While Qureshi is without doubt a prime suspect, various aspects of the Mumbai attack point to al-Qaeda: the degree of co-ordination, the timing – Western intelligence has been expecting an atrocity of some sort while Barack Obama waits to take over in Washington – and the reports from eyewitnesses that the gunmen who attacked the Taj and the city's other landmark hotel, the Oberoi, were specifically seeking out guests with American and British passports.
Whoever is responsible for last night's wave of terror has left Mumbai in chaos, with more than 100 killed, including the state's anti-terrorism chief, Hemant Karkare.
Here is an officer who, by all accounts, has gone about his duty with exemplary evenhandedness.
Against that, here is a party that has been screaming bloody murder against bloody murder, and demanding that POTA or worse be immediately reintroduced; that no leniency be shown to anyone suspected of complicity in any incident of terrorism. But no sooner was a ‘sadhvi’ arrested, than it does a flip-flop of Olympics proportions, and denounces ‘harsh’ treatment of suspects.
That poster, and those who within moments amplified his statement, form a natural constituency for that party. I, meanwhile, am struck by the sheer brilliance of this example of intelligent design. Let’s see: In order to punish one officer for doing his duty, god let loose a cataclysm that has thus far resulted in over 100 dead, four times that many injured, millions worth of property destroyed and a city’s fabric further shredded.
It struck me then, and by struck I mean a deeper realization, that men like this care for nothing, for no human effort or endeavor with meaning, and they care not for the struggles and ambitions and dreams and so much pain that every man woman and child has come through to survive life, for theirs is an unthinking effort of destruction and despair, and there is no talking to them, for we cannot even be from this planet. I don’t pretend to love this city, but I feel for it, and with every explosion and every life taken, I felt my heart heardening…
My wife is expecting our first child. Just yesterday morning, as we took a rare walk, we wondered what sort of world we would bring a child into. We had worries about this city – the pollution and what it took out of you. Later that day, my friend Sonia startled me by raising the same question. I told her no other place offered the opportunities Bombay does right now, even if it sucked the life out of you.
Cut the crap about the unconquerable spirit of the collective. For once, spare me the platitudes recycled from 1993, from 2006.
You think I woke up this morning and thought to myself, what the fuck, I’ll be damned if I let a clutch of cowards cow me down?
You think I picked out my shirt and trousers with especial care this morning, because I wanted everything about me to make the point that I would not bend under this assault, that I would do everything possible to show these children of unmarried parents that life in all its banal normalcy would continue despite their best efforts?
…The ‘spirit of the Mumbaikar’ meme be damned, the state needs to recognize this for what it is: helplessness. We go to work come hell or high water because as long as we are alive, there is nothing else to do; nothing else we can do.
We go to work not to prove a point, but because there are no options. We go to work like we breathe—because there is nothing else.
such theories are a consequence of our tendency as a species to want to give gyan. A media pundit, especially, feels compelled to have a narrative for everything. Everything must be explicable, and television expects instant analysis.
This is foolish, for sometimes events are complicated, and we simply need to wait for more information to emerge before we can understand it. But many of us—not just the pundits—don’t have the humility to accept that. We want to feel in control, at least on an intellectual level, so reasons and theories emerge. But the world is really far too complicated for us. Yet somehow we muddle along.
The right kind of gyan, in the immediate aftermath of this, is historical perspective, which Christiane Amanpour provided on King’s show. Anything else is premature.
…I continually asked myself whether a country that could not get its governance right could actually grow at this rate. Corruption is rampant, and worsening by most measures, we can't even regulate traffic, and the streets of Bangalore, purportedly India's answer to Silicon Valley, are choked with garbage. But our politicians want to be “in charge” of every aspect of our lives – from where we can smoke, to how late we can listen to music in public places; from deciding whether an airline can downsize, to which textbooks our children should study in school. Law and order are the absolute basis of a modern society; those and the right to property. Last night's attacks are a reminder of how far short we fall of achieving the first, and we only need to go back to Nandigram to see what our politicians think of other people's right to property…Till we can these basics right, we can forget about sustained growth in our country…
Look, criminal acts like today's attacks are not going to go away. No matter what party is in power (and today's events probably made it more likely that will be the BJP – a pity), no matter how many civil liberties we suspend or how close to a police state we move, no matter how many arbitrary security procedures we put in place, this will happen again. What we can, and should, do is be better prepared for the next time it happens, so we can respond to it intelligently, instead of adopting what, from my admittedly distant perspective, looks suspiciously like the headless chicken approach.
1. Putting bombs in bikes and then remotely detonating them is one thing. Gangs of armed Jihadis with grenades, Ak47s taking the police head on, killing off the ATS chief, breaching two of India’s flagship hotels, causing carnage at the biggest train station of the country and taking hostages is something totally different—-it can be accomplished only through an unprecedented level of planning, coordination and training. And most importantly bolstered by an unprecedented level of confidence in their ability to be successful.
The sheer scale and brazennes is one more testament to the damning failure of the government security apparatus, not that needed to be established again after the last twenty such acts of urban violence.
* ATS chief Hemant Karkare died despite wearing a bulletproof vest – and he died of chest wounds. If you look at the video of the bullet proof jacket wearing procedure it would be obvious to you why – the vest was totally unreliable. We need far better equipment to protect our forces. Helmets, masks, better guns, sharpshooters, everything. Why can't we fund this better?
* The ambulance support and basic knowledge of first aid is missing. People on TV are shown handling the injured in terrible ways – we need to disseminate knowledge on how to handle victims, and how for instance not to move them if they are grieviously injured (it could render them invalid).
* We need drills for reporters. Most of them were preventing help reaching hte injured. Yet others were spreading random rumours. We need a set of codes that the press must live by in these times, applying to cameramen, reporters and TV channels alike.
* We need to decongest our cities.
Another extremely irritating aspect of the current political leaders is that they have the audacity to
a) Issue stupid statements “condemning” the attacks, like that would make the world a peaceful place.
b) Request civilians for their “calm” and “cooperation”. This is a polite way of saying “we didn’t do our jobs, but things are bad and this is not a good time to yell”.
c) Praise the spirit of the people who return to their everyday lives as if nothing happened.
…Mumbaikars stopped showing resilience a very long time ago. Their return to their lives has two reasons. Most of them need to work to earn their day’s meal and cannot afford to lose their jobs by staying home. The second reason is that the citizens know that the government will not take much action irrespective of their decision to stay home or work. It is wishful thinking to interpret this as courage. In fact the faith and the spirit of the people has been broken so often that they have stopped feeling outra
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