Terrorism should be taught as a subject in schools so that Indian youth become more aware of the scourge, says Kiran Bedi, celebrated former police officer Kiran Bedi.
As the country continues to debate the larger ramifications of terror attacks in many cities, Bedi, the first woman officer in the Indian Police Service and a Magsaysay Award winner for her jail reforms, told IANS in an interview: "Terrorism should be introduced in schools as a subject; it is very important that our youth be aware of it. NSS, NCC and Scout & Guide should dedicate special sessions on terrorism awareness."
NSS is the National Service Scheme and NCC the National Cadet Corps, both co-curricular activities in high schools and colleges around India.
Bedi was worried that people tended to forget about terror attacks soon after they occurred. Apart from introducing the subject in schools, "society should come forward and start participating through team policing", she said. "Only state police, without civilian support, cannot easily stop or prevent acts of terror and for this we need to make our society aware."
In the political spectrum, there is bipartisan support for the idea.
Bharatiya Janata Party spokesman Prakash Javadekar said that primarily it was the duty of police to protect the lives of citizens, but added that public help in combating terrorism was equally necessary.
"The people on street, like small shop owners, vendors and parking attendants should be trained and sensitized against such incidents. Such people can also contribute to providing information to the intelligence," Javadekar told IANS.
His party's youth wing "may start a campaign to spread awareness and alertness among the people through a scientific and logical approach", he added.
Congress party leader Salman Khurshid said fortifying communication between people and agencies was very important.
"Network of information between people and police is very important in combating terrorism and for this we need to remove people's cynicism towards police. Everywhere some people are good and some people are bad; the same goes for police," Khurshid said.
Both the political leaders felt NGOs should come forward and create awareness in different communities about the evils of terrorism.
Academics also favored the idea of NGOs and social organizations creating awareness and alertness against terrorism.
"People are still not alert against terrorism and for this reason social organizations and NGOs should start massive awareness campaigns," Alok Puranik, writer and lecturer in Delhi University, said.
Social activist Harsh Dobhal said targeting any particular community after a terror attack only makes matters worse. Government agencies should work in an unbiased manner to ensure equality is maintained among the people of all religions, castes and creeds, he added.
"Government agencies should act in a responsible manner. Innocent people or a particular community should not be falsely implicated. The police bring a new mastermind every day (following a terror attack). Their statements are contradictory, which is bound to raise doubts. The police need to build faith in the people's minds."
Shabnam Hashmi, another social activist, wanted the media too to act in a more responsible manner.
"The media is trying to be judgmental, they announce their verdict even before the judiciary does that. More often the media is acting as a mouthpiece of police and polarising the opinion. That is very irresponsible," she said.
While the thinkers debate, terrorism appears to have receded to the back of the mind of the man on the street.
"I don't care about terrorism, I think I am too young to think about it," said 18-year-old student Pallov.
Dietician Vandana Sekhawat said: "I never thought about how I can help in such a tragedy, but the recent events have definitely given me a shock."
"I don't have time to think of such things; I just know that I have not been harmed by it," said Sonu, a garage owner in south Delhi.