Monday, December 01, 2008

Picking up the Pieces-In the Aftermath of the Mumbai Terror Mayhem

Sitting miles away from the battle zone, one is relieved to know that the firefight is finally over........Combating freezing weather within the hostel room over the weekend, the Sunday turned out to be a dull day.But the dullness gives way to that feeling one is talking about. From 26th of November after 9.30 pm, it was mayhem in Mumbai. Terrorists taking over vital areas in the commercial capital, especially areas of human congregation. Though divided by their class affiliations, CST, Taj Palace, Oberoi Trident and Nariman House all are collectively under siege. Indiscriminate firing using automatic weapons and other ammunition like hand grenades, 10 youth are on a spree. Leaving more than 200 dead including around 25 police and security personnel, the city is virtually being run over. As the Special Forces mount Operation Black Tornado to sanitize Taj, Oberoi and Nariman House, Mumbai has come to a stand still. As the 59 hour long counter operation finally culminates on Saturday, November 29th, it has taken 2 days and 3 nights to neutralize the terrorists. Counting the dead, one also comes across a list of over 20 foreigners of many nationalities.

Sitting faraway, I try to imagine the aftermath of those devastating nights. Nights when brave men in uniform fought and lost their lives defending their city....Hemant Karkare, the ATS Chief;ACP Ashok Kamthe; Vijay Salaskar, famed Encounter Specialist in the Mumbai Police; Senior Inspector Shashank Shinde; and many more.......then the brave commandos of the NSG who were martyred during the operation to retrieve the temporarily lost possessions.....Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan and Havildar Joginder Singh.........Then the Jewish Rabbi and his wife of the Chabad Lubavitch conclave in the Nariman House......then the countless innocents who were just shot down in Cafe Leopold, Girgaum Chowpatty, CST, Cama Hospital, Metro Cinema.......the list is endless........The bravery of the commandos and security personnel has to be saluted in the truest possible way. But several pointers remain unanswered. How could a band of ten young men armed to the teeth find their way to Mumbai unscanned and unhindered? Picking up the pieces of those days have pointed to the role of terror network outside the country, that is the Lashkar-E-Taiba. The abject failure of the Union Government as well as the State Government in preventing the mayhem beforehand despite several warnings, is something that is highly serious. In fact, the intelligence mechanism within the country seems repeatedly failing to perform, as explicit from the numerous bomb blasts across the country. Though 'finger pointing' and 'calling for the heads' is not something that's usually palatable, still they in itself isn't just enough. The resignations of the Home Minister as well the Deputy CM and CM of Maharashtra may have come as something to maintain accountability; but as said, the 'rains after the harvest' do not serve anyone's purpose!!

Another serious aspect that needs a detailed analysis in the aftermath of the mayhem is the role of the media, especially the electronic. Sanity seems to have been lost, as the media went on the overdrive to inject cynicism and hate for the political class. It seemed that the media was out to vilify the entire political spectrum, cutting across party lines. If not for the restrictions suggested by the security personnel, the Indian electronic media would have replicated their American counterparts in sticking to the "embedded" journalism. This would have meant that the cameramen would have wanted to follow the commandos into each nook and corner of the besieged locations. So much for 'sensational reporting' in attempting to sell TRPs!! Coming back to the manufacturing of the opinion by the media, NDTV says "Enough is Enough"!! Of course, the people of the country are fed up of terror; but the point is it the attack on "icons" like Taj and Oberoi that this feeling has come about? The class bias of the media is exposed again and again. Barkha Dutt tells Shyam Benegal that even after the attacks in Mumbai, people in Delhi went to vote in the Assembly elections!!Going by her logic, the people of this country should stop exercising their democratic rights altogether!! Pent-up emotions can burst out in times like this, but then restraint using logic and reason has to be applied. If the top media personnel in this country and that too Padmashri awardees do not realize this, then the it speaks volumes of this class bias. Mumbai CST is place where thousands of people commute everday and in fact this building also finds mention in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. However, CST got into the sidelines and periphery, as the focus were the luxury hotels. How many of the Mumbaikars have really found their way into the interiors of the Taj and Oberoi? The point that one needs to drive is that there shouldn't be any classification of which place should capture priority and lead space given that a calamity strikes, whereby you treat people differently on the basis of the class background. Death, all say is a great leveller; but in the Mumbai attacks that doesn't seem to be the case. The 'Civil Society' also has spoken with the aid of the media in these attacks. In fact, replacing the political class, it seemed that the socialites were running the country. Some talk of carpet bombing, some spew that from roof-tops of high-class hotels the sight one can feast is that of the slums below with 'Pakistani' flags!! One National Daily even went to the extent of letting its entire first page be splashed with the opinions of the Page 3 socialites and the 'civil society' voices!!

Hence, the solution this 'civil society' and the media offer-in fact baying for blood-trying to rope in the upper and middle classes, is full scale war, where our advanced forces will crush the enemy brutally. Sane voices are dumped to the sidelines. The real effort which should have been is to gather evidence and bring the perpetrators to book, has been swept under the carpet. The Right-Wing forces like RSS-BJP have joined this war mongering and jingoism, in their own efforts to milk rich dividends in terms of votes. It is in this situation that the solution offered by the Left gains importance. Using multilateral bodies like the UN is an option that needs to be positively and diligently looked into. Resolution 1373 passed by the UN Security Council binding all countries not to harbour or fund terror activities as well as book those behind them needs to be used, to put pressure on Pakistani government to act. Fighting Terrorism has to be political as well as in unison. Ultimately, loss of innocent lives repeatedly can make people cynical. Therefore, to prevent this, Unity of Purpose and Unity of Action is vital in such situations. Losing focus by caving in and falling for rabid war mongering would only strengthen those very forces that seek to divide people through mindless terror.

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