2008 is possibly the worst year of violence in India. There have been terrorist attacks and blasts in Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Guwahati and now in Mumbai. The Indian government is merrily going around boasting of economic growth as ordinary citizens reel under attacks by terrorists.
Manmohan Singh comes across as a spineless Prime Minister. He cannot quell the anti-Maharashtrian tirade of Raj Thackeray, nor can he take on the terrorist organizations that are striking Indian cities -- one after another -- with impunity. He should own up to moral responsibility of the government's failure and resign.
The terror attacks in Mumbai have serious lessons for India. The terrorists were shepherded into the heart of Mumbai by a ship and rubber dinghies. They came from the seas and not by land from an adjoining state of Maharashtra or by aeroplanes.
It shows that the surveillance systems of the government are completely inadequate to meet security challenges in 21st century. It is time that India puts together a comprehensive security and surveillance mechanism of air, sea and land on the lines that the United States has put in place after 9/11.
The coordination between the police departments of various Indian states is weak. After repeated talk of a nationwide anti-terrorism organization, no such body has been formed. India is not a single market and similarly it is not even protected by one agency, so far as internal security is concerned. The lack of a unified response system is giving terror groups an advantage. Unless a nationwide mechanism to counter terror threats is put in place, India will continue to bleed.
But such security measures alone can't stop terror attacks. As long as the genuine grievances of Muslims are not addressed, there will always be a tiny fringe within the Muslim community who will simmer in anger and will choose violence. There is a need to start an open dialogue about what Muslims feel angered about.
The Gujarat riots of 2002 is obviously one such incident. Of course, in no way is it justified that if organized Hindu mobs have killed innocent Muslims, Muslim gunmen can hold entire populations to ransom and kill innocent people through blasts or gun attacks.
Independent India has long tried to evade fundamental questions. There are attacks on Christians, on Sikhs, on tribal people, there are excesses of security forces in Kashmir or Nagaland. Raj Thackeray holds Mumbai to ransom and our leaders merrily sign trade pacts. I
ndia growing at 8 per cent or 'India shining' are not the real Indian stories. The real story is that the country is falling apart. Violence has grown more than anything else in India of 2008. The real problems with terrorism and Maoist rebellion across one-third of India's districts are only talked about as a 'law and order' problem. If the gravity is not realised even now, these forces may just topple the entire order of things.
The terrorist groups need to be tackled with ferocity. At the same time let us try to reach out to every young man or woman who may harbour deep hatred which is turning him or her into an irrational terrorist. Compassion and action is what India needs now, more than ever before.