In case of attack
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In his characteristically reticent manner, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh admitted on Friday (April 10) that India had "not been very successful in warding off terrorist attacks", and added that this violent constituency had not given up their efforts to strike again and destabilise the country. This observation acquires greater salience since the country has gone to polls from April 16 onwards — and anti-poll violence has already taken its toll.
Apart from cross-border terrorism whose virulence and determination was manifest in Mumbai last November, there are domestic actors opposed to the polls — and the first such victim of the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Somnath Madkami, was killed in Orissa on April 9 by left wing extremists. Pre-meditated violence before and during the polls is a familiar pattern in India and the Election Commission makes adequate preparations in vulnerable areas .
But the real challenge, and cause for deep concern, is the cross-border variant and the recent spate of Taliban-related violence in the parts of Pakistan proximate to India. The two anti-terrorist operations in Kupwara and Gurez in J&K in late March/early April that have resulted in the death of one officer and eight other personnel from a crack commando regiment of the Indian Army, are indicative of the audacity and determination with which terrorists are challenging the Indian state.
There are some common elements in the manner in which the Mumbai attacks of November were carried out and the Kupwara incident — particularly the determined professionalism with which the terrorists conducted themselves and the final casualty ratio that ensued. If the ultimate aim of the terrorist groups and their sponsors is to disrupt the rhythms of democratic India, then it is axiomatic that the month-long poll phase provides an attractive opportunity.