Saturday, November 29, 2008

A nightmare that lasts three days !!

Quite appropriately, Mumbai awoke to a dark and overcast Saturday morning. It was an apt reflection of the general mood in the city, and elsewhere, since for the third consecutive morning, we switched on our televisions to find that the nightmare that began on Wednesday evening was showing little signs of ending. Finally, at around 8.30am came the news that the last of the terrorists had been downed and thus, the encounter part of the operation was over. The final act of cleanup of each and every room in the Taj is still going on, as I write this. And, quite appropriately again, the sun has broken through the clouds to give us a sunny morning !!!!

Unfortunately, I cannot get myself to share the jubiliation that I saw yesterday at the Nariman House. The celebrations out there were as if we had won a decisive battle. We might have won this battle but we are nowhere near winning the war. Before I come to that, I want to comment on a couple of things about this whole episode:

a. I found it quite odd that the whole nightmare was reffered to as 'Mumbai's tragedy !!'. Mumbai and the Taj were just symbols. I bet that any Indian waking up today anywhere in the country feels equally unsafe. Make no mistake, this was much more than an attack on Mumbai. It was an attack on India itself. Today it was the Taj, tommorow it might be any other place in any other city. And therefore, I cringed when I saw senseless comments on 'where Raj Thackeray was at this time when his Mumbai was attacked'. Apart from showing the immaturity of the people making the comments (and these were not just some idiots writing on Rediff, even NDTV and a fellow-IIMBian have raised this question), it also reflects their complete lack of understanding the whole issue and its gravity. I would have hoped that atleast this time, we would refrained from these comments. But it seems that sometimes, people are ahead of the curve as compared to our politicians.

b. In many ways, this episode is quite different from any terrorist attack before. It is being called India's 9/11, but it bears not much resemblence to the twin towers tragedy. For the first time, terrorists have siezed (not bombed) iconic places in an urban megapolis for almost three days. While earlier, they used to plant bombs at key places with an express desire to cause as much loss of human life as possible, this time they have attempted something more daring and audacious. Almost as if to say to us : 'this is what we can do, can anyone stop us ??'. And sadly, as of now, we have no answers to that one.

So now, as the operations wind down at the Taj, Mumbai (and India) tries to come back to normalcy (whatever state that might be) and the heroes of the operation are given they send off they so richly deserve, the focus now shifts to New Delhi. And the governments (both central and states) will now have to fight a different battle, which is as significant as the one which is just concluding on the ground. The world will be watching them now.

~ Amit


sd said...


sd here.

I agree with you that the comment regarding Raj T. is shameful (as is frivolous reporting like Amitabh Bachhan slept with a gun under his pillow and a discussion on why cricket series got cancelled) in the backdrop of the very sad and supremely frustrating last few days. However, you must agree that politicians in general have hardly ever said/done anything that is constructive. Every politician in the last few years has mostly taken sides with this group or that, this religion or other, this caste or that. I hardly hear any serious comment let alone action by any politician that genuinely propounds development/improvement in lives of people.

Let’s consider the significant achievement of our politicians over the last year or two:

(1) Arjun Singh managed to increase quotas; redraw lines among various castes in SC/ST, increase the limit for the creamy layer for OBCs, etc. We had people of a certain caste in Rajasthan rioting to say they were SC/ST. And these quotas are for like 10000 odd seats in IIT /IIMs /higher education (in a country as large as ours). Fundamentally quotas are perhaps not wrong; but the problem is the complete focus on them instead of tackling more pressing matters like more schools and colleges; attracting more qualified and dedicated youth into the profession of teaching (lets face it, unless you are a professor at 3-4 highly reputed universities/research centers in India, you are basically considered a loser); a need for a support/feedback system in place to see that less privileged (socially and economically) children do not drop out school; putting in place a open – well understood information gathering/ feedback mechanism to analyze methods and techniques that works in rural India compared to urban India in spreading education; attacking the growing problem of gender divide (yes it is increasing: India was ~140 rank in the world in terms of gap between gender, Punjab has the lowest sex ratio it ever had); improve the quality of actual research in India. The list goes on.

(2) The Health minister managed to publicly and disgracefully fight over the control of AIIMS, the most respected hospital in India: Yet why do we not hear of more health coverage to people of India, especially in rural India. Why do we still hear of horribly high child mortality rate in India? Why is showing smoking in movies more important issue that say stopping girl child killing. Why is it that we still have polio in India (and we do not hear the politicians discussing this).

(3) I can’t remember when the last state was created in India; I think this may be more than 2 years back. But by the look of things we may have Telangana soon…

(4) The left had no qualms about dropping out of the coalition because India managed to get a nuclear deal for civilian purposes with US, while on the other hand it ritualistically does hartals because the price of petrol goes up. Why is no one talking of dedicating funds and time into development of indigenous techniques to harness solar/wind energy? There are no attempts even to propose a different strategy for solving our ever growing energy bill/crisis. No; all we will do is drop out of the coalition; put the government in jeopardy just because we want to.

(5) Ironically, the main opposition to the left government in West Bengal managed to do-a-left-to-the-left. I mean, to manage to drive out the Tata’s must count as one of the high points in the last decade or so in W.B.’s developmental story. Clearly there were farmers who were forced to give up land. But I mean 300 acres of land- is that not possible to solve. Similar low profile stories can be found in Karnataka (this is just an example).

(6) Amar Singh and co probably (see we do not know what really happened – we never will) managed to pull of the most successful bribery scandal in political history of India.

(6) Riots: This is such a painful topic. So instead of writing I will just list: We saw riots in India based on various distinction of religion/caste/region etc in Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharastra, Rajasthan, Bihar, Assam, Orrisa, W. Bengal, and Kashmir (this is just in the last 1-2 years). And the worst part is that I did not see any politician/party actually being mature enough to take a non-partisan point of view. It was always party A supports group X and B supports group Y. It’s a shame.

As I write this comment I see that we could go on and on with this list.

How I wish politicians would actually speak of our development. How I wish they would say that the only way we can fight terrorism is by being developed, by being a stronger nation, and by having a better security system in place rather than just having a bunch of harsher laws. How I wish they would realize that these killers just managed to so this: Ten gunmen killed 200, injured scores and destroyed lives of thousands of families; aur hum log hath par hath rakhen huen hain. How I wish they would realize this is not India’s 9/11. Because we cannot have a 9/11. Because when 9/11 happened the whole world stopped. The stock markets plummeted the world over. Every man or women on Earth knew about it. Instead, I get a feeling that the world hardly cares. If the foreigners did not die this news would probably not have made it to the front page of newspapers outside of India (like the previous few terrorist attaches in India in the past few months).

How I wish that the politicians would realize that the brave, under equipped soldiers and policemen have being paying with their lives (and lets not forget the disillusioned youth of the country killing each other in riots) for their stupidity and follies. How I would like to know that some of the politicians actually wept at this monstrous tragedy. We as a nation will be able to counter terrorism only when we have the wherewithal. Sadly, I do not see the current lot who claim to be "leaders" pulling off anything like this. It is my strong belief that India is what it is despite its leaders, rather than because of any of their "vision".

Sorry for this long comment. I needed to blow off some steam. Hope to meet you soon, once I get to Mumbai.

Lakshmi said...

Was good chatting with you the other day... :)

Do drop by at