Surprised at Gurdaspur

You don’t prepare for terrorism after it has happened. And you don’t just learn from your own experience.

Written by K P S Gill | Published:July 30, 2015 12:00 am
Gurdaspur attack terror, Punjab terror attack, Gurdaspur attack, Dinanagar terrorist attack, terrorist attack punjab, punjab terrorism, K.P.S. Gill column, ie column, indian express column It took the Punjab Police a full 12 hours to neutralise the terrorists. (Source: PTI photo)

There is great excitement in the media over two aspects of the Dinanagar terrorist strike: One, that hard evidence in the form of GPS coordinates proves the terrorists came from Pakistan, and that they were in possession of night vision devices with US government markings; two, that the NSA-level talks are going to proceed as scheduled, but “terrorism” is going to be on top of the Indian agenda for discussions.

These are far from the many and urgent issues that are raised by this attack. An investigation is ongoing, and it will certainly uncover significant evidence over time that will point overwhelmingly to Pakistan as the source of this attack. There should be little doubt that this doesn’t matter in the least. Pakistan has engaged in terrorist proxy war against India for more than 30 years; the cumulative evidence of this is overwhelming and has been shared with Pakistan and the world; none of this has had any impact. India will have to learn to effectively defend itself.

Share This Article
Share
Related Article

As far as “talks” are concerned, this is an ongoing charade that will lead nowhere. Great hope is being invested in the NSA talks — but what results have the recent discussions between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif produced? There have been talks and the disruption of talks for decades.

There are other issues that are far more important. The most significant of these is the degree of visible unpreparedness in a sensitive border district like Gurdaspur, in a state that has itself experienced over 13 years of the most virulent terrorism, and that adjoins another state that is still the target of a 26-year-old Pakistan-backed proxy war. Even the Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) team was not wearing rudimentary protection at Dinanagar. Unless a crisis is immediately at hand, institutions are simply pushed into degeneration and decay, robbed of resources, deeply politicised, or just allowed to deteriorate through sheer neglect.

It is useful to recall that Punjab Police had been forged, in the late-1980s and early 1990s, into an efficient and fully equipped counter-terrorism (CT) force, with each thana provided adequate capacities — protection, transport, weapons and the limited technological tools then available — to respond to any challenge within its jurisdiction. Clearly, these systems have crumbled and, were it not for the courage of those who fought terrorism at its peak and who still serve in the police, the state’s capacity for response would now have been virtually non-existent.

Indeed, even in crisis, security forces face an uphill battle in securing the most basic resources and capacities. The civilian bureaucracy has been one of the most obstructive entities in this regard, and I recall, during the peak of terrorism in Punjab, I was in constant and abrasive confrontation with the secretariat in Chandigarh and New Delhi. Confronted by continuous ambushes and attacks, we repeatedly asked for bulletproof vehicles, but received no response. So we went ahead and improvised. Some old and condemned Ambassadors were recovered and bulletproofed, and were found to be extremely successful. Later, audit objections were raised against our efforts. We were bulletproofing vehicles for less than Rs 2 lakh, but were subsequently forced to buy them for over Rs 6 lakh. This is the genius of the bureaucracy. Significantly, at Dinanagar, the police had to borrow bulletproof vehicles from the army to approach the building under siege.

Again, when the Khalistanis got the AK-47 from Pakistan, Punjab Police was stuck with antiquated .303 bolt-action rifles. When we asked for comparable firepower, there was uniform opposition from the bureaucracy. One joint secretary in the Union home ministry wrote that no such weapon should be given to a “civil force”. There was a misconception that such weapons could be used to quell protests, without realising that not every policeman was going to be issued an AK rifle.

What is not realised is that you don’t prepare for terrorism after it has happened. You must be prepared at all times. And you don’t just learn from your own experience. States across India have been attacked by Islamist terrorists. Yet, each state is caught by surprise and pleads that the “Centre had not provided intelligence” or “resources”. As if state governments have no responsibility. And when the Centre asks for any dilution of the constitutional allocation of “law and order” to the jurisdiction of the states, there are (rightly) shrill protestations from all chief ministers.

The entire Punjab border with Pakistan was fenced during the terrorism years. Heavy patrolling and constant vigilance reduced direct infiltration to an easily manageable trickle. But today, while the fence still stands, there is increasing laxity in surveillance and oversight. Deep political patronage has sought to facilitate drug trafficking and smuggling of other contraband, and this has resulted in the regular movement of materials and men across this sensitive frontier, substantially with the collusion of some
police and paramilitary personnel.

The Centre must also share at least some of the blame. Punjab has been downgraded in terms of support for expenditure on security, and the Central scheme for police modernisation has also been scrapped by the Modi regime. This is despite the fact that the IB is constantly issuing warnings that Punjab is a “sensitive state”.

