As many have argued, the Mumbai Terror Attacks of 2008 may not be a new phenomenon. Indeed, India has been a victim of fidayeen-style attack before, it has suffered through terrorist and weapons being smuggled through the sea and many terror incidents have drawn national and international attention. But on the night of 26 November 2008, all these and many other elements came in perfect synchronisation, making this particular attack the greatest success terrorists have ever had in India. The unprecedented reaction that the anti-national elements were able to draw from this event has transformed the way business of terrorism is carried out in India. In the future, one can expect the terrorist trying to replicate their success of 26/11 which would mean bigger attacks, grander targets and more people watching.
And in India, one would be at loss to find grander targets than the two metropolises that are the symbols of all that India stands for – Delhi and Mumbai. The two cities, which have served as cultural, social, economic and political capitals of the country since independence, have been on the cross hair of the terror groups for long. But in face of their increased ambitions, concerns for the security of these cities are higher than ever. In this context, it would be instructive to analyse the security situation of the two cities and counter-terrorism capacities of their respective police forces in contrast. Both Delhi and Mumbai have seen their fair share of tragedy. While Delhi has faced more terrorist attacks than Mumbai, the attacks have been less deadly in Delhi.
Since 1997, Delhi has witnessed 119 fatalities due to 27 terrorist strikes. On the other hand, Mumbai has seen 680 fatalities in 13 attacks since 1993. In terms of geography and demography, both Mumbai and Delhi face their own challenges. Mumbai has a long coastline, increasing the threat of a sea-borne attack as was seen in 2008, while Delhi offers ready and easy entrance points into the state border. With a population density of 23,000 per square km, Mumbai fosters a greater ethnic diversity than Delhi (population density: 30,000 per square km).
In terms of the three components of counter-terrorism- aversion, mitigation and prosecution- police departments of both cities have their own strengths and weaknesses. While the counter-terrorism efforts in Mumbai is largely under the jurisdiction of Mumbai Police, for Delhi, being indirectly under the control of Ministry of Home Affairs, Delhi Police often has to share its security responsibilities with other national agencies.
Averting the threat
In terms of aversion, Mumbai Police enjoys a leg up, since it has had a longer experience with the current form of terrorism. Mumbai had formed its first Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) in 1990, with its later avatar serving as a model for ATS in police departments across the country. Moreover, rampant organised crime, which had dominated the city during 1990s, and its tenuous connections with terrorist groups, has left the police with capabilities of long-term quality investigations and intelligence gathering. Of course, Delhi Police has had its own successes in averting terror attacks through investigations and intelligence, but Mumbai Police does enjoy an advantage due to its experience.
On the other hand, averting an attack through formidable security system has been a forte of Delhi Police. Due to sheer force of numbers (Delhi Police has a police to population ratio of 1:256 compared to Mumbai’s 1:334) and regular help from the Central Paramilitary Forces and Police Departments of other states, it is capable of deploying a larger number of personnel on the streets. In addition, with Delhi being the political capital of the country, its police have had a long time experience of providing security to high-value individuals and events leading to a better security infrastructure which acts as an effective deterrent to the terrorists.
Mitigation of the attacks
Due to the same factors, Delhi Police is has shown better capacity of mitigating terrorist strikes. Simple numbers allows Delhi Police to dominate the ground, especially, in case of a special event, to a degree that Mumbai Police is not capable. Also, Delhi’s position as the national capital, allows its police some advantages of resources over other city police departments. Delhi Police budget for the current financial year has been allocated at 3,340.75 crore which is comparable to the average budget for the entire Maharashtra State Police and about six times Mumbai Police’s budget.
Delhi Police also enjoys greater resources like mobility (Delhi Police boasts of 6.77 vehicles per 100 policemen compared the entire Maharashtra Police with 6.43 vehicles per 100 policemen). It would be incorrect to compare police response to 26/11 with the security response to Parliament attack of 2001 – while one was attack on a protected site; other was a random attack that the security forces were not prepared for. Nevertheless, the stark difference between responses of Delhi Police personnel and Mumbai Police during these attacks must be noted. While the former mounted an immediate and organised response to the attacks, the latter showed an alarming lack of efficacy.
It can also be argued that an average Delhi policemen is more motivated than a Mumbai cop. The salary difference between the two averages about Rs. 5000 to Rs. 15000. Moreover, politicisation of police is considered to be more limited in Delhi, where Central Government reserves the right of direct intervention compared to Mumbai. Both departments have recently formed Quick Reaction Teams, Force One for Mumbai and Special Weapons and Tactics for Delhi. However, neither force has yet been tested in live conditions to state any real comparison between the two.
In terms of prosecution, undeniably Mumbai Police has had greater experience right from 1993. Due to city’s early brush-ups with terror attacks and organised criminal, Mumbai Police has developed capacity to build antiterror cases better than anyone in the country. They have conducted greater number of extraditions with other nations and widened their capacity for intelligence sharing. Moreover, courts and legislature in the state are also more adapted to trying terror-related cases. In fact Mumbai’s infamous Arthur Road Jail has an anti-terrorism court inside it to fast-track the terror-related cases. The Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MOCOCA) provides a useful tool for the prosecutors to dismantle terrorist organizations.
In conclusion, long experience has made Mumbai Police a very effective counter-terrorism organisation; it is capable of averting terrorist attacks through intelligence gathering and investigations; it is better equipped to develop effective prosecution and extraditions. However, Delhi Police enjoys superiority in providing physical protection and deterring attacks through formidable presence. Its superior resources have produced more motivated policemen on an average. In a way, both departments are products of the challenges they have faced in the last decade. Mumbai has always been a victim of criminal and terror conspiracies of complexity not common in Delhi.
Therefore, a police department with capacity to lead a longterm investigation is more suited to city’s crime environment. On the other hand, Delhi, which sees terrorist strikes with greater frequency but lesser imagination, requires a security force which emphasises on physical security more than foiling individual plots. However, this is not to say that the situation can not reverse tomorrow, in which event, both departments may have to be quick on their feet.
—The author is a research analyst at Security Watch India