Friday, November 27, 2009

The spirit of Mumbai

'The spirit of Mumbai' has become a very 'nice sounding' phrase in recent times, particularly in the aftermath of 26/11.
When 26/11 happened, Mumbaikars came together, joined hands, lit candles, kept vigil around the key landmarks where the terror attacks happened, and voiced their opinion about the media, the politicians, the security forces and so on. According to them some of these agencies did a great job, whereas others let down the City.

Since then much has been discussed about the spirit of Mumbai and Mumbaikars in general. That they were united, they came together to express solidarity towards the victims and their families.

But hold on. Unity, the courage to come together in face of adversity and expressing solidarity is a matter of convenience - isn't it?

The point is, its all very nice to come together and talk about the nameless, faceless adversary, in this case the terrorist from Pakistan. Condemn him, hold candle light marches against him, write slogans and so on, and then go home in the evening with a good feeling that you did your bit.

Now let's talk about the enemy within.

The terrorists within India, and specifically the within Mumbai - our own desi brand of terrorists. M/S Bal Tahckery and Raj - the illustrious nephew of the illustrious uncle. Time and again, these two gentlemen and their group of goons - organised in the guise of political parties - the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, spread terror at will in the city of Mumbai.

They beat up non- Maharashtrians especially migrants from UP and Bihar threaten them and ask them to leave the City. Somewhere along the way they got the impression that Mumbai is their princely state, and they the rulers...

Another fine morning they choose to attack a large media house, beat up and threaten the staff, destroy property and generally create panic. The only difference between these two 'terrorists' and those that come from outside India, is that as of today the Thackerays cannot boast of a record of kills, and thankfully so.

The question that I want to ask the Mumbaikars is this - When the Thackerays spread terror in your City and in your hearts, where does the spirit of Mumbai go?

Now this is a different situation isn't it? Because the enemy is not hiding but right in front of you. And there's nothing you can do about this enemy except cow down to his threats, get intimidated and hide.

I don't blame the common Mumbaikar for being afraid of the Thackeray terrorism. After all, isn't the State administration and the police afraid of him? And the media? Why else didn't a single media publication or channel openly condemn a recent act of terrorism when a reputed TV channel was attacked by them in Mumbai?

Not one Mumbaikar or a newspaper or a TV channel came forward to express solidarity with this victim of violence. Where did the spirit of Mumbai suddenly disappear?

India's largest newspaper publication which is Mumbai bases, did not include even a small mention of the terror attack of Thackeray and his goons on the TV channel Office, the day after this incidence of violence happened.

Thackeray's goons created a ruckus in the State Assembly when a recently elected member took oath in Hindi. An act totally unlawful and unconstitutional by any standards. Not one Mumbaikar came forward to stage a protest, light a candle or lead a march.

Why?

When the pride of Mumbai (and indeed of India), Sachin Tendulkar was criticized and threatened by Bal Thackery simply because he stated that his Country came first for him and then his State, not one Mumbaikar came forward to express solidarity with Sachin. Not one Mumbaikar thought of leading a candle march at the Gateway of India as a sign of protest against this act of terrorism.

Why?

The answer is simple. When incidents like 26/11 happen, the terrorist is hiding. And when he hides we can come together and boldly say anything to him.
But here we have the terrorist standing right in front of us and glaring at us. And in this situation we are scared. And understandably the spirit of Mumbai suddenly dies out.

To be scared is human. Everyone knows that. But when the enemy within strikes, how you react or respond is the real test of the spirit of Mumbai.

Its high time you shed the hypocrisy- Mumbaikars.

Let us see this spirit of Mumbai re-kindled next time when your enemies - the terrorists like the Thackerays, terrorize you.

26/11 One Year Later....is India safer?

One year has flashed by -since that horrific incident - the terror attack at major landmarks in Mumbai. More than a hundred and fifty people died, including brave policemen, soldiers of the National Security guard, staff of the Taj and the Trident Hotels, guests patients at the Cama Hospital pseengers at the CST station and last but not the least occupants of the Nariman House.

Last evening huge crowds gathered at major landmarks in various cities across India, to pay homage to the lives lost to this cold and cruel act of violence. . They gathered at India Gate, The Gateway of India, in front of the Trident Hotel and the Nariman House, to name a few.

There were people across age groups and from all walks of life. Thankfully - some politicians too. Some of them overcome by force of their personal value system to be present there. Others were there perhaps because they were more bothered about the consequences should they have chosen to keep away from this event. And other Netas, who did not have the sense one year ago when the carnage happened, and remain incorrigible even today, chose to stay away.

In a way one was happy with what one saw last evening. The fact the so many took the trouble and spent time, showed that Indians were united in their shock, grief, and concern for our Country in general and Mumbai in particular.

The terrorists had a singular objective. To engineer a hate war and bloodshed between communities in India. That they failed is a foregone conclusion.

What was so special about 26/11?

In India, more than 6000 people have lost their lives at the hands of terrorists belonging to different groups, in the recent past. Let's not look very far.

In Mumbai itself in 2006, a series of bomb blasts in the local trains left more than 200 people dead and about 700 injured.

Thousands of innocent people have fallen victims to terrorist's bullets in Kashmir, in the last two decades.

Hundreds of people have died at the hands of the 'Maoists' and the Naxals in Maharasthra, Chhatisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, in recent times.

I have not known of any such groups of common citizens collectively expressing grief and demonstrating solidarity with the victims and their families ever in the past.

Never before has compensation to victims disbursed so quickly as in case of the 26/11 Mumbai incident.
Never in the past have individual victims who died in such violence been identified individually, and rich tributes paid to them and to their families.

Why?

Is it because this time, the terrorists attacked 5 star deluxe hotels in the posh South Mumbai area, and took hostage many members of the elite strata of society?

Wasn't it something absolutely sensational - the Taj and the Trident - symbols of Mumbai's culture, under a siege?

Was the 2006 incident less horrific because it was in the local trains in Mumbai? And because we didn't know the names of the people who died or were injured?

A terror attack is a terror attack. Every single life lost is as precious as the next one - ask the families. The point that is being made here is that every citizen of this Country should have been equally sensitive to such an attack long, long ago. The same can be said about the media. Then, a strong public opinion such as the one displayed in the last year, would have forced our political and administrative system to think and act. And maybe the death toll would today have been less than 6000....

Is India is any safer than it was exactly a year ago?

The State Government and the political leaders will immediately answer with a confident 'yes' The State administration in Maharashtra decided to go a step further and showcase this claim. One more police force - The Force One - has been set up in Maharashtra to counter acts of terrorism. This force and other units of the Police staged a flag march through Mumbai, and commandos demonstrated their skills like monkey crawls and repelling, to send a message to the Mumbaikars that they are competent, courageous and well equipped.

Millions of rupees have been committed or already spent in purchasing ultra modern and sophisticated weapons for the police to fight terrorists.

All that is good. Let me however provide another perspective.

We have now perhaps prepared ourselves for a better response in future.

But are we prepared to prevent such incidents?

There were many lessons to be learnt exactly a year ago. Our combined intelligence set up consisting of various intelligence organizations collectively failed us. Between then and now we should have 'unlearnt' everything in the name of intelligence gathering and sharing. Then, we should have taken the help of friendly Countries like Israel or the US, who have had tremendous experience in tackling terror of the kind that hit India.

So the question is - how confident are we as a Country that such instances will be prevented with superior quality of intelligence, and coordination between the intelligence and security teams, so that a terror attack of the nature and scale such as the one that Mumbai witnessed is foiled before the terrorists even reach the shores of our Country?

Are we now sure that we can prevent another 26/11?