Dinanagar is just a sign of threats to come. The regional and global environment is deeply troubling, and Punjab is a frontline state. It is crucial that the CT capacities of Punjab Police be restored. All police stations along the international border, in particular, need to be strengthened. Crucially, the issue of morale also needs to be addressed. No attention is paid to the fact that dozens of police officers and men who fought terrorism at its peak continue to languish in jails, and many others are still facing interminable
and mischievous prosecution.

There are proliferating threats of a global Islamist terrorism today. It is high time that concerned citizens, the media and elements in the political constituency made a concerted effort to bring substantive issues of CT policy, strategy and tactics to the fore, instead of wasting efforts on high-decibel nothings.

The writer, former DGP, Punjab, is president, Institute for Conflict Management, and publisher, ‘South Asia Intelligence Review’

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App now

  1. C
    CMVikram
    Jul 30, 2015 at 5:09 pm
    News about investigations and discussions prove that the Indian people and Indian Govt. are gutless. Such attacks should be retaliated with immediately. If not, it is a sign of gutlessness for the enemy and more will follow.
    Reply
    1. J
      Jo
      Jul 31, 2015 at 2:04 am
      No one knows the state better than this man and I second the fact that if you lived there during the tough years he was god.
      Reply
      1. P
        Paul
        Jul 31, 2015 at 12:52 am
        Good advice from a pro.
        Reply
        1. P
          Pat
          Aug 1, 2015 at 12:50 am
          What arevthe congress goons ranting people demand their pay cut ASAP for stalling parliament and pocking tax payers money for selfish reasons. When will they work even accommodation should be eliminated go live or find your own place. Politics is become a business and its the common man who is in jeopardy.
          Reply
          1. P
            Pmp
            Jul 30, 2015 at 5:16 pm
            It is high time,The wise advice of the most experienced and effective Counter Terrorism Expert is heeded by the Central & state authorities.The work is obstructed intentionally by the beauraucracy ,print & electronic media with active support of the so called secular parties,whose sole agenda is to stick to power by foul means and distribute the spoils of the loot to their cronies.-Pmp
            Reply
            1. A
              ansh
              Jul 30, 2015 at 2:05 pm
              whatever is needed to pre prepare ourselves to counter and foil any terrorist attack should be done at once by all states and center must also play its due role to strengthen our civil and special forces, a lot more vigil step need to be taken by specially border states like Punjab,Rajasthan, Gujrat, J&k and WB and when its come to Nation security all political party should avoid to mix the sensitive issue like this with politics , in recent years drug smuggling has become a serious issue to Punjab state, thank to support of Akali dal the ruling party n BJP could not pursue its ally to keep its hand from this anti national activity which resulted in recent terror attacks, here I want to point out that without compromising with national interests center should firmly warn the states to face the dire consequences if they continue involve in anti national activity like this
              Reply
              1. l
                leo-7 watching
                Jul 30, 2015 at 8:56 am
                MR GILL MUST BE GIVEN A STICK AND GUN TO REFORM TAME , WHIP AND PROFESSIONALISE THE COLONIAL INDIAN BUREUCRACY WHICH DOES THE JOB OF PAK ARMY AND ISI IN DEMOTIVATING THE INDIAN ARMED FORCES AND POLICE
                Reply
                1. A
                  arjun
                  Jul 30, 2015 at 8:41 am
                  Salute sir.
                  Reply
                  1. T
                    TSBindra
                    Jul 30, 2015 at 4:41 pm
                    A brilliant analytical article by a professional. the authorities in Panjab and other border states should pay heed.
                    Reply
                    1. K
                      Kaliyug
                      Jul 30, 2015 at 9:52 pm
                      It take a lion like Gill to tell the government to stop playing with fire for Muslim votes, the Badal government is in bed with the drug smugglers, Punjab the state with five rivers has become the state with drugs and destruction. There is huge influx of Bangla Deshi Muslims in Punjab. thanks to the lax ways that ration cards are exchanged for votes, these Muslim who are still in minority will act up once their potion increases. Most of them have a dozen children from different women. The influx of Muslims in the border states is a boon to stan, for them there is a ready base being made for more insurgency and terrorism activities.
                      Reply
                      1. K
                        Khalistani ka
                        Jul 31, 2015 at 5:23 pm
                        Baas koro yaat- samajh giya ki tu khalistani hai.
                        Reply
                        1. H
                          Harsh
                          Jul 30, 2015 at 6:52 pm
                          It is really wonder that those have lost legally three forth territory to others are fighting for remaining one forth by killing innocents. One has to accept the truth that we are the society that has always worships killers of our prosperity and killed or condemned those who really worked for our prosperity. A terrorist, irrespective his/her caste or religion wants glorification and thus they accept the cheap path of violence. Unless and until collectively as a nation we stop glorifying terrorist and worshiping farce makers, we cannot control the terrorism and will never achieve or sustain prosperity.
                          Reply
                          1. R
                            RS
                            Jul 31, 2015 at 5:21 am
