Images of waling mothers, shattered wives, devastated children and a six-month baby smiling in the wake of her father's tragic and dastardly death are hounding every Indian. Those 40 bravehearts were returning to their posts after their vacations. Absolutely unaware and clueless that their journey to their postings will be the last they will even know of the world of living. Had they laid their lives fighting the enemy, the domestic misguided or braving bullets fired by terrorists who had crossed over to their motherland, they would still have had a sense of accomplishment, but to lose their lives in a bus talking to each other, recounting their vacation, is hardly heroic for Men of Steel. But die they did, by the sordid act of a disgruntled youth who had barely crossed 20 years of his existence.
The images of mangled steel left behind after the bomb blast which could be heard over 10 km in either direction, leaves behind a series of questions which beg answers, no one is wiling to give or even ponder over. More than 2,500 men being transported in one go - is it usual? Every road through which a convoy has to pass through is sanitized, not just in the morning, but also continuously to prevent any untoward movement of hostile elements, what really happened when a convoy of 78 vehicles was passing through at 3:15 in the afternoon? Was the morning sanitization so full proof that no such effort was made prior to the movement of the convoy? When a convoy of such proportion is on the move, signal jammers, mine detectors, armada vehicles, drone air dominance or aerial surveillance, parallel reconnaissance is a norm, what happened to all these SOPs (Standard Operating Procedure)? Who decided against this and Why? If this was not factored in as an SOP, then also why? While covering American advances in Iraq as an imbedded journalist, had seen this entire above-mentioned tactic for convoy movement as basic. So to my mind the larger question is why Indian security forces have not made such practices as SOP.
Questions apart, lets get to the basics. Over the past three years of operation all out, it has been witnessed by forces in the valley that insurgency and anti national hostilities have been spreading in the suburbs of Srinagar. Pulwama being the agricultural hub near Srinagar with its dense population was an ideal set up for such enhanced anti India activities. Various defence ministry reports and alleged ground reports have indicated towards growing alienation of the local population. Stone pelting had increased over 100 percent over the past three years in Pulwama and support from locals had dried up to a very large extent. The number of missing youths was in itself a big pointer towards losing ground support.
While experts sitting Delhi fretted over loss of public support in Pulwama, how could the security agencies be so blind as to not see the dastardly act happening on any given day? Be it separatists, be it the political parties who seek votes in the name of separate Kashmiri Identity, all had been attending funerals of dead terrorists or terror sympathizers in and around Pulwama. Still, our agency planners were so blinded in their outlook that they bypassed most basic SOPs as though they were transvering through friendly territory. Something here is so amiss, that even a non-strategist like me can smell a rat, so why isn't the government talking about its failure.
The day we get an answer to government’s failures, we shall have answers as to how we can save the lives of our heroes who lay their lives not for a cause but for neglect.
Let me dwell a bit deeper on this issue of neglect.Do we recall, Uri attack where we lost 17 brave hearts, Pathankot airbase attack where we lost 7 and Gurdaspur attack where we lost 10 lives? What did we learn from any of these massive attacks? What did we change after any of these attacks? What have we done as a Nation to prevent such attacks? Please look at the inquiry reports filled after all these attacks and many more which have taken place before and after these terrorist attacks. They all have the same loopholes, the quantum may vary, but the gist remains the same. All armed installations are closely surrounded by illegal construction, intrusion, and mismanagement by local bodies and above all, corruption within the entire state machinery and also our defence establishments.
It’s so damn easy to infiltrate our defence establishments that one feels like mocking the entire pretense of security and secrecy. And then we believe that we have secured our defence establishments. Come on, had this been the case in say Venezuela, we could have understood the imperatives of a weak and crumbling economy. In India we spend 3 lakh crore on our defence establishments.Let me put this bluntly, the Kargil Review Committee report submitted in 2000 is still gathering dust. Most of its recommendations have not even been read through, forget getting implemented. Parliament attack review report, J&K Assembly attack review report, 26/11 review report, you name all the reports hence prepared, all have met with the same fate, gathering dust. So why are we so crazed up now, when we have lost some more sons of the soil. After all, the report hence prepared on this dastardly act will also be gathering dust after its put out.
Had the pressure of Lok Sabha polls not been looming large over a government, which has tried its best to encash nationalism as an ideology, the sense of loss would have been left behind without any sense of remorse by the political class in no time. It would have been back to business as usual. At least this is what I saw at very close quarters in Mumbai during series of train blasts that killed over 150 people. While I as a journalist can still smell the stench of burnt flesh on the tracks of Mumbai local after more than 12 years, do our politicians and security agencies even remember what had happened in a train packed with evening home goers. This is the difference between a lay Indian and an Indian who belongs to the political, military, bureaucratic class. We feel the pain of the dead; they use the pain of the dead for their gain.