Obvious lapse

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 08 Feb 2018 10:28:29

IT IS obvious that a serious security lapse led to the escape of dreaded Lashkar-e-Toiba militant Mohammad Naveed Jhatt from the custody of cops who had taken the ultra to a hospital in Srinagar. Jhatt’s accomplices ambushed the police party, gave the ultra a pistol with which he killed two cops escorting him and made good his escape with his ‘rescuers’. It is obvious that the entire episode was planned well in advance, including the so-called illness of Mohammad Naveed Jhatt, and executed with level-headed precision. The two cops -- Head Constable Mushtaq Ahmad and Constable Babar Ahmad -- could do nothing as the whole operation was executed in an unimaginably short time. Though the two martyred cops were killed doing their duty and will always be remembered for their highest sacrifice, the issue of security lapse cannot be brushed aside. 

There are several other issues, too, involved in the current condition in Kashmir. Those issues, too, must be discussed threadbare and solutions found. Unless such an approach is taken, there could never be an effective answer to the ever-growing aggression of the militants coupled with increasing numbers of incursions by Pakistani forces into Indian territory.

Obviously, the security bosses had not anticipated any possibility of an ambush by militants right in the hospital. This is proved by the fact that only two policemen were assigned the duty of escorting the dreaded militant to hospital. There are reasons to believe that the security authorities did not check if Mohammd Naveed Jhatt was really sick or was only feigning sickness as part of his escape plan. Later events demonstrated clearly that he was not sick and could kill two cops with a pistol his accomplices handed over to him. The two cops -- and the nation -- therefore paid a heavy price for this lapse on part of the authorities in charge.

The standard practice should have been first to suspect if the dreaded ultra’s complaints about his own health were genuine or not. The authorities are also allowed to get medical help in prison cells as well, if the need be particularly in case of dreaded ultras or goons. Another standard practice is to presume that there could be an ambush to have the ultra freed from police clutches, and to arrange for an extra-strict security cordon if at all the ultra has to be taken outside the prison.

Obviously, all these standard practices seemed to have been ignored for reasons best known to the authorities. Worst still, there could be other angles, too, like the ultras finding accomplices among cops. This is, obviously, a very serious charge, but should not be excluded from the probe that would now follow inevitably. If the probe establishes any lapses, then the Government must not spare anybody, no matter how high in position. For, the question is not about punishing only one or two persons; the question is about the system’s failure -- or even personal failure -- that led to such a shameful event.

In the past some time, despite official claims of elimination of many ultras, terrorist activity in Kashmir is witnessing a dangerous rise in Kashmir. The hospital incident is the latest signal from the terrorists that they have a lot of ideas in their bags and they would keep using those.

This means that the authorities will have to be constantly on an alert against any slips that may prove costly in the long run. Meanwhile, this particular incident needs to be looked at from all possible angles so that such lapses do not take place in the future. It is time we gave up the bad habit of not learning from our past mistakes. It is this habit that has led to many embarrassing situations that have left us red-faced and shamed and cost our brave hands.