One more attack has come and gone, and all too familiar scenes are replaying themselves. The buck is being generously passed around, no party is willing to admit a lapse of any sort, and the miscreants are willingly claiming responsibility for the hideous act, perhaps secure in the knowledge that there are few chances of their being at the receiving end of any sort of punishment. We keep the accused in prisons, nourish them on taxpayers’ money, debate death sentences, and promptly return to the starting point.
This time, the group claiming responsibility for the blasts is one from Bangladesh. The Prime Minister has just returned from a trip to the country, and of course several pacts would have been signed. Who loves their neighbours better than we do? The sharing of the waters of the river Teesta was the point of contention between the PM and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee; it was cited as the reason for her withdrawal from the Bangladesh trip. But she isn’t the only unhappy person. The agreement on the waiver of tax duties on the import of certain kinds of textiles from Bangladesh has small-scale clothing manufacturers in India up in arms. They worry that goods from Bangladesh will flood the Indian market, and the costs of their production being lower than those here spell tough times for small Indian manufacturers.
While we persist in our efforts to appease our neighbours, why can’t we simultaneously adopt a tough stance on issues of national security? The lack of CCTVs and functioning metal detectors is just one visible lapse; using the excuse of the blast having taken place in a public area and not on the premises of the High Court is a sign of weakness. Is security supposed to be restricted only to the anointed? The verbal slugfests that immediately follow any major incident only worsen the situation, and VIPs ought to know that people are no longer taken in by the hand-holding and sympathising. Patience is running low. That no lessons have been learnt from recent incidents is extremely evident; we continue to worry about our image on the world stage and the signals we send out in the way we treat the accused. The damning statements in Wikileaks on how David Coleman Headley’s extradition was viewed only as an attempt to placate the Indian public show just how serious we are about bringing criminals to book.
India needs a drastic image change. This will not come from mere speeches condemning terrorism, but from action that accompanies and justifies the words. It’s high time we stopped being just impressive orators.