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Dawn of darkness

Over the past 3 days, I have experienced a series of emotions ranging from rage to sheer hopelessness in an unending loop and I am sure that most, if not all, Indians have gone through the same hence I will not write much about it. We all know it, we feel the same way and that is that.

However, what does concern me is the rather strange and distinctly unique aspects of both the original act of terror and the response to it. Sitting here in Trinidad, I have tried to stay in touch with the news back home and seem to be unable to see the picture being portrayed on national/international television media as well as over the internet. There are lots and lots of questions and I am trying to just list them all in no particular order of preference.

Firstly, how can this be percieved or clubbed as a logical next step to the series of blasts that have kept rocking India regularly over the recent past? This was not a motley group of cowards wrapping up ammonium nitrate into packets with glass shards and planting them at various locations around town before detonating them from afar and enjoying the fun, knowing fully well that they are very unlikely to be apprehended in the near future. This was a organized team of highly-skilled and trained operatives, using sophisticated gadgetry and stake-out techniques, working on a planned basis, determined to achieve their objective of drawing maximum global attention and causing maximum collateral damage.

It is being claimed that these militants were trained for about 3 months, probably somewhere in PoK, for this operation. But this duration does not make sense at all. This level of sophisticated weaponry and planning cannot be imbibed in 3 months, nor can you display this level of calm and precise behaviour straight out of training. They must have had more systematic training and participated in live situations, maybe smaller in magnitude.

We are also told that they set sail from Karachi, came close to Indian waters near Mumbai, hijacked an Indian fishing trawler Kuber and killed its crew before sailing towards Sassoon Dock. Are we to believe that a Pakistani vessel could approach Indian waters, rendezvous with an Indian vessel, then a crew transfer could happen, and the first vessel be left abandoned and no Indian security agency, coast guard or navy, would notice?

A boat laden with ammunition sails straight into Mumbai harbour, docks next to the Gateway, its occupants all alight with heavy wargear and move towards their targets, and no security agency has a clue? Is this the level of security/patrolling we have on our maritime borders? If this were to be true, why did Pakistan even bother with all the trouble trying to take Kargil when they could have taken Mumbai?

Why were the terrorists trying to prove that they were Indian citizens? Their accents were dead give-aways to their origins, but yet their speeches sounded prepared and committed to memory in a hurry, as a result of which the dialogue delivery was abysmal. In an operation of this level of sophistication, why was this device left to be at such an amateur level? Surely if the intention was to confuse anybody, these guys could have easily been trained on the right accent within 2-3 weeks at the most, call center companies do it all the time.

How did the ATS chief, another senior official, and the 'encounter specialist' get killed almost simultaneously? It was not like all 3 succumbed to a grenade blast or something. Never, ever in the history of any such shootout or stand-off have we ever seen more than one senior police official die, if any. Not at the parliament, not at Akshardham, not in the Jamia shootout, not at Lokhandwala, not in the fiercest battles on Mumbai streets during gangwar days, not anywhere else that I can remember.

And yet, here we have 3 police officials, and the most elite ones at that, dying on the same day, in the same place. Surely they were not too reckless to expose themselves to firing without taking the right precautions? Media reports suggest that Karkare died of bullets, shot at his chest. But online video sharing sites are full of his last video showing him donning a bullet-proof vest minutes before he died!

How many MPs died in the parliament standoff? How many people died at Akshardham? Weren't most hostages rescued? How many hostages were rescued in Mumbai? Lets not confuse matters here. If some people had locked themselves into a room or were hiding somewhere to avoid being killed by the terrorists, and our forces managed to reach them and get them out, thats not strictly rescuing hostages because they were not hostages in the first place ! A hostage is defined as "a person or entity which is held by a captor". These people were caught in the cross-fire and were in a difficult and traumatic situation no doubt, but they weren't held hostage by the terrorists who were more interested in singling out US and UK citizens and killing them.

I am not saying that our forces did not do a great job in getting these people out, of course they did. But I have not heard of a lot of hostages, defined as people actually held by somebody, being rescued. By that parameter, this has not been a very successful operation. About 200 NSG commandoes, a fair chunk of Marcos, ATS officials, Army troops and many more policemen were thrown into this operation, to neutralize the threat posed by about 10 terrorists and rescue hostages taken by them.

