Saturday, November 29, 2008


For three nights and two days now, a city- and a nation- have been held hostage: the precise identity and motive of the perpetrators remains uncertain; their methodology, however, is (regrettably) no longer in doubt: for the umpteenth time, hundreds of unarmed civilians- business travelers, restaurant goers, innocent bystanders, hotel guests & staff- have fallen victim to a meticulously-planned & carefully-coordinated cross-border terrorist attack in the heart of India’s financial capital, Mumbai.

Most significantly, it has exposed the weak underbelly- the absolute vulnerability- of our nation’s security apparatus.

A Different Class of Attacks
The Attack on Mumbai is being televised nonstop. As a blogger, I shall attempt here to put what we are seeing in perspective. 

First: the Victims of the Attacks. This isn’t for the first time that the world's Maximum City has come under fire: at least two bomb blasts- one at the Stock Exchange and another on Mumbai’s local trains- have resulted in an equal, if not more, number of deaths. What makes this particular set of attacks different- apart of course from its inherent Drama (to which I shall come to later)- are its Victims, or more precisely, the class of its Victims. Those killed earlier were, to put it blatantly, commoners in an extraordinary situation: the sort of people who live in faraway suburbs and commute in second-class local trains; not exactly the sort who would put up in USD 250 a night suite, or spend an average monthly wage on fine dining at Tiffin, a trendy new restaurant at The Oberoi that was witness to a veritable bloodbath on the night of the attacks.

In this case, the victims are not-quite-common people caught up in what is alarmingly becoming an only too common situation. A lot of the people who were taken hostage & killed during the past forty-eight hours belonged to the so-called Class of Untouchables: those who we- and by we, I mean our Collective Imagination- thought were above, among other things, being attacked by terrorists; the glass-housed Glitterati, so to speak. Now: the glass is broken & we realize- much to our discomfort- that even these hallowed creatures aren’t safe & truth be told, this terrifies us more than any of the previous attacks.

Secondly: the Media’s Role in taking the high-voltage Drama- rapid rounds of crossfire between policemen and terrorists ensconced in sushi-bars, masked commandos descending on rooftops from helicopters, guests waving for help from behind glass windows of their twenty-first floor suites, grenade launchers & AK-47s, bodies of brave warriors wrapped in tricolors, relieved evacuees- into every Indian household with a television set, has, for better & worse, made every Indian- both in India & abroad- a direct participant in the unfolding tragedy. Suddenly, every other news, including the death of a former prime minister, is no longer news. Suddenly, we’re all- you & I- Victims under siege, whether we’re in Mumbai or not. Our feeling of helplessness is- has become- universal: no one is- can be- safe. On the positive side, this creates in us- a largely divided nation- a sense of ‘Unity in Fear’: suddenly, each one of us is saying “Ich Bin Ein Mumbaikar.”

Thirdly: on the flip side, this pervasive sense of Paranoia creates in all of us, an overwhelming need to blame someone, anyone. And the easiest scapegoat: Politicians, of course. It is no secret that the Union Home Minister- and by implication, the Government of India- already suffers from something of a credibility crisis: he was widely ridiculed for reportedly having changed his dress thrice within an hour’s span of Delhi being bombed some months ago; his defense, that this ‘serial-dressing’ wasn’t exactly a vice, did little to assuage a slightly misplaced comparison with a certain Nero, who allegedly played the flute while Rome burned. Apparently, this metaphor has been extended to incorporate all politicians as a species. “Keep Out”, “Get Lost”: these are the overwhelming messages to them. It is they who’ve in the public imagination failed to protect us as a nation. Even worse, we feel they would only be too eager to use this Tragedy for political capital. A case in point is the Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi’s sudden- and thoroughly unproductive- appearance before The Oberoi this afternoon.

In my opinion, this last aspect merits further discussion.

They Shoot Politicians, Don’t They
For the terrorists- the wannabe fidayeen- the prospect of the Attacks might well have looked like a brochure for a perfect vacation: a Cruise across the quiet blue waters of the Arabian Sea followed by two days & nights of Massacre at a plush Mumbai hotel. Breakfast included & Jannat guaranteed. Bad joke aside, it is precisely this- the ease with which they did it all- that disturbs me most. It is almost as if we- to be more precise, the Awesome Might of the Indian state- put up absolutely no resistance at all. We might just as well have extended them an Invitation.

Less than forty hours into the Attacks, the GOI admitted that it wasn’t equipped to guard its coastline: forty terrorists, armed to the hilt with AK-47s, RDX, hand-grenades & satellite phones, had snuck undetected aboard stolen fishing boats into India’s financial capital without the Marine Police, the Coast Guard or the Customs getting wind of things. Yet: this is merely symptomatic of a massive & deep-rooted Intelligence failure. The different agencies involved in the intelligence business- not just those in India but across the world- simply failed to connect the dots in real-time before it was too late: a stolen boat in Gujarat; six missing fishermen, one of who was later found dead; hi-tech jihadi recruitment & training centers brazenly operating out of Faridkot; calls made to the (erstwhile) L-e-T network in Karachi from satellite phones; sightings of suspicious-looking dinghies by fishermen off the coast of Mumbai.

Intelligence, after all, is more an Art- and less a Science- of stopping things before they happen. By its very nature, therefore, Intelligence cannot be foolproof. We, as a nation, must be prepared to face further possibilities of such failures.

