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High-alert on Delhi high streets after Sydney, Peshawar incidents

Security appears to have been stepped up around national capital’s high streets, such as Connaught Place and Khan Market, following a 16-hour hostage crisis at Sydney’s Lindt Chocolat Café earlier this week. The terrorist attack at a Peshawar school that killed over 140 on Tuesday only intensified the checks at many restaurants, cafés and popular hangouts.

Intelligence agencies have already sounded the Indian authorities on the possibility of a terrorist strike during US President Barack Obama’s visit to India next month. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has alerted states to strengthen security measures.

“A red alert has been issued. After the recent incidents, a greater number of police personnel have been deployed,” said a police officer manning a check point in Connaught Place. He did not wish to be named. 

At least six police personnel across locations with popular shopping and dining outlets in New Delhi told Business Standard that they had been issued instructions to be more vigilant over the next two months. “The red alert will likely be withdrawn in February,” said another officer. 

Some referred to the incidents in Sydney and Peshawar, while others recalled the Mumbai attack of 2008. “How safe are we? That’s a moot point,” remarked S M Shervani, former president of the Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Association of India (FHRAI). “Mumbai was considered safe before November 26, wasn’t it? There were CCTVs, barricades, metal detectors, security personnel — was all that enough?”

The terrorist attack at the Oberoi Hotel, Taj Mahal Palace and Leopold Café, among other places in Mumbai, lasted over 70 hours and left 164 dead and over 300 injured. 

Riyaaz Amlani, president of the National Restaurant Association of India, pointed out: “We are ill-equipped to face a situation like that. There needs to be greater coordination between police and restaurant owners.” With thinning margins, there is not much that owners can do by themselves, according to Amlani.

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