai carries in its collective conscience the guilt and heaviness that comes from a heinous crime where the perpetrators have gone unpunished. In the 1992 riots, post the Babri Masjid demolition, more than 900 people were killed, mostly Muslim, justice has not been dealt as yet.
Singh, thinks that this lack of resolution could be one of the causes. "It has not come to a closure because the prime instigators still elude the authorities. Their role was visible in subsequent attacks," he added.
The 700-page, 1998 Srikrishna report, on Mumbai riots has been ignored by successive governments, the politicians and policemen involved in the rioting remain scot-free. But at the same time, prosecution of those involved in the 1993 bombings has been swift leading to speculation that the government is anti-Muslim.

India’s financial, commercial and celluloid capital
The most often cited reason is that Mumbai is the financial and commercial center of India and wreaking havoc here will generate frenetic media attention and weaken the India story.
Former state chief secretary D M Sukhtankar corroborates this: "The high population density, and its intense business and economic activity, make it an easy target for those who want to create worldwide panic," he said.
"The city has been attacked every three years since 2003. Mumbai has a strong network of Indian Mujahideen and SIMI. While the police upgraded its infrastructure and equipment after 26/11 attack, the real focus should be on how to curb radicalization of youth from the minority community," he said.

Soft target
The Home Minister, P Chidambaram claimed that there was no intelligence failure, but there was a lack of intelligence- a crucial problem when it comes to tackling terror. In spite of making huge investments and creating a new agency to tackle terror, a severe incompetence in gathering credible intelligence makes most of our cities a vulnerable to attacks with Mumbai bearing the brunt.
“Even though both State and Central governments have been scrambling to set up all kinds of special counter-terrorism forces,” says Dr. Ajai Sahni, Director of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi, “there has been no real effort to improve intelligence-gathering and investigations capabilities from the bottom-up.”
“No computer,” he points out, “is going to help you solve a case if you've got no worthwhile data to feed into it”.
To paraphrase CD Sahay, former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief “From our side, we have made very tall claims that we’ve taken many measures to beef up security after 26/11 but the country is totally unprepared to detect and neutralize terrorists and terror attacks. We have been the target for terrorists for two and a half decades now, but we do not have structures in place to actually stop these sorts of attacks.”

Already home to terror outfits and gangs
Mumbai’s sordid underbelly is a breeding ground for gangs and also home to numerous terror groups. The state government or the centre has been unable to crack down effectively and weed out these rogue elements. Until there is a strategy to clip their wings, the message that gets sent out is that Mumbai is a safe city to operate out of.
Sahay makes a valid point when he says: “The terrorists who have done this did not cross the border the day before yesterday surely. We have terrorist cells in our country, deep down, that get activated when the time comes.”
It's not just the terror outfits that are a cause for concern, “The Mumbai police should have an impact on the criminal underbelly of the city. That is very important,” says MN Singh, former Mumbai police commissioner. Recently one of the city’s leading crime reporters Jyotirmoy Dey was recently gunned down. Nobody knows the reason, but police are speculating that Rajendra “Chhota Rajan” Nikhalje, the East Asia-based gangster was behind the killing.
Since the reasons for the crimes are not simple and are a multi-layered, multi-headed hydra that won’t be easy to put down it will be a long time before the city that never sleeps slips into a fitful slumber.

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