What happened in Mumbai- what is happening in Mumbai even now- has the appearance of an effective but also, a painfully improvised, response to a particular challenge: for the first time in Independent India’s history, the nation’s security forces involving the NSG, the Mumbai Police, Maharashtra’s ATS (Anti-terrorist Squad), the Army, Navy and the Airforce put up a unified response in the face of a sustained, highly coordinated attack carried out from at least three well-supplied ‘control rooms’ in the heart of Mumbai’s commercial-administrative district lasting no less than forty-eight hours (and still not showing signs of ending).

There are important lessons to be learnt from this. More than anything else, the manner in which the situation in Mumbai is being ‘contained’ gives us reason for Hope: we aren’t as ill-prepared as we had feared; indeed, our security forces have shown remarkable fortitude in the face of terrifying calamities.

The politicians, if simply because they’ve let them (the forces) do their job without becoming too much of a nuisance, deserve a second chance to get their act in order & not, mind you, for milking this Tragedy for political mileage.


6 comments (टिप्पणी):

दीपक said...

ऐसा लगा जैसे कोई न्युज रीडर समाचार पढ रहा हो मुद्दे की बात गोल बाकि टालमटोळ !!

मै तो ये जानना चाहता था अमीत जी कि आप इन धमाको के लिये दोषी किसे मानते है?

किसी कांग्रेसी को इसका जवाब देना कठीन जान पड रहा होगा और जो अपने परिजनो के क्षत-विक्षत शवो क जला रहे होंगे उन पर क्या गुजर रही होगी !!

चलीये आपने इतना तो कहा जिन्हे हमने चुनकर संसद मे भेजा वो तो ना जाने कहा मौन धारे खडे है !!कुछ महीने बाद तो आयेंगे वोट मांगने.....

manish from bilaspur, pune said...

hello amit ji,

i think that it is really very disgusting that our central government is giving such reactions after this kind of big incident.... i dont think that this congress can win the next election.... the leaders are reacting like coward..specially our PM...

Samar Pal said...

Hello Amit. I am writing to you as a fellow Indian. It gives me tragic pain when these westerners ask me that what kinda country i live in? where 10 jerks on a paddle boad can enter my country, not just the country but Mumbai and 10 jerks will kill 300 guys, and hold the city hostage for 60 hours, its not acceptable. I feel insulted nad hurt. I was in mumbai betwen 2000 and 2003, i know these places where it happened. what are we doing? will we keep only taking care of our personal interests??? when we will start thing of the country??? how many more such attacks will bring India together>??? when will we wake up???? it disgusting....

Rajkumar said...

अमित भैया इस बार सरकार कांग्रेस की ही बनेगी, आप देखते जाइए, आदरणीय जोगी जी इस राज्य को किस बुलंदी तक लेकर जाते हैं. आपके परिवार को मेरी शुभकामनाये........ (राजकुमार बसंतरा) रायपुर (छत्तीसगढ़)

Tiger said...

180 killed and 610 rescued ---- Half Full or Half Empty..

Though not in Mumbai, I could feel the terror and the fear the residents of the Mumbai went through.. It was not just a terror attack on Mumbai, It was an attack on the Pride of our country.

And as everyone is playing the blame game, I have one question, Who is to be held responsible for this ?

The evidences have made the involvement of Pakistan very clear. The statements of the terrorist arrested, The phone calls, Hand grenade having the seal of Pakistan Ordinance. What more do we need to believe, Yes, Our very own neighbors did this.
If the government is to continue its office at the centre, then it should react like the U.S Government. There has not been a single incidence like this in America after 9/11 just because America gave the right signals to the world. “Don’t mess with us”. Terror was never taken so seriously prior to the raids in Afghanistan and Iraq, they did what was right for their country. Country and its people should be the first priority.

“Intelligence, after all, is more an Art- and less a Science” Proactiveness is what is required. It was a total intelligence failure. The terrorist could just walk past our security forces, fire at innocent citizens, kill them, And we cannot just say, Mumbai kisi se nahi darti, Mumbai wont stop, We need answers from our politicians. 183 killed, more than 200 wounded and 610 people rescued.. Had the government and the intelligence been on their toes, (When they had some prior information about all this.) This could not have happened.

Union Home Minister Mr. Shivraj Patil, cannot just resign from his office and run from his responsibilities. Is it that simple….
Maharashtra State Home Minister, Mr. R.R. Patil’s statement was uncalled for.
Why not have a law that punish them, Who were somewhere or the other responsible for this lapse in our intelligence and security..??
This should not be that simple a task for the politicians to just walk away with their resignations. They should be punished.. 180 people lost their lives..
Muktaar Abbas Nakvi ji ko abhi bhi pashchimi shabyata dikhti hai..

It is just a matter that this government is at the centre.. Had it been any other party ruling.. The result would have been the same..

And at last I can remember the dialogue of Naseerusdin Shah from the movie, A Wednesday, “Koi sala Ma!@#$D, Button dabakar yeh faisla nahi karega ki mujhe kab marna hai.. !!”

We have to show them, That Gandhi ji and Bhagat Singh were the citizens of the same country. Gandhi giri yeh dekh chuke hain, Ab………………..

दीपक said...

i strongly agree with your third amedment which came after our engwish comments .

but the question is that how long we people will suffer ?

that can be reply by we only.....

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