Nowhere in the world a political rally has been held literally in the conscious shadow of bombs. I was witness to history being made in measures more than one in Gandhi Maidan at Patna. This is not merely an article from me in my capacity as a security analyst but someone who observed the chain of events from ground zero.
From Vibrant to Vitiated Democracy
Henceforth Indian politics is not going to be the same because it lost its civility and political soul at Gandhi Maidan. Never in the history of India a political rally had been subjected to terrorist attack.
The target was not only the leader, Narendra Modi, but the public as well. Terrorism had so far preyed on market places, metros, religious centers, defence installations, scientific installations, trains, railway stations and airports.
Now a new element has been introduced in the scarred terrorist landscape which seeks to knock India out from its constitutional edifice and democratic framework.
This unprecedented happening will be a cause of persistent threat in the political paradigm in the foreseeable times to come. It may get worse as this deathly culture of violence during political rallies travels from cities to towns and rural areas, the latter two being completely defenceless. From all indications the serial blasts were orchestrated from Pakistan.
It is from that country that the culture of eliminating political rivals during public rallies has finally travelled to India. If not nipped in the bud there will be any number of ‘Benazirs’ in India. It has begun to transform India from vibrant democracy to vitiated democracy.
Custodians Politicizing Terror
So when the Minister of State for Home RPN Singh said that the blasts in Patna during the rally were of ‘low intensity’ and were actually IEDs, he was not only technically amiss but failed to gauge the import of the event and its future ramifications on India’s democracy.
Six deaths and hundred injuries by no means can be termed as low in effect. In reality the hackneyed terms’ low intensity’ and IED are much abused.
Just because low amount of explosives are used in a terrorist attack, it does not imply that the intent of the terrorist is limited in any manner. The quantity and type of explosives used depends on ease and convenience of logistics.
As far as IED s are concerned, all bombs are improvised in one way or the other. Moreover, if several so called ‘low intensity’ bombs are used in series, the cumulative impact becomes high.
In Patna Gandhi Maidan nearly half a dozen bombs went off in series, enough to cause stampede in an unprecedented crowd of more than more than half a million.
The consequences would have been unimaginable specially if all the 18 bombs that were planted had exploded. Causalities would have been in thousands.
The attempt therefore by politicians and officials to dilute the enormity of terrorist attack by using terms like ‘ low intensity’ and ‘IED’ is nothing but politicization of terror, a phenomenon which has become increasingly pronounced after 26/11 for exigencies of vote-bank politics.
It needs to be constantly underscored that the Home Minister, Minister of State for Home, and Chief Ministers are not merely politicians but custodians of India’s security.
It was sheer destiny that Narendra Modi’s life was spared. It were the intangible factors and circumstances, which only those present at the location could sense that prevented thousands from being killed.
Otherwise the state security apparatus in terms of willful omissions had left every conceivable security gap to invite what could have been a humongous tragedy.
This author had visited the podium area just 12 hours before the rally. There was none to stop, none to check, leave alone the area being sanitized by security and cordoned off. There were no sniffer dogs, no metal detectors and no CCTV.
If this was the security sensitivity in the nerve center of the venue, the indifference in the rest of the Maidan can be extrapolated. Such events or rallies are nothing unusual, they are routine, and call for certain routine security drills.
These Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) were very much in place when President Parnab Muherjee visited Patna a day earlier, and have been strictly adhered to whenever Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have visited Bihar to address election rallies, even as they are unconstitutional authorities.
In fact only recently when Sonia Gandhi visited Gaya after the blasts at Mahabodhi temple there was such a formidable cordon that crews of most TV news channels were not permitted to get anywhere close.
It needs to be reiterated that Narendra Modi apart from being a prime-ministerial candidate of the main opposition is also a Chief Minister, a constitutional authority.
Images: AP/ PTI/ AFP
Image: Smoke rises after serial bomb blasts took place at the venue of Narendra Modi's Hunkar rally in Patna on Sunday.