It is now just over a week since Mumbai faced the brunt of yet another terrorist attack. I was at Bangalore on 26/11, watching the India-England one day match being played, when a switch of channels brought this horrific reality into our living room.
It was difficult to take in the sheer volume of information the media was bombarding us with, starting from the nature of the attacks, the number of casualties, the places that were attacked, and of course, the manner in which three top police officers died.
The role played by the media was a dangerous one, beaming live pictures of the rescue operation on TV screens that even the terrorists had access to. Each channel tried to outdo the other, giving all bullshit tidbits and soundbites to keep viewers hooked, as their live coverage sent channel TRPs soaring. The reporting by newspapers wasn’t any better, with TOI even publishing separate accounts of how the three top cops died… in different sections on the same page !! This was pathetic, and even a couple of days later, it was not clear exactly how they died with several theories doing the rounds all over;
- Initially, the channels showed ATS chief Hemant Karkare donning a bullet proof vest, checking his pistol and getting ready to enter the building, after which he was reportedly shot.
- Report # 2 claimed that nothing happened then, but some time later, he presumed the terrorists had moved elsewhere, took off the vest, and was shot when he did so, implying sheer carelessness on his part !
- Report # 3 told us he was shot in the neck, above the protective lining of the vest !
- Report #4 said he, along with the others, Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar, died when their police Qualis was fired upon by the terrorists. (the correct one, as it turned out).
As far as the news anchors are concerned, the less said, the better. At one time, long long ago, I thought people like Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt were good, but that line of thought has gone down the drain now. Too much hyperbole and drama now.
There is always a thin line between what is acceptable and what is not, and I think the media crossed the line this time. They should not be allowed to present live or even delayed coverage when it is a matter concerning any security issue. It wasn’t funny watching live footage of the positions of the cops and NSG snipers or the helicopter rescue mission near Nariman House or to watch these over enthusiastic anchors asking the cops what measures were being taken. Sadly, the cops, in this age of live reporting, gave in to the temptation of being heroes on TV and divulged sensitive information, which was fodder to watching terrorists. In another, an NSG officer admitted on TV that his men were facing problems due to lack of any knowledge of the layout of the Taj ! Crap !!! The terrorists had done a recce months ago ! The other issue of course, is with spellings… how the captured terrorist was called Kasab, then Kasav and even Qasab. Ditto for the Lashkar-e-Toiba / Taiba / Tayeba. Small point, but damn irritating all the same.
This attack showed our politicians as crass, thoughtless, and shameless hypocritical bastards, each intent on saving his own ass and ensuring no blame was attached to him or his ministry. The worst of the lot were the two Patil’s (or as Ajay Awtaney referred to them on Twitter – Pottyl !); Shivraj Patil – Union Home Minister and R.R Patil – Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra, more well known for snatching away the livelihood of dancing bargirls. Shivraj Patil offered to resign, claiming moral responsibility after Sonia Gandhi pretty much gave him no choice and he knew no amount of sucking up was going to work. He then went on to say a great load was lifted off his shoulders and it was his sheer nonchalance after quitting that was so upsetting. On the other hand, R.R Patil had the audacity to say that such “small incidents keep happening in big cities like Mumbai”. Hello ?? What were these guys thinking of when they made such stupid statements ?
Enter Kerala CM, V.S Achuthanandan. He came to offer condolences to the parents of slain NSG commando Maj. Sandeep Unnikrishnan. The late Major’s father refused the CM entry to the house upon which the CM remarked, “If it had not been Maj. Sandeep’s house, not even a dog would have looked that way”. WTF !!! People responded angrily on SMS’s and messages, saying they would prefer the dog over the CM. The old bugger even refused to apologize for 2-3 days, until his party comrades cracked the whip.
Enter hypocrisy – People like Narendra Modi and L.K Advani. During the investigation into the Malegaon blasts, these worthies heaped scorn on the ATS and Karkare, showering abuse and accusations in equal measure, and now they came forward to salute the martyr, paying homage and if I recall correctly, Modi even offered some Rs.1-2 crores, which Karkare’s widow flatly refused. Reminded me of Amar Singh offering money to the family of the slain cop in the Delhi encounter a month or so ago.
And how can we forget the Chief Minister – Vilasrao Deshmukh… He took along his son and film maker Ram Gopal Varma on a tour of the ravaged remains of the Taj as if they were on a picnic tour.
One politician, Raj Thackeray, was strangely silent during this entire operation. Perhaps he was stunned by the fact that so many non-Maharashtrians/non-Mumbaiites also laid down their lives for the very city he said they had no right to live in. Case in point – Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan – a Keralite from the Bihar regiment.
Predictably, there was a reshuffle and P.Chidambaram is now the new Home Minister. Am not sure how good a move that is, though. Also equally certain was Deshmukh’s ouster from the CM’s job, and his replacement is Ashok Chavan, with Chhagan Bhujbal the new Deputy CM.
What of our intelligence and security forces? They too were hopelessly caught in this web of one-upmanship and playing the blame game. It took almost 8-10 hrs for the NSG to reach Mumbai, by which time a lot of damage had been already done, both to the Taj as well as human lives. The Navy blamed the Coast Guard and vice versa, the Intelligence Bureau blamed both. There was certainly a colossal intelligence failure. What made it worse was the fact that our cops fell woefully short when engaging the terrorists with their old and rusty .301 rifles, some which hadn’t been fired for almost ten years whereas in terms of technology and sophistication, the terrorists were light years ahead, with state of the art firearms, satellite phones and GPS devices!
It was reported that truck drivers can enter Mumbai by paying a bribe of a few hundred or lesser rupees at the check post. Hardly difficult to infiltrate terrorists by this method, or even for that matter, the Bangladeshis that merrily hop across the border into India.. In fact, in these attacks on Mumbai, one report even mentioned that each terrorist was carrying exactly $400 with him. The reason? That was the going ‘rate’ needed to bribe the Coast Guard officials !!!!
What else is left to be said ? Time to pick up the pieces, but for once, I hope this Government has the balls to actually take a tough stand on relations with Pakistan and read them the riot act, peace process and all be damned !