Well. It was only a matter of time.
What with attacks in Delhi, Bangalore, I’ve lost track which other cities in the past year, at the back of everyone’s mind would have been the clock ticking for Mumbai.
And yet, despite the fact that bomb blasts have become routine news in India – a fact that foreign news channels seem to not grasp as they go with the ‘unprecendented’ line – it’s still a shock. It’s always a shock.
It’s more shocking that it’s not ended yet. That there cannot have been more terrorists than the Mumbai police force now combined with the army, and they should not have been better armed, but somehow they have not yet been “flushed out”. It is unbelievable to me that the head of the Anti Terrorism Squad was killed, reportedly shot three times in the chest. I watched a documentary on bullet proof vests recently and I’m pretty sure nobody should have died if shot in that area but I think it might depend on the kind of gun and range. I think everyone is a bit amazed that Karkare led from the front and there is renewed sense of empathy with the force who are asked to go into battle with so little resources.
And yet, why so little? We have been under attack for so many years relentlessly. Why do we seem to be handling it so ineffectually? The images of what looked like railway police creeping around behind taxis confusedly as if they were parodying a badly made action film are so tragic.
This report from DNA continues to annoy me to new heights:
a) The tragedy of a cop who was sent in with a gun that can fire only one round.
b) The stupidity of a journalist who goes into a hostage situation. Why was she not slapped by her superiors for endangering the lives of people who would have felt obliged to protect her instead of glorifying her ‘ordeal’ with blow-by-blow accounts?
The ineptitude of the Indian journalists reporting this is appalling. I’m ashamed to say that CNN is doing a better job. One of the Indian journalist who was interviewing a survivor goes: “Really, they really said that? What else what else?”
And the lack of information from the government is also ridiculous, though at least in the foreign media they are trying not to say that. I just watched an interview with a woman who has been outside the Taj for 30 hours while her sister and niece are still inside. But the government announced that all guests are safe. Even if the government wants to bandy false information at the general public, should they not keep the relatives of those trapped inside informed? Should they not make arrangements for people standing vigil outside while their family’s fate hangs in the balance?
I was surprised that Manhoman Singh did not address the nation immediately on the first night and that when he did he resorted to the ‘foreign hand’ cliche. Without any confirmation of who was behind it, he felt the need to go with the knee-jerk reaction. Why don’t India and Pakistan realise they have to fight this together? Pakistan has come under attack too.
And the focus on ‘foreign tourists’ targetted continues to rankle. Even in my office people were saying ‘OMG British and American citizens were targeted’. Maybe it’s because the only thing they could identify with because if they went to India that’s where they’d stay. But it’s only a manifestation of the self-centeredness of those who lead cocooned lives of safety that has always rubbed me the wrong way while living abroad. And this is what the terrorists were counting on. They knew that if it was ‘just Indians’ it would merit about ten seconds on an international news channel. They have succeeded and it’s laughable that our reactions are so easily manipulated.
Someone needs to do a breakdown of how many Indians and how many foreigners died in this and I’m quite sure the majority would be Indians. The terrorists weren’t asking for passports when they sprayed bullets at people on the street or when they first stormed the hotels and started firing indiscriminately.
The focus of the reporting has been on the Taj and the Oberoi from the start almost ignoring the attacks at CST and Cama Hospital. How come we still don’t have clear details about what happened at the hospital? To me, a hospital under attack is worse by far than a hotel. Did people die in the taxi bombs at the petrol pump and near the airport? Nobody knows and nobody seems to care. And this is why the terrorists focussed more people on the hotels.
The fact is that Indian people have been under attack for years without much media attention. We have lost more lives in the past few years in India than any other country, second only to Iraq. But do our endless casualities not get that kind of attention? Even now, when taking stock, the foreign media cannot get right the number of attacks in Mumbai itself since 1993, even while Indian citizens continue to point it out to them.
For anyone who’s in any doubt, this is the correct list. It’s a close call what is more terrifying for the ordinary Indian citizen – the possibility of a bomb going off in a local train (which everyone uses) or an attack on hotels and gunmen with AK 47s in the streets.
Finally, I wonder if it was possible to prevent this. Even if hotels had security devices in the lobby, it’s possible for armed gunmen to open fire before they get to them. If hotels have security outside, they can be taken by surprise. Nobody really expects people with AK47s to step out of the street and shoot at you.
The bigger question is how was it possible to smuggle that magnitude of arms into the city. But hey, we have so many borders and so many people. Is it really possible to keep track? Even if you do, we’re in the age of suicide bombers. When people are willing to sacrifice their lives, when what they see as a higher goal is bigger than anything that you could do to them, when they are not looking for an exit stratgy because they themselves are the exit strategy is there anything you can do to prevent that?
Except maybe, try to understand why an increasing number of people hold their current life in so little esteem that they are convinced in such large numbers that it’s preferable to give it up for the temporary glory of making the lives of others a bit more miserable.