27 December 2008

It is now one month since the Mumbai holocaust. Several things have been said by several experts, politicians and others. Browsing through the several media stories collected over the month I have chosen a few to highlight several aspects of the gory incident, with a view to present differing perceptions and with the hope that lessons will be learnt to avoid such incidents in the future or at least tackle them better. As always the focus is as I see it from the armed forces point of view.

At the outset one must focus on the role the media adopted in reporting events and later in analysing them vis a vis the role of the armed and security forces. The sad fact is that the media in India is clueless about matters military or security. They cannot even distinguish between the various ranks in the services vis a vis other services leave alone reporting on the nuances of military tactics or security matters. They made a laughing stock of themselves by the highly emotionally charged and immature TV coverage, which did more harm to the task of taking out the terrorists than anything else. Littlte did they realise that their immature coverage was being conveyed to the terrorists minute by minute inside the hotels and Nariman House, which eventually contributed to prolonging the whole affair. What was the point in showing the NSG helicopter landing commandos on the roof of Nariman House? Did it not alert the people inside? Yes they succeeded in castigating the political leadership and making capital of peoples' misery by pushing the mike in to any face that was around, but it cannot by any stretch of imagination be deemed to be informed or responsible reporting. In contrast one had only to see the reportage on BBC/CNN etc to appreciate the quality of analytical reporting.

A case in point is the negative press given to Admiral Sureesh Mehta who had said that the intelligence provided to the security forces was unactionable. All this because the naval chief had used some choice adjectives to deride the media at a press conference. I was disgusted by the fact that senior editors of the prestigious newspapers took up the issue. What the media must realise is that when the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee and CNS says that the intelligence provided was unactionable, then that is the last word and there is no come back to it. The fact was that the navy and coast guard had conducted an exercise along the Saurashtra coast for several days and checked hundreds of boats between the 19th and 23rd Nov. looking for terrorists -- based on the vague intelligence received by them. As it transpired the terrorists came after the exercise was terminated. So much for the irrefutable intelligence provided by the agencies concerned as championed by the senior editors! The unfortunate fact is that the media knows which side its bread is buttered, who will give them the lucrative governments ads etc. They can indulge in armed forces bashing without fear of any comeback because the armed forces especially the Navy will not retaliate.

The following media stories make interesting reading:

1. Why the Operation Took 60 hours -- A Navy veteran speaks -- reported in Rediff.com

2. India Flirts with Military Response -- Reported by AFP, New Delhi

3. Anti-Terror Measures an Eyewash -- Alok Kumar Gupta, Associate Professor, National Law University, Jodhpur

4. A German's view on Fanatics -- Attributed to Dr. Emanuel Tanay, German Psychiatrist

5. Something Very Personal And Close To My Heart -- Maj. Alok Chandola, Veteran






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