Fight terror, but don't turn India into a police state

8 blasts in Bangalore today (at least till 6pm, there are rumours of a 9th). As much as I am concerned about terror in this country, I am more concerned about the knee jerk reactions of the insanely incompetent police force and government in this country.

And I am as much sickened by the attitude of my fellow citizens in letting the police and government having their way in imposing stupid restrictions in the name of security on all of us.

Here is my request to fellow Indians - please don’t let India turn into a police state. Have some self respect. Have some semblance of pride in living as citizens in a free and democratic country. And no, don’t equate calls for privacy with people wanting to hide something. Privacy in leading one’s life is an essential right in a free society.

There is mockery of security measures all over the country. Almost every metal detector you walk through in this country (possibly with the exception of airports) don’t work. It is just done to please somebody somewhere that some “security” measures are in place.

Photography is banned in most public places, ostensibly to prevent terrorists to plan attacking these places. Here is a good argument on why this is an UTTER NONSENSE! (Bruce Schneier, an authority on security)

Since 911, there has been an increasing war on photography. Photographers have been harassed, questioned, detained, arrested or worse, and declared to be unwelcome. We’ve been repeatedly told to watch out for photographers, especially suspicious ones. Clearly any terrorist is going to first photograph his target, so vigilance is required.

Except that it’s nonsense. The 911 terrorists didn’t photograph anything. Nor did the London transport bombers, the Madrid subway bombers, or the liquid bombers arrested in 2006. Timothy McVeigh didn’t photograph the Oklahoma City Federal Building. The Unabomber didn’t photograph anything; neither did shoe-bomber Richard Reid. Photographs aren’t being found amongst the papers of Palestinian suicide bombers. The IRA wasn’t known for its photography. Even those manufactured terrorist plots that the US government likes to talk about – the Ft. Dix terrorists, the JFK airport bombers, the Miami 7, the Lackawanna 6 – no photography.

Given that real terrorists, and even wannabe terrorists, don’t seem to photograph anything, why is it such pervasive conventional wisdom that terrorists photograph their targets? Why are our fears so great that we have no choice but to be suspicious of any photographer?

Because it’s a movie-plot threat.

It amuses me no end to see the security at Forum mall only going through the bags of ladies while letting the males walk through. Did they get a memo saying that it is more likely for women with bags to blow up the mall?

If you have been keeping track, the number of draconian provisions for people using cyber cafes have dramatically increased over the years. You have to provide a photo id, get photographed, sign up your first born, etc. etc. just to check mail at a public cafe nowadays.

Yes, security is important. The rising terror cases need to be tackled effectively. But only focusing on deterrence and placing the honest citizens of the country under a police raj is not the solution.

Please convince your government to invest more into the police force. They are a much harassed, under paid, over worked, under staffed, under educated bunch of folks who require more support from the government in improving their position. Without that, they will always seem incompetent/impotent. We need an independent investigating authority in the country to spend more time researching and preventing terror attacks than targeting political adversaries.

So whenever you hear one more “security measure” coming out from today’s incident or in the future, stop and think - did you life just become worse as a result? Are you paying for the incompetence of your government with your freedom?

I can’t help feeling I am.

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