Monday, December 1, 2008

Mumbai: The Last Post and after

The dead – heroes and the innocents – have been buried. The smoke from the funeral pyres have merged with the air. The haunting notes of the Last Post have faded away. A shell-shocked nation is slowly coming to terms with the Mumbai holocaust.

And, as the battle sounds subside and the smoke clears, what is the picture before the country and the world?

The father of Maj. Sandeep Unnikrishnan refuses to meet the Kerala Chief Minister and Home Minister who come on a condolence visit. Snifter dogs had preceded the CM and party to sanitize the house of the brave soldier who had died fighting the terrorists.

The wife of Hemant Karkare, the Mumbai Anti-Terrorist Squad Chief who was killed by the terrorists, refuses to accept financial assistance offered by the Gujarat Chief Minister. The CM’s party had been virulently attacking the outstanding officer for pursuing investigations that it found inconvenient.

The Opposition leader and his party president refuse to attend an all party meeting convened by the Prime Minister to discuss the aftermath of the Mumbai crisis. They have more important things to do.

The Maharashtra Chief Minister takes a jaunt of the devastated Taj with his actor son and a film maker. The producer claims he has no plans to make a movie based on the tragedy. The Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra goes one step ahead. He announces what happened in Mumbai last week was a small incident – the only man in the world who seems to think so. This person is the Home Minister as well.

Reports come in that the Central intelligence agencies had forewarned the Maharashtra government about terrorist strike, citing Taj and Oberoi as specific targets. Who received these communications? Were they passed down the pecking order? Gathering information is important; reaching it post haste to action centers is critical.

The National Security Guards (NSG) is blamed for delayed arrival at the distress sites. Possibly the deployment could have been much faster. There is criticism that the commandos rushed into action without sufficient intelligence backing and information. Another view is that since the terrorists had started shooting indiscriminately, immediate retaliation was necessary.

While the experts discuss the point, there is another question that needs to be addressed. While waiting for the NSG, did someone bother to collect floor plans of the buildings targeted and provide them to the commandos on arrival? That would have made the operation less risky and more efficient. The details would have been available at the Municipal Office or the headquarters of the companies owning the properties.

Analyzing the details of the recent terror episode and planning for the future certainly cannot be left to the various departments of the governments where action would be buried in red tape. The job has to be entrusted to duly empowered professionals.

Hopefully one silver lining seems to be emerging from the tragedy – the realization that Mumbai is geographically situated in Maharashtra state, but the great city belongs to India.



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Ashvin said...

The very same thought occurred to me when the naval commandos were addressing a press conference and said they did not know the layout of the building - the floor plans would have been available with the Taj. However it is possible the floor plans themselves were in the building under attack. And there was not much time to react - this was not a typical hostage situation with long drawn out negotiations.

Does anyone even remember when Parliament was attacked ? or the Bombay blasts ? or for that matter the recent Madras Law College incidents ? I am sorry if I sound very cynical, but in a few days time (probably a few weeks or months considering the magnitude of this incident) we would have forgotten all about this. The families of the dead will miss them, the rest of India will go on with life as if nothing happened. I wouldn't even be surprised if there were calls from certain quarters in India to release the lone surviving terrorist as a 'confidence building measure', to improve relationships with our 'neighbours' and to prove our secular values. We are a soft state and condemned to remain so. Disunited, fragmented, with no common purpose, we are our own worst enemy. Throughout history we have been consistent in such behaviour, easily allowing every passing foreigner to invade succesfully.

Sunita Mohan said...

It is criminal that while leaving Mumbai defenceless (did you see the under-equipped city police force? So tragic!) the politicians are only concened with building up their own security. If they dont feel safe in Mumbai, how do they expect us to feel?

Nebu said...

What a conjunction of thoughts. On Sunday 30th my son asked me to write a speech for him to be delivered today as part of internal assessment in class X publics. The subject I choose was ‘Operation Cyclone’ – I believe that was the code name used for the recent commando operation in Mumbai.

The specific areas I wrote for him were that we should make amends in our inadequate patrolling of maritime boarders, stationing of different units of NSG commandos at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad and abstain from wasting their expertise on guarding VVIPs.

Have command and control centres on wheels which can be towed close to where the action takes place. There could also have been three command and control centres each for the three theatres of war namely The Taj, The Oberoi and Nariman house.

The counterattack should have been commenced only after proper planning with the help of floor plans of at least the two hotels which must have been just a phone call away from the concerned managements and after Collection and analysis of intelligence from the hotel staff and hostages escaped as well as rescued.

Shock and awe, with simultaneous attacks from the ground and top floors and through the side windows by air dropped commandos in wave after wave.

Meera's World said...

To start with, i dont know what made our Kerala govt not to respond to Sandeep's tragedy in time.There is no excuses for that.And the incidents followed that is excusable, in the light of that.
At any rate,i dont think our govt is doing what they are supposed to be doing.Especialy now Kerala is the number one state in crime rates!!
I think our fire depts should start looking in to the plans of big buildings/important buildings in their free time.Surely they would have enough free time since they wont be dealing with fire every second.I agree this is not an everyday situation,but with all thats going on,it would be good to be a little more prapared!

I agree totaly with what Ashvin says.

Unknown said...

Thank you Richa. I plan have more frequent postings on 'Tharakanspeak', my SiliconIndia blog.

Unknown said...

Ashvin, thanks for the thought provoking comment.

Unknown said...

Sunita, 26/11 has exposed the chinks in our security armour. Hopefully, necessarry steps would now be taken.

Unknown said...

Relevant points, Nebu. Suggest you list them briefly and send to someone you know who could possibly pass them on to appropriate people.

Unknown said...

Meerasworld: Meera, it is nice to hear from you after quite a while.

I do agree that the Kerala Govrnment should be more alert and the fire department more prepared.

In this connection, here is something I heard a while back. When all the sanctioned multi-storied buildings in Cochin are completed the roads would be so clogged and the fire engines may not be able to rush to disaster sites.