Mumbai terror attacks 11/26

Yet another terrorist attack. Yet another "black day". Yet another occasion for the politicians to mouth platitudes such as "resilient mumbaikar". Yet another chance to warn the terrorists that India would not be cowed down by such attacks and that India would respond?. Not quite. You cannot blame the politicians for not trying to resort to those well worn clich├ęs. But man, did they feel the heat from the media and the public, this time.  For the first time since I can remember (I actively follow politics), people responded to the politicans that enough was enough. Thanks to the media, the politicians were put on the mat.


There are a lot of emotions about this attack that I would like to share with everyone, if not for altruistic reasons, at least for the selfish reason, that I will feel a bit lighter in my mind.  But for this essay, I would like to stick to the reactions of the people and the media to this most heinous attack.


First and foremost, I would like to commend NSG commandos and the staff of Taj/Oberoi hotels, who risked their lives to make sure their guests, were safe. Sandeep Unnikrishnan, a NSG commando gave his life to save the lives of others. The GM of Taj hotel, Karambir Kang, was at work in the thick of the action, a mere twenty four hours after his wife and his two children aged 5 and 11 were killed in the attacks. If not for commandos like Sandeep and people like Karambir , the toll would have easily crossed a thousand.


Secondly the media, especially CNN-IBN and NDTV for

1. Keeping the attack squarely in the focus of the nation:

 Thanks to the relentless coverage, public were continually kept aware of what was happening. Even though it seemed at times that it was overkill. In my view, the channels succeeded in providing a forum for the public to vent their feelings and talk face to face with their elected representatives in demanding accountability. The interviews with the hostages' families provided them a cathartic relief, by giving them an outlet to share their sorrow and suffering.


There was also a lot of criticism that crucial information about the location of the hostages, the number of hostages, information regarding the commandos etc was made available to everyone, including the perpetrators of this heinous crime. That would be a separate topic by itself, not in the purview of my discourse here.


2. Exposing the woefully inadequate civilian and defense infrastructure:

For a nation that is now touted to be the driver of global economy along with China, the outdated vehicles used by its police and the antiquated weapons carried by them had to be seen to be believed. I was shocked to see our commandos taking 9 hours to reach the scene because they did not have a dedicated plane. The ATS chief Hemant Karkare and two other brave officers died not because of the ruthlessness of the terrorists, but because of sub-par and one size fit all bullet proof jackets.   It was appalling to see our fire department battle for days to put out a raging fire which was nowhere near being an inferno, because there was not enough water pressure in the corporation fire hose outlets to pump the water to the fifth floor.


3. Exposing the politicians:

The media played a vital role in exposing the lassez faire attitude of our politicians as evidenced by the deputy CM of Maharashtra, casually dismissing the attack as a "minor incident that happens in big cities". The chief minister was not far behind, indulging in "disaster tourism", surveying the scene of the attack with his officials and get this!, his son , Ritesh, an up and coming star in bollywood,  and the famous bollywood director Ramgopal Varma in tow.


Thirdly, the public needs to be commended for not letting the politicians get away with their glib promises of action that they routinely make after every terror attack. They were aggressive and not afraid to confront the politicians for their lack of resolve in fighting terror. Yes, there have been umpteen terror attacks in the past decade, but the public recognized that this attack has changed the very soul of India, like 9/11 did for the US.  India can never be same again.


As I write this essay, Cong has won the elections in Delhi and Rajasthan, while the BJP has won in MP and Chattisgarh.

 I am not sure how to interpret the results -

(i) Whether the public has matured enough to not decide elections based on one issue alone (terrorism in this case), but take a holistic view of the performance of the parties and vote for the better party.

(ii) The public just does not care because the attacks happened in a distant place, only this time the rich and the powerful were targeted.

(iii) Whether they have resigned themselves to the fact that India will always be a soft nation susceptible to terrorist attacks, and decided to vote in the elections based on local issues which have immediate relevance.

I hope it is because of reason (i).


What we can do:

There are a whole lot of things bad in our country, starting with our venal politicians, to our corrupt and incompetent government machinery to a sensationalizing media to an apathetic public. We may not able to control our circumstances, but we can control our reaction to it. We may not be able to change our politicians or the government overnight.  But we can definitely do more for the country. How many of us are willing to send our sons to the army or take up a career in politics or the government or willing to give our daughters in marriage to people in these professions.  The reason: less pay and more risk in some cases. The result:  These crucial pillars of our democracy are rife with people of dubious merit and integrity.


We are more interested in going abroad for bragging rights and living the good life (me included!). We are very good armchair critics sitting comfortably on our sofas and criticizing everything including our cricket team, our pathetic living conditions and corruption in social life etc.  But have we even taken one step to correct any of this?  How many of us encourage our children to take up sports and bring glory to the country. The reason is not enough monetary rewards.  Would we be ready to stop commenting on the nation in innumerable internet blogs from lands afar, rather than getting down to the brass tacks and be the agents of change. Time only will tell.


To conclude, I quote Mahatma Gandhi - "Be the change you want to see in the world".


Jai Hind!!

***Thank you Madhu for writing this article in my blog***