April 17 blast in Bangalore and the Boston terror attack, which happened a day before, offer interesting parallels. While it was the first terror strike after 9/11 in the US, in India terrorism remains a persistent challenge. In the US there was no political blame game.
President Barack Obama reacted cautiously: “We still do not know who did this and why, and people should not jump to conclusions before we have all the facts”. In India politicians often fail to exercise similar restraint. A Congress leader lost no time in tweeting about electoral gains accruing to the BJP following the blast. Karnataka assembly elections are scheduled for May 5. The BJP did not let go the silly comment but hit back at the rival contender for power even as the Congress tried to undo the damage.
Without waiting for a clearer picture to emerge, the Karnataka Home Minister claimed the BJP leaders were the targets since the attack happened close to the party office. Why blame the state leader when the Union Home Ministry itself speculated that the incident could be the handiwork of the Indian Mujahideen. The media itself does not wait for the truth to come out and flashes whoever has anything to say, logical or illogical, in a game of one-upmanship. Be it a terror attack or a disaster like an earthquake, our response often tends to be inadequate or inappropriate.
More than ordinary people, politicians, policemen and official spokesmen need to be told how to act in a responsible manner in a difficult situation and not to create panic or spread misinformation. Leaders should vow to depoliticize terror and show exemplary behavior during an hour of crisis. Media briefing must be done by an authorized expert. The immediate priority has to be the care of victims and TV talk shows can wait until facts are known. An insensitive handling of an act of terrorism can have serious consequences. The NSG (National Security Guard) and the NIC (National Information Centre) need to be strengthened so that issues like intelligence failure and lack of coordination are taken care of.