                            He is a murderer, God is protector of us all, protector of the Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and every thing living. this guy on the other hand is an unrepentant killer.
                            Reply
                            1. R
                              RS
                              Jul 31, 2015 at 12:30 pm
                              I am not sure of it, all I said was that there are groups that are operating outside of ISI control. What leads me to think that they were not under ISI control is the fact that ISI is not made up of stooges. It is stan's premier intelligence agency just like RAW. These organizations act based on cost benefit analysis. There was very little to be gained form such an operation but certainly these infiltrators were going to be killed and the loss if these were ISI agents does not justify such . senseless operation.
                              Reply
                              1. R
                                RS
                                Jul 31, 2015 at 5:51 am
                                If KPS Gill had operated within the law, no one would have any legitimate gripe against him. But he operated outside of the law and in doing so, he became a government SANCTIONED TERRORIST HIMSELF. He is a M MURDERER, PURE and SIMPLE!
                                Reply
                                1. R
                                  RS
                                  Jul 30, 2015 at 9:58 am
                                  Leave it to Mr. K.P.S. Gill, whose hands are alleged to be still red with the blood of countless INNOCENT Sikh youth of Punjab make a mountain out of mole hill. This tiny group (if they were from stan) were less than a handful of fringe lunatics that came across to get slaughtered and they were dealt with appropriately. Sadly they did kill some people in India in the process. There are many splinter and fringe groups operating in stan that are not under the control of ISI or their government. This blame game between the two countries is an age old process and has been used by both countries on many occasions to draw attention away from their own domestic policy failures. The thirteen years of terrorism in Punjab Mr. Gill Talks about was direct result of discriminatory domestic policies that the center has been practicing against Punjab since independence but you will not hear a word of that form this .
                                  Reply
                                  1. R
                                    RS
                                    Jul 31, 2015 at 11:27 am
                                    Mr. KPS Gill must be subjected to a lie detector test in the disappearance of human rights activist Mr. ra who had unearthed many crimes against Mr. Gill including disappearances and murders in police custody. There have been reports of Mr. Gill had threatening him with disappearance and death. It is also widely believed that Mr. KPS Gill is responsible for Mr. Khalra's disappearance and eventual murder in police custody.
                                    Reply
                                    1. R
                                      RS
                                      Jul 31, 2015 at 5:47 am
                                      They have been repeatedly caught with their pants down for any sane person to take them seriously any longer. YOU MEAN JUST LIKE ONE OF OUR GUYS WHO WAS KILLED IN THE JAIL BY SOME STANI PRISONERS? DON'T BE SO NAIVE, BOTH COUNTRIES ARE DOING IT. YOU ONLY HEAR ABOUT STANI INFILTRATORS AND IT IS TRUE THEY ARE SENDING PEOPLE OVER THE FENCE. BUT SO ARE WE SENDING THEM TO THE OTHER SIDE.
                                      Reply
                                      1. R
                                        RS
                                        Jul 31, 2015 at 5:40 am
                                        You must be related to KPSG or some other killer cop. As for being a Sikh, there are many like you. Conscienceless, soulless, heartless zombies taking up space on this earth. It is not a question of just Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, Nagas and Tribals have also been killed by Indian police, paramilitary and military forces. No one in their right mind can or should support terrorism of any kind. But you seem to be fine with the state sponsored terrorism. While those who want KPS Gill to be held accountable for his murderous campaign in Punjab categorically oppose terrorism weather it is committed by a COP or a civilian.
                                        Reply
                                        1. R
                                          RS
                                          Aug 1, 2015 at 12:00 am
                                          It seems like the minorities of India i.e. the Sikhs and Muslims have more to fear from their own government, cops, paramilitary and military forces than any external threat. Add that to the sentiments expressed here by so many Hindus justifying encounter killings and m murder by uniformed police killers, casts a very dark shadow on the future and safety of the minority communities of India.
                                          Reply
                                          1. R
                                            RS
                                            Jul 31, 2015 at 11:54 pm
                                            True, technology does not lie. But how do you prove that the GPS they had was not planted by the cops? Besides why would they need a GPS? Indian streets are not mapped on a GPS, not in any border towns anyway, so what good was there GPS? If they can cross the barbed wire fence and continuously patrolled and monitored border, they sure can find their way around the streets without using coordinates form a complex device like the GPS that gives them only laude and longitude coordinates in the absence of street maps. If they were from stan, then surely they speak the language and could easily ask for directions instead of carrying incriminating evidence like the GPS.
                                            Reply
                                            1. Load More Comments