My queries began a few hours after the attack did. I didn’t want to irk people with questions when they would have been busy coordinating, attending meetings etc. From the moment the operations ended till date, the common cry I hear from those who were to be in the know was ‘we didn’t expect it there, in Punjab’. From a government which likes to project a muscular demeanour on security matters, and don’t cry that it is unfair, expectation was of a better performance.
Did the Punjab Police know about it? Answer was no. Was the Punjab Police made aware by the centre? Answer was no. Were the army and Border Security Force (BSF) aware of such an attack? They were aware of ‘Fidayeen’ (suicide) missions but they expected action in Jammu, not in Punjab. They told me they had fortified themselves in Jammu and were ‘lying in wait’. But what told them that Punjab was untouchable especially in the wake of Indo-Pak Prime Ministerial meeting in Ufa where the momentum for normalization of ties received a fillip – meaty and obvious bait for terrorist organizations to lunge at?
Has Punjab been so quiet post 1993 and devoid of anti-national activities that you overlook the fact that it borders Jammu and that since September 2013, terrorists have struck five times in an arc which brings them closer to Punjab? I am afraid not. Read data collated by South Asia Terrorism Portal (www.satp.prg) on the activities of banned, Pakistan-based, ISI-aided networks like Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF) and it tells you of the busy existence that they have been leading while staying away from the headlines. Sustained expressions of pro-Khalistan sentiments, continued presence of a wanted terrorist like BKI chief Wadhwa Singh on the Pakistani soil, recent reports of intentions to use the border to smuggle in explosives to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi, successful smuggling of drugs from across the border, sharing of office space at Nankana Sahib by BKI and Lashkar E Toiba (LeT) are indicators of what, decide for yourself.
Let us now move to the situation along the 462.45 km International Border (IB) that India and Pakistan share and which runs through Punjab. The Director General of Police (DGP), Punjab police clearly spelt out the route of infiltration using data decoded from the GPS sets the terrorists were carrying. It puts the Border Security Force (BSF) which guards the IB on the mat. Top sources from the force said that it was their Paharipur Border Out Post (BOP) – 20km from Dinanagar police station – where the breach leading to the infiltration occurred. Did the fence show any breach? No. AN underground tunnel found? No. The suspicion is that the terrorists used the rivulets – where there can be no fence – to infiltrate. Were they guarded? Yes, but not as well as they now do them in Jammu. Why so? Because, we did not expect it in Punjab.
Fences and BOPs alone are hardly the issues to worry over. Along the border villages, a few of which I visited, there is unemployment, unbelievable lack of connectivity in terms of communication and physical access and indifference of the local administration. The locals had no good to speak of the BSF which means it does not enjoy the civilian support as it should. Why shouldn’t the BSF embark on civic action programs? Anyway, existing situation implies that the villagers are living in isolation. How will the adversary exploit what I believe are easy pickings is for all to understand. Situation warrants immediate action.
How could ISI ensure smuggling of hundreds of kilograms of explosives and assault rifles to Mumbai via the sea to perpetrate the 1993 blasts? Because, we did not expect that. How could Tiger Memon and his cohorts assemble RDX-laden Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in the parking lot of Al Husseini building in Mumbai’s Mahim suburb, a stone’s throw away from the Mahim police station, undetected? Because we did not expect that. How could the ISI ensure that ten trained commandos could sail into Mumbai and execute the 26 November 2008 attacks? Because we didn’t expect them to hijack an Indian fishing boat and kept looking out for a ‘suspicious Pakistani boat’. The number of occasions when our expectations were belied by our adversary are numerous. But the winds do tell when they blow and it is for the wise to pick up the scent.
Are we up for it?