Sunday, November 30, 2008

India's Heart Broken, But Not The Spirit

We Indians have faced several terrorist attacks in the past, some brutal as 1993 Mumbai blasts. We have had live coverage of the attack on our Parliament building itself. But the images of November 26th 2008 attack on Mumbai will stay etched in the memory of Indians for a long time. The images of indiscriminate firing from a van into thick crowds, the bodies strewn all over the street after an explosion, the injured at VT railway station dazed and bleeding profusely being helped by people, the funeral of the three top cops who were killed in action and the imposing red coloured dome of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel spewing out fire and smoke will stay with us for a long time. The terrorists have chosen the places of attack to have maximum death toll and coverage. While the taking over of Oberoi Trident Hotel and Nariman Point were to take hostage of maximum foreign nationals, it is evident that the taking over of Taj hotel and causing explosions in it, was no doubt to hurt the national pride of Indians.
It is now part of the Legend of Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, the patriarch of the Tata industrial Group, who has commissioned the Taj Palace Hotel building in 1900 after being refused entry to the now-defunct Apollo Hotel, which had a strict Europeans-only policy. The hotel was deliberately built with its rear to the harbour in an apparent snub to the British Monarchy, who entered through the harbor. Now the terrorists have snubbed all Indians by causing massive destruction to the hotel.

As the first pictures of the live coverage of events at Taj and Trident were beamed across a nation, it was a shock to watch the complete chaos. There was no unified command and policemen were simply running helter skelter, with everyone talking on mobile phones. On Mobile phones !! It was apparent that there was not even a unified communication system in place. As usual the combined forces of the Army and Navy along with NSG commandoes brought order to the chaos and fought hand to hand to kill the terrorists. But by then the damage was done. Over 200 dead and 500 injured.

As details emerged slowly, more shocks were in place. After getting information on a shootout at CST by terrorists, the top three cops of Mumbai together went in a van. Together !! And became sitting ducks. With all due respect to the dead, this singular act of travelling together to face the terrorists shows the lack of processes and professionalism. More shocking was the news that the NSG commandoes had flown all the way from Delhi but had to cool their heels at the airport for hours together as there were no further instructions. Detailed plans of the Trident and Taj hotels were found with the terrorists but the commandoes did not have one. We saw the Taj burning for hours on without any sight of a fire truck. One came in after three hours. It took our Prime Minister 20 hours after the attacks to convene a cabinet meeting. It took 60 hours to eliminate all the terrorists.

The worst shock was allowing the visual media to beam the live images of the commando action. Someone has forgotten that the terrorists too might be watching TV and alter their plans accordingly. Even the helicopter dropping off commandoes on the roof top of Nariman Point was also beamed live.

No sooner than the operation ended, the blame game started. The central intelligence agencies say they have forewarned the state which neglected the warning. The warnings usually are something like this, “ Terrorists belonging to X, Y or Z group are planning to launch an attack from land, sea or air on important landmarks and busy public places in the next three months.” Which state will heed to such warnings, when on an average, small or big, a dozen terrorist attacks take place every month in some state or the other in the country.

Revolting it was to watch the politicians give sound bytes, blaming the ruling party and the ruling party defending itself and pointing out similar attacks in previous government. With crass insensitivity, even before the dead were laid to rest, our politicians jumped in to take political advantage of the incident. We Indians act like Ostriches, burying our heads in the sand so as to not see the obvious. Ringed all around with six countries – Pakistan, China, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka- whose animosity and in some cases blind hatred towards India is open and whose support to several terrorist groups in India is an established fact, terror is here to stay for a long time. What we need is not statistics to determine under which party’s rule more were dead. What India needs is a strategy at the highest level to tackle terrorism. It might evolve this time, because the attacks on 26th were also directed at the mighty and powerful, who have been insulated from terror all along, as the terrorists always hit only the general public travelling in suburban trains, or shopping in crowded bazaars. There will be enormous pressure from this group on the governments to act decisively and plan thoroughly for the future.

For the time being Indians are heart-broken but strong in spirit as evident from the reopening of the Leopold café as a defiance within two days after the deadly attack on it. As news of its reopening spread, thousands descended on the café to show solidarity. Unable to manage the crowds, it had to shut down after two hours. Incidentally, the café is owned by a Muslim.
I pray to God to give strength in their hour of grief to those families who have lost their near and dear in the carnage. I salute the armed forces for their bravery and sacrifice.


Jimmy said...

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Rajesh Kumar said...

Shame. Time we do not allow this wound to heal. That will serve as an evidence of our collective impotence. We perhaps deserve this.

vishu said...

ramana, you surely are in the wrong profession, guys like you should be in the forefront of getting us to behave as ONE

Anonymous said...

Absolutely Ramana, the last thing the country wants today is to let this pass under a veil of blame and sympathy, while the need of the hour is an action. I did find an interesting link, which kind of echoes your views and summarizes the politicians and their attitude towards this carnage. I think, we have voted these nerds thinking we will get able leaders, but have actually landed wimps: