For years, I have been terrified that my home town, Madras, would be the next target of terrorists. All the other metros, and even major cities, have been covered by these depraved extremists over the last six years. Despite the formation of sundry intelligence agencies and terrorism control cells, there have been regular bomb blasts in first- and second-tier cities. Our turn was bound to come.
Now that it has finally happened, with a blast at the Central Railway Station killing one woman and leaving fourteen others severely injured, I find myself even more shocked by how our politicians behaved than by the event itself.
First, the Ministry of Home Affairs decided to play with words, and fell short of terming it a “terror attack”. What could an IED blast have been, if not a terror attack? Was the ministry trying not to “alienate the minority community” during elections, since the word ‘terror’ has become synonymous with Muslim extremism?
Pictures: Bomb blasts rock Chennai
If that was indeed the case, the implication is that these attacks are endorsed by some of the vote banks our politicians have created. And that insinuation is offensive to hundreds of millions of people in this country.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa turned down help from the Centre, and said that her police force was perfectly capable of handling the situation. Now, at a time like this, why would anyone turn down an offer of manpower and expertise, especially when the perpetrators of the attack have not been caught? Though there were reports that a suspect had been found hiding in the train, police let him go for lack of ‘sufficient evidence’.
There is speculation that her reaction may have been a response to the friction between the State and the Centre over the release of Rajiv Gandhi’s convicted killers. If that is indeed the case, it begs the question: Is ego really more important than public safety and security?
Meanwhile, DMK leader Karunanidhi, who rarely misses an opportunity to take pot-shots at Jayalalithaa, chose not to exercise restraint even at this critical time. Predictably, he spoke about how she was away at her summer retreat in Kodanadu, in the Nilgiri Hills, and not in the capital. He also spoke about how the law and order situation in Tamil Nadu had deteriorated since his party lost power. That statement is not necessarily true, except for the fact that there was no terror attack during his time in power, just as there was no terror attack during Jayalalithaa’s previous terms. I find it disgusting that someone would choose to compare notes in the wake of a terror attack.
At this time, Finance Minister Chidambaram chose to campaign for his pet project from the time he was Home Minister, the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), saying that it could have helped prevent the attack. He blamed the reservations of the non-Congress ruled states for the fact that the NCTC was not established.
Even without the NCTC, we have several intelligence agencies and terror specialists who would be within their rights in searching suspected sleeper cells and bomb-making sites.
One wonders what the NCTC would have done that these agencies haven’t.
Of course, the round-up is incomplete without the BJP putting down a series of calculations, to prove that if the train had been running on time, the blast just may have targeted a site close to a planned rally by its Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
What are these people trying to prove, except that our country is run by politicians and not leaders?
In the end, it’s a shame on security mechanisms everywhere that someone could casually plant an explosive device on a train, and set it off.
It’s a bigger shame on our country that when a tragedy has occurred, and lives have been lost, our politicians find it imperative to play the blame game, rather than track down the culprits and work on eliminating terror.
The irony of it all is that we are currently in the process of picking our next government.
Even as celebrities, political parties and the general public campaign for people to cast their vote, and not waste it, one wonders what this choice is worth, when practically every option at the state and centre reacts in such a manner to a terror attack.
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Nandini is a journalist and humour writer based in Madras. She is the author of Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage. She sells herself and the book on www.nandinikrishnan.com