Should the Indian Premier League (IPL) Cricket tournament for 2009 go ahead as scheduled or should it be postponed due to securityconsiderations?
2. The national debate on this question is sought to be influenced more by commercial considerations arising from the profit-making urge ofthe corporate entities owning the participating teams and the money-making urge of different sections of the media and the advertisingcommunity than by security considerations, which have assumed added importance in view of the recent terrorist strikes in Mumbai andLahore. The importance of ensuring the security of the life and property of the common citizens is sought to be subordinated to catering tothe money-making urge of these sections with a vested interest in seeing that the IPL tournament goes ahead as scheduled.One has also valid reasons to suspect that electoral considerations----- the anxiety of the Congress (I) not to step on the toes of Shri Sharad Pawar, whoapart from being an influential member of the Union Cabinet, wears a second hat as the czar of the commercialised cricket world-- are alsoplaying a role in preventing a totally professional judgement on the issue.
3. The organisers of the IPL should have known that the general elections to the Indian Parliament were due before May,2009. This is aconstitutional requirement, which has to be fulfilled. Making security arrangements for the elections in the rural and urban areas is always avery difficult task. This is going to be even more difficult this year in the wake of the wave of terrorist strikes since May,2008----in Jaipur,Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Assam and Mumbai. Shri P.Chidambarm, Minister for Home Affairs, was quoted in a TV interview as saying thatone has to be prepared for a possible terrorist strike as the elections approach.
4.In view of this, one would have expected that in getting a window of dates for the IPL tournament approved by the concernedinternational cricketing authorities, the IPL organisers would have seen that the dates for the tournament did not clash with the likelydates for the elections. Even if there was no terrorist threat, making simultaneous security arrangements for two major events such as thegeneral elections and a cricket tournament of tremendous public interest would have been an uphill task for our security agencies, thepolice and the para-military forces.
5. Even in the absence of possible threats from terrorists, there would have been a tremendous pressure on their manpower resources. It isnot just a question of finding the required manpower. It is also a question of giving adequate rest in between polls and cricket matches tothe forces that would be deployed to provide security. A tired member of the security forces cannot reasonably be expected to be alertenough to prevent a threat to security.
6. The security arrangements are likely to be more difficult and complex this year due to the recently-emerged threat from terrorists. Beforethe attempt by a group of terrorists to blow up the New York World Trade Centre in February, 1993, the conventional wisdom amongterrorism analysts was that terrorists would not indulge in mass casualty terrorism as that could antagonise public opinion. The February1993 attempt disproved this and showed that a new group of terrorists has arrived who are not bothered about the impact of their actionson public opinion.
7. Before the Lahore terrorist attack of March 3,2009, the conventional wisdom was that the terrorists would not target a cricket match inthe sub-continent because that could antagonise millions of the cricket-loving public of the sub-continent. This too now stands disproved.The terrorists attacked the Sri Lankan team without bothering about the impact on public opinion and on the cricket-loving public.Shockingly, the cricket-loving public of Pakistan too has not condemned the attack. It has chosen to keep quiet. The terrorists have seen,firstly, how their actions have not had an adverse impact on the minds of the cricket-loving public and, secondly, what kind of publicity theygot all over the world.
8. Any sensible member of the security community anywhere in the world would take the lessons from Lahore into consideration whiledrawing up plans for security arrangements for sports events. The first lesson from Lahore is that it is more difficult to make route securityarrangements than security arrangements at the hotel of stay and in the stadium. The second lesson is that even the best of security canbreak down in the face of determined commando style attacks. This is a modus operandi to which an appropriate response by the securityforces is yet to be found.
9. By their totally unwise action in fixing the dates of the tournament at the same time as the elections, the IPL organisers have placed theGovernment and its security bureaucracy in a cruel dilemma. If the authorities suggest a postponement of the tournament, they might givethe impression that they have allowed themselves to be intimidated by the terrorists. Such an impression could give added oxygen to theterrorists. If they go ahead with the tournament, despite its clashing with the general elections and despite the deterioration in the securitysituation, , they could be playing with the security of the lives and property of the citizens of this country.
10. Faced with this dilemma, it is important that the Government goes purely by the professional assessment and advice of the securitybureaucracy in deciding whether the IPC should go ahead as scheduled. Unwarranted arguments such as "national pride" etc should not beallowed to influence the decision. Commercial and electoral considerations should not be allowed to prevail over security considerations.Professional views are more important than the views of vested commercial interests. (8-3-09)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )