x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Politicians feel backlash over security issue

The severity of the attacks has resulted in a backlash against the Indian government by its citizens.

"I was never so afraid to be in my hometown," said Mukesh Tiwari, as he arrived back in the UAE after a visit to Mumbai. "It was horror." Mr Tiwari is one of several Abu Dhabi-based Indians shocked by last week's devastating assault by militants on India's economic capital, which left 188 people dead. The severity of the attacks has resulted in a backlash against the Indian government by its citizens, with most pointing the finger at ministers for their failure to prevent the siege.

"Life is at stake in our country. If terrorists have easy access there, it's because of our leaders. The taxpayers are bearing the security expenses. But blasts and terrorist attacks will never stop. The worst may be yet to come," said Mr Tiwari, who works at a bank in Abu Dhabi. "We light candles, sing hymns for the departed souls and before we get over an event, it's time to light candles again. An ordinary Indian can do nothing beyond this … that is the plight of millions."

In the days after the attacks, Indians wondered why their government could not stop these types of attacks from happening; the actions and remarks of politicians over the past week have failed to ease their worries. Asked how such an incident could happen in Mumbai, R R Patil, the deputy chief minister of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, said: "In big cities, such small incidents do happen." Mr Patel was criticised for his comments, which many believe showed insensitivity and a lack of awareness of the seriousness of the situation.

Political parties tend to use such events as terrorist attacks as an opportunity to malign each other and make claims to improve the security situation. Padmanabhan Nandkumar, a native of Mumbai who also works in Abu Dhabi, said the government had repeatedly promised to install stronger antiterrorism laws, create a federal agency and bring in police reforms. "Haven't we heard the governments in power repeat the same after every terror attack?

"All political parties, whether in power or outside, are the same. They misuse their power to meet their selfish ends. Unfortunately, we haven't seen any consistent discussions to improve the security situation." Among other incidents that have outraged Indians, Vilasrao Dehmukh, the Maharashtra chief minister, visited the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower after the siege ended along with his son Ritesh, an actor, and the filmmaker Ram Gopal Verma, with the apparent intention of helping them make a movie on Mumbai terrorist strikes, an allegation Mr Verma denied.

The visit came on the heels of accusations made by political opponents that the state insulted the family of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, a member of an elite Indian army unit killed in the attacks, by not sending anyone to attend his funeral. And Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the vice president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, came under attack for referring to a recent demonstration by saying "women wearing lipstick and powder" have taken to streets in Mumbai, "leading marches against the political class". He said the women "were abusing politicians, thus spreading dissatisfaction against democracy".

"This is what terrorists are doing in Jammu and Kashmir. Instead of saying 'Pakistan murdabad' [Down with Pakistan], they are saying 'Politicians murdabad' [Down with politicians]," Mr Naqvi was quoted in the media as saying. Hafez Hussain, a Mumbai-based businessman, said: "The very comment proves their [the politicians'] weakness and their tendency to shrug responsibility." The credibility of the politicians was tarnished further after a newspaper revealed how inadequately armed the Maharashtra State Reserve Police was. For example, bulletproof vests meant for the constabulary failed trials in 2004 and were never replaced.

The comments and actions make one wonder why, even after such a disaster, politicians cannot take the onus upon themselves and unite, putting aside their personal agendas and rivalries. Such incidents will repeat unless responsible politicians are elected to the public office. However, a change can take place when corruption is brought under control. Gopi Krishna Menon, a Dubai-based professional, echoed those sentiments. "What can you expect from such people? Our politicians are not fit to govern our nation. This time they have proved it again."

Mr Menon is worried the government's failures mean the attacks will not stop. "They keep happening. They will happen. I feel safer outside India." smukherjee@thenational.ae