Mumbai Violence: Intelligence Failure?, Yes, but deftly handled.

The Reaction of the Indian establishment to large-scale exodus of people from North-East is moving along predictable lines. The blocking of scores of websites and ban on bulk SMS was anticipated in my last blog post, where I said that the hard work of gathering real time intelligence should not deter security agencies to seek easy way out of censorship. The *spate of action* that one is witnessing now is a pitiable effort to gloss over the intelligence community caught napping. Security establishment in this country is often accused of intelligence failure. If a proof was needed, the current events have provided ample one. The heads of IB, RAW, and others have hell of a lot to answer; but would they be asked to account for their failures? It was exactly a month ago that a Pakistani – yes, no less than a Pakistani-  journalist and blogger, Faraz Ahmed, writing for Tribune- Pakistan brought out the role that *social media* was playing in vicious psychological operations. He brought out clearly how images/ photographs of events not even remotely connected with Rohingya-Muslims and Rakhine-Buddhist strife in Myanmar were being passed of as evidence of Rohingya-Muslims’ massacre. When sophisticated software is available to trawl the cyber-space to gather intelligence about exactly such abuses -nay, cyber warfare tactics-, why our intelligence establishment failed so miserably to read early signs? When it is easy to have sent all bulk SMS to designated numbers of security agencies, who will thus get a quality intelligence in real time; why did the stoking of passions among Mumbai Muslims went undetected? It is quite possible that violent Jihadi outfits have successfully exploited the Psy-Ops to create communal divide. It is also possible that this cyber warfare has been carried out from Pakistani soil among other locations in the world. But that is no excuse for the abject failure on our part to wake up after the events have come to such a sorry pass. There are but only TWO explanations. Either our intelligence and security agencies are monumentally incompetent or have ulterior motives in holding their silence. Whatever the truth, the implications are frightening.
The Thackeray trio – B, U & R- have jumped in the fray to further their agenda. Though on the face it may look like Muslim-Hindu fundamentalists are implacable foes; each must be cherishing and thanking the other for being out there, if one goes by the results. They are like two sides of the same coin, one may be asphyxiated without the other.The senior Thackeray blamed <bullets into “chocolates”

while firing on the mob>>. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has organised a rally on 21st August to protest  <>, and Raj Thackeray has appealed to the Police <>. The MNS Chief also claimed that <<information about possible mischief at the rally, organised by Mumbai-based Raza Academy and others to protest incidents in Assam and Myanmar, was available, but there was no action on it>>. It is a moot question why did he not share this information with the police prior to the rally? The *avowed purpose* of the rally is to demand the resignations of State Home Minister, R R Patil, and Mumbai Police Commissioner, Arup Patnaik. Patnaik is under attack for his *soft handling* of the situation. Is he being labeled soft because  police bullets did not fly in *required numbers* to claim lives of *adequate number* of rioters?

I tried to find out what kind image Patnaik enjoys. I found this interesting report in Mumbai Mirror of 1st March 2011: <<….new police commissioner Arup Patnaik, who took over on Monday, has the reputation of being a ‘man of action’. His colleagues know him as an aggressive, tough, but decisive officer. “Pehle action baad me section” and “Pehle joota baad me Geeta,” his ‘mottos’, aptly reflect the personality of this tough task master>>. This is not a portrait of a chicken-hearted guy. All reasoned accounts of what happened in Mumbai on 11 August have wholesome praise for Patnaik, who handled the highly volatile situation courageously and yet with great tact. That his strategy was successful is borne out by the quick dissipation of the volatile situation: <Arup Patnaik for leading from the front

– are convinced that this was an attempt to create tension between not just Hindus and Muslims, but also other religious groups like Buddhists within India>>. The restrain the police showed is a mark of maturity and not cowardice. The article, Making History, Not Repeating it, has captured this essence well and bears quoting at length: <<Thankfully, Patnaik, who was a deputy commissioner of police when Bombay burned (1992-93), has not forgotten either. It’s his act of remembering, and reminding, that prevented yet another bloodbath and ensured that the situation did not spin entirely out of control last Saturday. It perhaps needed both courage and conviction on his part to march up to the dais in the midst of a highly volatile atmosphere and grab the mike to remind the charged gathering that neither police nor Muslims should forget what happened in 1992 and that both must do everything possible to prevent a repeat and reopen wounds. For the violent mob outside the maidan, the message meant nothing. But to the much larger assembly of Muslims gathered inside the maidan, it got home. As most of them dispersed peacefully from the other end of the maidan, it became easier for the police to deal with the murderous mob and to disperse them with the minimum use of force>>. In the days to come Patnaik deserves the unstinting support of everyone against the demands made by reactionary forces for his ouster.

One important feature of Patnaik’s strategy on the fateful day was the speedy dispersal of the Murderous Mob from the area where the violence erupted -Contain rather than Confront. Therefore, he probably decided not to carry out any arrests of marauding youths, which had the potential of escalating the situation and could have spun out of control: <<….a police officer claimed that the commissioner’s strategy at the time of the riots was to drive the rioters away and not apprehend them. ‘If you would catch them then the mob could have become more violent. So, in order to defuse the situation, it was decided to drive them away and catch them later,’ the officer said>>. Though Patnaik’s strategy might have been flawless, the manner in which he berated a fellow officer -Deputy Commissioner Ravindra Shisve- was definitely wrong. May be the heat of the moment in the charged atmosphere took its toll on Patnaik, who probably feared that arrest made by Shisve had the potential to make his strategy come unstuck. Granting that there could be mitigating factors to his outburst,  his utterances are still unacceptable: <<“Tumhala kon hyala pakdayala sangitla (Who has told you to catch him?)” ….‘You take directions from the commissioner. You are not SP (of) Sangli, you are DCP here. You will not fall out of line, (else) you will be suspended, stupid,>>. Unfortunately, it is this lapse that Thackeray wants to cash on in tomorrow’s rally. 

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