Last evening huge crowds gathered at major landmarks in various cities across India, to pay homage to the lives lost to this cold and cruel act of violence. . They gathered at India Gate, The Gateway of India, in front of the Trident Hotel and the Nariman House, to name a few.
There were people across age groups and from all walks of life. Thankfully - some politicians too. Some of them overcome by force of their personal value system to be present there. Others were there perhaps because they were more bothered about the consequences should they have chosen to keep away from this event. And other Netas, who did not have the sense one year ago when the carnage happened, and remain incorrigible even today, chose to stay away.
In a way one was happy with what one saw last evening. The fact the so many took the trouble and spent time, showed that Indians were united in their shock, grief, and concern for our Country in general and Mumbai in particular.
The terrorists had a singular objective. To engineer a hate war and bloodshed between communities in India. That they failed is a foregone conclusion.
What was so special about 26/11?
In India, more than 6000 people have lost their lives at the hands of terrorists belonging to different groups, in the recent past. Let's not look very far.
In Mumbai itself in 2006, a series of bomb blasts in the local trains left more than 200 people dead and about 700 injured.
Thousands of innocent people have fallen victims to terrorist's bullets in Kashmir, in the last two decades.
Hundreds of people have died at the hands of the 'Maoists' and the Naxals in Maharasthra, Chhatisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, in recent times.
I have not known of any such groups of common citizens collectively expressing grief and demonstrating solidarity with the victims and their families ever in the past.
Never before has compensation to victims disbursed so quickly as in case of the 26/11 Mumbai incident.
Never in the past have individual victims who died in such violence been identified individually, and rich tributes paid to them and to their families.
Is it because this time, the terrorists attacked 5 star deluxe hotels in the posh South Mumbai area, and took hostage many members of the elite strata of society?
Wasn't it something absolutely sensational - the Taj and the Trident - symbols of Mumbai's culture, under a siege?
Was the 2006 incident less horrific because it was in the local trains in Mumbai? And because we didn't know the names of the people who died or were injured?
A terror attack is a terror attack. Every single life lost is as precious as the next one - ask the families. The point that is being made here is that every citizen of this Country should have been equally sensitive to such an attack long, long ago. The same can be said about the media. Then, a strong public opinion such as the one displayed in the last year, would have forced our political and administrative system to think and act. And maybe the death toll would today have been less than 6000....
Is India is any safer than it was exactly a year ago?
The State Government and the political leaders will immediately answer with a confident 'yes' The State administration in Maharashtra decided to go a step further and showcase this claim. One more police force - The Force One - has been set up in Maharashtra to counter acts of terrorism. This force and other units of the Police staged a flag march through Mumbai, and commandos demonstrated their skills like monkey crawls and repelling, to send a message to the Mumbaikars that they are competent, courageous and well equipped.
Millions of rupees have been committed or already spent in purchasing ultra modern and sophisticated weapons for the police to fight terrorists.
All that is good. Let me however provide another perspective.
We have now perhaps prepared ourselves for a better response in future.
But are we prepared to prevent such incidents?
There were many lessons to be learnt exactly a year ago. Our combined intelligence set up consisting of various intelligence organizations collectively failed us. Between then and now we should have 'unlearnt' everything in the name of intelligence gathering and sharing. Then, we should have taken the help of friendly Countries like Israel or the US, who have had tremendous experience in tackling terror of the kind that hit India.
So the question is - how confident are we as a Country that such instances will be prevented with superior quality of intelligence, and coordination between the intelligence and security teams, so that a terror attack of the nature and scale such as the one that Mumbai witnessed is foiled before the terrorists even reach the shores of our Country?
Are we now sure that we can prevent another 26/11?