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Clueless in the time of terror


Investigating agencies have fought shy of coming to grips with their frailties
ASAD | Issue Dated: June 1, 2008
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Clueless in the time of terror Since the 2005 Delhi bombings, hundreds have died in nine finely-coordinated terrorist attacks across India. Yet not a single case has been solved, or any arrests come about. The ritual explanation each time is that “the terrorists are getting increasingly sophisticated”; “they all seem linked to one another” and suchlike. As for the “investigations”, nobody, despite the Right to Information Act, really knows what they were. And when the public starts demanding answers, the familiar blame game begins.

Sources in the National Security Guard (NSG) have revealed that the Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) hands over its findings to the police after every incident. The NSG is the country’s premier counter-terrorism force.

“It is for them to arrive at a judgment. Our job is to hand over to the police the leads we have gathered. If they fail to apprehend the perpetrators, should we be blamed for it?” Asks a senior NSG official, seeking anonymity. He also pointed out that in India only the NSG and the Border Security Force (BSF) have trained bomb disposal squads. The BSF also trained the police in handling the explosives."

Indian officials privately admit that “we are still nowhere when it comes to post-blast investigation technologies. There is nothing here as there is in the US or UK, two of the world leaders in the field.” He said apart from Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, all the rest are stuck to obsolete methods that made a mockery of investigations.

An official of Karl Storz, a company which supplies equipment to the BDS, told TSI that only a few states, including UP and Andhra Pradesh, had been using modern equipment such as optical fibroscopes.

Small wonder then that post-Jaipur there is such a clamour for a separate national authority for dealing with crimes threatening the country’s security. Some others want the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India’s top investigating agency, to be given a federal role similar to that of the US Federation Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

“There should be no more delay in creating such an agency. It is beyond the state governments to tackle terror, simply because they lack in proper resources to contain the menace," felt Madhava Menon, who headed the government-appointed committee that mooted the proposal. Menon was also of the opinion that the particular body should be autonomous, similar to that of Election Commission. For him, the CBI "is not independent enough to carry out certain investigations."

Ajay Sahni of the South Asia Intelligence Review, who has worked extensively on sub-continental terrorism, also observed that "our intelligence system calls for a thorough overhaul and strengthening in every department."

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself has often stressed on the need for radical measures. He also cited the views of experts like Sahni, saying intelligence needs to be precise and capable of being acted upon. It would appear that nobody, including India’s Prime Minister, has been able to formulate a credible blueprint to contain terror.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017