Every year, Republic Day turns New Delhi into a fortress, with threats of a terrorist attack peak to a frenzy. This time, even the scrawny street mongrel is not above suspicion.
It is that time of the year when an extra-alert intelligence bureau believes anything that moves cannot be trusted — drones, kites, animals, trucks carrying apples.
Terrorists can enter New Delhi and deploy their tools of destruction in interesting shapes and sizes. Cows, stray dogs and cats could be used as fidayeen or suicide bombers rigged with a lethal pack of explosives, the bureau warns.
The warning is taken seriously. From beat constables to patrol cars, the city’s men in uniform were told on Wednesday to keep an eye on stray animals.
Wedding photography with camera-fitted drones may be a rage abroad. But not in a city known for its big fat weddings. Unmanned aerial vehicles could be used as chartered flying bombs.
Drones, paragliders and hot air balloons are banned through the year in the Capital.
Even kites could be next in line, despite being the favourite holiday pastime every January 26. Sleuths fear terrorists could use kites to drop bombs.
At the central function on World Yoga Day last year, police banned kite-flying in and near India Gate.
The Yamuna, one of the filthiest rivers in the world, poses a terrorist threat too other than its toxic slime that threatens to kill the city’s more than 20 million people.
River patrols are common around this time. The bureau has advised Delhi Police to watch out for vehicles and boats near the riverbank as these could be used to sabotage Republic Day celebrations.
What if terrorists poison the city’s water mains? That prospect is looked into. Police have floated tenders to buy kits to test poison in water.
The Capital has some of the biggest and oldest markets — wholesale and retail — in the country. It also is a transit route for trucks laden with goods crisscrossing the Indian heartland.
More than hundred thousand trucks enter the city every day, making them potential movers of terrorist stowaways and their weapons behind, er, apple crates.
Last Diwali, police were asked to be on the lookout for a lorry carrying apples that was apparently ferrying two terrorists.
“Some intelligence inputs say four or five men entered Delhi in a white car and are planning spectacular attacks. If somebody saw them in the white car, why did they wait and allow them to enter Delhi?” a police officer asked.
Frustrated, but they can’t let their guards down. Besides deploying additional men and women, they are using digital surveillance, stakeouts and stealth to guard the country’s capital.