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Security isn’t skin-deep

  • Published at 12:05 am July 16th, 2016
  • Last updated at 02:19 pm September 24th, 2016
Security isn’t skin-deep

One of my teammates came in on the morning of July 12 with her acute dissatisfaction over the overall security measures taken across Dhaka city. It’s not because she was annoyed by the measures enforced by the government, but the lack of it.

She said she was coming to Gulshan from Bashundhara, and saw a few restrictions on the people’s movement. The buses weren’t allowed into Gulshan, but the private vehicles were.

The questions she asked were: “What if the passengers were carrying something with them? I was inside a private car, and they didn’t check my bags that I was carrying with me. You can’t call this a heightened security!”

She could be right. When the most gruesome killing at the Gulshan café happened, all local and international media agencies started terming Gulshan as a “well-protected” area. The phrase came as a shock to me, as I, a resident of the area, have hardly seen Gulshan well-protected.

The only time Gulshan looks secured is on every December 31, on the eve of every New Year. On other days, anyone can enter and exit the area. The only apparent security measure is seen as police barricades at the entrances of the area. The barricade is meant for slowing the vehicles down, and having a good look at the passengers inside.

But can you really call that an effective security measure? I doubt it. You can at best call it a stop-gap-measure that can create some impact, or awareness among the minds of the common people, or the potential criminals.

By now, Bangladeshi law enforcers should have been equipped with in-depth knowledge about terrorism and small-scale militancy

Perhaps they’re the necessary external feel-good exercises during a crisis. But proper security measures are something that goes much deeper than that.

According to a report in daily Prothom Alo, the police came to know about Nibras Islam’s involvement in militancy five months ago, when there was a case against him at Shahbagh Police Station. Unfortunately, the report said the police did nothing about it. What kind of act of security was that, given the wake of events we’re in right now?

If we look back, and analyse how our two police officials received bullets, and ultimately were killed by the militants, we can see that these valiant officers didn’t have any clue as to where they were heading.

So, it was evident from their action that our law enforcers operate in ways that make them vulnerable; they themselves operate in an insecure manner.

Then, please allow me to talk about the importance of monitoring as well as analysis. As far as I remember, after the gruesome grenade attack at Sheikh Hasina’s rally in 2004, and serial blasts across the country in 2005, I saw hundreds of news reports in Bangladesh media detailing on militant activities including the locations of their training camps across the country. Some actions were taken at that time.

That was a decade ago. By now, Bangladeshi law enforcers should have been equipped with in-depth knowledge about terrorism and small-scale militancy with the all available tools and technology to fight and prevent them.

What we’ve just experienced was the result of the denial that runs through the nooks and corners of the country -- the lack of knowledge in global terrorism, and the lack of monitoring of what was going on inside the country.

Preventing terrorism isn’t just police work, it also requires the involvement of other professionals such as social scientists, psychologists etc.

The recent horrible crimes have led almost all the government and private offices to step up their own security measures.

In doing so, the authorities of are checking everyone’s bags while entering the office premises.

It’s a great initiative, but I think it’s more important to do background checks of the people rather than checking everyone’s backpacks.

Given the current scenario and the seriousness of what just happened at the Gulshan café, our sense of security would have to be more than just checking people’s bags, which I term as “skin-deep security.” This won’t do.

I am not suggesting any mass surveillance to be in place for the members of the public, but there has to be a mechanism to prevent the growth of potential terrorism.

The idea of mass surveillance hasn’t worked anywhere. Again, there’s also no magic-bullet solution to the scourge of terrorism.

There’s no overnight solution to our security concerns since security itself isn’t skin-deep.

It’s a continuous and pro-active process.