Mr. Saroj Kumar Rath, Assistant Professor of History at Sri Aurobindo College (Evening), Delhi University talks about the horrific Mumbai Terror Attacks of 2008 and the loopholes in India’s Security Agencies in his book Fragile Frontiers: The Secret History of Mumbai Terror Attacks. The book meticulously covers how the fastest city of India came to a standstill on the fateful day of 26th November, 2008 and how the entire attack was well planned and co-ordinated. With the book out in stores now, DUB brings to you excerpts from an interview with Mr. Rath.
How did the idea of writing on one of the most serious terror attacks of Indian History occur to you?
I have been researching on India’s National Security and International Terrorism for more than 15 years. When Professor Chikako Taya of Hosei University, Tokyo asked me to join her in her scrutiny of Mumbai Terror Attacks in the autumn of 2009, I immediately sensed an opportunity to engage myself in an intense study to unravel the historical analysis of India’s national security centered on Mumbai Terror Attacks. So the idea to write the book basically stemmed from government’s apathy to provide information about major terror attacks and the inability of academia-intelligentsia to unravel the truth so far.
After 9/11, there were many strategic and structural changes made in the United States of America. Do you think India changed its behaviour towards terrorism after 26/11 in any way?
No. Not only America made strategic and structural overhaul of Himalayan proportion but also successfully thwarted 25 major terror attacks since 9/11. Contrary to the experience of the West, India’s record in dealing with terrorist attacks is dismal. The attacks on Pune, Bangalore, Varanasi, Mumbai, Delhi, Gaya and Patna from 2010 to 2014 were testimony to the fact that security apparatus of India are still vulnerable and the country’s systemic failure is taking epidemic proportion. If another Mumbai happened, we are destined to make the same mistake.
How did you proceed with your research?
It was far more challenging than other cold-calculated analysis of historical events. To get a sense of the attacks, I undertook on-the-spot inquiries at all the nine places of attacks in Mumbai. I have taken a boat ride near Cuff Parade following the trail of the terrorists and went from court to court to follow the trials. From the Esplanade Session Court of Mumbai to Tis Hazari Court Delhi; I have personally travelled to witness the trial. Chasing the original documents and classified reports were looked as if insurmountable. Special Public Prosecutor, Ujjwal Nikam, kindly allowed my wife Mony and me to visit the Arthur Road Jail Court, where Ajmal Kasab was facing the solitary confinement.
Your book, Fragile Frontiers, covers the most intricate details of the attacks and the pre & post attacks situations. Was it difficult to write on such a vast issue?
This is a very good question. It is tough to work on such topics when the bureaucracy is hostile, police is chary of sharing the slightest details and the judiciary is blind to the grand design of the attacks. Because of the hazard attached with the research, it took nearly five years to come out with the book. It is far too difficult to write on such subjects than the word ‘difficult’ itself. This book is meant to understand our national security, get a sense of what ailing our system and envision steps for future.
Lastly, what do you understand of terrorism- now that you’re the author of a book that talks about one of the most deadly terror attacks of recent times?
The issue of terrorism is now a house-hold subject and even page-3 people are making statements about terrorism, insurgency, ISIS and the likes. Simple yet intriguing, my understanding about terrorism-now is, the subject has become the single-most important topic for contemporary world. But terrorism as such has become a way of life for many, trade for some, state arsenal for others, religious duty for several, and national struggle for a few.