Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mumbai carnage: bleeding hearts and sore wounds

The world watched in stunned silence as the financial capital of India blazed in the fire of extreme terrorism for more than 50 hours. Images of the Taj Mahal palace inferno, open firing on the streets of amchi Mumbai, terrified hostages being evacuated from Trident, NSG commandos entering Nariman house and the bodies of the deceased being recovered were flashed on national and international news channels 24x7.

What should we call Mumbai’s 9/11? A slap on the face of the Indian government, a ruthless threat to national integrity, an unprecedented attack on the world’s largest democracy – none of these phrases capture the brutality with which the massacre was carried out or the anger and anguish that the citizens of the country feel.

I think, more than the actual incident that occurred, what pains is that this was not the first time nor was it without warning. A country of more than a billion people was not prepared to combat 10 trained militants.
As we witness the funerals of the great officers of Mumbai Police and the Indian Armed Forces personnel, as our hearts go out to the orphaned kids and the families devastated, as our eyes dampen with tears watching the heroism of the “aam aadmi (the common man)”, as we clench our fists in rage at the guts of the terrorists, and as we turn our wrath on the total failure of our intelligence services, we, the citizens of India, feel cheated, let down, bruised, hurt, broken.

And if external threats were not enough, our politicians make sure we remain divided internally. Delhi blasts, Gujarat riots, Hyderabad explosions, Mumbai bombings are all opportunities to play the blame game and score brownie points against each other.
A simple gesture like opposition parties and the UPA making a joint statement or putting up a joint front against the single largest and gravest issue facing the country could not be shown.

The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh makes his most unconvincing speech ever in the feeblest voice possible; the President, Pratibha Patil heads to Indonesia for a “meeting”, wonder what could be more pressing a subject than that of national security; the leader of the ruling party, Sonia Gandhi takes almost three days to prepare her speech; the leader of opposition, L.K. Advani sacrifices a couple of hours from his busy election campaigning to sling some mud on the government; the self-proclaimed messiah of Maharashtrians, Raj Thackeray goes underground; the Chief Minister of Mumbai, Vilasrao Deshmukh takes this opportunity to transform the ruins of the Taj to a tourism package; and finally the deputy chief minister pulls the final straw with his famous quotable quote, “Such small things happen in big cities”. This is our leadership! What a contrast to how the US reacted to 9/11 or UK to its terror attacks.

I don’t know how many noticed but there is a crushing irony about the date - 26th November. India adopted its constitution on precisely that date back in 1949. I present here the preamble just as a reminder to our leaders that what we are asking for is not a privilege. Our security is our constitutional right and every time it is violated, the ruling government should be taken to court.

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual
and the unity and integrity of the Nation;


Five days from 11/26/08, and 59 years and 5 days from 11/26/1949 - we are still awaiting a decisive action plan on combating terrorism from the front runners of this country. We are still not sure whether such an intelligence failure will happen again or not. We are terrorized with the Deccan Mujahideen threat of a repeat of Mumbai in Delhi. We are free but our freedom is fettered. Our wounds refuse to heal.

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