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'There are more than 115 targets in Mumbai city'

Last updated on: November 26, 2013 15:12 IST

'There are more than 115 targets in Mumbai city'

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Vaihayasi Pande Daniel

'We are trying to harden the targets. We have so many soft targets. Hardening of even one of them in itself becomes a challenge... If you go by all the alerts that have come, including the targets tracked down by David Headley, there are more than 115 targets in Mumbai city.'

'Even if you try to harden all those targets, every day new targets are coming up. Now you have to add all these new hotels and restaurants,' Rajvardhan, the daring police officer who fought the terrorists at the Taj Mahal hotel on 26/11, tells Rediff.com's Vaihayasi Pande Daniel in the second part of a three-part exclusive interview.

Part I of the interview: The unarmed cop who took on 26/11 attackers

In the attack that took place five years ago, there was a certain daring with which 10 people arrived on a boat from Pakistan and walked into the city. In your view, can 10 people still land in Mumbai again and start a 'war' of terror?

I will not say 100 percent anything is not possible. If I say 100 per cent not possible, then I am lax. Because then I feel the system is perfect and there is no scope of improvement.

After (2008) there have been systems put in place in the coastal security arena, where there are checks and balances, now making what happened in 2008 extremely difficult to do again, especially in the city of Mumbai. Because so many other agencies have got (into the picture) -- be it the Coast Guard. Be it the Navy.

There are systems in place. For example: Numbering of fishing vessels, registering them, giving them a particular colour, so they can be identified from far, giving them a biometric card etc.

So as a citizen, you feel 50 per cent safer?

Definitely.

Or more than that?

At least that, not less than that, yes.

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Image: Policemen stand guard outside the Taj Mahal hotel, one of the sites of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.
Photographs: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters

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'We have identified that coastal security is vulnerable'

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Vaihayasi Pande Daniel

Do we have a system of the perception of a threat? We don't still have a system of picking up the dead or the wounded.

If you see photographs of the Patna blast last month the dead and wounded are being carted off on people's shoulders like sacks of potatoes. I understand we have limitations. We don't have a society like Israel. But haven't we learned anything?

You are absolutely correct, as far as the citizens's perspective is concerned.

But as a police officer working in a system I have seen what all internally has changed within the police after 26/11 happened.

SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) are in place defining the role of each and every person. There have been lots and lots of practice on the ground. Special Forces have developed.

All this happened post 26/11. Coastal security has become an area we have identified (that needs work) which is vulnerable.

We are trying to harden the targets. We have so many soft targets. Hardening of even one of them in itself becomes a challenge...

I give you an example: If you go by all the alerts that have come, including the targets (tracked down) by David Headley, there are more than 115 targets, only in Mumbai city. There could be more.

Even if you try to harden all those targets, every day new targets are coming up. Now you have to add all these new hotels and restaurants.

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Image: The Coast Guard's Chetak helicopter takes part in a demonstration near the Mumbai coast.
Photographs: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters

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'Even small, small alerts are being pursued'

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Vaihayasi Pande Daniel

Were these SOPs in place at the time of the subsequent 2011 blasts at Dadar and Opera House?

… Yes. Everybody (members of the police force) knew who has to be where, who they were to report to.

Every Tom, Dick and Harry was not rushing to the spot. They were simultaneously hardening the targets in their respective areas, which were identified, manning them, checking them.

There was a team knowing that they have to go (to the blast sites) and secure the perimeter, so the investigation can begin. Yes, I have seen that it has happened.

Can you quantify what percentage of change there has been in police preparedness? If say we were at 25 to 30 per cent then, where are we now?

If you give it on a scale of one to 10 I think we are somewhere around five now. We have a lot to do.

Where were we then pre-26/11 in 2008?

We were somewhere around two.

Some critical areas where we need to be developing more is the area of prevention, to prevent.

For that you need an atmosphere where you have intelligence and a better system where you can gather intelligence and properly analyse that intelligence and execute that intelligence.

But intelligence-wise also, (I know) things are being taken very seriously. Even small, small alerts are being pursued.

…If citizen wants a good police force then citizens will have to first ensure that the police is legally kept impartial.

The police is empowered enough to enforce the rule of law, the way its powers have been enshrined in the Constitution of India. I am talking about police reforms, which is a subject in the Supreme Court...

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Image: Policemen stand guard in the rain next to a barricade they installed at one of the sites of triple explosions in Mumbai on July 13, 2011, near the Opera House.
Photographs: Rupak de Chowdhuri/Reuters

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'If you are in uniform the first thing the terrorist will do is shoot you'

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Vaihayasi Pande Daniel

Is the greatest threat to preventing the reoccurrence of 26/11 the honesty of the police force?

In some areas the police is very effective (bar raids and rave parties) but that is because of the incentive of money. Would you not say honesty is very crucial to the police making progress in securing the city?

You are correct that the integrity of a person (in this case the police) gives a different strength of character. That strength, that the person’s character acquires, by being professional, by being honest, by being straight, gives him a chance to rise to an occasion, whenever the occasion comes.

Because he has no skeletons?

To hide.

It gives you immunity also?

I cite you an example: Had it been an honest officer in Customs, in 1993, the landings that happened in Raigad district (south of Mumbai), where instead of gold something else came (the 1993 blasts would not have happened).

That is because of the way the systems have been maligned (abused). Naturally for national security, the integrity of a person who is in charge (or contributes to) national security is very important.

If one were to take a hypothetical situation, facing a middle rank police officer -- there is a choice between acting on a vague terror alert or cracking down on a bar, where some money may be involved, given that the terror threat could eventually result in the threat to the policeman’s own life -- 26/11 was about policeman getting killed too.

Would today the police still opt to ignore the terror threat and go after, with efficiency, something which is of financial interest?

Human nature is such that at times you feel that you are the chosen one, who will probably not be in the line of fire, until unless you die. You always feel you will die at the grand old age of hundred.

That perception has to change. That is where police leadership needs to be emphasised.

Even during my daily rounds, my commissioner says we should tell the people who are guarding, say a synagogue or a hotel, not to be lax.

If you are there in uniform, the first thing the terrorist will do is to shoot you.

It is because of your own personal security that you should be fully alert.

Final part of the interview: 'That night had a deep impact on me as a human being'


Image: A railway police commando stands guard at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, one of the sites of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.
Photographs: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters

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