Friday, December 5, 2008

The Mumbai attack.

Day before yesterday I went to the Taj, one of the sites of the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

My office used to be (It shifted this Monday to Andheri) just outside the Churchgate Station, which is at the max 15 minutes walk both from Colaba (the location of Taj and Leopold) and Marine Drive (the location of Oberoi-Trident). On the day of the attack, I had left the office quite early, walked all the way down to the CST Station and had taken a bus to my hostel around 7:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., completely unaware of what was going to happen at that very place (CST) an hour or two down the line.

When Brajesh called to give me the news and ask about my well being, I was in the hostel in the room of Vincent with Santosh. He told that some terrorists were on a shooting rampage down there and suggested me to stay where I was and not to move. I could not understand and argued that it must be gang war between the rival gangs and not the terrorists. Terrorists, after all, do not act this way. Their modus operandi, I argued, is to plant bombs in places and melt back into the larger society from which they emerge. Little did I know that this time, they intended not only to kill a few people, but to attack directly at the very financial hub of India and take the whole nation of 1 billion people hostage.

This was Wednesday, 26th of November.

For the next two days all the offices, including mine, in and around Colaba were closed. Till Saturday night, I was in the hostel more or less completely glued to the television in the hostel canteen, watching the battle going on between the Indian Security Forces (NSG, Army and Mumbai Police) and the handful of terrorists, who had taken a good number of people (mainly foreigners) hostage.

By Sunday morning, the forces had killed all the terrorists (and captured one alive) and taken in control all the three buildings.

On Monday, the offices opened as usual.

Although the life has started to return to normal, there is a rage in the common man through out the country about the repeated failure of the Intelligence and lackluster attitude of the government. Protest marches have been going on through out the country against the failure of the government machinery in protecting its people. So, when I got an SMS from a friend about the protest march going to be held at Gateway of India, I decided to go. Moreover, since my office has shifted to Andheri, I did not have the chance to visit these places after the attack.

So, day before yesterday, just a week after the attack started, I was at the Gateway – to participate in the protest marches and pay my respect to the persons who had died. I had come directly from the office.

What I had expected was a peaceful long candle march of people full of silence. Instead, to my disappointment, what I found was a large number of people divided into a large number of groups walking all over the place in no order and discipline at all. They were all shouting slogans against the government and politicians, calling them names and urging people to use their right of not to vote and show the politicians that enough is enough, that the country is frustrated of them and that it needs a positive and decisive change.

Then there were people who were shouting slogans against Pakistan and were urging India to go to a direct war with the troublesome neighbour. Little do they understand that the government in Pakistan itself is very weak. There, it is the ISI and the Army who are stronger than the government. And although there are evidences about the role of Pakistan based elements in these terrorist attacks against India, I genuinely doubt that war is any solution to the problem. After all, is Pakistan not itself one of the worst victims of terrorism?

The anger that is there in the masses right now must be channeled in the positive direction and a healthy debate must be started as to how the government of this country can be made more accountable and the country more secure and livable. One thing that this attack has definitely shown, apart from giving us the opportunity to discus and debate, that whatever come, India, at the end of the day, is one single country, united both in pain and pleasure. This was a highly needed reminder to the politicians of the ilk of Raj Thackeray. What is sad is that it was an incident of such a high negative magnitude that had to happen to make it amply clear.

P.S. – On a personal front, I have dropped reading the Times of India and Hindustan Times and have graduated instead to The Indian Express. Shifting from the multi-colour pages of ToI and HT to a serious newspaper is no doubt an uphill task. However, I hope I will be able to manage the same. Let’s see.

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