Major Riots / Terrorist Attacks / And Response Thereto

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Terrorist Attacks
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Riots & Accidents

Quotations for consideration:

  • “When faced with a (sudden and unforeseen) challenge, do not rush forward with the ‘Answer’. (Unless the ‘Answer’ is a predetermined response to such a challenge. Otherwise) if at all possible find ways to steal time to allow matters to settle and clarify and for sound instincts to emerge. ‘In life, as in war, the shortest route is usually mined!” – Joseph L. Badaracco Jr.
  • “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.” – Adolf Hitler

Key Concepts:

Here we are considering the response to major and wide spread Riots and major Terror incidents that play out over a prolonged time, and not that to the more common localized riots or disturbances or terror incidents.

Who should we blame when appropriate action to curb such sudden major Riots / Terror Strikes is not taken immediately?

  • When there are no contingency plans and laid down procedures for such situations,
  • When there are no trained and experienced officials to sieve intelligence from the sudden increase in the clamour and cacophony of noise.
  • When no one around really knows what is happening beyond their limited circle of perception, but is ever ready to advice others on what needs to be done.
  • When too many calls for help come from too many directions they only create confusion of where to direct the meagre forces available, what orders to give them about how to react to what situation, with what force.

If at all possible act to contain/limit the riot. If that is not immediately possible then do not act without understanding what is required to be done and the consequences of any action. Sometimes doing nothing, at that time, is the best reaction – meaning that getting provoked into over reacting or hasty action at that time, without considering its consequences, may be counterproductive or worse than not acting then.

Can we then really blame someone for being human, for being, even with the best of intentions, confused and unable to make sense of what was going on and hence be unable to decide on what to do, or what information or order to pass, on about reacting to the situation, to those above or below, respectively, in the hierarchy of command. Most just freeze till the picture becomes a bit more settled and they can see what to do. Hindsight is great in telling us what should have been done and how – but that is the characteristic of hindsight – it makes everyone an expert after the event.

So is it Shri Rajiv Gandhi to blame for 1984?

or Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao or Shri Kalyan Singh – for 1992/93?

or Shri A.B Vajpayee or Shri Narendra Modi – for 2002?

or Dr. Manmohan Singh or Shri Vilasrao Deshmukh to blame for 26/11/2008?

or is it you and I, all also responsible for not insisting that

the Government undertake proper planning for all such contingencies and prepare to act when the need arises, and the media also responsible for not voicing our demands and keeping track of the Government’s action thereon?

RIOTS could be isolated incidents breaking out as an expression of rage of groups of individuals against their perception of injustice of some Authority, or isolated short lived incidents of Communal violence. These are not what we are considering here.

Terror attacks could be strikes using improvised explosive devices, suicide bombers, or hit and run operations against specific targets, or acts of insurgent groups such as in J&K, Assam & North East. These too are not what we are considering here.

We are looking at a single trigger (the assassination of Smt. Indira Gandhi , or the demolition of the Babri Masjid, or the burning of the ‘Karsevaks’ in the train at Godhra etc.) acting like a ‘dam burst’ of a long festering anger against rightly or wrongly perceived  injustices, causing a flash flood of rioting, death and damage across extensive areas of a City / State. The riots in such circumstances could be involving many isolated groups of people, who are reacting with extreme violence, by themselves or in concert with others, against their perception of injustice against some peoples’ who they hold, either rightly or wrongly, as the cause for such injustice. Mostly such riots are spontaneous acts of violence by groups of people who till then seem to have been uninvolved, or at worst involved, only in peaceful protests. Such riots could of course be triggered by ‘miscreants / rabble rousers’ acting in a pre-planned / coordinated manner at the instigation of various vested interests / parties, and would therefore call for strong and massive anti-riot  and even, at many times, armed response from the Authorities.

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