Samjhauta Express Blast - Security Issue
This post is a reference to last Sunday's Samjhauta Express blast in which around 68 passengers were killed. The crude bombs were made of kerosene instead of the usual RDX or Ammonium nitrate mixtures.
I thought I''d write a bit about the two times I came up close to the Samjhauta Express.
The 1st time - I was doing a story on the Samjhauta Express for a television channel. The train was brand new and was guarded by Railway policemen armed with rifles. Special seals were broken to enable us to enter and shoot the train. It was clean and had two types of bogies - regular cushioned three tier sleepers and unreserved compartments with wooden benches.
The 2nd Time - One of my friends was going to Pakistan for business so I went to see him off. The Samjhauta Express was leaving from the last platform of the Old Delhi Railway Station. I expected to see lots of security as it was a 'Pakistan' international train but there was not much. The platform was filthy and it smelt real bad. There was pee and puke everywhere. I have never been in a worse smelling place.
No idea if the rusty metal detector at the entrance of the railway station worked. No one walked through it except me and cops were not instructing folks to walk through it either. My friend's bags were not checked as he boarded the train. People kept entering and leaving the train just like they do in regular Indian trains. The TT was walking about inside checking the tickets.
The station was crowded with loads of people who had come to see off their relatives....many were crying. The only good security measure was the police sniffer dogs who were sniffing around for RDX and other contraband. In the Samjhauta Express blasts the terrorists used kerosene which is a common household product. This must have enabled them to get past the Sniffer dogs who are not trained to sniff out kerosene.
When the train pulled out of the station, the travellers to Lahore stood at the Samjhauta Express doors waving madly at their relatives who started running after the train. Nobody locked the doors from outside as is being reported by the foreign media. Maybe the doors got jammed after they were bolted from inside to keep out the cold. The train doors have a different kind of latch, and if you haven't seen it before it can be pretty tough to figure out how to open it. This is the same on all Indian trains.
One thing I must stress about security on trains whether Samjhauta Express or regular Indian trains -
- People should always look around for unclaimed objects and baggage near their seat and report it to the railway police on the train. With lakhs of people visiting a crowded railway station like Old Delhi it is impossible to expect the police to keep an eye on everyone all off the time. The police should do their job properly and we should help ourselves and not stay in a dream world. After all, its the lives of our families and ours which are at stake.
- CCTV Cameras are only a post-tragedy tool to find out who did it. Don't know how it can prevent a bomb blast from happening.
- Can't expect the police to check everyone's bag. They'll whack half the valuable stuff. Plus, it will take too long and cause inconvenience like what's happening at American airports.
- Say your prayers before leaving on any train journey...It helps, truly!
When my friend returned he told me Pakistan was just as bad. He was not aware he had to register himself when he got there and roamed all over Pakistan. When he came back to Lahore to take the train back, the Paki police realized he had not registered and threatened him......what next.....nothing.....he just paid Rs.500 to a 'dalal' (pimp broker) and he was back in India the next day!
Here are some other views from bloggers in India and Pakistan about the Samjhauta Express Blasts and Security - Shirazi, Pradeep, Mavericks, PakZindabad and GatewayPundit.
So, what do you think? Do you have any experiences about the Samjhauta Express?