A quick run-through the post-Bombay terrorism situation:

Public anger: This is justified. Fear of terrorism has become part of big city life, but that does not mean people are reconciled to it. Mothers fear to send their children to school because of SMS rumours of terrorist threats, or, as in today's case in two Delhi schools, false bomb alarms. Saturday shopping is avoided in big markets, and Diwali-eve shopping will become a no-no if terrorism goes uncontrolled. You are not sure to emerge alive out of a Metro, a five-star hotel, at the end of a plane journey. Very soon, leaving home to go anywhere would be equivalent to taking risks as in the frontlines. People have a right to be angry, to demand accountability of the politicians who fatten on their votes, and have done nothing to justify their existence. It is almost as if democracy exists for their benefit, and the rest be damned.

Anger against politicians: Where the anger against politicians is not spontaneous, and been stoked and sustained for other intents, like increasing news TV TRP ratings, tying the hands of government with benumbing liberalism, or the other extreme of goading state action in anger, when cool and calm are desperately needed, then obviously the rage becomes destructive. In the present instance, news TV has been stoking anger against politicians, and beyond a point, this is counter-productive. There is a lot that is wrong with our political system. It does not arm us with an all-powerful or fairly powerful president as in the US or France. But the alternative to democracy and politicians, venal as many of them are, is dictatorship. Both civilian and military dictatorships are infinitely worse than democracy, and because we did not fight a war to win independence, as did the US, or go through wrenching civil wars or revolutions or total wars as did the US, the UK, Russia, continental Europe, China, we fail to recognize the significance and sanctity of what we have, and of which freedom is our greatest possession.

The problem with our political system starts with the Congress party. A dynastic party has been the ruling party for most years of India's independence, which is a contradiction in terms. Unless the Congress party ruthlessly democratizes itself, which seems impossible till the Gandhis are around, we would remain a partially paralysed democracy. But that is a larger issue that should not come in the way of fighting Pakistani terrorism. Yes, the political parties won't deliver till decent people enroll, and they have no chance of success unless all the Indian political dynasties go under. That is not about to happen soon. So rail against politicians by all means, but don't get used by vested interests to undermine Indian democracy. This war against terrorism has just begun for India. Hope for the best. But prepare for the worst.

Pranab Mukherjee: One of the few able and serious cabinet ministers in the UPA government, and leading the pursuit of coercive diplomacy against Pakistan. He has neither ruled in nor ruled out military action against Pakistan, and he has said ominously that the country will know when what's been done. Mukherjee is a deep, thinking man, this writer's long-standing candidate for prime minister in place of Manmohan Singh. But that is an extraneous issue just now. Will Mukherjee succeed? If he, or the Manmohan Singh government, don't cave in to US pressure, or the powerful liberal lobby does not soften the government response against Pakistani terrorism, which is very likely. As to what shape this coercive diplomacy will take, this writer is in no position to tell. But it would be best if Pranab Mukherjee and the government get all the assistance to bend the Pakistani government, especially the Pakistan military and the ISI, at the knee. This is not a war against Pakistan's elected government or its people.

Role of media: By and large shameful. Others in the papers have graphically reported how news TV broke all bounds in making Bombay terrorism coverage a TRP chase. One channel gave publicity to the terrorists, and has been show-caused by the government. The channel should not escape lightly. After the disastrous Vietnam War coverage, the US introduced the concept of embedded reporting in Iraq. While the concept cannot be transplanted to terrorism reporting, its philosophy of complete government oversight of media reporting of ultra-sensitive national security issues must be enforced. The media will howl of censorship, and demand to be self-regulated. But Bombay terrorism coverage shows that self-regulation is ineffective. Besides this, the basic reporting ethic of accuracy was completely given the go by. One news channel reported a Pakistani military build up when there was none, or none at that time.

Inter-agency "civil war": The intelligence and security services and the Indian Navy are at loggerheads over who failed the nation in Bombay. This is not the time to indulge in blame game, because it only assists the enemy, in this case the Pakistani terrorists. Undeniably, institutions and officers must be held accountable for the extraordinary intelligence and counter-terrorism lapses in Bombay. But rushing to leak against one another is not the solution. Best, an independent panel of outside experts must identify the lacunae, fix blame, and the government must take corrective action. The panel's recommendations must not gather dust as the post-Kargil War recommendations have. This may appear platitudinous, but the country must stay united in combating Pakistani terrorism.