Pinning on safety

Pinning on safety

Pinning on safety

“Today we were unlucky. But remember, we only have to be lucky once, you will have to be lucky always.” Two-and-half-decades ago, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher received this message after she narrowly escaped injury in an attack. To this day, the text holds good and keeps haunting not only India, but also the developed countries.

Bangalore City is no exception. But is Bangalore safe? And in case of any terror eventuality, is it prepared? A few days after Mumbaikars were terrorised again, Bangalore’s top police officers take stock of the situation here, their plans, strengths, and what they expect from the people and other agencies in keeping a tab on surveillance and tightening security in the IT City.

Bangalore could be on the radar of the terror outfits because its population is teeming at 10 million, MNCs are jostling each other to get into the City and the innumerable entertainment and food joints and watering holes host hundreds of thousands of people at any time of the day.

Intelligence reports confirm that the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), the  Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), the Indian Mujahideen (IM), the Deendar Anjuman (DA) and the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), besides Hindu fundamental organizations, have their sights on the city.

With a growing crime graph and innovative white-collar and cyber crimes, the cops already have their hands full. Although the authorities affirm that the security men are second to none when it comes to intelligence, investigation or interrogation, the conviction rate has been abysmal.

A senior police officer agrees: “Due to this gap, many intelligent young criminals are brainwashed and sucked into terror outfits and splinter groups. Our men have lived up to expectations when it mattered the most, especially during the attack at the Indian Institute of Science on December 28, 2005, and the serial blasts on July 25 the same year. But the police did not make much headway in the cricket stadium blasts.”

Even during the post-terror attacks in Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Surat, Delhi and Mumbai, the City police had done their best. “They were also instrumental in working on vital leads and zeroing in on a few culprits. Of late, Bhatkal is in the focus for the wrong reasons, and this has led to stepped-up vigil along the State’s coastal region,” he says.

Para Commando Unit

The State has an exclusive Para Commando Unit on the lines of the NSG, based at the Army base in Hebbal, and a Centre for Counter Terrorism near Kudlu, that trains men handpicked to staff a dedicated commando for coping with terrorism. “They are ready to serve round-the-clock.” The police have modernised its bomb detection and defusing equipment. Sniffer dogs, says the officer, are being trained from time to time on explosives used by terrorists.

T Suneel Kumar, Additional Commissioner (Law & Order), sounds quite positive. “No one can say we are the best. But we are prepared in case of any eventuality.” In the second of week of July, the police convened a meeting of various departments the BBMP, KSRTC, Railways, airport and other government agencies. More than 10,000 paurakarmikas are on the job early in the morning. They clean the roads and dustbins and they are, perhaps, the first people to spot the dangers that the City could face. “We requested the authorities to apprise them of the dos and don’ts and alert the higher-ups in case of any suspicious objects found.”

On their part, the KSRTC and Railways have come out with a booklet with information about their staff being educated on checking of the baggage and passengers. “Malls, markets, theatres, exhibitions, places of worship are also taken care of. Before giving permission for protests and public gatherings, we make it a point to call the organisers and their volunteers to educate them on the lurking dangers and the need to be vigilant,” informs Suneel.

The greatest help the police expect from the public is to get alerted if they come across any unattended baggage, vehicles, suspicious objects and persons. “This is sure to go a long way in keeping terrorists at bay. Knowing the neighbours, getting updates on tenants, maids, helpers and security guards will also serve the purpose,” the officer explains.

A haven for militants

Bangalore, away from the attention that New Delhi and Mumbai attracts, has been a haven for militants of all kinds, naxals, Maoists, the LTTE, to name a few. Many Naxal leaders, notably Kond­apalli Seetharamaiah, have lived in Bangalore to escape from the police forces hunting them. Dozens of PWG (and lately, Maoists) leaders have sought haven here. During the Maoist insurgency in Nepal, many injured cadres used to be ferried to Bangalore for treatment. Two decades ago, LTTE’s Sivarasan and Shubha hid here till they were found out and gunned down.

Underworld figures with suspected connections to the terror network such Dawood Ibrahim, his close relatives and many underworld dons have also made huge investments in landed properties.

However, many senior and experien­ced police officers allay fears of any major attack on Bangalore. “That will make them vulnerable as the heat is turned on them in other parts of the country. Low-level attacks are carried out to keep their patrons in the loop,” they say.

No need for panic

Suneel requests the public not to panic and create unnecessary tension in case of any untoward incidents. Alert public should try and help in cordoning off the area and make way for ambulances, fire tenders, forensic and investigating teams to access the spot.

The recent Carlton Towers inferno is a classic example of a situation gone all wrong. Onlookers made the situation miserable for the task force to carry out their job.

“The roads were blocked from all corners and there was hardly anyone who thought of making way for ambulances. This is unpardonable when we are dealing with terror acts as terrorists always aim at inflicting maximum damage on people and property.”

The moment the news of an attack is heard, it spreads like wildfire and cell phones and landlines are jammed with everyone trying to know whether their kith and kin are safe.

“But local criminals take the opportunity and make merry. By pressing the panic button, we are giving room for commotion and creating an uncalled-for situation. Robberies and thefts are common when these acts take place. The general public, thus, has also a major role to create a safe Bangalore,” says Suneel.