Friday, December 24, 2010

High alert!

A news item on Dec 5th this year reported: “A security alert has been sounded across Uttar Pradesh and other communally-sensitive places in India ahead of Monday's 18th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, a home ministry official said”

Presumably, the validity of this ‘high alert’ notice expired on the midnight of Dec 6th.. This emboldened some terror organizations to carry out a ‘low intensity’ blast in Varanasi, on the evening of Dec 7th. . Promptly thereafter, the Home Ministry issued a ‘high alert’ again. In fact, I heard one explanation that the terrorists must have planned to carry this out on Dec 6th, but must have realized it was difficult because the police was on ‘high alert’ that day.

Today, the Govt has issued another ‘high alert’ and has asked the NSG to stand in readiness.

What does this mean? That there will be brief periods of ‘high alert’ that will be announced in advance by the Govt and withdrawn after a few days, when the danger has seemingly passed? That the terrorists are supposed to lie low when the country is on ‘high alert’ mode?

In other words, when the default setting of ‘low alert’ mode is restored, you and I should be worried, very worried.

In one of his essays, R.K.Narayan writes about a childhood experience of an all-night journey that he had to undertake by bullock-cart to reach his home town after alighting from a train in a station thirty miles away.

“The bullock carts moved in a caravan, winding along a dark, tree-shaded highway. Robbers were known to attack such caravans about ten miles from the railway station at midnight. The menace was warded off by a simple expedient. One of the cart-men walked ahead carrying a lantern and a staff and throwing bloodcurdling challenges to the night air. “Hey, keep away, prowlers, if you don’t want your skulls pulped… Who goes there? and so forth, the other drivers also sitting up and urging their bullocks with the loudest swear words. This was kept up till we passed a jutting rock beyond the twelfth milestone; the moment we crossed this spot the challenger went back to his cart, curled himself up in his seat and fell asleep, the entire caravan following this example. By some strange law or understanding, the robbers never seemed to step an inch beyond the jutting rock. It always seemed to me that the robbers were missing a fine opportunity to attack with all the cart-men fast asleep and the only wakeful person being myself as I tried to sleep on a pile of straw expecting any moment to be killed.”

By some strange law or understanding, terrorists are expected to respect the Home Ministry’s ‘high alert’ warning and wait for the ‘all clear’ siren to be blown.





3 comments:

Kiran said...

It's fascinating how you pull out RK Narayan's wisdom in such situations every single time. Uncanny. And brilliant!

Raj said...

Kiran,thanks but here's a confession. Once I read a quotable passage from RKN, I look for some story to link it to. Rather than the other way.

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