Editorial-2: January 2009
A few weeks ago, I was in Israel, a young nation born in virtually impossible circumstances on May 14, 1948. When the State of Israel came into existence, they were standing alone against the onslaught of organised military forces from the neighbouring Arab countries. In sixty years, they have built a nation that is nothing short of a miracle. With its historic landmarks, Israel is a visible reality in the land God promised to Abraham and is the best end time sign for us.
While we were at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, a group of students led by their teachers came to the site. They saw from a distance the Golden Dome, presently under the control of Muslims at the location of the Jewish Temple, and sat down. All of them had a piece of paper with some words printed on them. They narrated the words on the paper and dispersed for visiting the site. I then found out that the verses they narrated were from the Old Testament. They were: "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth- if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy. Remember, O Lord, against the sons of Edom the day of Jerusalem, who said, "Raze it, raze it, to its very foundation!" (Psa. 137:5-7). By organising visits to such important, nationally significant sites in different parts of the country, such as the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, a sense of nationalism and national pride is generated in the young minds. Before the kids complete their school education, they are taken in groups to the different concentration camps of Hitler where six million Jews were tortured and killed during the Holocaust. When they complete their education, all the youngsters, boys and girls, are ready to join the military services to protect their country from their Arab neighbours.
As we proceeded to Egypt after finishing the Israel tour, news about the chilling spate of terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India's most cosmopolitan city, reached us. Israel was fresh in my mind and so, could not help comparing our country with Israel. Both the countries are of the same age: India became independent in 1947 and Israel was established a year later.
The terrorist attack in Mumbai on November 26, 2008, which lasted about 60 hours, caused the death of about 200 people and injured more than 300. The terrorists achieved their objective to spread fear and panic across the country. They laid siege to the roads, railway station, hospitals and two of its best known luxury hotels. Mumbai, the financial capital of the country, was held to ransom for three days. Fear spread among the residents of the city. Economy received a jolt. Iconic targets were damaged and heavy casualties were inflicted. The terrorists succeeded in keeping the security forces at bay for a long time. Those felled included top security personnel and foreigners.
These heinous attacks were meticulously planned. The terrorists were well trained, equipped with sophisticated weapons and highly motivated. For the cold blooded operation, they did not engage in any hit and run tactic, but perpetrated a series of attacks, taking on the city's residents, the city police, NSG and the Army for several hours according to a well organised plan. They had access to boats and inside intelligence. The audacity with which the terrorists hijacked the police vehicle and started shooting people on the roads was unexpected. The security agencies were unprepared for such an unprecedented attack. Confusion reigned. "They have succeeded. We have failed." "This was an aggression meant to hurt the psyche of our entire nation." But the commitment of our officers to face fire demands credit.
It is distressing that we did not learn any lesson from similar tragedies of the past, in Mumbai and elsewhere in the country. It is necessary to overhaul the entire security system and get rid of the perennial weaknesses in our intelligence gathering and security apparatus. The plethora of suggestions and recommendations, to strengthen and modernise our security forces, and to improve coordination between our various agencies, have largely remained in the files; they should be implemented with urgency.
It is shameful that, in spite of intelligence reports warning of the possible terror strikes, appropriate response could not be organised in time. Emergency preparedness was found wanting. Drastic reforms of the security apparatus is the need of the hour. Depoliticisation of the police and bureaucracy should not be delayed any further. Corruption at all levels from top to bottom should be rooted out. Efforts to draw political mileage by perpetuating the communal divide should be defeated.
As a nation, we need to realise the magnitude of the problem; the challenges are menacing. Our politicians need to rise above petty partisan considerations. Routine rhetoric was all that flowed from their lips. Their lackadaisical approach to national security, dishing out empty platitudes, must stop. Their insensitive remarks indicate that many of them suffer from foot in their mouth. Dithering, uncoordinated response of the authorities leaves much to be desired. Public servants have forgotten their calling, responsibilities and obligations. Ineffective people are in vital positions. Vote bank politics has divided the nation. Nobody seemed to have overall control. The leadership lacked resolve.
It is good that some heads have rolled. What is needed is coordinated control and the feeling of nationalism among all our citizens. We must learn to stand as one nation and speak in one voice.
Various spokesmen of the different security agencies fed the media with information of the plans of the police, government strategy and commando tactics. The news channels in their eagerness to 'break news' were oblivious of the negative impact of the coverage. They also seem to have helped the terrorists being kept informed about the tactics of the NSG. Restraint is necessary.
The enthusiasm and the vigour with which the news channels provided coverage for this incident is admirable. However, this raises certain questions in the minds of the public. Why did they not provide similar coverage during previous terror attacks in the city and elsewhere? What about the coverage for the attacks on Christians in Orissa, Karnataka and other States?
There is urgent need to get to the bottom of what happened and to implement effective measures in a time bound manner to prevent recurrence of such incidents anywhere in the country. Implementation of the recommendations should be informed to the public periodically. A monitoring mechanism should be instituted with the participation of the general public. Transparency and accountability should be built in.
It is essential that we revamp the entire education system in our country. Education is limited to the three r's- reading, writing and arithmetic. The students mug up for the examinations and come out with degrees, without understanding the basics. Values are unheard of in the educational system. There is no effort to instil a sense of nationalism and love for the country in the children. The entire effort is directed to get a job and gain some money--more the money, the better. As a result, corruption has become deep rooted at all levels. The children grow up without any feeling of national pride. As a result, we have become a collection of individuals belonging to different States, speaking different languages, but without anything in common. How different from Israel! This situation must change. Every dormant conscience should wake up to make informed choices.
In this context, it may be worthwhile remembering that the terror strike in Mumbai occurred on the 59th anniversary of our Constitution, which was approved on November 26, 1949.
The security situation in the country leaves much to be desired. Citizens are confused and angry. What about the Church? As Christians, what is our responsibility in such a situation? Do we love our country? Do we feel proud of our nation?
We should not lose sight of the fact that no government can guarantee perfect safety. "Except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen wakes but in vain." The only real hope for the world is Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can turn hearts of stone into hearts renewed, forgiven and forgiving; only He can transform enemies into brothers and sisters; only He can bring healing that lasts.
It is our bounden duty to bring this message to the whole country and pray regularly for all those in authority. Paul exhorted that "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence" (1 Tim.2: 1-2). It is also necessary for us to build unity among us and speak in one voice. "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn.13:35). May the good Lord enable us to be an example for the rest of the country to emulate our patriotism and love for Our Nation, under God.