Yet 60 hours later, we had 2 NSG commandoes dead, apart from the ATS officers, most terrorists dead (atleast 3 have escaped?) and the buildings heavily damaged. This could still have been considered a a fair result in the circumstances if it was not for the fact that not one hostage survived. This is a massive failure that should not be ignored and forgotten.

One of the reasons being touted for the delay and the loss of lives is that the terrorists were well versed with the lay of the land while the NSG commandoes were literally working blind. Aren't we kidding ourselves here? In this era of AutoCAD, the flagship hotel of the country, owned by the Tatas, does not have a detailed floorplan saved on any computer in the world? There is no such document filed with the municipal corporation (required for regulatory reasons), development authority (required for construction and modification permissions), fire department (required for health and safety reasons) or any other government entity? Surely the terrorists could not have gotten better documentation than all these combined?

There are reports that the plane carrying the commandoes from Delhi was held up at the airport for some 'VIP' who wanted to travel to Mumbai on the same plane. How was this allowed to happen? While the name of this Very Idiotic Person has not been revealed, there is every reason to believe that it was our brilliant Home Minister Mr. Shivraj Patil. The man who could land in Mumbai and tell the media that 'by the time I landed in Mumbai, the terrorists had fled from the VT station...' , as if he could have caught them by their ear, and wrung their earlobes until they begged for mercy, promising to do their homework properly next time, is not above these shenanigans at the cost of countless lives and national safety, is he?

As if this was not enough, once the NSG commandoes start their operations and initiate their first assault on the building by being airdropped on to the roof and climbing down the walls using ropes, using hand signals to communicate with each other, after all secrecy and the surprise element are paramount, we have the rather horrifying sight of a television channel beaming the visuals of the same live and even trying to explain the whole operation in great detail ! I have never had a very high opinion of most India TV journalists, but surely they are sane enough to realise when to keep their blabbermouths shut? Surely, surely, they have a ticking brain somewhere in their cranium?

The security forces involved in the operation were probably feeling left out by now so we saw the operations heads of all the different agencies shooting from their hips talking all kinds of crap, in total deviance with each other. How difficult was it to agree to one of them being the spokesperson for all entities to ensure consistent, correct and relevant information was released to the world media while sensitive information was suppressed until it was safe to release it?

The farce continues even more. Our Prime Minister cannot think of any other response to this situation but to address the nation and condemn the act. Thats it? Nothing else? Would any other world leader not have taken any decisive action?

Oh no, I must retract. Apparently the honourable Prime Minister mentioned that this attack has links stretching back to Pakistan. Fair enough, thats not exactly surprising to anybody on this earth, is it? So what do you do, you demand that the head of ISI, Pakistan's intelligence agency, be sent to India to provide inputs into the investigation of the attacks.

This is farcical to the extreme and would be funny if the context was not so dastardly. Firstly, where does the Prime Minister of one country get off by demanding that the intelligence chief of another sovereign nation be sent to India to assist in an investigation? Why should Pakistan's premier not ask India's PM to mind his own business?

Then the Pakistan premier joins the goof-up brigade by agreeing to this summon. Needless to say, his army chief brooks no nonsense and refuses to let it happen. Resultantly, both the premiers have egg on their faces and no resolution in sight.

To summarise,
Another act by the Indian Mujahideen in another name? No
Yet another random terrorist strike, like many others before? No
Well-planned response by Indian forces? No
Quick and decisive action taken? No
Minimal collateral damange? No
Effective control of news disseminated? No
Rumours squashed quickly and decisively? No
Likely to lead to preventive action in future? No

At this point, I cannot make much sense out of all this, but could this just be a big farce played upon the nation, and even the world, to keep its attention diverted while something on a much larger scale, way more dastardly and painful, is being set in motion by sinister forces?

Have Osama, Dawood, Lashkar and the ISI joined hands?

Is this the dawn of a dark era of fear of terrorism in India?

I hope, rather pray, not.

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