The twin blasts in Hyderabad (Feb 21) have taken a toll of 16 innocent lives  with almost 120 people injured – and it is likely that this figure will increase. India’s  internal security fabric remains vulnerable to attacks of this nature and while it is too early to come to any definitive conclusion about the identity of the perpetrators – the speculation and finger of suspicion seems to be pointing to the elusive Indian Mujahedin group.

Preliminary investigation by the local police refer to the use of IED (improvised explosive device) and the local DG Police Dinesh Reddy has stated that the attack looks like the  handiwork of a terrorist network.

The same questions are being asked both within Parliament and outside – as to whether this was a case of an intelligence failure and whether the Hyderabad attack could have been prevented. On the face of  evidence currently available, it would appear that a sneak attack of this nature – the use of bicycles  in a crowded urban centre – would be very difficult to detect and prevent in a totally foolproof manner.

However some elements of the various reports that have since emerged seem to indicate that the local police and intelligence agencies were perhaps unable to arrive at the appropriate assessment in respect of Dilsukhnagar – the site in Hyderabad where the attack took place.

One of the reports that has come from the Delhi police refers to a terror suspect having been apprehended in late 2012 and that during interrogation, it was revealed that the city of  Hyderabad had been surveyed  by the terror group (shades of  David Headley visiting Mumbai before the 26/11 attack ? ) and that three areas including Dilsukhnagar were specifically mentioned.

It is understood that this information was shared with the local Hyderabad special branch . Furthermore the Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde also indicated that the  Centre had alerted some states about a possible terror attack about 48 hours before the Feb 21 Hyderabad attack.

Without in any way trying to apportion any blame in hindsight – after the event has taken place – the following questions do emerge. If Dilsukhnagar had indeed been identified as a site that had been surveyed or recceed by the  terror suspects, then what kind of anticipatory action had been taken by the local police ? This would have seemed logical for a city like  Hyderabad wherein there  is a history of communal tension and where similar attacks had taken place in 2007.

To add to the vitiated atmosphere – the hanging of  Afzal Guru had led to a higher probability of a reprisal by those elements who were supportive of the ideology of terror. And to compound the local atmosphere – in recent weeks, Hyderabad has been the site of  inflammatory,  hate-speeches by a local MLA – the younger Owaisi – where again the Muslim versus Hindu tension was exploited.

Against such a backdrop, it would appear that the logical step would have been for  the local police to be on greater alert in the Dilsukhnagar area , as also to invest in a higher number of local informers (whether chai-wala or panwala or local residents ) given the alert that had been received from the Centre in the last 48 hours.

One presumes that the local agencies and the NIA team from Delhi will be  conducting such an inquiry and re-construct the events to the extent possible. The answers that will emerge will be very valuable in terms of lessons learnt from the  Hyderabad attack.

This is where the immediate response of the local police comes into focus. From the TV images that the whole country was tracking for a few hours , it appeared  that the site of the blasts  was not effectively cordoned off – to enable the emergency medical teams and the local police to do their job. I hope I am wrong but the presence of a large number of VIP’s and the diversion of resources and attention this entails is something to be avoided.

The implications of the Hyderabad blasts can  be  reviewed at many levels. First is the need to evolve certain standard procedures when an attack of this nature takes place including the speedy dissemination of accurate information. It is cause for some satisfaction that no hasty conclusions were drawn and the TV  reportage was ‘reasonably’  restrained.

Local police procedures, civil society responses – from the donation of blood to transporting the injured to hospital – all of these need to be reviewed in every major urban centre in India.

At the national  level – Hyderabad 2013 is one more challenge to the internal security domain – and the political parties need to  reflect with greater   objectivity and humility on this issue than they have in the past. The politics of national security has become an arid, zero-sum game. The people of India are both confused and angry. Whether it is the tragic  Delhi gang-rape incident or the Hyderabad blast – the common citizen feels very insecure.

This can only be redressed by a more honest and committed political approach to this glaring inadequacy. Perhaps reviewing the long pending police reforms could be the first step ?