The massacre at an open-air music concert at Las Vegas last week by the heavily armed lone wolf Stephen Paddock has come as the latest reminder to the world that large crowds are favourite targets of terrorists and psychopaths, and Goa cannot be complacent to such threats. The state government has been trying to get back the two electronic dance music festivals (EDMs); it must think of whether the state can provide adequate security to the participants. It is true that the Las Vegas massacre happened because the killer had assembled a virtual arsenal of heavy firearms over the years. It is also true that it is easy for anyone in the US to buy any number of arms as there is no licensing system to keep a check on who is buying arms and how many. The law does not come into the picture unless a man uses the arms to commit a crime, such as robbery or murder. Mere possession of arms does not constitute any illegality.
We can say that this kind of thing is not possible in Goa or India. But can we say we might never witness a Stephen Paddock assembling a virtual arsenal in a room on an upper floor of a hotel or building in Goa and unleashing a barrage of fire at the crowd? It cannot be ruled out. Terrorists and gangsters operating in India have never found assembling an arsenal difficult. They commit their acts of crime with firearms of the kind that are used by paramilitary and police forces. In encounters in Jammu and Kashmir, the terrorists more often than not succeed in inflicting casualties on the Indian security forces largely because they too have highly sophisticated, automatic arms that can fire a barrage covering a wide area around the target, so there is very little room for escape.
It is possible therefore for any psychopath like Stephen Paddock or terrorist to assemble arms and do a Las Vegas kind of massacre in Goa. Bringing arms to Goa would not be difficult, considering the many weaknesses in the checkposts at the state borders with Maharashtra and Karnataka that do not need to be enumerated. If nothing will work for the terrorists or psychopaths, money will help at the checkposts to get their weapons through. It could be more problematic for anyone intending to carry out an act of massacre in Goa to bring arms by the sea route. Of course, for evil minds everything is possible. They can prove to be far too advanced to dodge and duck vigilance. And one need not bring the entire arsenal all at one time. Single units can be smuggled in and hidden away.
Would we know? Well, we have counter-terror forces and intelligence networks throughout the country to keep an eye on suspicious persons and suspicious activities. There are many more cases of terror pre-empted by these agencies than those actually carried out by them. So we can rely on them to catch anyone trying to assemble an arsenal in Goa. But let us emphasize here that it is not always possible for the state counter-terror agencies to track every dangerous activity and every dangerous person. Do you think the state forces and networks engaged in counter terror in the United States were not keeping an eye on every dangerous activity and every dangerous person? Yet Stephen Paddock escaped their eye. It is said that he had been collecting those deadly firearms for several years. He brought as many as twenty-four of those deadly firearms to his suite on the 32nd floor of a top class hotel at Las Vegas. He must have passed through security checks at the hotel. If he brought those arms by air, his luggage must have passed through security at the airports.
There lies the warning: Paddocks could assemble guns in an upper-storey hotel room and kill and wound music lovers. A suicide bomber killed 22 people, including children by detonating a device in the foyer of Manchester’s MEN Arena at the end of a concert on May 22 this year. A ‘lone wolf’ killed 39 music lovers at a festival in Istanbul, Turkey, on New Year day this year. On one day, November 13, 2015, gunmen and suicide bombers had hit a concert hall, a major stadium, restaurants and bars across Paris, almost simultaneously, leaving 130 people dead.
We are not saying Goa should stop hosting concerts, festivals and sports events. If we are terrorized that will be victory for terrorists. What we are saying is let us not be complacent that something like that cannot happen in Goa. Strengthen border security. Secure every venue. Let there be