I am writing this from Oxford, where I have just been a neutral, but silent, observer to a heated discussion on whether Cressida Dick should be prosecuted. 'Cressida who?' you ask, and I cheerfully confess that I too couldn't have told you had you asked me yesterday.
Very briefly, Cressida Dick is a commander in the Specialist Crime Directorate of the Metropolitan Police in London. She was in charge of the 300 officers of Operation Trident, the policemen who investigate gun crimes.
Commander Dick was the senior officer in the control room during the events that led to the death of Jean Charles de Menezes. You may recall the incident if not the name because Menezes was the Brazilian shot and killed at Stockwell tube station on the London Underground by Metropolitan Police officers on July 22, 2005. While she was not present at the site, Cressida Dick is theoretically responsible for the actions of the men under her command.
(The anniversary of the shooting was one reason why the issue came up during a break in the conversation. The other is that Commander Dick is an old Oxford hand herself, having not just graduated from the famous university but also been born and brought up in the town.)
One week ago, the Metropolitan Police decided that no officer, up to and including Commander Dick, would be prosecuted for their part in the death of Menezes. It would scarcely matter even if the Crown Prosecutor's Office had pressed charges; I simply cannot conceive an English jury deeming Commander Dick or her officers guilty either of murder or of manslaughter.
Consider the circumstances. There had been a thwarted attempt to set off bombs in buses and underground trains on July 21, 2005. On July 22, the police saw a man with a superficial resemblance to a terrorist, who tried to escape when the police ordered him to stop. (Running away is taken as an admission of guilt in most nations.)
You are a police officer who has been taught how easy it is for a single man to carry explosives designed to kill or maim scores of innocents, you see a man trying to escape, what would you do under those circumstances? To top it all, let us not forget that Menezes was in Britain as an illegal immigrant, making a living as an electrician without a work permit and on an expired visa!
Any attorney could have ripped up the prosecution's case, had there been one, against Commander Dick given the times in which we live. Small wonder that there is no case against her.
Pardon me for going on at such length about an incident in distant London but there is a bearing on events in Mumbai. India's financial and commercial capital is as much a target of terrorism fuelled by Islamic fundamentalism as are London and New York. But Indian governments -- and I would argue Indian society at large -- has been shrinking away from taking the hard decisions required to protect the mass of innocent citizens.
What would have happened had a senior police officer in Mumbai found himself in the same spot as Commander Dick? The howls for his dismissal from the police, even for his gaoling, would have reached Karachi all the way from Mumbai!
That is not a supposition, it is plain fact whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. As I said, the fact that Menezes was an illegal immigrant played a part in the Metropolitan Police's decision; but which police officer -- in Delhi, or Mumbai, or Guwahati -- is given a free hand to deal with illegal immigrants from Bangladesh? The overflowing refuse from our beloved neighbour is, after all, a wonderful source of votes for some parties!
(I noted with disgust and loathing that the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh was quick off the mark to give the Islamic outfit SIMI a clean chit. Not just benefit of doubt mind you, but a certificate of innocence before the blood had been washed away from the stations in Mumbai. Of course, Vidhan Sabha polls are due in Uttar Pradesh next year, aren't they Mulayam Singhji?)
The second point I would like to make is that policemen in India lack not just the authority but also the tools and the training. London's policemen were once famous for carrying nothing but a billy club; under the lash of terrorism, at least some of them have now received training in using guns. Sadly, our own police lack the modern equipment required for sharpshooting, in fact some of their guns haven't advanced much beyond the days of World War II -- just not good enough in this age and day.
The third point I would like to make is that India has nothing on the lines of Operation Trident, the ongoing exercise I mentioned earlier in this article. It is aimed at curbing shooting-related crimes committed by a certain community, not just violent incidents in general. But we in India will never accept 'profiling' (the police terminology for the practice) as a legitimate tool to fight terrorism. Who do you think is more likely to be responsible for the Mumbai train blasts -- a man performing the pilgrimage to Amarnath, or a man linked to SIMI?
Actually, I understand the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid in Delhi has an answer to that question. Please read this!
'I can say with authority that it is not any Muslim but the Shiv Sena, the RSS and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad who are responsible for the serial blasts in Mumbai,' Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari told a gathering at the Jama Masjid. Alas, the report did not cite on what '"authority'" the Shahi Imam made this claim...
The point is that no nation is going to take India seriously as long as there are men like Mulayam Singh Yadav and Syed Ahmed Bukhari making preposterous statements. Small wonder then that President Bush brushed aside poor Manmohan Singh's claim that Pakistan was behind the Mumbai blasts. Why would the United States blame the 'Islamic Republic of Pakistan' when no less an authority than the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid in India's capital has proclaimed that no Muslim could do any such thing?
What is that old adage about even God being helpless to help a man who shall not help himself? That is a pretty accurate description of India in the here and the now. Some of us want to inhabit a Never-Never Land where Islamic terrorism does not exist (the Shahi Imam's position) or where it does not target India (which seems to be Mulayam Singh Yadav's stance). Fair enough, it is our right to dream as we like. But don't ask the perpetrators of the Mumbai train blasts to share these fantasies.
What exactly is their ultimate aim vis-a-vis India? 'We were rulers here for 800 years. Inshaallah, we shall return to power here once again!'
Who said that? No, not the head of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba or Al Qaeda, it was, again from the web site article cited above, the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid in New Delhi. Ah Great Gods of Secularism, what fantasies we entertain for thy sake!