Why study 26/11 when it’s easier to bury it?

Democracy cannot operate without sunlight

Y P Rajesh in the Indian Express on Mumbai’s unanswered questions:

26/11 deserved an inquiry commission on the lines of the US commission that probed 9/11 and went on to blame the FBI and the CIA for intelligence failures. Particularly since the failures in India involved central and state, civilian and military agencies. But all that Mumbai got was a state-level exploratory trip by two retired officials who had to rely on police officers volunteering information, and even those findings were buried. [IE]

Now, inquiry commissions, in the India context are more often used to put an issue with explosive political implications first into suspended animation and then into deep freeze. They are also used as political trump cards whenever the ruling party badly needs one.

But not constituting one, or creating one flippantly, ensures that even the small chance that policy lessons will be learnt disappears. It is bad governance—there is no systematic study of what went wrong and what went right, citizens do not know what to demand of their politicians (even if the citizens of South Bombay cared about such things) and culprits at all levels of government do not even get called out. Shame.

This is not to say that 26/11 didn’t compel the Indian government to get a lot more serious about internal security than on 25th November 2008. Appointing P Chidambaram as home minister was the first such move. He has injected a degree of purposefulness in the government’s security apparatus. The home ministry might have drawn some lessons from 26/11. But we are none the wiser.

The least the UPA government can do on the first anniversary of one of the worst terrorist attacks on India is to offer an honest appraisal of the entire episode.

4 thoughts on “Why study 26/11 when it’s easier to bury it?”

  1. And it is this, that differentiates a successful nation from an unsuccessful one. It is this quality of learning from your mistakes (and not burying them), fine tuning the process and policies and ensuring similar failures do not happen in the future… In India, most of the time, the first reaction to any expose is a quick cover-up. I don’t know who is to blame, the people, the politicians, the bureaocracy?

  2. US commission, I remember correctly, was forced on by relatives of those who were killed in 9/11 terror attacks – the politicians there too tried to scuttle it for their reasons. South Mumbai walle did their thing by holding candles for few days blaming all politicians and then voted the same people back to power few months later. Why would you hold a commission that would blame you – after all, Congress I ruled Maha for 10 years and ruled India for 5? No political party would do it.

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