I have loved the city of Bangalore with all my heart. Having spent 25 years here, there is no denying the culture and beauty of this city. Despite the bad roads, the traffic jams and the weird stares you get when you take a walk through cubbon park alone, I have found within Bangalore, everything that I need and more: good food, culture and great people.
Bangalore, no doubt, has a significant crime rate. But we have been lucky to not see a 26/11 in the city, although smaller and deadly attacks such as the IISC one are part of our history. But, is the city susceptible to terror attacks? Hell yes and the recent attacks in Church street only remind us of what a soft target we are.
I am a lawyer and a person who has taken the public transport for many years now. The fact of the matter is that the only court complex in the city which seems to have a decent security infrastructure in place, is the High Court. Even there, I have encountered so many situations when my bag passes through the scanner while the cop sitting in front of the monitor is busy texting into a phone instead of screening the contents. But the presence of cops with sten guns and self loading rifles is to some extent comforting I suppose.
This did not however deter a lawyer from murdering a lady colleague who had rejected his advances, in the high court premises.What worries me more are the city civil court and magistrate court complexes. Not only do these court complexes have unbearable inflow of people and vehicular traffic, but there is virtually no screening whatsoever. In other words, this is an ideal target. Huge inflow of people and no security screening ensures minimal risk and maximum damage.
The same is the case with the city bus stand, although the railway station right opposite the bus stand does have reasonably better security checks. This does beg a question though, if the railway station, which is right opposite the bus stand apprehends a terror threat, then why is the bus stand not as vigilant?
The flaws being pointed out, the challenges for the police are immense. With a force that is grossly understaffed and underequipped, the sheer number of people that frequent the trial courts and the bus stand, make it impossible to screen every individual entering and exiting these premises.
The number of cops that do exist are busy harassing smokers on the road and couples holding hands or hugging each other rather than checking for violent crime. After all young adults scared of their parents’ discovering their youthful shenanigans are easier to scare than seasoned criminals out to do harm.
Just the other day, I was pulled up by cops (law and order cops, not the traffic ones) because I had stopped my car by the side of the road, to take a call. Despite me showing my id card as a lawyer, they refused to let go, turning their speech from a threat of arrest to a lecture on safety. To say that it was frustrating, is an understatement.But is security the responsibility only of the police? The answer is no.
With India’s context and situation, no one can afford to live under a false illusion of safety. Part of the Israeli success in combating terror, besides their brutality, audacity and casual disregard for rules of international law (at what cost should we secure safety is another debate), is the fact that safety is a way of life for citizens there.
Having trained in Krav Maga, I have experienced first hand, the sheer level of insight and expertise the Israelis in the field of threat perception. That’s largely because safety and security is understood as a collective responsibility of a nation at large. It involves people participation and that’s what makes it easy for them to be intelligent and fight terror.
As much as law and order should remain with the police, we could perhaps learn to be alert and spot a suspicious package lying conspicuously and take the initiative to call the police. The victims of terror attacks are never to blame, but their stories should inspire us to protect ourselves and our fellow innocents.
Crime prevention is a collaborative and organic process. It also involves, to a large extent, relationship building exercises between the ordinary citizen and the police forces. The primary source of intelligence is always the citizen on the ground with a keen sense of hearing and skills of observation. Without his inputs, even the best security agencies cannot prevent a terror attack.
But for that to happen, both parties need to respect each other and trust each other. But the level of distrust between citizens and the police is so bad, that the only outcome is a blame game once all hell has broken loose. We belittle cops, make fun of them and sometimes argue despite being guilty. The cops on the other hand especially the ones at the grassroot, do not know the definition of professionalism even if it stares them in the face.
They blame this lack of professionalism on an ungrateful citizenry which is unconcerned of their plight. The citizenry in turn blames the lack of professionalism for their lack of gratitude, concern and respect. This is a vicious cycle with both parties blaming each other. But, so long as we continue to nurture a broken marriage between the people of this country and its security establishment, mischief mongers will continue to reap the benefits.
Announcing compensations, investing in better weaponry and CCTV cameras (which barely work), are all short term knee jerk reactions to a larger terror threat that looms over Bangalore and over India. We need more seriousness in the fight against terror and that begins with larger police reforms to ensure greater certainty in matters of appointment and reforms, people participation, setting up of a dedicated think tank to understand the dynamics of terror and policies which reflect intelligence.
Until then, be resilient and go to church street, if you are in Bangalore, for a good meal. I strongly recommend Coconut Grove for its Kerala Food. Good day!