There is something wrong in the state of Maharashtra. On the morning of July 13,2011,Nehchal Sandhu,Director,Intelligence Bureau invited 14 state police chiefs to Delhi to discuss the possibility of terror attacks in the country.
Sandhu,a counter-terror expert,told the director generals of police that he was unnerved by the eerie calm for the past months,particularly after a bomb was defused outside the Delhi High Court on May 25,2011. The meeting was attended by Mr K L Prasad,Additional Director General (Intelligence),who was representing Maharashtra as the DGP Ajit Parasnis was preoccupied. There was hardly any intelligence input from Prasad at the Delhi meeting to indicate that Mumbai was back in the cross-hairs.
By 6.45 pm that day,the DIBs prophecy came true as three bombs shook Mumbai once again,snuffing out 26 lives and leaving another 131 injured.
This is not all. Simultaneously,Delhi was worried about the worsening Naxalite violence in Gadchiroli in Maharashtra. In June,no less than 13 persons had lost lives in different Naxal attacks in Gadchiroli. As the matter was of utmost security concern,Home Minister P Chidambaram wrote a letter to state Chief Minister Prithviraj Chauhan,apprising him of the violent deaths in Gadchiroli and the urgent need to take action by despatching the guardian minister to the Maoist violence hit district.
The Union Home Minister was concerned about this pincer attack on Maharashtra but what perturbed him further was the fact that Gadchiroli guardian minister was none other than state Home Minister R R Patil. With the Home portfolio lying with the NCP,CM Chauhan had to depend on the state chief secretary to deal with the worsening Naxal violence as Patil was not interested in going to Gadchiroli.
With the Congress-NCP alliance already under strain after Chauhan publicly stated that Home portfolio should be with the bigger coalition partner,the CM gave carte blanche powers to chief secretary to deal with Gadchiroli rather than press Patil to Gadchiroli. While coalition more than often plays havoc with governance,it is high time that the Maharashtra police and bureaucracy also introspected about their contribution. The fact is then chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and then home minister R R Patil were fired for their inability to handle 26/11 attacks and not even a single police officer was held accountable.
This is not to take away the bravery of police officers Ombale,Karkare,Kamte,Salaskar and others as they made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty. However,the bottom line is that Mumbai alone has lost some 704 lives and another 2,288 injured in the 14 bomb attacks since 1992-93. The fact is the Mumbai and Maharashtra police is hopelessly divided into factions with the top leadership helpless in getting their subordinates to work. It is no secret that the writ of DG Ajit Parasnis,who was given three months extension on June 30,2011,hardly runs and same is the case with Mumbai police commissioner Arup Patnaik.
The Mumbai Crime Branch is at loggerheads with the Maharashtra anti-terror squad as a result of which there is no coordination or synergy in the force. This is just a reflection of the top state political leadership with Congress suspicious of every move of the NCP and vice-versa. The result is utter chaos in the Bollywood besotted capital of Maharashtra.
Despite,18 days have passed after the Mumbai blasts,but there is hardly any clue about its perpetrators with Maharashtra ATS playing the lone ranger. It is not without reason that on July 26,the National Investigation Agency summoned a meeting of anti-terror squad chiefs of key states including Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh in Delhi to drive home the message that 13/7 can only be solved through cooperation and not competition.
Given the fact that Indian Mujahideen e-mails post Jama Masjid firing (September 19,2010) and Sheetla Ghat bomb blast (December 6,2010) were sent from Mumbai using Opera Mini mobile platform based in Norway,it is clear that Mumbai is the hotbed of homegrown jihad. But the larger question is whether Maharashtra and Mumbai police have the ability to root out the terror modules in the state in the backdrop of vote-bank politics.
While the Maharashtra voter will take a call on its government in the coming elections,time has come for Prithvi Chauhan,who enjoys a clean reputation and an image of an able administrator,to take control.
If the present Maharashtra police and bureaucracy cannot deliver,then time has come to get officers on deputation from other states to man the controls. Many other states including Delhi and UP have tried this option in the past with positive results. The state is at such a pass that it can only turn for the better.